Please find below an update of my work through August and September. Please do get in touch if you have a case you wish me to raise or would like to let me know your views. You can email me at email@example.com, or call my office on 01633 841725. For updates on my work please follow me on Twitter @jessicamordenmp, Facebook or Instagram (@jessicamorden2020).
New local restrictions in place in Newport
In response to the recent increase in the number of Coronavirus cases in Newport, the Welsh Government has introduced new local restrictions to protect people’s health and control the spread of coronavirus. From 6pm on Tuesday September 22, the following local restrictions came into effect for people living in the Newport local authority area:
- People will not be allowed to enter or leave their local authority areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.
- People will only be able to meet outdoors. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household.
- All licensed premises will have to close at 10pm.
- Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public places – as is the case throughout Wales.
The new restrictions coming into force will bring challenges for many of us, but they are a necessary means of addressing the recent rises in cases. During the more restrictive lockdown earlier this year the people of Newport showed we could work together to keep each other safe – I’m confident we’ll do so again.
More information is available on the Newport City Council website here
and the Welsh Government website here
My debate on the steel industry
I secured and led a recent Commons adjournment debate on the UK steel industry. In the debate, I spoke up for steelworkers in Newport East and highlighted that steel should play a vital role in rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus pandemic. I urged the UK Government to grasp a unique opportunity to create a 21st century manufacturing sector that has a revitalised steel industry at its core. I also reiterated that the government has been slow to support our industry, and called for urgent action on issues including energy costs, international trade policies and government procurement practices to boost steel. You can read my speech from the debate in full here.
Covid-19 General Debate
I took the opportunity in the recent general Covid debate to raise the issue of the lack of support for the 3 million excluded from government schemes, and the lack of a plan for those deemed by the Chancellor to be in ‘unviable’ jobs or professions. I also spoke about the need for a Covid recovery plan to help young people; highlighted the benefits of the more cautious approach taken by Welsh Government First Minister Mark Drakeford; and reiterated my support for Usdaw’s campaign for a legislation to protect shopworkers. You can read my full speech in Hansard here: https://bit.ly/30fcTw2
PMQ on the Living Wage
Continuing my recent run of luck in the draw for Prime MInister’s Questions (PMQs), I asked Boris Johnson to guarantee the National Living Wage rise for next April following reports that it was considered ‘unaffordable’.
Yet again there was no straight answer from this Prime Minister. Workers must not be made to bear the economic impact of COVID-19.
You can read the full exchange here
, and the TUC’s reaction to my question and the Prime Minister’s response in Politics Home here
Photo credit – Jess Taylor.
UK Government letting down Welsh carers
I recently spoke in Parliament about how the UK Government’s decision to apply tax and benefit deductions to the £500 bonus for care workers introduced by the Welsh Government is a mean-spirited move.
Speaking in Treasury Questions, I said “Can the Minister tell my constituents who are care workers why, when they have worked their hearts out and been given a £500 thank you by the Welsh Labour Government, this Government sees fit to deduct money from them, leaving those on universal credit with around £125? That is just mean-spirited.”The minister’s dismissive response was disappointing – this is a government that once encouraged us to clap for carers, and now spitefully chips away at a richly deserved goodwill payment for care workers. Ministers in Whitehall are undermining the Welsh Government and letting down the care workers who went above and beyond for us all during the pandemic.
You can read the South Wales Argus coverage of my question here
Rail fare hike
Despite a slump in passenger demand during the Covid pandemic, the cost of train tickets is due to rise again by 1.6% in January 2021.
The average cost of a rail season ticket has risen by 42% since 2010 – two and a half times faster than the wage growth over the same period. Season tickets on some key commuting routes between South Wales and the West of England have risen by as much as 44% – or around £1000 – since 2010. Rail users in Newport East have had enough of paying more and more for their train tickets – the increase in fares over the last decade has been absolutely eyewatering
. It’s time for UK Government ministers to get a grip on the situation if we are to avoid the 2020s, like the 2010s, becoming a decade of sky-high fares for passengers.
You can read the Wales Online story here
and the comments from Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon MP here
Newport East Summer Survey
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Summer Survey from John Griffiths MS and I. A significant number of survey respondents raised concerns about the impact of Covid-19 and the economic recovery from the pandemic.
It’s vital that workers’ rights and protections are safeguarded as millions of people return to their workplaces, and we should use this opportunity to ‘build back better’ and create a greener, cleaner economy.You’ve also told us that some of your main concerns include rising levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, UK Government cuts to the police, and the urgent need to protect our environment, jobs and local industries
. These are all incredibly important issues, and your feedback will help inform my work in Westminster. You can read more on our survey findings in the South Wales Argus here
Internal Market and Fire Safety Bills
Thank you to everyone who contacted me ahead of the votes on the Internal Market Bill on September 14th.
