It's clearly a difficult time for steel generally but it was good today to join the First Minister on his visit to Liberty in Newport to highlight the substantial investment by Liberty Steel in Gwent. As Sanjeev Gupta said today ‘Newport has a special place in the Liberty Group and the news that we could see up to 600 jobs at the Newport plant over the next two years is warmly welcomed and he paid a special thanks to the workforce.
I spoke about Liberty's 'Green Steel' plans to recycle scrap metal to produce steel as part of a debate on the future of the steel industry in Parliament last week, where we talked about the need for more Government help. I've invited UK Ministers to Newport to see Liberty’s operation for themselves.
It's clearly a difficult time for steel generally but it was good today to join the First Minister on his visit to Liberty in Newport to highlight the substantial investment...
I've joined Parliamentary colleagues in signing a letter to the Chancellor of Exchequer calling on the Government to show its support for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in the upcoming Autumn Statement. The letter calls on the Government to ‘send a message to the world that it is not afraid of large and innovative infrastructure projects’.
A Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon would provide a substantial economic boost for South Wales, and has the potential to create a significant amount of regular, carbon-free, UK-sourced energy. It would also present an opportunity for the Government to show its support for our steel industry. As members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel we’ve been pushing the UK Government to look at its procurement policy on steel, and this is exactly the sort of major infrastructure project that could serve as an important vote of confidence in one of our key strategic industries.
It’s also really important that we treat the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon as a starting point for further investment in lagoon technologies across the UK, and as I’ve emphasised to Ministers in the past, there’s no reason why a Newport Tidal Lagoon shouldn’t be on the agenda in the near future. It would provide a great opportunity to harness the immense power of the Severn Estuary, and could create jobs that utilise the skilled local workforce we have in Newport and the wider Gwent region.
I've joined Parliamentary colleagues in signing a letter to the Chancellor of Exchequer calling on the Government to show its support for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in the upcoming...
A consultation on disability benefits assessments are long overdue for those who have suffered the current Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process.
The WCA assessment system currently assesses a person’s ability to work. It then categorises people on whether they are unable to work at all or if they are potentially capable of some work. After changes brought in by the coalition Government in 2011, The Labour party as well as disability charities and campaigners have long argued that the changes to these assessments no longer take into account the daily realities of life for those with physical disabilities and mental health issues, especially where symptoms can differ from day to day.
I know from helping many disabled constituents just how cruel the current processes have been. This and the recent benefit cuts for people in work-related activity groups by £30 a week under the Tories in Government has caused huge amounts of anxiety and stress.
Statistics show that 59% of the appeals made by those found fit to work have had the decision overturned, showing the scale of incorrect decisions being made in the first place. In fact, ever since key changes were made by the Coalition Government in July 2013, the percentage of overturned decisions has been greater than those upheld in every single month. We need a system that gets it right first time.
I also welcome the news that those with severe and chronic health conditions who are clearly not going to get better will no longer be forced to be retested every six months. This is something Labour politicians have long called for.
We need a system which identifies people’s barriers to work in a far more personalised way than the current system. Offering appropriate support to help people back to work whilst ensuring that those unable to continue to receive the support they need would help.
A consultation on disability benefits assessments are long overdue for those who have suffered the current Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process. The WCA assessment system currently assesses a person’s ability...
There is still no news on the public consultation for the future of the Severn Bridges.
I have asked for more details on the timing of the consultation, or when they return to public ownership.
I told the BBC: "According to the last estimate, the bridges will return to public ownership as early as the end of 2017 - that doesn't leave much time for the government to sort this out."
"I welcome the government looking at free-flow technology and lower tolls - although I would like them to reduce the cost even further."
"I also want Ministers to give assurances that if we do go for free-flow, then we keep the jobs associated locally for those who currently work for Severn River Crossings plc"
There is still no news on the public consultation for the future of the Severn Bridges. I have asked for more details on the timing of the consultation, or when...
Good to see so many involved in the Chartist Commemorations this weekend, including the annual march with pupils from Maindee School among others taking part, the twilight event at St Woolos cathedral church yard, and the Chartist Convention and more.
Good to see so many involved in the Chartist Commemorations this weekend, including the annual march with pupils from Maindee School among others taking part, the twilight event at...
