I was pleased to speak in the Commons debate on Welsh Affairs last night.
Here’s my contribution in full:
“I wanted to start my contribution by talking about steel, because this Friday, 23 March, President Trump’s 25% tariff on steel imported into the US will kick in, unless the Government and the EU can force some movement on the decision announced on 8 March.
“I am very proud to represent a constituency with significant steelmaking: at Llanwern, where, among other things, we have Tata’s Zodiac plant, which produces high- quality finished steel for automotive customers, including Jaguar Land Rover and BMW; at Cogent Orb, a global supplier of electrical steels; and at Liberty Steel whose footprint is growing and growing in the UK and beyond and whose green steel vision could see major expansion in Newport in the future. The steel industry and steelworkers in my constituency have been through tough times, and the recovery we have seen is still fragile.
“This move will have not only a direct impact on our exports, but the indirect impact of others countries’ displaced steel trying to find a home. We had a statement on this tariff last week, when the International Trade Secretary laid out both the Government’s approaches to the US and the work being done at an EU level as part of a unified response. Will the Secretary of State for Wales ensure that he is playing his part in speaking up for Welsh steel at the Cabinet table and that the Government do all they can to work with the EU on a response to this? May we have a report back from the International Trade Secretary on how he has got on this week in his discussions in the US?
“On steel dumping, Opposition Members have not forgotten that it was the Conservative Government in 2016 who sought to block EU plans to impose tougher targets on Chinese steel imports. Clearly, this US decision is not about national security, and we ought to remind the US that when they last tried this in 2002 economists estimated that it cost the US economy 200,000 jobs. Clearly, we all do not want to see these tariffs imposed, but if they are, what practical help will the Government be offering the steel industry? For instance, our energy prices continue to be much higher than those of other countries and Ofgem’s targeted charging review could produce even higher charges, so will the Minister look at that specifically? The Government have been slow to act on some of the issues challenging the steel industry in the past, but we need robust action now.
“The second issue I wish to raise is Severnside growth. Newport East is changing. Before the term “Severn bridge tolls” is consigned to history, I should acknowledge that the Government have acted after a strong and sustained local campaign about the impact of the tolls. That is good news for commuters in my constituency, local businesses and the economy of south-east Wales.
“It was reported last week that Newport and Severnside are experiencing a housing boom, with many people choosing to move across the Severn. However, there are clearly challenges as well, and we will need councils, the Welsh Government and UK Government Ministers to work together to address them. For example, last week an estate agent in Caldicot said that a three-bedroom former council house in Caldicot would have been on the market last year for £150,000, but they are now on sale for around £230,000 or more. We will need more affordable housing and the accompanying infrastructure, and we need all levels of government to work together to address the challenges.
“The Secretary of State has previously talked quite rightly about the importance of cross-border transport links. I reiterate to him that one important thing the Government could do for commuters in my community is to address the lack of capacity on cross-border Great Western services to Bristol and beyond, which is making it really difficult to access cross-border jobs. That is a daily complaint, so I would be grateful if the Secretary of State took that up.
“There are lots of positive developments in our part of Wales, a few local examples of which are the excellent collaborative work of local authorities such as Newport through the city deal and the great western cities initiative and the excellent support from the Welsh Labour Government. We are looking forward to the potential of the metro. We have the semi-conductor cluster facility, the National Cyber Security Academy and the National Software Academy putting south-east Wales at the heart of the UK digital sector.
“I attended a recruitment fair for CAF-the Secretary of State mentioned the company earlier-at Coleg Gwent today. CAF is a Spanish train manufacturer that is bringing 200 high-quality jobs to the constituency this year and 100 next year. We are really grateful for that. There are plans for the renovation of the Chartist tower, the city centre regeneration and the new international convention centre at the Celtic Manor, so there is plenty to be positive about, but in uncertain times, particularly in respect of Brexit we have to keep our eye on the ball. The Government have a role to play in that.
“My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), who is no longer in his place, mentioned Megan Lloyd George. Over the past few weeks, I have been at many events to celebrate International Women’s Day, and in this Vote 100 year this debate is an excellent opportunity for me to name just some of the excellent local women in my area who are leading the way in their fields. We have Pam Kelly, the deputy chief constable of Gwent police; Nicole Garnon, the editor of the South Wales Argus; Debbie Wilcox, the leader of Newport City Council; Susan Gwyer-Roberts, the excellent headteacher of Caldicot comprehensive, whom I wish well in her imminent retirement; and Trudi Marsden, the commercial supply chain director from Cogent Orb.
“Those are all women of whom the famous Lady Rhondda from Llanwern, who was imprisoned in Usk for blowing up a post box for the suffragette cause, would be rightly proud. Lady Rhondda’s story is one of which we in Newport are proud. She fought a valiant campaign for women to take their seats in the House of Lords, was the first women president of the Institute of Directors and even survived the sinking of the Lusitania. Her story is rightly becoming more well-known this year and is the subject of an opera and a brilliant biography by Angela John. I wish to record our gratitude to her and acknowledge the fantastic leadership of the women I have mentioned. We have come a long way since Lady Rhondda’s times. There is still much more to do, but I know that the women who are leading the way in our communities today will act as an inspiration for young women in my constituency.”
You can read a transcript of the full debate online here: https://goo.gl/WSBvFz