I'm supporting my colleague Carolyn Harris (Labour MP for Swansea East) in her campaign for the UK Government to follow Wales' lead and introduce a UK-wide Children's Funeral Fund.
I'm supporting my colleague Carolyn Harris (Labour MP for Swansea East) in her campaign for the UK Government to follow Wales' lead and introduce a UK-wide Children's Funeral Fund.
In Parliament this week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.
It's so important that we honour the memory of the men, women and children murdered by the Nazis; and pay tribute to the survivors whose memories of the horrors they witnessed serve as a warning to us all.
In Parliament this week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day. It's so important that we honour the memory of the men, women and...
In Transport Questions today I requested a meeting with the Department for Transport to discuss the future operation of the Severn Bridges, including the abolition of the tolls after a long local campaign.
The move into public ownership is a long overdue step in the right direction. It’s vitally important that the Government now carefully plan for the future, including a timetable for removing the toll booths. I will be holding the Government to account on these issues, and will continue to speak up for road users and businesses in Newport East who have been hard hit by the tolls over the years.
In Transport Questions today I requested a meeting with the Department for Transport to discuss the future operation of the Severn Bridges, including the abolition of the tolls after a...
My article published in the South Wales Argus this week.
My article published in the South Wales Argus this week. Read more
I was pleased to join fellow MPs at ZSL London Zoo this week to support #BackTheBlueBelt. Through its Overseas Territories the UK is responsible for the fifth largest 'marine estate' in the world - home to a globally significant populations of albatross, whales and endangered turtles; and as many as a quarter of the world's penguins.
The Blue Belt Charter calls on the UK Government to work with Overseas Territories Governments to create a 4 million square kilometre marine protection area around 7 of the 14 British Overseas Territories under the sovereignty of the UK.
Marine Protected Areas like these have been found to be a productive, cost-effective and viable way to preserve the ocean’s wildlife. They protect vital ecological processes for both local communities and the planet as a whole.
Fore more information on the Blue Belt Charter, and important steps that can be taken to protect the world's oceans, visit https://greatbritishoceans.org/home
I was pleased to join fellow MPs at ZSL London Zoo this week to support #BackTheBlueBelt. Through its Overseas Territories the UK is responsible for the fifth largest 'marine estate'...
I spoke in yesterday's Labour-led debate on rail franchising, and highlighted some of the concerns constituents have raised with me about rail services between Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol. Here's my speech from the debate:
"Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), I want to concentrate on my constituents’ concerns about their daily struggle to get to work, which is so unlike the rosy picture that the Secretary of State painted. They just want reliable services and affordable fares, which is not happening under the Government’s failed transport policy.
"Key rail routes run through my constituency. Many people commute to Cardiff or Bristol and beyond. There has been remarkable passenger growth at stations such as Severn Tunnel Junction, where usage has risen by 297% in the last 20 years. Transport links to Bristol, one of the fastest growing economies outside London, are crucial for access to employment. The Government acknowledged that in the industrial strategy, which talked about better links between Wales and England.
"However, the services to Bristol and beyond have for some years been plagued by reliability problems and chronic overcrowding. Commuters are completely frustrated. The Severn Tunnel Action Group, a fantastic local rail group, along with Magor Action Group on Rail, forensically survey commuters. They showed that, on half the commuting days at the end of last year, there was standing room only for those getting on at Severn Tunnel Junction, and on many days, only three carriages were available, not five. They also catalogued the delays and cancellations. Commuters, whose fares have gone up by 33% since 2010, feed back the daily occurrences of overcrowding: people being left on the platform, people fainting on the train and people being asked to stand in the toilets so that more people can get on.
"At the same time, the Government announced last year that they would extend the Great Western franchise to March 2020 and maybe longer. Yes, we are getting electrification, but what was in the announcement that gave anyone faith that things would get better? As my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) said, Great Western got the extension without any conditions. The Government are rewarding the company without any notion of things getting better for my constituents. Where the Government have had an opportunity to help, they have not.
"There is currently a process for the Wales and Borders franchise, which is devolved. But the Government said to the Welsh Government in the agency document last year that 'for the purposes of this franchise competition, no cross-border paths to Bristol may be proposed.'
"This is a missed opportunity, when the Welsh Government are planning bold infrastructure projects such as the South Wales metro, which will improve connectivity. The UK Government’s approach could not be in starker contrast to the Welsh Labour Government’s.
"A constituent who complained about services to Bristol was told recently by Great Western, “That’s just how it is nowadays.” No, it should not be. The privatised rail system is not delivering, services are getting worse and fares are going up. We need the Government and rail companies to address these problems now and to take rail back into public ownership when the rail franchises expire."