Backbench debate on steel
This week the All Party Group on Steel secured another backbench debate on the future of the steel industry. Here is my contribution on behalf of steel workers and steel companies in Newport East.
I know there is uncertainty about Tata's plans, and we still need much more action from this Government, especially in light of the issues around Brexit.
As was repeated in the debate, steel is a foundation industry with a future, and Government help is not about handouts but creating a level playing field for us to compete with other countries.
I was pleased this week to get called in the Police safety debate led by Holly Lynch MP from Halifax. Here is my speech on this extremely important subject. I was glad to put forward the views of police families.
Welsh Tourism and Brexit
Here's my question this week to Culture Ministers. It’s brilliant to see a rise in number of overseas visitors to Wales this year, but we also need to listen to the industry about their uncertainty over Brexit and for the Government to have a plan.
Work, Health and Disability Green Paper
The Government announced it would be reviewing the way disability benefits are administered which is long overdue. The flawed Work Capability Assessment has been strongly criticised by the Labour party, and disability charities and campaigners since it was changed under the Coalition in 2013.
Figures show that 59% of the appeals made by those found fit to work have had the decision overturned, showing the scale of incorrect decisions being made in the first place. My office has dealt with many cases for constituents over the last few years and I know from listening to constituents we need a system which identifies people’s barriers to work in a far more personalised way than the current system.
Living Wage debate
I fully support Labour’s campaign. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately the Steel and Living Wage debates clashed this week otherwise I would have been there to try to speak.
Following yesterday's landmark High Court ruling that the PM cannot trigger Article 50 without Parliament's approval there will be a statement from the Government on its implications which you can watch here. This will be followed by a debate on Leaving the EU and workers’ rights. If you want to get in touch on this or any other issue please do contact me on Jessica.email@example.com
Backbench debate on steelThis week the All Party Group on Steel secured another backbench debate on the future of the steel industry. Here is my contribution on behalf of steel...
Yesterday the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel led a backbench debate on the future of the steel industry. Here's my contribution on behalf of steel workers and steel companies in Newport East:
"Last week, the Community union, which does an absolutely fantastic job for its members, quite rightly praised steelworkers in a statement, saying:“We believe the workforce should be commended, in the strongest terms, for continuing to deliver for Tata throughout this exceptionally difficult period and indeed restoring previously loss making parts of the business to profitability”.
"I start with that quote because it is right that we always acknowledge what a difficult time this is personally for those who work in our steel industry. We must never underestimate the effect the continued uncertainty is having on steelworkers and their families. I know that from talking to those who work for Tata at Llanwern and at Newport Orb. A steelworker emailed me last week to say:
“We feel forgotten about and we have no news on the Government’s and Tata’s plan for the pension, no news on where we stand on the future on any proposed merger, no answer on the deficit etc. Things seem to have come to a standstill and there are no answers coming from Parliament or Tata”.
"That very much echoes what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) said at the start of his speech. Aberavon and Port Talbot’s fortunes are very much linked. I absolutely concur with what my hon. Friend said about that feeling of uncertainty and how difficult it is for people. Many steelworkers feel that their lives are on hold. I hope the Minister understands that and takes it away from the debate.
"We have in this place relentless debates, questions and statements about steel. Just yesterday there were two fantastic questions at Prime Minister’s questions from my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith). In response, the Prime Minister said: “This Government have stood up for British-made steel, and we have taken a number of measures”. She also said “...we recognise both the importance of steel and the importance of Tata in the United Kingdom.” On the lack of clarity about Brexit, she said: “I am very clear that what we want to achieve is the best possible deal."
"We appreciate those words, but we need more detail and more commitment from the Government, with stronger words and stronger action.
"Workers in my constituency want to know that the Minister is fully engaging with the short-term urgency of the problems facing the Welsh steel industry. There are bits of good news, but the underlying problems have not gone away, as many other Members have said. We are still waiting for assurances from the Government about Port Talbot, which will affect Llanwern, and for any news on the joint venture between Tata’s strip products division and ThyssenKrupp, which could affect Orb in my constituency. If there is such news, what assurance can the Government give that commitments will be made on jobs, investment and the continuation of primary steelmaking at Port Talbot and across south Wales?
