Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Protecting jobs and the economy
Boris Johnson and this Tory Government are now guiding us headlong into the worst recession in Europe.
Data this week shows the UK is in the worst jobs crisis for more than a decade.
A downturn after lockdown was inevitable. This jobs crisis was not.
This Government has failed to protect both lives and livelihoods.
Labour launched our campaign to fight for jobs earlier this month. In it we have called for – amongst other things – the Government to fix the furlough scheme to support people in the worst-hit industries; to back businesses with a £1.7bn fightback fund, to protect workers’ rights and to drive job creation through investing in infrastructure and improving access to skills and training.
Labour has warned the Government time and time again that a rigid approach would lead to job losses.
What we needed was a flexible approach which targeted the sectors that needed the most help. What we got was a one-size-fits-all approach and a withdrawal of the furlough scheme which has resulted in redundancies.
It seems that this Government has forgotten its pledge to ‘leave no one behind’.
We cannot bounce back if we are trapped in a jobs crisis. The more jobs that are protected the quicker we can recover from this.
If this Government does not urgently reconsider its approach to helping keep people in work, does not focus intently on supporting businesses and does not adequately prepare for a second wave then we may have some very testing times ahead.
Although there has been an uptick in coronavirus case numbers across the UK, I’m pleased to be told that numbers remain very low in Wales and especially low across the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area.
The latest information I have from the health board is that there are just two Covid positive cases across all hospital sites with no positive cases in Blaenau Gwent during the first week of August.
Care home testing continues and of the latest 546 tests carried out in Blaenau Gwent, none were Covid positive.
The health board’s focus at the moment is on ensuring the basic messages about Covid-19 remain in place and in planning for the coming Autumn and Winter.
Also Gwent’s local NHS watchdog is seeking feedback from people on their experiences of NHS services during the Coronavirus emergency.
All feedback from completed surveys will be reported back to the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.
The first survey is about all services provided by the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board during the Coronavirus emergency – https://svy.at/5cyng
The second is on experiences of virtual healthcare appointments during the Coronavirus emergency – https://svy.at/ex6nr
The third is on planning for the coming winter –https://svy.at/dyqng
Please take a moment to fill them in and share with anyone else who may want to have their say.
Getting behind our steel industry
With now being the time that the Government should be intently looking to invest in infrastructure and rebuild our economic future, we should also be doing all we can to support UK steelmaking.
This is why I have given my backing to the unions’ ‘Britain, We Need Our Steel’ campaign, launched by Community, Unite and GMB.
I have spoken in Parliament previously about the need to maximise the use of UK produced steel in infrastructure and construction projects. I have questioned the Defence Minister over prioritising our steel in UK defence projects – such as the building of Navy ships – and I have called for a higher percentage of steel bought by the Government to come from the UK.
I have written to the Prime Minister to support the unions’ campaign and called for the Government to intervene and support industry and stimulate steel demand.
The industry needs to be properly considered in any future trade agreements, with fair and frictionless trade prioritised. We also need to build a level playing field for steel so that our providers can compete.
Our economic recovery should have UK steel at its core.
In my role on the Public Accounts Committee, I have been speaking out recently about the issue of the UK tax reliefs system and why it needs an overhaul.
A recent report by the Committee revealed that there has been very little evaluation of the tax breaks system despite it costing an estimated £159 billion every year. To put this figure into perspective the Treasury puts the current cost of fighting Covid-19 at around £190bn.
Despite many tax reliefs ultimately costing far more than originally forecasted, there is little understanding of whether they have succeeded or failed in their intended purpose.
It is staggering just how little the Government knows about these reliefs. This is taxpayer money, and the sums are we are talking about here are huge.
One of the most expensive tax reliefs is on pensions, costing £38bn last year, but there have been no assessments of whether it truly works to encourage or enable saving.
What we do know is that it has been reported that 1.75 million low-paid or part-time workers do not receive any relief on their pensions and that three-quarters of these workers are women.
It would be reasonable to suspect that those who benefit most from a tax relief on pensions are those who are already saving comfortably.
The whole system needs to fixed.
Future plans must be informed by feedback comparing the real cost of tax reliefs to their original forecasts. There has to be accountability for escalating costs and instances of abuse.
The Public Accounts Committee has given the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) three months to set out plans to measure the efficacy of tax breaks.
It has given the Government a year to review whether pension tax reliefs succeed in achieving their intended purpose.
Written contributions / video / social media links
Letter to Secretary of State re: removal of TV licences for the over 75s
Health Board Update
Supporting young people into work
‘Count the Armed Forces in’
PAC article on Government Tax Breaks
Cwm Testing centre
Meeting of Parkrun APPG
Coverage of tax relief issue
South Wales Argus coverage of tax relief issue
Letter to council re: road closure
Access to benefits for terminally ill people
Banning pre-watershed junk food TV adverts
Support for British Steel campaign
Letter to the Prime Minister re: British Steel
Sirhowy Food Share
Health Board Update 2
Funding for local charities
Letter to Heath Secretary re: Parkrun research funding