You can read the full transcript of the debate online here: https://goo.gl/Czr88o
I spoke in yesterday's Labour-led debate on rail franchising, and highlighted some of the concerns constituents have raised with me about rail services between Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol....
This week I questioned the Health Minister, Steve Brine MP, on the future availability of a life-changing drug for those with erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP).
EPP is a rare condition where exposure to any visible light, including sunlight and artificial light causes reactions in the blood resulting in extreme skin pain. Currently there is no existing treatment or pain relief for the condition available in the UK but a new drug called Afamelanotide (Scenesse) has proved life-changing for those involved in the trial.
I spoke on behalf of my constituent James who was involved in the trial and described the drug as “taking away the pain and torture, allowing a person to live their life without any pain or fear”.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are due to evaluate the drug and make their decision in May 2018 and I called on the Minister to look at the life-changing benefits of the drug.
I’ve met James and heard first hand of the real impact that EPP has had on him and his family’s life, and how his life improved when given the drug. It’s important we do all we can to help him and other sufferers to get access to this drug, allowing James and others to enjoy things that people take for granted.
You can read the full transcript of the debate online here: https://goo.gl/R2uHuY
This week I questioned the Health Minister, Steve Brine MP, on the future availability of a life-changing drug for those with erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP). EPP is a rare condition where...
I spoke in today's Westminster Hall backbench business debate on a sector deal for the steel industry.
Here's my contribution to the debate in full:
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) on securing the debate. I fully support the excellent case that he made for a steel sector deal. He rightly reiterated the policy asks and the fact that speed is of the essence. I wholeheartedly agree with that. My constituency is just down the M4 from his, and the social importance of steel is crucial to communities in my constituency too. Hundreds of people rely directly or indirectly—there are three or more jobs in the local economy for every steel job—on the steel industry. These are good jobs—skilled and relatively well paid jobs—in parts of the country, such as Wales, where that is not always the case. There is huge pride in producing steel. In areas such as mine, there is a real passion for and commitment to the steel industry, which is why all of us in the Chamber have spoken in many debates over the past few years calling on the UK Government to take more action to save our industry. However, on issues such as energy costs, those calls, as my hon. Friend said, have sadly gone unheeded up to now.
During these very hard times for steel, we should recognise, as my hon. Friend said, that the workforce, with their unions, have made huge sacrifices and done all they can to help our industry—most recently, through the painful changes to pensions. Let me also mention, as a Welsh Member of Parliament, the Welsh Government, who have done all they can with the powers and tools that they have in Wales to help. That includes the active work of Ministers such as Ken Skates, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, who has supported the industry through Welsh public sector infrastructure and construction projects.
However, we do need more UK Government action, and faster. It is true that we have had warm words, but we need more action. The steel sector deal proposal has been put together by the existing six steel companies in the UK, coming together with the unions to look at ways of addressing the challenges collectively. Those individual companies have made specific commitments on jobs, investment, expanded capacity and an increase in innovation activity within the sector.
Some of the companies are in my constituency. There are Tata’s plants at Llanwern and Orb and the relatively new entrant Liberty, which is expanding fast. Those two companies were among the six involved in drawing up the steel sector deal proposal. With Tata’s Llanwern Zodiac plant in Newport East, the investment by the company in the auto-finishing line, and Orb’s electrical steel capabilities, there is a real opportunity for the UK to establish itself as one of the foremost suppliers of steel to the automotive industry, especially for electric cars. We therefore welcome the Government’s automotive sector deal conversations and their ambition to increase domestic content to 50% in British-made vehicles, but we in Newport are acutely aware that we need a thriving, competitive steel industry to do that, which is why a sector deal for steel is needed.
The GFG Alliance, which owns Liberty Steel, which also has a base in Newport East, has announced plans to create a total of 5 million tonnes of low-carbon steelmaking capacity during the next five years as part of a drive to develop a green and competitive future for manufacturing in the UK. That would equate to half the steel made in Britain at present. Currently, the UK exports more of its scrap for processing abroad than any other developed country, so Liberty’s aim is to recycle a large proportion of the 7.2 million tonnes a year of scrap steel here in the UK. That low-carbon secondary steel production would displace much of the 7 million tonnes a year of raw steel currently imported and is a huge opportunity for the country to drive clean growth by making low-carbon steel at home.
There is great ambition in the steel industry in my constituency, despite all the difficulties faced by the steel sector in recent years. However, although demand for steel is up, production has fallen and many of the underlying causes of the recent crisis are still there. Tata and Liberty in my constituency show what ambition is out there, but we need Government interventions to ensure that our innovation can keep pace with our international competitors. That is why we repeat and repeat the policy asks. That means Government action on energy prices—the most important intervention that the Government could make. As my hon. Friend said, UK plants currently pay more than 50% more than their German and French counterparts. It means action on the business rate regime. These companies are investing and want to invest more. They want to work with the Government to unlock further investment. For the steel industry to flourish, they need a route to market that includes things such as UK steel for infrastructure projects, help with access to finance and a future steel challenge fund. Addressing the barriers through a sector deal will help to unlock investment. I mentioned this a moment ago, but we also need to continue to see more commitment on procurement, including in subsidised energy projects. As a South Walian Member, I point out that we are still awaiting a decision on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.