"The Government lobbied against the EU imposing tariffs on the dumping of Chinese steel. The Prime Minister did not even put Chinese steel dumping on the agenda when she first met the Chinese Prime Minister. Electricity prices are still a huge issue in the UK, with a disparity of £1 million a week between the UK and Germany, which has an effect on competitiveness. As many Members have said, despite the procurement guidelines, French steel is still being imported for Trident renewal. I know we will all be watching as large infrastructure projects get the go-ahead. The Government cannot let up on ensuring that all major procurement projects—from rail to airports and tidal barrages, which will be important for places such as Newport if Swansea bay tidal lagoon goes ahead—use British steel.
"As every one of my hon. Friends has said, the Nissan announcement is brilliant news, but where is the Brexit plan for the steel industry? So far, the Secretary of State for International Trade has said that he has no plans to support the steel industry with trade defence instruments. When combined with the other uncertainties Brexit has caused, that is a major concern. Brexit has many other implications for the industry, so we want similar assurances to those given to Nissan.
"In brighter news, the Welsh Government are thankfully doing all they can with the powers and levers available. I very much welcome the active work of Ken Skates, the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, who through Business Wales is supporting the industry through Welsh public sector infrastructure and construction projects.
"I appreciate that it is not all gloom and—I will make this point before someone intervenes on me to make it—I also appreciate the point about primary steelmaking. Liberty Steel now employs about 1,500 people, including in the steelworks in my constituency and the two Scottish steel plate mills, one of which I know opened recently in the constituency of the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows). Liberty Steel also has the SIMEC Uskmouth power plant and it is involved in the tidal lagoon initiatives, which were mentioned earlier and which are very important, not only for Swansea but, further on down the line, for places such as Newport. Liberty Steel has a long-term, sustainable strategy of steelmaking in the UK and actively invests in steel, power and the downstream industries. As we heard earlier, that is all built around a green steel vision, whereby Liberty Steel is working towards producing steel made from recycled scrap metal and powered by renewable power. That is an important addition to the traditional steelmaking industry.
"Finally, I take this opportunity to invite the Minister to visit Newport East to see the site in my constituency and see at first hand the plans for Liberty."
You can watch the whole debate here: https://goo.gl/CRjsSy
Yesterday the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel led a backbench debate on the future of the steel industry. Here's my contribution on behalf of steel workers and steel companies...
This week in Parliament I highlighted positive news about tourism to Wales, but questioned the Government about what Brexit will mean for tourism in the future.
Currently the Welsh tourism industry employs around 117,000 people with a further 89,000 indirectly employed, and accounts for a Gross Value Added of over £3billion, and the total contribution including impacts through the supply chain, capital investment and government expenditure nears £7billion or almost 14% of the total economy of Wales.
For the UK as a whole, between 15% and 20% of the tourism industry workforce is from other EU. The biggest rise in overseas numbers to Wales over the last year – almost a 33% increase – came from the 13 countries to have joined the EU most recently. They include Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
We have fantastic tourism attractions in and around Newport, including the Wetlands, Tredegar House, the Celtic Manor, the Roman museum and amphitheatre in Caerleon, and Caldicot Castle, contributing to a bigger increase in overseas visitors to Wales than the rest of the UK this year. But with the biggest increase coming from EU visitors, it’s crucial that Brexit and any possible visa arrangements do not prevent people from visiting Newport and Wales. The Government need to know that a bad deal for the UK and Wales is a bad deal for Welsh jobs and tourism”.
In a question to the Under Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I said: "Wales has seen the biggest rise in overseas visitors to the UK in 2016, and it is the only part of the UK to feature in the “Lonely Planet” guide’s list of the best places to visit in 2017. Hopefully, there will be many more. Does the Minister appreciate that there is great uncertainty in the sector over what Brexit will mean in practice? This means that we need Ministers to listen hard, have a plan and work closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that Welsh tourism goes from strength to strength."
