Welcome to my CLP report for November 2017.
Government in chaos
Last month I called for the Tory Government to place a moratorium on the further roll out of Universal Credit. I also echoed the call for the Universal Credit Helpline number to be free of charge as opposed to costing 55 pence per minute.
I am pleased that the Government has bowed to the pressure and announced that the Helpline will now be free of charge. But we have, in recent weeks witnessed a fiasco in respect of the continued roll out of Universal Credit.
Labour’s Work and Pensions spokesperson Debbie Abrahams had called for an emergency debate on Universal Credit towards the end of last month to put pressure on the Government to pause the roll out of Universal Credit and fix it. Not only did the Tory Work and Pensions Secretary disrespect Parliament by refusing to attend the debate, but their MPs were ordered to abstain from any vote on a Labour motion, to try and scupper it being passed. Knowing that they would lose the vote with their “hired hands” in the Ulster Unionists voting against the Government, along with at least 1 Tory rebel, this meant two Labour Whips had to call out against the Labour motion when put verbally, to ensure a formal vote took place. As a result of the Tory abstentions the motion was passed by 299 votes to 0. However, the Tories are still ignoring the democratic will of the House of Commons by trying to ignore the vote.
I, and Labour colleagues, will continue to press for a moratorium on roll out until there has been a fundamental review of the scheme. It is due to be rolled out in Caerphilly in May next year.
If this were not bad enough, we have also had to endure the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson making yet another blunder in giving evidence to a Select Committee. His blunder could lead to a dual UK-Iranian national who is already imprisoned in Iran on ‘secret charges’ being found guilty of another charge and facing up to five more years in jail. Despite this latest blunder it seems Johnson lacks the integrity to resign, and Theresa May the strength to dismiss him.
Finally we had the shambles surrounding the International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s “holiday” to Israel, during which she just happened to attend 12 meetings with Israeli Government officials including the country’s Prime Minister, all without the prior knowledge of the Foreign Office or her Department. She has of course now resigned.
Aside from witnessing the Government disarray, I have had a busy month in Westminster.
Along with a number of meetings involving the Shadow Defence Team I have undertaken a number of visits and attended a number of meetings / events in Westminster.
Visits have included to Boeing in Fleet and defence company Thales UK in Surrey.
I was pleased to meet up with some constituents at the British Lung Foundation reception and attended the Welsh Hearts drop-in promoting the use of defibrillators, and a drop-in for the start of Pancreatic Awareness month.
I was able to get along to briefings organised by UNISON Cymru/Wales on public sector pay and Cardiff University on what Brexit will mean for the people of Wales.
I spoke during this last month in debates on armed forces pay and defence capability, as well as asking a question to the Minister on puppy smuggling, and one to the now departed Defence Minister Michael Fallon on job losses at BAE.
I managed to fit in the time to take advantage of the opportunity for MPs to have their flu jab, and would encourage everyone entitled, to make arrangements with their local surgery.
On 14 October I was able to attend part of the “Heartlands Seats 2” event in Merthyr building on Welsh Labour’s Manifesto Pledge, and the formation by the Labour Welsh Government of the Valleys Ministerial Taskforce.
I have also met with the Managing Director of the Help 4 Wales Foundation which provides a range of services including animal welfare, help for the homeless, and support for food banks.
I attended the Police Headquarters in Cwmbran for an informative briefing on future policing and this was followed by a visit to the Gwent Missing Children’s Hub.
Following the publication of the Welsh Audit Office’s Report on Welsh Housing Quality Standards within Caerphilly Council’s housing stock, I attended a meeting with other elected members, the Council Leader and Cabinet Member, and Senior Council Officers to hear the Council’s plans on how to address the recommendations in the Report.
During half term, the charity Street Games, held an open event in Lansbury Park, to highlight the work it is undertaking in areas of social deprivation around its Fit and Fed initiative. This recognises that if children are well fed they are fitter, happier and perform better. Whilst many of these children benefit from free school meals they often don’t get similar nourishment in school holiday periods. Although I was unable to attend due to prior commitments, one of my staff colleagues went along to meet organisers.
I also regrettably had to miss the CLP Sunday lunch last weekend due to a Parliamentary engagement overseas, but I understand the speech by my MP colleague Thangham Debbonaire from Bristol West was well received.
Street Games “Fit and Fed”
Although I was unable to attend due to other commitments, I am pleased that my office was able to support this excellent initiative at Lansbury Park, attended by former Wales footballer Nathan Blake.