I’m backing USDAW’s Respect for Shopworkers Week, which runs from the 14th-20th November.
Respect for Shopworkers Week, which forms part of the union’s wider ‘Freedom From Fear’ campaign, aims to raise awareness of violence, threats and abuse against retail workers during the often-hectic build-up to Christmas.
It seems wrong that the festive season should ever be a time for undue stress, but we know that each year the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping causes tensions to flair – and all too often shopworkers are on the receiving end of this. USDAW’s Freedom From Fear campaign is an important way of reminding everyone that abuse should not be part of the job for hardworking retail staff, who themselves often work long and unsocial hours in the run up to Christmas.
We need to respect shopworkers at Christmas and throughout the year, and ensure that all incidents of violence and abuse are taken seriously and reported promptly.
I’m backing USDAW’s Respect for Shopworkers Week, which runs from the 14th-20th November. Respect for Shopworkers Week, which forms part of the union’s wider ‘Freedom From Fear’ campaign, aims...
Today I spoke on behalf of women in my constituency affected by the Coalition Government's changes to the state pension age. Many of these women were given insufficient notice from the Treasury to plan their retirement, or have had difficulty working for longer due to illness or caring responsibilities. In Newport East, 3,100 women are affected among 135,000 in Wales.
Read my contribution to the debate below:
"My thanks go to the hon. Members who secured this important debate. I want to contribute on behalf of the women in my constituency who find themselves affected by the change to the state pension age. They are angry about the pace at which the change has been accelerated, angry about the way it was done and how it was not communicated properly—many learnt about it from the media, not a Government body—and angry that the Government have not acted to help them."
"As my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) said, clearly the Government have failed to listen over successive years when the issue has been raised. As other hon. Members have mentioned, there has been debate after debate, and question after question.
"The women affected in my constituency are not just angry but anxious and worried, because they face real financial insecurity. I will focus on that. Some 3,100 women are affected in Newport East, and 135,000 are affected in Wales. Many have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their state pension age and, as was mentioned earlier, a lack of appropriate notification.
"Last week, a new constituent—I very much welcome new constituents—contacted me. Her story illustrates the financial insecurity facing many people. She had to sell her long-term family home in Bristol and move away from her children, parents and friends in order to make ends meet and to tide her over until she is 66. This is a woman who, as a single parent, received no support when her children were small. She worked all her life and then discovered, far too late in the day, that she will have to survive for longer. She is recovering from breast cancer but does not feel able to work at the moment, and she is trying to navigate the disability benefits system. This is a woman who explained to me how she would ring the DWP every single year when she was working to check that she had paid enough contributions to get her full pension at 60. In her words:
“'This is not the retirement I planned at all—I live in a constant state of worry due to the cancer and financial pressures. The goal posts have been moved twice'”.
"She said that this is surely discrimination against women at its worst."
"Another constituent explained to me the impact of her pension date being deferred for the second time with little time to make compensatory arrangements. She has worked for 45 years and paid her way, and the changes to the pension age, which mean that she is not in receipt of her state pension at 60, will deny her more than £38,000. She, too, has cancer and is considering whether she has to give up work.
"The change to the state pension age is affecting people who are ill and on disability benefits, and the Government should look into that.
"My constituent who has cancer and is considering giving up work tells me that instead of seeing retirement as a positive development, she is dreading the financial insecurity after having worked for 45 years. These women had a picture of what their retirement might look like and it has been cruelly taken away. They did not expect the Government to change the rules. It would be good to know whether the Minister gets just how tough it is for many trying to find work at this stage, especially those who are ill or who have a disability. What will Ministers do for that group of women?
"Women who have contacted me from Newport East add their voices to the calls for more reasonable transitional arrangements that are particularly mindful of those who are ill, who depend more on the state pension in retirement and who have limits on their ability to work. We need the Government to move on this issue and ease the impact of the changes on those most affected. The Government have an opportunity in the autumn statement. There are a number of options on the table and they are all ways in which the Government could act. We need them to take responsibility for what has happened to these women."
Today I spoke on behalf of women in my constituency affected by the Coalition Government's changes to the state pension age. Many of these women were given insufficient notice...
Remembrance services in Newport and Severnside this weekend saw thousands of people paying their respect at the Newport Cenotaph, with services also in Magor & the sunset service at the Celtic Cross war memorial in Caldicot.
The role of the Merchant Navy was also remembered at the Newport Mission for Seafarers.
Remembrance services in Newport and Severnside this weekend saw thousands of people paying their respect at the Newport Cenotaph, with services also in Magor & the sunset service at the... Read more
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
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...