Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Blaenau Gwent survey
Here is a short survey I have created to find out more about the priorities and concerns of people in Blaenau Gwent and the issues you want me to focus on in Parliament.
I would be grateful if you could take a moment to fill it in and also share with anyone who may want to have their say.
Return to Parliament
Parliament returned at the start of this month and the Conservative Government continues to lurch from one crisis to another.
People are being let down by incompetence and a Government which stubbornly refuses to address its failings.
One of the most pressing issues remains the Government’s insistence on sticking with its one-size-fits-all withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes.
The Labour party has been warning that Britain faces a cliff edge in October, over which we face dropping into a jobs catastrophe and the worst recession in Europe.
The Government should be targeting support where it’s needed.
Businesses in sectors of the economy that have not yet been able to re-open still need help.
There’s no room for stubbornness in a crisis like this.
The Tory Government must show flexibility and target support to protect jobs in the hardest-hit sectors.
The latest health issue locally is the steep rise in Covid-19 cases over the border in Caerphilly, which has resulted in a local lockdown being introduced.
This lockdown means that people are not allowed to enter or leave the Caerphilly County Borough Council area without a reasonable excuse.
The recent increase in cases in Wales has been reported as being the result of returning holidaymakers, with the example given of a group that returned from Ibiza with Covid-19 who then began a community spread.
I have been told by Aneurin Bevan Health Board that the focus is now on continuing to communicate the importance of sticking to the simple safety measures of washing hands regularly, social distancing, wearing a mask where social distancing is not possible and self-isolating if you’re asked to by a contact tracer.
The numbers remain low in Blaenau Gwent – three new cases reported in the latest data – and there is currently only one Covid-19 positive patient in hospital across the ABUHB area.
In order to keep these numbers low, we must not become complacent.
For regular updates on the situation in Caerphilly there is a live webpage here
All Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams
I am very pleased to be part of the new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pension Scams, in the role of Vice Chair.
Since 2017 when the British Steel Pensions Crisis scandal broke, I have been working with pension holders, industry representatives and regulators to root out the blight of pension scams and the rogue advisors who perpetrate them.
George Osborne’s pension freedom reforms were poorly planned.
The systems in place to protect and advise people navigating such choppy financial waters, were – and still are – utterly inadequate.
People were left at the mercy of pensions sharks who circled with the aim of encouraging unsuitable transfers for their own gain.
When cases of scams or mis-selling come to light, the Financial Conduct Authority seems to lack the teeth necessary to deal with what are actually complicated cases of fraud.
The APPG’s purpose is to work together to better protect the public, give scam victims a collective voice and facilitate the development of policy.
My aim is to see better help made available; simpler, more robust complaints procedures in place; and stronger, faster action taken against those responsible.
I raised a question in the House earlier this month about the Government’s Kickstart scheme and how it must ensure long-term job security for young people.
There was already a successful template for this type of scheme in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund which saw results due to the formation of local partnerships to create long term jobs for young people.
If £2bn of public spending is going to go into this scheme then it must deliver high quality placements with training opportunities built in and a direct transition into long-term employment.
The Government should be looking at sectors such as digital and cyber security.
When I was taking part in discussions about creating the new Cyber College Cymru in Ebbw Vale, I spoke with cyber security industry leaders who told me that they are unable to meet demand for roles in this sector. There is an expectation that there will be hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs that need filling in the very near future.
This is a sector where there will be an enormous demand for skilled young people in the coming years and one which will be vital to our future economy.
Our local red ramblers had a lovely socially-distant walk up to the Chartist’s Caves above Trefil on the weekend on the theme of ‘In the footsteps of Nye’.
We started off from the newly refurbished Top House pub, Nye’s favourite watering hole from which he would head off to walk the mountain with his agent Archie Lush.
We were joined by not only Gerald Jones MP for Merthyr Tydfil but also former First Minister Carwyn Jones MS, who is now standing for membership of the Labour National Executive Committee.
The NEC is important because all the big decisions for Labour are made there. It would be terrific if Carwyn was at the heart of that and Wales could really benefit.
Carwyn brought his dog Ted for some exercise and we quickly racked up 10,000 steps.
Walking above Trefil the weather was great. We found the Chartist Cave to be busy as a number of people had seen the previous evening’s BBC documentary which recounted how 10,000 Chartists had marched to Newport from the valleys to fight for our democracy in 1839.
I am proud that British democracy was nurtured and championed from Blaenau Gwent.
We were guided by the estimable Alyson Tippings who quizzed us on the Chartists’ six point plan but also briefed us well on our industrial heritage and local environment.
Written contributions / video / social media links
Police information re: Dog thefts
Welsh Labour jobs campaign
Letter to British Gas re: local redundancies
South Wales Argus column
Age Cymru survey
Applying for Police and Crime Commissioner Fund
Health Board update 1
Parliamentary question on Government Kickstart scheme
Local litter pick
‘Walking in Nye’s footsteps’
Parkrun and Covid-19
Health Board update 2
Stem cell donor campaign
Launch of APPG on Pension Scams