Google Digital Garage
The Google Digital Garage event I helped bring to Blaenau Gwent was a great success, with around 40 businesses represented at the Ebbw Vale Institute, taking in everything from advice on online marketing and social media to one-on-one mentoring from the experts.
Supporting independent shops and businesses on the high street is very important, but so is helping our local businesses to thrive in an online world, so I have been delighted by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I’ve heard from those who came along.

Liberty Steel
I was dismayed to hear the absolutely dreadful news about the Tredegar Liberty Steel plant, and other sites across the country, when the firm announced the potential loss of 400 jobs.
I have visited the Tredegar plant a number of times and the team there are a loyal and dedicated workforce who have stood by the company through thick and thin. They will feel badly let down by Liberty.
I will work with the Community Union to support the local steelworkers so the consultations on these proposals are meaningful.
I am also continuing my push to help steelworkers caught up in the pensions scandal of 2017 through ongoing work to support those affected and through my tabling of an amendment to the Financial Services Bill that would provide closer scrutiny of the financial regulators.

Probation failings
I challenged the Minister for Prisons over the terrible probation board failings that have been brought to light by both the murder of Terri Harris and her children John and Lacey Bennett along with friend Connie Gent, and the murder of Zara Aleena.
High-risk offenders are not being supervised properly. Probation caseloads are dangerously high. Data management around dangerous offenders is poor.
This is unacceptable. The government must do all it can to protect public safety.

As more regions of Ukraine are liberated from occupation, our understanding of the scale and depravity of the war crimes committed by Putin’s forces will grow.
As I raised with the Attorney General, the UK government must not only continue to support the work being done by the International Criminal Court and the Ukrainian authorities to investigate and prosecute war crimes, but also help ensure that reparations are made.

Onshore wind
I raised the issue of Onshore Wind in Parliament recently, something that has been stymied by the Tory’s restrictive planning rules, even though it’s our cheapest renewable.
The fact is that Shire counties Conservatism has been put ahead of our national interest.
Thirteen years of failed energy policy has left us exposed to the current energy crisis and contributed to household bills skyrocketing.
The Government should back Labour’s plan to deliver a clean power system by 2030.

It’s been a long, slow process but there has been some movement on my campaign to bring Blaenau Gwent up to speed with the best broadband connections.
The department now tells me that we are in the top 10 councils for fibre improvement this quarter, with our coverage rising to around 20%.
This is still nowhere near where I want us to be and there’s some way to go. I will keep pushing.

Voter ID
Last weekend I appeared on BBC Radio Wales to discuss the Tory party’s Voter ID plans, already in place for this May’s local elections in England.
I also wrote about my opposition to these plans, which would require everyone to produce photo ID before being allowed to vote, recently here:

This is a solution without a problem. An expensive, unnecessary change that will see voters at best actively discouraged from voting, and at worst locked out entirely.
Many people do not have photo ID, and the promotion of the government-issued voter ID has been very poor with application numbers incredibly low. Unfortunately, it is very likely that the first some will hear of these changes is when they are being turned away at the polling station.
This all seems less about stopping lots of people from voting twice and more about discouraging some people from voting once – an attempt at voter suppression straight out of the US Republican Party playbook, sowing seeds of doubt about our electoral process, making it more difficult to vote and discouraging people from taking part.

Thanks to Cllr Sue Edmunds and Cllr Carl Bainton for joining me at an advice surgery for Ebbw Vale South last week.
If you, or someone you know, wants to speak with me but could not make it, please get in touch via email at or call my office on 01495 313167.

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