I took part in this week's St David's Day debate on Welsh Affairs in Parliament. My contribution to the debate is copied below:
This St David’s day debate takes place against the backdrop of Brexit and all the uncertainty that that brings, but, like other hon. Members, I want to talk about some of the positive developments that we have seen in the corner of Wales that I represent with my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) in the year since our last debate. On 14 March, it will be 15 years since Newport achieved city status, and it is no exaggeration to say that there is new life in our city centre thanks to the Friars Walk development, which had 8 million people walk through it in 2016. It has brought 1,500 new jobs and attracted £120 million into the city centre. All credit to Newport Council and its leaders, Bob Bright and Debbie Wilcox, for making that happen.
Coleg Gwent is seeking to relocate to a site next to the University of South Wales to create a knowledge quarter on the banks of the River Usk, and work will begin this month on the international convention centre. Last year, the University of South Wales launched the National Cyber Security Academy, which has been part-funded by the Welsh Government and supported by Airbus and General Dynamics. I am really proud that the cyber-experts of the future are being produced in Newport, in the second-largest cyber-security department after Royal Holloway college. These are positive developments, with Newport Council working with Labour in the Welsh Government and with industry to bring benefits to our constituents.
Other hon. Members have mentioned the Cardiff capital region city deal. The leaders from Newport and Monmouthshire were among the 10 leaders who signed that deal yesterday. The key element in this is the metro. We have had debates in which we have asked the UK Government to guarantee the funding for that, post-Brexit. It is an ambitious project with huge potential for improving connectivity.
As the population grows in the areas of Caldicot, Rogiet, Undy and Magor, it is crucial that we have the infrastructure for a new station in Magor, for which a bid has been put in, and better capacity for the commuter services to Bristol and Cardiff. I hope that the Ministers will pursue this with the Department for Transport.
We should also be talking about the Great Western Cities partnership between Newport, Bristol and Cardiff. This is another potential source of growth, and I am keen to hear from Ministers what they can do to engage with and support it. Those great western cities are interdependent and have key areas that could provide economic growth. Initial work has already shown that the economic benefit that could be generated by improving the connectivity between Bristol, Newport and Cardiff would be greater than that generated by similar investment in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. This is a huge opportunity and I would like to see Wales Office Ministers engaging with the project. I was going to let the subject of the Severn bridge tolls go, on this occasion—[Hon. Members: “No! No!”] I will just say that the Government have moved some way, following our long campaign, but it is not far enough. We will continue to campaign on that issue.
Finally, I want to highlight some other matters on behalf of my constituents. The first is steel. I have spoken many times about the importance of steel to my constituency, and I have been heartened by the investment being put in by Liberty. The Tata workers in the steel industry have made a difficult decision in agreeing to the pension proposals. They are doing their bit, and it is now up to Tata and the UK Government to ensure that there is a sustainable future for the Welsh sites, including Llanwern and Orb.
The second issue is personal independence payments. The Government’s announcement about the changes to PIPs last week has caused huge anxiety out there among constituents who are already struggling with the process. I cannot be alone in seeing surgeries full of people who are waiting too long for assessments and decisions, and long-term disabled people who are getting turned down, with all the distress that that causes. Last week’s statement will only add to that distress. Many disabled people that I know feel that they are always in line for cuts and that there are no guarantees that those facing reassessment will not see their awards cut. Will Ministers take back to the Department for Work and Pensions the message that, rather than making the process more difficult, what is needed are fewer delays, more consistency in decision making and more discussion with disabled people’s organisations before bringing forward regulations such as these.
Last but not least: the police. Today’s report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary highlights the fact that the police are struggling with cuts and that their response to the public is suffering. Gwent is rated “good” in HMIC’s assessment, and I am really pleased that it is in the top 10 best performing forces for cases involving domestic violence. However, the police are clearly struggling to do much more—there are more complex cases—with less. The debates that we have had in this place have highlighted that fact, and I would like to see Ministers fighting the corner for the Welsh police forces and the service they provide to our constituents, to ensure that they are properly funded and can do their crucial job well.
You can read a full transcript of the debate online at: https://goo.gl/vUOeWh
I took part in this week's St David's Day debate on Welsh Affairs in Parliament. My contribution to the debate is copied below: This St David’s day debate takes place...
Earlier this week I met with Fairtrade Wales in Parliament to support Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 27th February to 12th March.
