Today in Parliament I asked the Government to consider further sanctions against Myanmar following continuing reports of violence against the country’s Rohingya population.
Myanmar’s Government have been involved in a military offensive against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine province since August, causing an estimated 620,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh – often taking dangerous risks in the process. The UN Secretary-General and UN High Commissioner have both described the violence as ‘textbook’ ethnic cleansing.
Speaking in Foreign Office Questions, I said “Three months on from the start of this current crisis we all continue to be shocked by the tragic stories as we see of the plight of the Rohingya people fleeing to Bangladesh and the scale of the crisis. EU member states, as well as the US Congress, are reportedly considering re-imposing some sanctions against Myanmar’s leaders. What discussions have Ministers had with EU member states on this and what would be the Government’s position?”
In response, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that he had raised the case with European friends and partners, including at a recent Foreign Affairs Council meeting. He said that this meeting had concluded with an agreement to suspend Burmese military visits and review all defence cooperation with Myanmar. He said that additional measures would now be considered as the situation had not improved.
Thank you to all the residents who’ve contacted me on this issue – I know there has been a lot of concern about the situation in the local community. It’s important that the UK Government plays a role in international efforts to pursue peace in Myanmar.
Today in Parliament I asked the Government to consider further sanctions against Myanmar following continuing reports of violence against the country’s Rohingya population. Myanmar’s Government have been involved in a...
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.
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...
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.
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’.
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...
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.
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...
Today in Parliament I challenged the Government to consider the impact of cuts to legal aid in Wales.
Speaking in Justice Questions, I highlighted that Wales has seen one of the largest drops in legal aid providers over the last five years - a decrease of 29% - particularly in the housing sector. I asked if the Government’s belated review into its deep cuts to legal aid would specifically look at the impact of this.
The Minister responding for the Government, Dominic Raab, responded by saying that he was not prepared to “pre-empt or prejudice the scope of the review that has been undertaken.”
Now the government has finally launched this review, I hope they will listen to the senior judges, legal aid providers and charities, and reform a system which is restricting proper access to justice for ordinary people.
As Labour's Shadow Justice Minister Gloria De Piero has said, access to justice should be available to everyone; not limited to the privileged few.
Today in Parliament I challenged the Government to consider the impact of cuts to legal aid in Wales. Speaking in Justice Questions, I highlighted that Wales has seen one of...
Thank you to the organisers of the Newport 50+ Information Day for organising another great event at Newport Centre.
Good to meet up with so many people and community groups.
Thank you to the organisers of the Newport 50+ Information Day for organising another great event at Newport Centre. Good to meet up with so many people and community...
I’ve given my support to a new bill that would make attacks on emergency workers – including the Police, NHS workers and fire crews – a specific aggravated offence.
The Crime (Assaults on Emergency Staff) Bill – a Private Members Bill sponsored by Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant – received support from the House of Commons at its Second Reading today, and will now move forward to the Committee Stage. I was pleased to speak in the chamber today, and highlighted the experiences of the family of a Newport police officer who had been in touch with me.
I was very pleased to be able to support this bill, and I pay tribute to my Labour colleagues Chris Bryant and Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, who has led a longstanding campaign on this issue. We need a new law that will protect those who protect us – it’s absolutely unacceptable that the hard-working men and women in our NHS, Fire and Police services face serious assault and abuse simply for doing their jobs trying to keep us all safe and well.
The prevalence of attacks on emergency workers is shocking. In 2016/17 there were 7447 assaults on Police officers in Wales, and well over 6,000 attacks on Welsh NHS staff. These are just the recorded incidents: for example, the Police Federation suggest that across England and Wales there are actually as many 6,000 assaults on officers every day. It’s about time the law reflected the seriousness of attacks against people working for the public good, and I hope that this bill to ‘protect the protectors’ will progress to the statute book.
I’ve given my support to a new bill that would make attacks on emergency workers – including the Police, NHS workers and fire crews – a specific aggravated offence. The...
I spoke in yesterday's Opposition Day debate on Universal Credit, and voted for the Labour motion calling on the Government to pause the roll-out:
"I am keenly aware that the full service roll-out is due to start in the Newport part of my constituency on 15 November. As has been made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), and also by a host of organisations including Citizens Advice, Community Housing Cymru—which represents housing associations in Wales—the Trussell Trust, the Child Poverty Action Group, and the staff of those organisations on the front line, universal credit is not working for far too many people.
