This week our thoughts are with steelworkers and their families in Newport East following the devastating news that there would be a further round of job losses in the steel industry, this time the majority in South Wales, totalling 1,050 jobs. While most of these jobs will be lost in Port Talbot, the impact will be keenly felt in Llanwern too.
The steel industry is facing unprecedented challenges and I, along with other Steel MPs, take every opportunity on the floor of the House of Commons to press the Government on what more can be done to protect this vital industry of national importance to the UK and to us locally.
Since the New Year I have questioned Ministers on behalf of Tata's employees and unions in Llanwern and Orb. Here are my questions and steel MPs will continue to challenge them to act faster: 13 January 2016, 14 January 2016. This week I also raised the job losses in Llanwern at a special Statement by the Steel Minister on Monday and during a debate led by MP for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock. My contributions are here and here.
Last week I joined other Labour MPs in opposing the Housing and Planning Bill (England) which will see up to 40,000 council houses a year lost with Councils being forced to sell off their highest value homes alongside the impact of increased discounts for council tenants under right to buy.
This contrasts with the Welsh Labour Government which plans to remove the right to buy and where Government is set to surpass its target to provide 10,000 additional affordable homes by May this year. This is on top of Help To Buy in Wales being on track to support the construction of 5,000 new houses in its first phase. Jeremy Corbyn made this the theme of PMQs and you can read the exchanges here.
This week the Government also disgracefully pushed through plans to axe maintenance grants in favour of loans for the poorest students in England without a vote on the floor of the House of Commons. As the BIS Whip on the statutory instrument of just 17 MPs, Labour MPs opposed the measure and the undemocratic way Minsters have tried to enact it and we'll be returning to this next week by calling an opposition debate to challenge the Government. The Government's moves contrast sharply with the Welsh Labour Government's approach where up to £5,100 is available in tuition fee grants and a total of up to £7,367 maintenance support for those students with the lowest household incomes living at home and up to £8,764 if living away from home.
Pontypridd's Owen Smith as Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is leading the charge on the Government's cuts to Universal Credit which I wrote about here and here are my interventions on the real impact of this on disabled people in our community.
Constituents have contacted me about the Government's plans to cut the National Wildlife Crime Unit whose funding will run out in March. The NWCU works in the prevention and detection of wildlife crime, identifying local and national threats. I made the point in Attorney General Questions that if we are to tackle wildlife crime in the UK, it is crucial that the Government secure the NWCU’s funding as part of a long-term strategy. Here is my question to the Attorney General this week and my support for the campaign.
Please do get in touch if you would like to raise anything with me.