In the annual St David’s Day debate today I spoke about recent flooding in South Wales; help for our steel industry; and positive developments in Newport including the new CAF rail factory in Llanwern. There was a time limit on speeches so I was unable to say everything I wanted to, but here’s the transcript of my speech from the debate:
I’ll attempt to condense my speech into the brief moments I have available. I obviously want to echo what other members have said today and this week about the terrible flooding which has taken place in communities across South Wales following. While we were fortunate not to be directly impacted in the same way in Newport East, though nearby Monmouthshire was, and we very much sympathise and stand by side in solidarity with those whose homes and businesses were affected and thank all the emergency services and everyone who helped on that.
I do wish though to put on record that we’ve had difficult news again this week at the Orb. Tata have announced that no suitable buyer has been found for the steelworks so far, which was mothballed as honourable members might know before Christmas, and they are now considering offers to use the site for other purposes.
Fewer workplaces are more ingrained in the history of Newport than the Orb. I’ve spoken at length about the history but it also had a fantastic future too as the only producer of electrical steels in the UK and with investment could have played its part in the electric vehicles revolution and electrification generally.
I think it’s a huge shame. We did come to the government to help – I know the Welsh Government did what they could to help – but help was not forthcoming, and I really do echo the comments of the honourable member for Aberavon that we need far action from the government on steel if the industrial strategy is to mean anything apart from warm words.
Given it’s the time for maiden speeches I felt I need to renew my vows and talk about the brilliant things that are going on in our community and in Newport but there’s not time to do that. I would say that the CAF rail factory in Newport was officially opened by the Prince of Wales last week – that’s got the capacity to provide trains for HS2 so I hope ministers take that on board, I’d really appreciate it.
I’m fully supportive of the South Wales Argus’ ‘We’re Backing Newport’, an excellent campaign which promotes our city for what it is – a great place to live, work and bring up a family – and I know that because I bring my own family up there.
There are brilliant opportunities coming to Newport, which is the ninth fastest-growing city in the UK. We’ve experienced the 4th highest rise in property prices, and we’ve also got the International Convention Centre and amazing things going on in the city centre, which is in my honourable friend the member for Newport West’s constituency, helped the Welsh Government, Newport City Council and our new visionary leader Jane Mudd who’s doing a fantastic job.
CAF rail officially opened their new factory in Llanwern. investment from the Welsh Labour Government and already employs a skilled workforce of around 250 people, which is set to grow to 300 in the near future. CAF has the potential and the capacity to produce trains that are at the cutting edge of modern rail technology – including for HS2, which is a point I raised in Welsh Questions yesterday.
It’s not all about urban regeneration either. There’s the RSPB Newport Wetlands which I would say on St David’s Day will feature on BBC Countryfile so please watch that it’ll be fantastic. So lots of great things going on.
My honourable friend mentioned colleagues who are no longer with us for a variety of reasons since the General Election. They played a fantastic role in this place and will continue. I for one have inherited the All Party Mindfulness group from Chris Ruane and will continue with that, but also with Madeleine Moon’s campaign to scrap the six month rule for those with terminal illnesses which is something the Government has been silent on but we need to press further on.