I voted against the bill as it represents a power grab by the UK Government at the expense of the people of Wales and the devolved governments. It also opens the door to a dilution of rights and standards, and crucially, breaks international law. I completely agree with the Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband that the Prime Minister is damaging Britain’s international reputation. You can read the full text of Ed Miliband’s speech during the debates on the bill here
Another important bill came before Parliament earlier in the month in the form of the Fire Safety Bill.
As a teller for the ayes, I recorded the number of those voting in favour of Labour’s amendment. Unfortunately, we were defeated by the Conservatives by 318-188. This breaks the Government’s promise to implement the recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry. You can read more on this here
Usdaw Freedom From Fear campaign
I support the Usdaw campaign calling on the Government to create a new law that makes it a specific offence to abuse, threaten or assault a retail worker. Retail workers have been on the frontline during the Coronavirus crisis doing vital work. Sadly during this time levels of violence, threats and abuse of shopworkers have doubled.
It’s a national disgrace that valuable members of our communities have been assaulted, spat at, threatened with infection of Coronavirus and abused. It’s clear that the existing laws don’t do enough to protect shopworkers.
You can sign Usdaw’s petition calling for change here
Gaps in government support
As more local lockdowns are enforced, ministers will need to do far more to support constituents who have fallen through the gaps of government support schemes – particularly those who weren’t covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Job Retention Schemes.
This includes self-employed people who get less than half their income from self-employment; people who started new jobs after March 19th; and self-employed people who had been on parental leave during the previous three years and will have their income reduced as a result.The Government also needs to address the continuing flaws in the social security system – including the five-week wait for Universal Credit.
This is something I raised in the most recent Wales Office Questions – read more on this in Hansard here
. The current advance loan payment system is only serving to push more people into debt at a time when they can least afford it.
World Suicide Prevention Day
I was pleased to link up with Newport County AFC for a video to raise awareness around World Suicide Prevention Day, which took place on September 10th. Due to the ongoing pandemic it’s more important than ever that we look after ourselves and each other. You can watch the full video on YouTube here.
Gwent Levels – send your photos
John Griffiths MS and I have linked up with the teams at Our Living Levels and Newport Wetlands to encourage members of the public to share their photos of the beautiful Gwent Levels. You can take part on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags #DiscoverGwentLevels and #ActionsForNature. Read more in the South Wales Argus here.
In the most recent Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy question time I highlighted the need for additional resources for workplace rights enforcement body ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) in light of redundancies linked to the coronavirus pandemic. I said “Citizens Advice Bureau research shows that one in six workers are currently facing redundancy, and that parents, carers and those who shielded are twice as likely to be made redundant. Will the Government now provide additional emergency resources to enforcement bodies to ensure people are treated fairly, equally and safely during this extremely worrying time for workers?” Read more on my website here.
Remembering Ben Nathwani
We recently said a sad farewell to popular Newport East shopkeeper and character Ben Nathwani. Ben, pictured here in 2019, was very well-known locally with a shop on Corporation Road for many years. Much loved and always smiling, Ben had time for everyone. My love to his wife Vilas & all the family he adored.
Here are a few other issues I have been involved with recently:
- South Wales Argus ‘Your MP Writes’ column. Read my latest article online here.
- Supported the Unite the Union campaign for the Job Retention Scheme to be extended for the aviation sector. I was hoping to speak in the recent backbench debate on support for the aviation industry, but wasn’t called. I’ve outlined some of the remarks I would have made in the debate on my website here.
- Supported the GMB Union #StopTheBritishGasFire campaign calling on Centrica to withdraw its threats to fire & rehire workers. Read more on my website here.
- Attended the launches of Petal Power Maindee and the Art of Lockdown exhibition in Newport, and spent a day volunteering at the Newport Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre with Jayne Bryant MS. I also held face-to-face and virtual meetings with local groups including the Caldicot Food Bank, Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery, and the Magor Action Group on Rail, as well as representatives from Roadchef Employees Benefits Trust.
- Meetings and calls to raise constituents’ issues, including with Gwent Police; the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board; the South East Wales Transport Commission; Job Centre Plus South East Wales; Black Lives Matter Gwent; Community Union; the EFL; and the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Steel and Georgia.
- Contacted UK Government ministers and departments on behalf of constituents through written questions and letters on a number of issues including: the Personal Independence Payment (PIP); DWP processing of terminal illness benefits; the persecution of the Uyghur people and Christians in China; the need for upgrades to the South Wales mainline; the backlog in complaints made by serving armed forces personnel; ACAS guidelines around redundancy notices and holiday pay for workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic; electricity network supply chains; the need for a resolution to the discussions HMRC and Roadchef Employee Benefits Trust (including for constituents who worked at Magor Services); safety for private contractors working on the railways; and calls for the extension of the Veterans Recognition scheme.
- Supported the Labour Party campaign calling on the UK Government to ensure that Royal Navy ships are built in Britain. Read more here.