Fairtrade Fortnight has grown every year, and a number of groups across Newport and Monmouthshire will be marking the occasion with Fairtrade coffee mornings and community events, including at Caldicot Library next week and Capel Mynydd Seion in Newport on 11th March. I know that Fairtrade Wales are also visiting a number of local schools over the coming days, including Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd in Ringland, to talk to pupils about the vital role Fairtrade plays in supporting farming communities across the world to improve their working conditions and protect and sustain the environments they work in.
Fairtrade works to benefit millions of small-scale farmers and farm workers; enabling them to maintain their livelihoods and reach their potential. I’d encourage everyone to buy Fairtrade over the next fortnight and beyond – it’s an important way to show our opposition to the exploitation of farm workers in the developing world, and a show of solidarity and support for labourers across the globe who grow and harvest the products we eat and drink.
Earlier this week I met with Fairtrade Wales in Parliament to support Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 27th February to 12th March. Fairtrade Fortnight has grown every year, and a...
I was pleased to get an opportunity to highlight the great work of staff at the Intellectual Property Office in Newport during a debate in Westminster Hall this week.
Speaking in the debate, I put on record my appreciation for the staff at the Newport Intellectual Property Office – a highly-skilled, high-performance workforce who are a big asset to the city. In my remarks, I called on the Government to continue to invest in developing the office and supporting the staff in light of the challenges the intellectual property sector faces more widely.
You can read a full transcript of the debate at https://goo.gl/sgHtYZ
I was pleased to get an opportunity to highlight the great work of staff at the Intellectual Property Office in Newport during a debate in Westminster Hall this week. Speaking...
National Energy Action’s Warm Homes Campaign has recently highlighted the problem of fuel poverty, which currently sees over four million households in the UK unable to afford the energy they need to stay warm and healthy in their homes. It is a particular problem for those on low incomes living in energy inefficient homes that are difficult and expensive to heat. In Wales, an estimated 291,000 households – nearly 1 in 4 – are believed to be in fuel poverty.
National Energy Action’s Warm Homes Campaign has recently highlighted the problem of fuel poverty, which currently sees over four million households in the UK unable to afford the energy... Read more
I was pleased to attend the launch of the Marie Curie Daffodil Appeal in Parliament this week.
The Daffodil Appeal is an important way of raising awareness and funds for care for those with terminal illnesses, and demonstrating our support for health and social care professionals across the UK who provide care for individuals and families affected. Organisations like Marie Curie – and St David’s Hospice in Newport – deserve huge praise for the specialist care, comfort and reassurance they provide to thousands of individuals across the UK who benefit from their practical, tailored support, advice and guidance.
Marie Curie provide hospice care, nursing and helper services and a dedicated information and support service for people affected by a terminal illness.
I was pleased to attend the launch of the Marie Curie Daffodil Appeal in Parliament this week. The Daffodil Appeal is an important way of raising awareness and funds for...
Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted on the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill including crucial amendments put forward by Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Brexit Minister.
Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted on the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill including crucial amendments put forward by Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Brexit Minister. Read more
A copy of the All Party Parliament Steel Group report can be accessed here
A copy of the All Party Parliament Steel Group report can be accessed here
Last Friday I spent a brilliant morning with Jayne Bryant AM, John Griffiths AM, Paul Flynn MP and Newport County AFC learning more about the great work of County in the Community and the huge range of activities locally.
There's an amazing amount going on from Soccer Tots, the Women's Team, afterschool clubs, Premier League Primary Stars, the College and more.
Thanks to Norman Parselle and the team for all you do!!
To find out more visit www.newport-county.co.uk/club/community
Last Friday I spent a brilliant morning with Jayne Bryant AM, John Griffiths AM, Paul Flynn MP and Newport County AFC learning more about the great work of County in the...
I'm backing a parliamentary motion calling for stricter sentencing on perpetrators of assault against police officers and other emergency service workers.
The Crime (Assaults on Emergency Service Staff) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons this week by my Labour colleague Holly Lynch, would offer our police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and paramedics greater protection from harm than that allowed under existing legislation.
Home Office statistics suggest that there were just over 23,000 assaults on police officers last year; equating to 450 assaults a week and an assault on an officer every 22 minutes. However the results of a recent Police Federation welfare survey, undertaken by 17,000 serving police officers, revealed that the scope of the problem is considerably greater, and that there are actually closer to 6,000 assaults every day, with the average police officer being assaulted 19 times a year.
