Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
We return to Parliament this week following a wasted summer where the Government completely disappeared amid a national crisis.
At the time of writing, we are awaiting a statement on what new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ plan is to tackle the Cost of Living Crisis – however it is fairly clear that she is choosing to ignore Labour’s call for a Windfall Tax on the profits of oil and gas giants.
People are worried sick about their bills. The weather is getting colder and families are wondering how they will manage during the winter months.
Meanwhile, oil and gas firms are forecasted to make as much as £170bn in excess profits this year.
The new Prime Minister wants to protect these profits, rather than use them to freeze energy bills.
Instead, she wants you, the taxpayer, to foot the bill for the energy crisis. A financial burden that will be felt for decades to come.
We need decisive action in a crisis, and we need a Prime Minister willing to take on the oil and gas giants. Instead, we have this.
When families need every penny they can get, our new Prime Minister seems to think now is the right time to protect Shell’s excess profits and give Amazon a tax cut.
It’s clear whose side she’s on.
A new Prime Minister arrives, but the story is still the same.
I met with Nigel Winter, Manager of Stagecoach South Wales, to make clear that the impact the failures of the 78 bus service is having on Blaenau Gwent residents is completely unacceptable.
I have previously and repeatedly written to Mr Winter regarding the failure of the X4.
The replacement 78 and T4 services were, I understood, meant to address these issues.
But over the last month or more I have again been hearing from constituents of repeated cancellations and buses running late.
Mr Winter said that driver recruitment and retention issues are at the heart of the problem, and told me that Stagecoach has now put in place a targeted recruitment drive that he believes should result in an improvement.
This situation has to end. Blaenau Gwent residents need, and should have, a reliable public transport service.
If it does not improve, I will be seeking another meeting with Mr Winter.
I welcomed members from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Building Better team to Blaenau Gwent, after inviting them to come and discuss broadband in our area.
I have been pushing for areas like ours to be included in the rollout of superfast gigabit broadband sooner rather than later and certainly not at the tail end of the current three year timescale.
At the moment cities and urban areas are being prioritised, and we are being left behind.
Having the best possible broadband is important for Blaenau Gwent, not just for connectivity at home, for businesses, for education but also to help support the growing Tech Valleys centre in Ebbw Vale and brilliant new Cyber Hub at Coleg Gwent.
When we are trying to put Blaenau Gwent at the spearhead of plans to make our country a centre of excellence for cyber security, we have to have the best broadband.
The visit took in the 5G immersive classroom in Ebbw Vale, the Coleg campus and Thales to discuss some of these issues, and I intend on following up with the department in the coming weeks.
On this topic, I recently wrote an article for the Labour List website where I proposed that the national party should be looking at the model we’ve put together in Coleg Gwent to train young people up for the jobs of the future, with job opportunities woven in.
I am very proud of the work that went into establishing the Cyber Hub at Ebbw Vale, and the links forged with firms such as Admiral and Fujitsu.
As I said in the piece, annually there is currently an estimated shortfall of around 13,700 cybersecurity personnel. In 2021, there were 153,192 cybersecurity job postings made in the UK.
This is a massive sector that is growing exponentially.
Where once young people might have gone to the steelworks to start an apprenticeship, they can now begin training as cybersecurity experts at firms like Thales – which has established its National Digital Exploitation Centre in Ebbw Vale.
I believe this model can be recreated in industrial towns across the UK and ideas like these, developed in our traditional working-class areas, need to be taken up by our national party as part of our general election manifesto and our promise for the future.