Jessica Morden

Labour MP for Newport East

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Ahead of this year’s Respect for Shopworkers Week (13-19 November), I’ve joined with members of the retail union Usdaw to campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff. The campaign calls for greater protection for shopworkers and other public facing workers whilst they go about their jobs.

Usdaw do great work here in Newport East, and I’m pleased to support this important campaign. Too often retail employees are confronted with intimidation and violence, and it is really important that we stand together and ask people to respect shopworkers. Data collected by the British Retail Consortium shows that the human cost of retail crime is growing, with a 40% increase in offences involving abuse or violence against shopworkers. We must give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said: “Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-¬age purchases of products like knives, tobacco or alcohol, or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. Parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law, so Parliament should provide the necessary protection.
I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Around 200 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. The Government must act to address this issue and act quickly. I’ve been very disappointed to see Tory and Liberal MPs, on five occasions combine to block this measure when proposed by Labour. The Conservative record on tackling retail crime shows that since 2010 there are 20,000 fewer police and a steady increase in shoplifting rising 8% this year, but the number of shop thieves going to court dropping by a quarter.”

Examples of lenient sentences given to assailants of workers selling alcohol:
A shopworker working at a till refused to serve a customer alcohol. The customer swore and shouted at her and she called her manager for assistance. The store manager agreed the customer was too drunk to serve and asked the customer to leave the shop. He refused to leave. Whilst staff were trying to escort him out of the shop he kicked and punched 3 members of staff. He also spat in the face of the store manager. The police were called and he was given a police caution.

A thug, given a suspended sentence for assault, who goes out to celebrate his 'lenient' sentence and launches a vile racist attack on a woman shopworker, assaults her in front of her children by pulling out chunks of her hair and walks free from court again.

A man grabbed a shopworker and pushed him back against a window. He then walked off shouting that he was going to ‘get him’. In court he was told his suspended sentence for a previous offence would not be activated.

A shopworker was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because they’d been barred from the store. The shopworker gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.

Respect for Shopworkers

Ahead of this year’s Respect for Shopworkers Week (13-19 November), I’ve joined with members of the retail union Usdaw to campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom...

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It was an honour to give a reading at the annual Chartist Commemoration evening at St Woolos Cathedral churchyard on Saturday. Thanks to all who organised the event.

It’s so important that we remember those who gave their lives for the democratic freedoms we enjoy today.

READING:

Buried at once in four graves, ten men, names unknown, shot by a party of the 45th Regiment of Foot in a Chartist insurrection before the Westgate Inn. November 4th 1839 - Register of burials for the Parish of St. Woolos, Newport 1839

In the aftermath of the Rising, the authorities took possession of nine bodies, five from within the Westgate Inn and four from outside the building. Eventually, ten bodies were placed in the stables of the Westgate, with two of the victims being quickly identified. One was a deserter of the 29th Regiment of Foot, the other was William Griffiths from Aberdare. Very soon, George Shell of Pontypool, and Abraham Thomas were also named.

It is certain that many others were also killed in the attack on the Westgate. The Monmouthshire Merlin confidently asserted that, of ‘the twenty-two bodies, which have up to this time been discovered, not one has been identified as belonging to Newport’.

As many as three bodies, however, were found around Newport itself. Indeed, the policeman Moses Scard claimed that he had seen sixteen bodies in the town. One Chartist had expired at Pillgwenlly, while David Morgan, from Tredegar, died in the Friars’ Field.

The evidence of Benjamin Richards provides a vivid picture of this,
‘… I did sleep that night in the public house on the left hand of the bridge … I met David Morgan’s wife above Risca coming down … (I was told) to come down along … to Newport, that David (her husband) was killed … it was Friars field and there he was lying on the table laid out. I believe that the name of the man was John Hughes the landlord of it. I wasn’t sure of it, and they begged of me to stop there to try to have his body up to Tredegar to be buried. I did stop there till Thursday’.

A very basic inquest, conducted by the Coroner, William Brewer, on Wednesday 6th November, provides us with little detail of the identities of the Chartist dead. Only Shell is listed by name, ‘Shot in the act of Rebellion by some person unknown in defence of himself’. The other nine men are each described as ‘Man Unknown’.

