Welcome to my CLP report for September 2018
The summer recess has taken up August but it has been a hectic couple of weeks since my return to Westminster.
In the Commons I have made contributions to debates on the Salisbury Incident, and Brexit querying if a no deal scenario would result in the Government reversing its cuts to HMRC staff due to the inevitable increased customs declarations.
At PMQs I challenged the Prime Minister over the potential loss of access to the European Arrest warrant in the event of a no deal Brexit.
I was able to ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care how many penalty charge notices for NHS prescriptions and dental subscriptions have been issued in the last 5 years to people claiming ESA.
In my Shadow Defence capacity I attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and met with young Prospect trade unionists working in the defence industry. I also met with a representative from Emergent Biosolutions who specialise in biological defence systems.
The start of the new Parliamentary term sees the AGMs of the All Party Parliamentary Groups. I was able to attend the meetings for the Industrial Heritage, and Mongolia Groups.
I was glad that I was able to find time to call into the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust reception to launch their free resources for Holocaust Memorial Day.
I was pleased to host a visit to Parliament by a group from Caerphilly County UNISON. Unfortunately I was unable to meet them myself on the day due to an important engagement in the constituency, so I was grateful to my colleague Gerald Jones MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney for picking this up.
Brexit chaos continues
This heading may appear familiar from previous reports. Regrettably it seems as pertinent now as it has ever been.
It was only in July that Prime Minister Theresa May lauded the supposed “Chequers Agreement” as the blueprint for successful Brexit negotiations. It took only days for this to be blown apart with the resignations of senior Tory Ministers and officials.
Since then we have witnessed, not only the constant briefings against the “Chequers Agreement” by Boris Johnson and the recently formed “chuck Chequers” group, but also against Theresa May herself. Rumours still abound over a potential leadership challenge.
Ordinarily we would undoubtedly revel in this chaos within the Tory ranks but of course all this is at a crucial time in the Brexit negotiations process. If this chaos continues it increases the very real threat of a “no- deal” Brexit. The consequences of this could be catastrophic.
It was less than a month after the Chequers Agreement announcement we had the revelation that contingency plans for stockpiling food and medicines were being considered. This last week we have seen a fuller impact of a no–deal with the Government’s own assessment of what a no-deal Brexit could mean. Some “highlights” include:
- Non validity of UK driving licences in the EU
- No guarantees on restrictions on mobile phone roaming charges
- Passports with less than 6 months to run invalid
These just touch the surface of day to day issues but don’t even mention some of the more serious implications around regulations on the environment, safety standards, employment rights, crime, and the list goes on. I myself challenged the PM this month on the crime issue, pointing out that last year 183 people were returned to this country to face justice because of the European Arrest Warrant, which will disappear with a no-deal Brexit.
I know there are differing views within our own Party on Brexit and a second referendum or a “people’s vote” on any final package and all options must be kept open. Whatever our views it is vital that the Party unites to oppose this inept Government stumbling towards a no-deal on the back of self-preservation motives.
The Summer Recess provides an opportunity to pick up more events in the constituency.
Highlights of the last period have included the “Back to School Bonanza” with the Bedwas Pentecostal Church, the launch of the Aber Valley Heritage Group smartphone app and Walking History Trail, a meeting at Plant2Plate on “Plastic Free Caerphilly”, and a visit to a Llamau project house in Caerphilly.
Local residents in Gelligaer and Penybryn have raised concerns over developments at the Bryn Quarry site. As well as a site visit to the quarry and farm I attended a packed public meeting to listen to the concerns of these residents. Subsequently, in conjunction with Hefin David AM, I met with Caerphilly Council and Natural Resources Wales to discuss these concerns.
The poor service provide by Arriva Trains is a matter frequently raised with me by constituents. Whilst we are unlikely to see a dramatic improvement before the handover of the rail franchise to KeolisAmey in October this year, I met with senior representatives of ATW, who will transfer to the new provider, seeking assurances on improved services under the new regime.
I was proud to attend the raising of the Merchant Navy Flag at Ty Penallta, along with Gerald Jones MP, the Mayor and other Labour Councillors.
Finally, it was great honour to make a presentation to Pam Baldwin at our recent fundraising lunch to thank her for her many years of service to the local Party and wider labour movement.