"Although we support the principle of simplifying benefits, the evidence so far suggests that the design problems in the system, compounded by operational problems, delays and errors, mean that too many people are experiencing real financial hardship. In Newport—and in Caldicot, which will have full service in March—the DWP is dealing with only the simplest of claims from single people without children and without complex needs.
"The ramped-up roll-out will widen to include more claims, as yet untested in the system locally. We have already seen cases of people waiting up to eight weeks for payments, not being able to meet financial commitments, borrowing and incurring interest charges, and struggling to catch up while remaining in debt. In my constituency, a family with three young children moved on to universal credit because of a new relationship, but then had to be moved back on to legacy benefits and tax credit because the system was not yet geared up for such cases. That family were left for eight weeks without a single payment, and had to rely on food banks for help.
"The Government may decide to stick their head in the sand and ignore these valid criticisms, but let me explain what that might mean in my constituency. As I said earlier, the roll-out in Newport is due to start on 15 November. Given the six-week waiting period, my constituents will be lucky to receive their payment on the day after Boxing Day if it is on time, and not until the new year if it is not. No payments before Christmas will mean real hardship, and any payment received will be used to survive and to pay for food and heating, which by then—after six weeks with no income—will be a greater priority than paying rent. In neighbouring Torfaen, with the full service roll-out, 27% of Bron Afon tenants who moved on to universal credit in July had to wait an average of nine and half weeks for payment, which led to debt and borrowing from high-interest lenders.
"I know that the Government will talk about advances, but they are not an adequate response. They cover only part of the universal credit claim, and must be repaid through deductions. The point is that people are being put into debt immediately. If half the number of new claimants have to rely on advance payments, the system is clearly wrong, and, as was pointed out earlier by the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), that constitutes an admission that the system is failing.
"I know that housing associations are doing all they can to help tenants, and that there are heavy demands on their advice services, not least when they are helping those who cannot go online. However, as Gingerbread has pointed out, two thirds of single parents are renting privately. What is happening to those with private landlords? Are they able to negotiate longer repayment plans?
"I, too support calls from organisations such as Community Housing Cymru which want a pause in the accelerated roll-out of the full service until the problems caused by delays have been addressed, improvements have been made in relation to, for instance, the six-week waiting period and the seven days without pay, and—this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle)—the issue of landlord portals has been sorted out.
"Let me finally say a word about our local DWP staff, who are dedicated and extremely hard-working, although I cannot say that I have spoken to many who feel enthused. They are on the front line of the delivery of the roll-out. Their numbers have been cut, and all kinds of changes are taking place in their service. They need to be properly resourced and supported, and the Government must make that a priority.
"The movement on the call charges is welcome but overdue. We now need the Government to move further. We need them to understand the very real impact on people, not least in the run-up to Christmas. They must consider the practicalities, and pause the roll-out."
You can read the full transcript of the debate here https://goo.gl/pu13NB.
I spoke in yesterday's Opposition Day debate on Universal Credit, and voted for the Labour motion calling on the Government to pause the roll-out: "I am keenly aware that the...
I was pleased to show my support for Unison Wales' 'Scrap The Cap' campaign in Parliament this week.
Inflation is currently at 2.9%, meaning that the cap is a significant annual pay cut for public sector workers including nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, social workers and so many others.
Public sector pay has risen by just 4.4% between 2010 and 2016 while the cost of living rose by 22%.
It's time the Government gave our public service workers a long-overdue pay rise.
I was pleased to show my support for Unison Wales' 'Scrap The Cap' campaign in Parliament this week. Inflation is currently at 2.9%, meaning that the cap is a significant...
It was great to host Rainbow Newport in Parliament today.
We discussed issues affecting the LGBT community in South Wales and the impact of hate crime with Shadow Equalities Minister Carolyn Harris MP and Tyrone Powell from Gerald Jones MP's office.
It was great to host Rainbow Newport in Parliament today. We discussed issues affecting the LGBT community in South Wales and the impact of hate crime with Shadow Equalities Minister...