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...
Please find below a report of my work during October and November. Please get in touch if you have a case you wish me to raise or would like to let me know your views. Surgery dates are listed on my website www.jessicamorden.com and my contact details are listed below. For updates on my work please follow me on twitter @jessicamordenmp or facebook.
Recent business in Parliament has been dominated by the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will continue in the Commons during December. I am closely involved with the Commons stages as the Labour Whip on the Shadow Brexit team.
Whilst I voted and campaigned to remain in the European Union, I respect the outcome of the vote in 2016 and accept that Britain is leaving the EU. However, Labour is clear that Brexit must not lead to any drop in rights and protections – including workplace rights, consumer rights, human rights and environmental standards – and that power should be brought back to Parliament and local communities.
In its current form the Bill would side-line Parliament on major decisions and put crucial rights and protections at risk. Labour has tabled amendments to the Bill to restrict the use of executive powers, and to safeguard workplace, consumer and environmental rights. We will continue to push the government on these issues over the coming weeks, as well as the impact of the Bill on the devolved nations.
Since the Government’s introduction of Universal Credit which replaces six existing benefits, the reports from around the UK have shown that it is pushing people into poverty, rent arrears, and to food banks. In October I spoke on behalf of constituents and local organisations to urge the Government to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit and make much needed changes to the system. While some important changes were later made in the Budget, the Government did not go nearly far enough in making it better or to help those it is supposed to support.
November 22nd was Budget Day and once again we saw little from the Tory government for constituents in Newport East. Here’s my response to the budget amongst other issues I will continue to press the Minister on behalf of the 3,000 public sector workers in our area who have not received a pay rise since 2010, something I raised here.
Train overcrowding and electrification
This month I called on the Secretary of State for Transport to prioritise real action and improvements on rail services between Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol. I have received many complaints from commuters about overcrowding on services and will continue to vigorously raise this with Ministers and GWR. Here’s my recent question to the Secretary of State for Transport.
I would be grateful if you could share your experiences of local rail services with me, and I would encourage rail users to take part in the Government consultation on the future of the Great Western Franchise online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/great-western-rail-franchise The consultation closes on February 21st 2018.
At Welsh Questions I stood in for the Shadow Welsh Minister and challenged the UK Government over its decision to cancel the electrification of the mainline to Swansea which will have a negative impact on the South Wales economy - https://goo.gl/uVKknk
Legal Aid in Wales
This Government has brought in cuts over the last few years with the intention of reducing the legal aid budget by £450 million a year. On behalf of constituents affected, I highlighted at Justice Questions 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. Here is a link to my question.
The plight of the Rohingya
As Foreign and Commonwealth Questions I questioned Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the plight of the Rohingya people following the shocking reports we have seen since the Myanmar Government’s military offensive in August. Thank you to the many constituents who have raised this issue with me – 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.
Protect the protectors
I have also pledged my support for Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant’s Private members bill that would make attacks on emergency workers a specific aggravated offence. The bill received its second reading on the 20th October and here’s a link to my contribution and the campaign here.
At Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions I also questioned the Government who are dragging their feet over the decision on whether or not to support the tidal lagoon project in Swansea – a project which could pave the way for further projects, including in Newport.
Also in Parliament
In October and November I’ve hosted a meeting for Newport East’s Liberty steel, welcomed the Rainbow Group from Newport and attended meetings held by a number of Trade Unions including GMB, Unison and USDAW. I have also supported campaign events by organisations such as Parkinson's UK, Community Housing Cymru, Dogs Trust, Cat Protection League, RSPCA amongst many others.
In the constituency, my office has helped constituents with issues ranging from Universal Credit, Police issues, Immigration, PIPs and more. I have held advice surgeries in Newport and Caldicot, organised meetings with the Police and attended many events across the area. These include:
- Advice surgeries in Caldicot and Newport
- Meeting with taxi drivers, councillors and Police
- Attended Remembrance Day in Newport and Caldicot, and the Merchant Navy Memorial Day
- Meeting with unions from Llanwern and Orb
- Meeting at Orb works with TATA steel managers
- Attended the Over-50s Information Day and a Community Information Fair at St Julians Baptist Church
- Meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner
- Reading at the Chartist Commemoration
- Meetings with Newport Council Leader, Councillor Debbie Wilcox
- Meeting at Severn Power Station
- Met with the Bengali community to discuss the plight of the Rohinyga
- Attended Milton Court Macmillan Coffee Morning and Gwent Cruse fundraiser at Ringland Labour Club
- Draig Dwr event at Newport International Sports Village
- Presented an award at Love Live Music Awards
- Newport Male Voice Choir Concert
- Caldicot CAB meeting
- Visited HMS Severn
- Met with the Turkish Community
- Awareness day out with RSPCA inspectors
You can always find my advice surgery dates on my website. Please call if you'd like an appointment.
Alternatively you can email me on email@example.com
Please find below a report of my work during October and November. Please get in touch if you have a case you wish me to raise or would like to let me...
