Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Last week the UK needed a Budget to put us on the road to recovery and rebuild our economic foundations to right the wrongs of the last decade.
What we got was a budget that papered over the cracks.
The Conservative Government has left Britain with the worst economic crisis of any major economy. It was the virus that shut down large parts of the economy but it was the UK Government that crashed it.
A few weeks ago Keir Starmer gave a speech setting out his vision for how Labour would address the deep inequalities and injustices in the UK, while taking us forward to a stronger, more prosperous future.
He set out how we can rebuild the foundations of our economy for the long term by focusing on supporting new jobs across the whole UK, supporting our high streets, protecting family finances and backing businesses as they recover.
He spoke about Labour’s plan for a new British Recovery Bond, raising billions for the National Infrastructure Bank, supporting businesses, creating jobs and building infrastructure while also people a proper stake in Britain’s future.
The Budget showed that the Conservative government is not interested in moving forward by learning the lessons of this pandemic. They want to go back to the same insecure economy and inequality that’s been so clearly exposed over the past 12 months.
This is the same old Tory party, with the same-old priorities.
One part of the Budget I was pleased with was the government’s announcement that the DWP would finally be repaying £3bn in underpaid state pensions to married women.
I spoke about this issue last year when it was revealed that more than 100,000 married women could be receiving too little pension due to an administrative error.
At the time I was told that each case would be addressed as individuals came forward – a response I did not feel was good enough.
I called for the government to investigate the matter and bring forward a plan to rectify the situation.
I am very glad to hear that action is now being taken to correct the underpayments.
The latest data I have from the health board shows that Blaenau Gwent currently has around 50 cases of Covid per 100,000 people.
In the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area, nearly 200,000 people have now received their first jab, with nearly 40,000 having their second too.
Phase 1 is expected to be completed in the next few weeks before Phase 2 begins, covering everyone aged 18 and up who has not yet been vaccinated.
Currently, there are no ongoing outbreaks in Blaenau Gwent’s care homes and I am told that guidance is being discussed around allowing visits to start again in the next couple of weeks.
Well done and thank you to everyone involved in getting the vaccination programme moving so quickly and smoothly.
Last summer the Government announced its Kickstart Scheme, a £2bn plan to create more jobs for young people.
When I raised concerns about it back in September, I was told that “well over 200,000 jobs could be created” but that the number was “unlimited”.
There are currently around 2,000 young people now on Kickstart placements, with 590,000 people aged 16-24 out of work.
I have recently been in contact with a business in Blaenau Gwent that been trying to take up the scheme. Their experience has been a frustrating one, characterised by delays and a complete lack of communication.
Five months on, the business is still waiting for its application to be processed.
It’s not good enough.
The scheme needs an overhaul so that more young people can get back into work by stopping the enormous delays in businesses participating, and by drawing up targets for placements in different sectors with employer associations.
Labour has outlined its plans for a ‘Jobs Promise’ that any young person away from work for six months will be offered a quality education, training, or employment opportunity.
This would also support job creation across the country including 400,000 green jobs, filling the 127,000 current vacancies in health and social care and 43,000 vacancies in education through improved training offers.
This is the sort of action needed to prevent a lost generation and to build a secure economy.
Over recent years I have spoken about Yemen a number of times in Parliament, asking questions and calling for various interventions to help the country and its people.
At this moment Yemen is suffering a humanitarian crisis of the highest magnitude; the situation is absolutely appalling and men, women and children are suffering dreadfully.
It is unconscionable that the Conservative Government has decided to cut support for aid like food and medicines to Yemen at this time.
Britain should be leading the efforts to support those most in need but, instead of stepping up to help, we are stepping back.
The Tory Government’s politically motivated decision to abandon its commitment on aid also means abandoning the people of Yemen and worsening the world’s gravest humanitarian emergency.
Written contributions / video / social media links
The Chancellor must act now
Chancellor must deliver smart furlough
Vaccine update 1
Health Board update 1
Bereavement support payments
Keir Starmer speech
Health Board update 2
Young voter registration
FT Advisor – British Steel
St David’s Day
Vaccine update 2
Kickstart Scheme 2
Health Board update 3
State Pension repayments
Vaccine update 3
Health Board update 4
Labour Party 2021 elections