Happy New Year and welcome to my CLP report for January 2018.
Since our November GC I have made a number of contributions to formal Parliamentary business.
Prior to the recess I contributed to debates on the budget with reference to defence spending, and made several interventions in a debate on social mobility with specific reference to access to higher education.
I submitted 2 written questions on the development of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and asked a question of the recently appointed Defence Secretary, seeking an assurance that any contract for the new mechanised infantry vehicle will be subject to a fair and open competition process and not subject to any “cosy deal with Germany”, in the context of Brexit negotiations. The reply was regrettably less than informative.
In November I criticised the Government for its lack of reference to the defence industry in its disappointing industrial strategy document. Following on from this I have written an article for the Fabian Society on “The future of Britain’s defence industry”.
It has been a busy schedule of Westminster based events since the New Year the highlights of which included speeches to the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions hosted by GMB, and at a UNITE event on Aerospace and Shipbuilding.
I enjoyed a fascinating visit to see Lockheed Martin’s F35 new fighter plane demonstrator and was able to try my hand – pictured below. It is just a great shame that it is an American aircraft and Britain needs to develop its own “sovereign capability”.
The first week of Parliament after the Christmas recess heralded the shambolic Cabinet reshuffle in the aftermath of the sacking of Damian Green, as First Secretary of State. It did not take very long for the reshuffle to be thrown into chaos, and for the continuing, inherent weakness of Theresa May as Prime Minister to be seen by all.
It is difficult to know where to start. We had Justine Greening the former Education Secretary resigning from the Cabinet after reportedly turning down a Cabinet job at the Dept. of Work and Pensions. Theresa May was “disappointed” according to Downing Street officials. She showed her abject weakness by giving into the widely criticised Jeremey Hunt as Health Secretary, in failing to replace him, then compounded this by also giving him responsibility for Social Care, to the dismay of professionals across both the health and care sectors. In Higher Education we witnessed Jo Johnson one day defending the controversial appointment of Toby Young as Universities watchdog, despite allegations of a history of lewd tweets by the latter. The next day Jo Johnson was moved to the Department for Transport, soon to be followed by the resignation of Toby Young. Those digging deeper will also have noted the addition of Suella Fernandes to the Dept. for Exiting the European Union. Fernandes chairs the European Research Group of backbench Tories who have urged the Government to prepare for “No Deal”. It doesn’t bode well.
We were all shocked this week by the terrible news of Carillion going into liquidation. To learn of any company going into liquidation, and the impact this will have on people’s jobs and pensions, with the knock on effect on local economies, is always devastating, but the scale of the impact of Carillion’s collapse is almost beyond comprehension. Apart from the approximately 20K people directly employed by Carillion, it is estimated there could be a serious knock on effect on around of 30K businesses in the UK. Carillion have also been awarded contracts for hundreds of key public services over the years. This will undoubtedly lead to a debate on the merits of outsourcing such contracts but of immediate concern are very serious questions as to why the Government continued to award contracts to Carillion even after it had been alerted to the company’s financial difficulties.
In December I attended a public meeting, alongside Hefin David AM, to discuss concerns around anti social behaviour in Ystrad Mynach, an issue we will be following up in the forthcoming weeks.
I was delighted to attend the visit to the Caerphilly Miners Centre by HRH Prince Charles, in my capacity of Chair of the Centre’s Board.
Before the Christmas break I met with representatives of the Stroke Association who are concerned at a possible loss of funding support as Caerphilly Council has to make some very difficult choices during the forthcoming budget setting process.
The highlight of the pre-Christmas celebrations was attending the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Band Christmas Concert in Bedwas Workingmen’s Hall
It was a pleasure to start the New Year off with the Chords Choir event in the Van Guard Centre Caerphilly, supporting people with dementia.
Last week I met with United Welsh Housing Association to discuss their concerns over the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit, due to take place in Caerphilly during the course of this year.
I have also spent an interesting day accompanying an RSPCA Inspector on her round to gain first-hand experience of the work they do.