The Minister responded by saying: "The hon. Lady is right: the number of international visitors to Wales is up 15% and the figure for domestic visitors is 4%. That is a tribute to the hard work of VisitWales and VisitBritain. With the “Lonely Planet” guide placing north Wales in its top places to visit and with the Champions League final being played in Cardiff in June, things can only get better next year. I can reassure the hon. Lady that I meet Ministers from all the devolved Administrations regularly, and that we want to work closely to ensure that more people come to Britain, and that means all parts of Britain, and Wales."
This week in Parliament I highlighted positive news about tourism to Wales, but questioned the Government about what Brexit will mean for tourism in the future. Currently the Welsh tourism...
I was pleased to be able to speak in an important opposition day debate on police safety in Parliament yesterday. My contribution to the debate was as follows:
“I put on record my thanks to hard-working police officers and support staff, both on the frontline and in the back office. From dealing with Gwent police as the local MP and from my time on the police force parliamentary scheme, I know just how hard police officers and support staff work. I know their complete dedication to serving the public and how tough their job is.
“In the firm opinion of the people who contacted me prior to this debate with powerful stories to tell that deserve to be aired, the cuts have depleted numbers on the frontline and certainly impacted on front-line capabilities, as well as increasing the risks to officer safety. In Gwent, we have 1,127 police officers, whereas in March 2010 there were 1,437 full-time equivalent officers—a 20% cut. I am pleased that this year Gwent is recruiting new officers for the first time in three years, but we have had a loss of hundreds of experienced officers. Cuts of that severity are bound to have an effect. It will take time to bring the new people through.
“As has been reiterated in this debate, we lack reliable data on incidents involving officers. We need that data, so we are better able to tackle the problem. Police officers have told me that they agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch MP) when she says that the thin blue line is stretched far too thinly. Single-crewing is common practice and there is a heightened risk of harm because of that. Officers also tell me that numbers on a shift may look fine, but they do not relate to the numbers available to deal with crime. Shift numbers often include those on leave, on sick or on secondment. If we take off those waiting in custody or with injured people, the numbers are significantly lower.
“Injuries sustained in the line of duty are far too frequent. They are becoming an acceptable part of the job and that should never be the case. It is not just a hazard of the job: it is clearly unacceptable. Officers report a noticeable reduction in respect for police officers and assaulting a police officer is not taken sufficiently seriously. I support the call in the motion for statutory guidance on sentencing uniformly across the country, which reflects the seriousness of the issue.
“Police officers cannot protect us if they cannot protect themselves. I will just finish with this: a woman who is married to a police officer contacted me to describe just how the injuries her husband sustains in the course of his work affect the family. It has got to the point where, to stop their children worrying, the couple lie about how he sustains his injuries. She says: “According to my children he is the clumsiest dad ever, as we have had to tell them ‘dad fell over a bin chasing someone,’ ‘dad walked into a cupboard door in the station,’ ‘dad caught himself on the police car door.’ I am tired of seeing my husband come home injured and having to lie to my children to about how he sustained his injuries. I worry every time he is late home and grateful every time he returns home safely."
"It is time that we did more—to say that that is unacceptable for such families and to support our officers who are out there on our behalf.”
You can read a full transcript of the debate online at: https://goo.gl/Psw6Ca
I was pleased to be able to speak in an important opposition day debate on police safety in Parliament yesterday. My contribution to the debate was as follows: “I put...
Almost 100 community groups across Gwent are set to benefit from new funding awarded by Gwent's Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert this week. The funding - which comes from a £220,000 pot of cash seized from criminals - aims to support projects which make a positive difference in their communities.
I was delighted that so many community groups from Newport East were successful in their application for funding from the PCC; including the 2nd Caldicot Scouts, Newport Sea Cadets, Spencer Boys Junior FC, Glebeland Bowls, Caldicot Musical Theatre Society and Community House & Newport BME Youth Forum.
Another local group awarded a richly-deserved funding boost were Newport Street Pastors, who have been awarded £3,000 to purchase new equipment and uniforms for their volunteers. I have been fortunate enough to join the Street Pastors on a night shift , and I witnessed first hand their selfless efforts in assisting and safeguarding individuals in a distressed or vulnerable state. I'm sure that this new funding boost will be a great support to them in continuing their excellent work in our city.
Almost 100 community groups across Gwent are set to benefit from new funding awarded by Gwent's Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert this week. The funding - which comes from...