On Thursday 7th November 1839 the ten bodies were laid to rest in unmarked graves, in the St. Woolos churchyard at the north side of St. Mary’s chapel.
These events were openly discussed in the local newspapers. On Saturday November 9th 1839, The Monmouthshire Merlin reported that,
‘The nine slain Chartists that lay for some days in the stable of the Westgate, were buried on Thursday (7th November), in Stow churchyard, in three graves, containing three each. The passage of the bodies created a great sensation. The military accompanied them to their graves.We understand that it is the intention of several influential gentlemen of this town and neighbourhood, to set on foot a subscription for the purpose of presenting to the Mayor, Thomas Phillips, junior, Esq., a testimonial of their esteem and admiration of his conduct, on the late eventful occasion. Mr Powell, of the Gaer, mentioned the subject at the meeting of Canal Directors this week. Copy of two cards found on the bodies of two of the unfortunate rioters, one of which was printed on a blue card. On the back of the first was written, Wm. Griffiths, No. 5A; and on the reverse the following was printed: The Working Men’s Association for benefitting, politically, socially, and morally, the useful classes. Motto - The man who evades his share of useful labour, diminishes the public wealth, and throws his own burthen on his neighbour’.

A week later, the Merlin added more detail to its account of the Chartist dead,
‘All who are yet known are the following: - Shell, cabinet-maker of Pontypool, a lad of about 19, who was the first to introduce Chartism into that town; Isaac Thomas, of Nantyglo, William Griffiths, of Merthyr, and (William) Evans, of Tredegar, miners; and a supposed deserter from the 29th, who were recently stationed in Newport’.

These men should not be forgotten, and future historical research will surely reveal more both of their lives, and their faith in the Chartist cause. The thoughts of George Shell, sent to his parents on the eve of the Rising, should stand forever as their epitaph,
‘I shall this night be engaged in a struggle for freedom and, should it please God to spare my life, I shall see you soon; but if not, grieve not for me, I shall fall in a noble cause’.

Chartist commemoration at St Woolos

It was an honour to give a reading at the annual Chartist Commemoration evening at St Woolos Cathedral churchyard on Saturday. Thanks to all who organised the event. It’s so...

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Yesterday in Parliament I challenged the UK Government over its decision to cancel the electrification of the mainline to Swansea.

The cancellation of electrification between Swansea and Cardiff was announced in a Government written statement the day before Parliament rose for recess in September. The decision to cancel electrification to Swansea has been condemned by Welsh Labour MPs, the Welsh Labour Government, Council leaders and business leaders in Wales.

Meanwhile former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb described the Government’s decision to replace electrification plans with new bimodal trains as a ‘second-best option’, and Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies claimed that he still held out hopes for electrification in an interview on ITV’s Sharp End this week.

Speaking at the despatch box on behalf of the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, I highlighted the way in which the issue has divided the Conservatives, who had previously outlined their commitment to electrification during the General Election campaign. I asked “Does the Secretary of State agree with the leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, Andrew RT Davies, who this week said that electrification of the line to Swansea would be beneficial to Wales and that he ‘wished it would still happen’? Andrew RT Davies said he hasn’t ‘given up the ghost in fighting that campaign’, and can I assure that Secretary of State that on this side of the House (the Labour benches), neither have we.”

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns responded by claiming that the Government was ‘using the latest technology with more capacity’, and pledged that the new bimodal trains would keep to the target 15 minute journey time reduction between London Paddington and Swansea.

The Government’s decision to backtrack on electrifying the mainline between Swansea and Cardiff will have a negative impact on the South Wales economy. The Tory Government’s continued refusal to back major Welsh infrastructure projects – something which has become even more pronounced since their poor results here in the General Election – indicates a disrespectful lack of vision for Wales.

As Stephen Crabb highlighted in the previous session of Welsh Questions, Wales deserves better than the ‘second-best option’. We should have the same kind of modern rail technology which other major population centres in Western Europe have had for several years.

Challenging Government on electrification decision

Yesterday in Parliament I challenged the UK Government over its decision to cancel the electrification of the mainline to Swansea. The cancellation of electrification between Swansea and Cardiff was announced...


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