Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Batley and Spen
The victory in Batley and Spen was a fantastic result for Labour.
There was a cracking doorstep operation by the Labour team.
This was an election marred by those seeking to spread division and disrupt the democratic rights of people in the area.
Kim Leadbeater ran a campaign based on hope and community and came out on top.
This was a great win for Kim and for the Labour values of decency and unity.
Mineworkers Pension Scheme
Alongside my fellow Labour coalfield MPs, I have been fighting for several years now to give former mineworkers and their families a fairer share from their pension scheme.
We landed a Select Committee inquiry earlier this year and I was very pleased with its recommendations that the £1.2bn reserve fund should be returned to miners immediately and the surplus sharing arrangements amended to give more to pensioners in future.
This week the Tory Government has refused these recommendations.
This is despite Boris Johnson himself “categorically” assuring miners that they would get their money back while on the campaign trail during the last General Election.
This is a disgraceful decision.
The Government has collected billions from the pension scheme, while many miners are surviving on a pension of just £84 a week.
This week the Conservative Government has confirmed that it still believes this is a fair arrangement.
The Government Treasury accepts that it has benefitted to a far greater extent than expected – it has received £4.4bn so far and another £1.9 billion is to come.
This week the Government has said that it is still unwilling to share its windfall with pensioners.
Thousands of pensioners who deserve a fairer deal have been let down very badly here, but my fellow Labour coalfield MPs and I will not give up this fight.
More Tory sleaze and dishonesty
It was back in November during a Public Accounts Committee hearing that I raised concerns about Matt Hancock appointing his close friend Gina Coladangelo to the board that scrutinises his Health Department.
Around the same time I was also raising concerns about lucrative Covid contracts being dished out to businesses with ties to the Tory party.
I even raised this directly with the then Health Secretary Mr Hancock who told me that profiteering and cronyism had played no part in the Government’s dealings.
The brazen dishonesty of this Government is astonishing, but perhaps not surprising when you look at the track record of the Prime Minister.
Just last week he tried to rewrite history and claim he sacked the Health Secretary when he had, in fact, resigned under heavy public pressure. The PM had previously declared the matter ‘closed’.
This is the same PM who also defended Dominic Cummings when he broke the rules by driving to Barnard Castle, who defended the Housing Secretary when he unlawfully approved a billion-pound property deal from a Tory donor and who defended the Home Secretary when she broke the Ministerial Code.
This is no way to run a Government.
It is not just sleaze that has been a feature of this Government’s response to the pandemic but also poor planning and ineptitude.
In a recent Public Accounts Committee I learned that the Government has spent £1.5billion of taxpayer money on three billion pieces of PPE that are not good enough to be used by the NHS.
A further 230 million PPE items are of no use whatsoever and will need to be thrown out.
This latest information is in addition to my previous discovery that, in response to poor preparation at the start of the crisis, the Government massively overspent on PPE – much of which is still sitting in shipping containers racking up storage costs of £1m a day.
A full public inquiry should be held as soon as possible to uncover the true depths of this Government’s poor handling of the Covid crisis.
The Tories are continuing to pursue plans to require every voter to show photo ID – such as a driving licence or passport – before casting their ballot from the next election.
These plans are straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.
Voter fraud is simply not an issue in our elections.
This not about stopping the non-existent problem of people voting twice, it’s about preventing some people from voting once. It is a total waste of taxpayer money and it is a threat to our democracy.
Three and half million people – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have access to any form of photo ID.
Voter ID plans will lock millions of people out of democracy – in particular the elderly, low income and ethnic minority voters.
Voting is safe and secure in Britain and ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories.
You can signal your opposition to these plans by signing Labour’s petition here
Ahead of Armed Forces Day last week, Labour launched a survey for veterans which can be found here.
We want to hear from ex-forces personnel to help us build a veterans plan to make sure no one is left behind.
Some of the issues we are currently campaigning on are:- putting the Armed Forces Covenant fully in law, promoting a new duty of care by the MoD to give veterans better legal and mental health support, opposing 10,000 cuts to Armed Forces numbers introduced by the Tories (something I previously raised with the Prime Minister directly), reducing the waiting time for social housing and improving the quality of Armed Forces housing stock.
As a nation we have a responsibility to all of our veterans, that is why we want to speak to veterans across the country about their experiences, and how Government can work for them.
If you or someone you know are ex-forces, please take a moment to fill in the survey.
Written contributions / video / social media links
Public Accounts Committee: PPE
“£1.5bn worth of PPE bought by government not fit for use in hospitals”
South Wales Argus column: Tax avoidance
Letter to PM re: Mineworkers Pension Scheme
“The FCA need to up their game…”
Labour Veterans Survey
Letter to Financial Ombudsman re: Steel Pensions
Justice for Retired Miners
Armed Forces Day
Delivering hygiene and care items to Food Banks
Matt Hancock and Tory sleaze
Say no to Voter ID
Comment on Government refusal to amend Mineworkers Pension Scheme
South Wales Argus: Miners ‘let down badly’ over pension scheme, says Gwent MP
PM breaks promise to former mineworkers
Happy Birthday to NHS
Say No to Voter ID 2