Covid and PPE
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) I have been working to hold the Conservative Party to account for the terrible failures, chronic cronyism and wasteful spending that have permeated their response to the Covid crisis.
On top of all the money blown on private consultants, the suspect contracts and the absolute lack of transparency around VIP treatment for firms with ties to the Tories, we are now hearing about enormous amounts of excess PPE currently sitting in shipping containers and racking up reported storage costs of £1m a day.
I questioned some of the UK’s leading PPE suppliers during a recent PAC hearing and one supplier alone estimated that there were nearly half a million pallets of their PPE kit still sitting in shipping containers.
This is yet another example of the inefficient planning that has cost the taxpayer billions of pounds and also, ultimately, cost lives.
In light of the mounting evidence against this Government, against Boris Johnson and his Ministers an inquiry into the handling of Covid must be held as soon as possible.
G7 tax deal
Ensuring that firms like Amazon, Google and Facebook pay their fair share in taxes is something that has been on my agenda for a long time.
It was eight years ago that I spoke to the BBC about it. I have spoken and written about it many times over the years since.
I was therefore pleased to hear about plans for the G7 summit to discuss a global corporate tax rate which would force these firms into line, but I believe the agreed deal does not go far enough.
A global tax rate of at least 15%, is a watering down of the 21% that Labour – and US President Joe Biden – had called for.
This extra money would have equated to an extra £131m a week for the UK that could be used to boost our NHS and other public services.
Also, under the new deal, Amazon will still be falling short of paying its way. By reportedly only having a 6.3% profit margin the company falls short of the 10% threshold.
It has been said that the 15% is a starting point that can be built on in the future, and it should be.
There can be no loopholes left unclosed that allow Amazon – or anyone else – to sidestep paying their fair share.
We to put things right, force these tech giants to stump up, pump some much-needed funds into our public services and help back local businesses.
I spoke in the House last month to once again push for assurance that the Government is prepared to step in and support Liberty Steel.
We need the Government to ensure that plants – such as ours here in Tredegar – remain open and also provide the finance to bridge a transition period should a new buyer or state purchase be necessary.
Behind the ugliness of the Greensill collapse, the lobbying scandal and the serious fraud accusations against Sanjeev Gupta are 5,000 families who rely on Liberty jobs to put food on the table.
We need answers about what went on and we need urgent action to protect Liberty and the steel industry as a whole.
At the end of this month, the UK’s Steel Safeguards are due to expire. Without them, the UK will become one of the few open markets for steel produced on world markets. Imports would surge, threatening jobs.
The Government is failing to commit to putting UK steel first in its procurement processes and failing to protect the industry.
Steel should be at the core of the UK’s industrial strategy and our post-Covid recovery.
Now is the time for real, meaningful action to support UK steel.
Return of Parkrun
Getting Parkrun events back up and running is very important to me, as Chair of the Parkrun APPG, as a keen parkrunner myself and also as a keen advocate of healthier lifestyles.
The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of keeping fit and healthy, and also seemingly acted as the catalyst for this Government to finally bring in changes I have spent years campaigning for – such as banning pre-watershed junk food TV adverts and enforcing mandatory calorie information on restaurant and café menus.
Over the last few weeks I raised questions in Parliament and also wrote to the Prime Minister about an issue around land use which was preventing parkrun events from starting up in England.
I also contacted the First Minister and Welsh Government to ensure that our parkrun events can start up as soon as regulations allow.
There have been some strong indications that we are now heading towards the starting line and I am hopeful that parkrunners will be back in action soon.
Parkrun is a fantastic event with many benefits for physical and mental well-being on top of the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with it.
I would love to see even more people taking part when events begin again and will do what I can to continue to promote these brilliant local initiatives.
I was sad to hear that former MP for Blaenau Gwent Llew Smith passed away last month.
Llew was a well-respected MP who battled for the constituency every day.
He was very sure of his principles and did his best by Blaenau Gwent.
He will be missed by many across our valleys.
My condolences to his family and friends.
Written contributions / video / social media links
Video: Treasury Select Committee
British Steel pensions
Junk Food ad ban
Vaccine News 1
Pet theft amendment
Letter to PM on Parkrun
Return of Parkrun press coverage
Vaccine News 2
Health Board update 1
Video: BEIS Question on Liberty Steel
Liberty Steel press coverage
Video: Topical Questions – Defence
“Steel industry needs support…”
Health Board update 2
Video: Public Accounts Committee – Covid PPE
Vaccine news 3
G7 tax deal
Welsh Government respite fund
G7 Tax deal