On Postal Workers Day we say a big thank you to all postal workers in Newport East and beyond who provide such an important service at Christmas and throughout the year.
I was pleased to show my support for our postal workers with colleagues in the Opposition Whips team and Labour's Shadow Minister for Postal Services Gill Furniss.
On Postal Workers Day we say a big thank you to all postal workers in Newport East and beyond who provide such an important service at Christmas and throughout the...
I was pleased to attend a Parliamentary reception in support of Cats Protection, the UK’s leading feline welfare charity.
Cats Protection help around 190,000 cats each year through its national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 34 centres.
Our local branch - Cats Protection Gwent - are based in Newport, and can be contacted via their website (https://www.cats.org.uk/gwent-branch/contact-us-page) or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CatsProtectionGwent.
I was pleased to attend a Parliamentary reception in support of Cats Protection, the UK’s leading feline welfare charity. Cats Protection help around 190,000 cats each year through its national...
I’m supporting the Dogs Trust campaign to put a stop to puppy smuggling.
Dogs Trust has been investigating the problem since 2014, and through three undercover investigations has found that unscrupulous breeders take advantage of, and profit from issues with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). As a result, underage puppies are being illegally imported into Great Britain from Central and Eastern Europe, and sold to unsuspecting members of the public.
Over the last few months, nearly 100 dogs were seized by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the borders, as dealers take advantage of the increased demand for puppies in the run up to Christmas. Dogs Trust has found that of the puppies who do survive the appalling conditions they are forced to travel in, many require emergency treatment – with dehydration and malnutrition among the horrific conditions they suffer from as a result of travelling for thousands of miles in cramped conditions, with no food or water.
Thanks to quick intervention and expert care from the Puppy Pilot scheme, Dogs Trust has been able to save 94% of the puppies coming into care. 6% sadly passed away. Dogs Trust has also seen examples of heavily pregnant dogs coming into Great Britain, showing that breeders are stooping even lower to flout the system, with no regard for the welfare of the mum or her puppies.
Dogs Trust has warned that although there is a rise in puppies illegally imported during the festive season, illegally imported puppies is a huge issue all year round.
This week MPs were invited to take part in a photo opportunity showcasing the horrendous conditions puppies are smuggled in, with Dogs Trust reporting extreme cases of puppies smuggled in baskets covered with cling-film and crammed in suitcases.
I’m very pleased to support Dogs Trust in raising awareness of the plight of illegally imported puppies, who suffer the most harrowing of journeys at the hands of these unscrupulous dealers. It’s imperative that the Government takes immediate action by enforcing proper checks at the ports and on-the-spot fines to deter these breeders and dealers, as well as introducing revised legislation as a priority when the UK leaves the EU. We really hope this will help to effectively regulate pet travel.”
Adrian Burder, Dogs Trust CEO, said: “It’s a shame that we still have to remind people of our slogan, ‘A dog is for Life, not just for Christmas’ nearly 40 years on from its creation. We always encourage responsible rehoming, but as we’ve seen, dealers will go to great lengths to dupe innocent people, making it increasingly difficult for people to spot an illegally smuggled puppy. Over the next 12 months, we will continue to push for proper enforcement at UK borders.
“We will also continue our Puppy Pilot scheme, which rescues puppies seized at borders, funds their quarantine and rehomes them responsibly. So far, this scheme has saved more than 600 puppies.”
I’m supporting the Dogs Trust campaign to put a stop to puppy smuggling. Dogs Trust has been investigating the problem since 2014, and through three undercover investigations has found that...
The UK Government needs to review its strategy on police funding as a matter of urgency.
Gwent Police has been forced to deliver around £49 million of efficiency savings between 2008/09 and 2017/18, and has seen its budget reduced by 40% in real terms since the start of the UK Government’s austerity programme in 2010/11.
Since 2010, over 20,000 police officers, 30,000 police staff and 6,000 community support officers across the UK have been axed despite a promise to protect the frontline. In Wales alone, there has been a 14% drop in the number of officers on our streets over the last seven years. At the same time there has been an increase in recorded crime, with more complex crimes being committed – including new forms of crime online – and an increasing need to safeguard the most vulnerable in society. All of these factors place ever greater pressures on police time and resources, which makes the Government’s refusal to invest in our police absolutely indefensible.
Last week’s budget had nothing to say for our Police, and a lack of investment from the UK Government leaves local Police and Crime Commissioners with little choice other than to increase precepts to make up for the shortfall in funding. Indeed, if a reduction in funding from the UK Government continues over the next three years, around 50% of the budget for Gwent Police would have to come from the precept, compared to around 30% in 2008.
The Government must urgently review its policy on police funding – dedicated police officers and staff in Gwent and across the country deserve far better than they are getting from Ministers in Whitehall.
The UK Government needs to review its strategy on police funding as a matter of urgency. Gwent Police has been forced to deliver around £49 million of efficiency savings between...