The project has huge potential, not only for Swansea bay but for other areas of Wales—there is the potential for tidal lagoons in places such as Newport—so we must keep pressing the Government. We do not understand why the decision has not been made yet.
There has obviously been disappointment in the steel sector that its own proposal for a sector deal was not among those being talked about, especially given that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) said, discussions have been ongoing since the crisis in 2015-16, when the Secretary of State invited the sector to work with him to come up with a vision for a modern, sustainable steel sector. We look forward to hearing from the Minister today about what she can do to work with the industry and all of us to ensure a sustainable future for steel.
I spoke in today's Westminster Hall backbench business debate on a sector deal for the steel industry. Here's my contribution to the debate in full: I, too, congratulate my...
I recently joined Baroness Anita Gale and Parkinson’s UK to mark 200 years since Parkinson’s was first recognised as a condition.
I met with representatives from the charity and people affected by Parkinson’s in Parliament to hear about the charity’s ambition to bring forward the day when no one fears Parkinson’s.
Staff and volunteers told me about the huge strides that have been made in understanding the condition since James Parkinson’s Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817, but also the work that is still to be done as there is no cure for Parkinson’s and current medication can’t stop the condition from progressing.
Parkinson’s UK highlighted the issues faced by people with Parkinson’s, including getting the right financial support to help with the extra costs of living with the condition.
I heard how 25 per cent of people with Parkinson’s are losing some or all of this support as they are moved from Disability Living Allowance to the replacement benefit Personal Independence Payment, leaving people unable to pay for aids and adaptations, energy bills and transport.
Parkinson’s affects one in 500 people in Newport East, and can cause a myriad of symptoms including insomnia, depression, and hallucinations, robbing people of their independence. But through more research, improved services, and empowering people with Parkinson’s to take control, their lives can be turned around.
Parkinson’s UK wants to see quality services as standard for the 127,000 people with Parkinson’s in the UK. They also want people with Parkinson’s to feel empowered to take control of their lives, and to take part in clinical trials in their local area to help find better treatments and a cure in years not decades.
For advice, information and support, visit www.parkinsons.org.uk or call our free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.
I recently joined Baroness Anita Gale and Parkinson’s UK to mark 200 years since Parkinson’s was first recognised as a condition. I met with representatives from the charity and people...
I'm supporting the TUC ‘Dying to Work’ charter to support and protect employees who become terminally ill.
Since its launch in April 2016, The TUCs ‘Dying to Work’ Voluntary Charter now protects over half a million employees with companies such as Legal and General, Santander, Co-Op, Carillion, Rolls Royce and the Royal Mail joining E.On and signing up along with a number of public sector bodies including NHS trusts, police authorities and many local authorities.
The Dying to Work campaign was set up following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The campaign is calling for a change in the law to prevent the same thing happening to other working people.
It is shocking to think that if people with terminal illnesses are dismissed or forced out of their jobs that their loved ones will lose the death in service payments that the employee has planned for and earned through a life-time of hard work. That is why I am proud to have signed the TUC ‘Dying to Work’ charter to protect my employees and I will be encouraging businesses in my constituency to follow suit and sign up to the TUC’s voluntary charter. I hope something will soon be done to ensure that every individual with terminal illness will receive the protection and support they deserve.
The campaign has also been endorsed by a number of trade unions and charities, including The National Council for Palliative Care, Hospice UK, Breast Cancer Care and Second Hope.
TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: "Serious illness is tough enough without having to put up with extra hassle at work. Everyone can surely agree that terminally-ill workers deserve protection.That's why unions, MPs, employers and charities are coming together to ensure that workers get the support and protections they need when times are toughest."
This broad support was demonstrated in a recent Survation poll of over a thousand people which found that 79% of respondents support a ‘protected period’ for terminally ill workers where they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition with only 3% opposing it.
The TUC Dying to Work Voluntary Charter states the following:
1. We recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.
2. Terminally ill workers will be secure in the knowledge that we will support them following their diagnosis and we recognise that safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic in itself.
3. We will provide our employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.
4. We support the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind.
I'm supporting the TUC ‘Dying to Work’ charter to support and protect employees who become terminally ill. Since its launch in April 2016, The TUCs ‘Dying to Work’ Voluntary Charter...