I’m very pleased to lend my support to this important bill from Holly Lynch. Shortly before Christmas I spoke in an Opposition Day debate on police officer safety, and mentioned the experiences of a mum I met who would told her children that their dad was ‘the clumsiest man in the world’ as a way of explaining his bruises when he came home from work as a police officer. These sort of experiences are all too common, and the most recent evidence from the Police Federation suggests that scale of assaults on police officers is greater than many of us imagine. No one working in key emergency services should expect to be attacked while doing their job and serving the public. We need stricter legislation in place that recognise the severity of these offences, and protects the men and women who protect us from harm.
In her introduction to the bill in the Chamber, Holly Lynch MP said of emergency service workers: “Behind the uniforms are incredibly brave and dedicated individuals who, regrettably, face risks that they simply should not have to face on an almost daily basis. They routinely go above and beyond their duties to keep the public safe, yet when someone sets out deliberately to injure or assault an emergency responder, the laws in place must convey how unacceptable that is in the strongest possible terms. This Bill sets out to do just that.”
I'm backing a parliamentary motion calling for stricter sentencing on perpetrators of assault against police officers and other emergency service workers. The Crime (Assaults on Emergency Service Staff) Bill, introduced in...
I was pleased to take part in aSevern Tunnel Action Group roundtable meeting in Caldicot last Friday to discuss the future of the Wales and Borders rail franchise, and the needs of commuters and communities in Newport, Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean.
The new franchise – currently run by Arriva Train Wales – is nearing its end, with a new franchise due to be awarded in 2018 to one of four shortlisted bidders; Arriva, Abellio, Keolis or MTR. The successful bidder will be run the new franchise for 15 years, and will have responsibility for the incoming South Wales Metro system alongside Welsh Government.
The meeting offered stakeholders from Newport, Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean an opportunity to discuss their key priorities for the new franchise, including improvements to stations, rolling stock and capacity. Among the wide range of stakeholders attending were representatives from the local branch of the RMT union, Monmouthshire County Council, the Forest of Dean District Council, Lydney Town Council, Magor with Undy Community Council, Severn Tunnel Action Group, and the Magor Action Group on Rail, as well as county councillors and local rail experts, including Professor Stuart Cole, Professor of Transport at the University of South Wales and Rowland Pittard of Rail Future Cymru.. Members of staff from the offices of David Davies MP (Monmouth) and Mark Harper MP (Forest of Dean) were also in attendance.
I’m very grateful to the Severn Tunnel Action Group for organising the meeting. It was good to have a variety of voices around the table to discuss what local communities are looking for from the new Wales and Borders franchise, and the importance of developing a joined-up approach to meet the needs of current and future stations on the railway line between Newport and Cheltenham. We discussed the need for continued improvements at Severn Tunnel Junction, Caldicot and Lydney stations, and the potential of a new station for Magor as part of the forthcoming Metro system. A key theme that emerged from discussions was the need to ensure that smaller stations don’t fall between the cracks in the midst of larger projects like electrification of the South Wales main line and the development of the Metro.
We also discussed the fact that – despite the substantial growth of passenger numbers at local stations – there is still a low frequency of services – there are only 12 trains a day from Chepstow to Cardiff. Further to this, we also heard good contributions on freight, and the need for future service providers to develop increased freight transport between Newport, the Forest of Dean and further afield.
There was also agreement that we needed a strong local input into the Transport for Wales consultation on the Wales and Borders Franchise.
Speaking after the meeting, David Flint of the Severn Tunnel Action group said “We’d like to thank the Mayor of Caldicot and the Caldicot Town Council for the use of the Council Chamber for today’s meeting. A small committee representing Lydney, Chepstow, Caldicot and Severn Tunnel Junction stations will now be pulling together to develop all the thoughts expressed during the meeting before reporting back. The aim is to jointly present these joint ideas and objectives to the franchise bidders, as well as to Transport for Wales and Welsh Government."
Transport Focus are requesting that regular passengers on the Newport-Cheltenham line complete a passenger survey at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/rail-metro
I was pleased to take part in aSevern Tunnel Action Group roundtable meeting in Caldicot last Friday to discuss the future of the Wales and Borders rail franchise, and the...