Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
It’s been slightly over a month since Liz Truss became Prime Minister, and what a month it’s been.
Just weeks into her tenure and the PM and her Chancellor have managed to crash the economy via their disastrous mini-budget, leaving working people to pick up the bill. They have embarked on a series of harmful and unpopular policy ideas and failed to produce any plans to help out a country in crisis this winter.
The Conservatives have lost control and left our country in a perilous position. We cannot go on like this.
Recent polls show that the UK is eager for change, with Labour taking a huge lead thanks to the hard work that has gone in to ensuring our party is now a talented and serious government-in-waiting.
At Conference last month Keir Starmer set out his mission for the next Labour government.
He unveiled plans for jobs, skills and tackling the climate emergency – including establishing a publicly owned British energy company that will help generate clean power, cutting bills and providing energy security for the UK – and many more ambitious and practical policies aimed at building a better Britain and a brighter future together.
You can watch Keir Starmer’s full speech here.
Queen Elizabeth II
Shortly after my last report was published we heard the very sad news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away.
I had the privilege of being able to pay tribute to Her Late Majesty in Parliament on behalf of constituents, remembering her visit to Ebbw Vale in 2012 and reflecting on her role as our nation’s pre-eminent public servant.
I also paid a further tribute in my column for the South Wales Argus, writing about Her Late Majesty’s relationship with Wales. As I said there, Queen Elizabeth wove together the ties that bind us.
It was also lovely to visit the Book of Condolence at Ebbw Vale General Offices to write a few words and read the tributes left by local people.
Although I mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, I welcome the new King who, I’m sure, will continue the wonderful legacy of his beloved mother.
Financial services bill
Another speech I gave in Parliament recently was
on the Financial Services and Markets Bill.
As well as welcoming the Bill’s provisions for securing access to cash (something I believe is vital for Blaenau Gwent and which I have spoken about many times over the years) I also spoke about amending the Bill to better protect consumers against the sort of scamming that took place during the British Steel Pension Scheme crisis of 2017 – a campaign I have spearheaded in Parliament on behalf of steelworkers in Ebbw Vale, Newport, Port Talbot and other steelmaking communities.
I highlighted my lost confidence in the main regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and its effectiveness in preventing financial swindles and punishing bad actors.
The FCA’s enforcement powers need boosting and should be a reviewed. Also, the FCA consumer panel needs the firepower necessary to challenge the FCA and ensure a culture of putting the consumer first, not just in the City of London but across our working class communities.
You can read an FT Adviser article on my speech here.
A new Prime Minister but more questions over potentially dodgy dealings and a concerning lack of transparency in the Tory party.
I raised the issue of the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff Mark Fullbrook being interviewed by the FBI in connection with electoral bribery in Puerto Rico, asking for a Government statement on it, and raising several questions around the issue. In response I received the government’s now customary “nothing to see here answer” answer from the Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt.
Following this I tabled a further 10 questions to try and get to the bottom of some pressing concerns around Mr Fullbrook’s employment, of which I have so far received one evasive non-answer.
I will be pushing further for clear answers on this matter.
As Chair of the Parliamentary group for Parkrun, this month I’m supporting the “Parkwalk at parkrun” campaign.
Parkwalk is a campaign to celebrate and promote walking at parkrun UK events, to coincide with parkrun’s 18th anniversary in October 2022.
Every week at parkrun tons of people choose to walk or slowly jog at their own pace, many people take along a dog or push a buggy. You don’t have to run to take part.
Walking is also a great way to stay active and walking at parkrun is a fantastic way to take in the atmosphere, become part of a supportive community and maybe even build up to running eventually.
I would recommend anyone interested in getting involved to head to either Parc Bryn Bach or Aberbeeg parkrun and maybe invite your friends and family too.
I have also written to my fellow parkrunner MPs to encourage them to get involved and promote parkrun to their colleagues and constituents.
Cost of Living advice
I know that people across Blaenau Gwent are worried about their rising household bills and the cost-of-living crisis and so I have coordinated an event which will bring together organisations offering a wide range of expertise around reducing bills and costs this winter to try and help.
The event takes place on Thursday, October 20th between 10am and 1pm at Ebbw Vale Learning Action Centre (20 James Street, Ebbw Vale, NP23 6JG).
Those attending include the Energy Saving Trust, Citizens Advice, Welsh Water, Smart Money Cymru, NEST, Care and Repair Cymru, Melin, Tai Calon Community Housing, Wastesavers, Platform, the DWP, Blaenau Gwent Council and Bridges into Work.
Anyone concerned about this crisis, or anyone with questions for the organisations attending, can pop along for a chat.
I understand the time and date may not be suitable for everyone, and I will look at putting together another event at a different time for those who can’t make it.
I recently met with the “3 Dads Walking” campaigners as they made their way through Tredegar en route to the Senedd, and also later in Westminster, to discuss their campaign to put suicide prevention on the national curriculum and have suicide spoken about in schools in a safe way.
The three dads, who have all lost teenage daughters to suicide, have walked to each of the UK’s four Parliaments to spread their message.
This is an important campaign that I am very happy to support.
The sad fact is that suicide remains the number one cause of death for young people in the UK. It is vital that young people be aware of the support that is available if they are feeling suicidal, and for all to have a much better understanding of the devastation wrought by suicide.
I have written to both Education Secretary Kit Malthouse and also Welsh Education Minister Jeremy Miles to seek their support.
You can read more about the campaign here.
It was good to be able to attend the Labour Party Conference and meet up with charities to hear about, and pledge my support to, some very worthwhile campaigns, including:
– Support for Gamble Aware alongside Carolyn Harris MP. The charity is campaigning for the prevention of gambling harms, reducing the stigma around this issue and protecting young people.
– Cancer Research UK’s campaign for the Government to do much more to dissuade young people from starting to smoke, and to better support those who want to stop.
– The British Heart Foundation’s public health challenge of tackling the causes of high blood pressure, including reducing salt intake, to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
– The current Guide Dogs UK campaigns to make our streets as accessible and safe for Guide Dog users as possible, including the Open Doors campaign to reduce entrance refusals from businesses and services.
Macmillan Coffee Morning
The Macmillan Coffee Morning is a fantastic annual event that raises tons of money for the charity through local coffee mornings and cake sales.
I’m always glad to be able to contribute and this year I popped to Abertillery Emergency Services Station to sample the brilliant homemade cakes on offer and encourage local people to pop along.
You can donate to Macmillan via this link.
Find out more about the support that is available from Macmillan here.
It was great to be invited along to speak with Government and Politics students at Coleg Gwent Ebbw Vale last week, where I also met with UK Youth Parliament member for Blaenau Gwent Rhianna Lewis.
It’s always a real pleasure to speak with local young people who are interested in, and engaged with, politics.