Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
The Prime Minister may have ‘won’ the Vote of No Confidence against him this week, but despite what his Parliamentary supporters would have you believe, it was anything but a good result.
41% of Conservative MPs want him out because they have no faith in his leadership.
This is higher than the 37% that voted against Theresa May, a number high enough that her leadership was deemed unsustainable, leaving her with little choice but to resign.
As I told him in Parliament recently, Boris Johnson’s credibility is spent. People are clearly fed up with his lies and his lawbreaking.
And yet he is clinging on, seemingly with no intent of stepping down.
Rather than just Conservative MPs having their say on this I believe we now need a general election and a Labour government to clear out the stables, to restore honesty and integrity back into politics, to prioritise the issues that really matter and put Britain back on track.
Cost Of Living crisis
A few weeks ago I once again challenged the government over their ongoing lack of action to support people through the cost-of-living crisis and continued dismissal of Labour’s calls for a windfall tax on oil firms.
The plans were described as being “ideologically un-Conservative” by No.10 and Tory MPs voted against Labour’s plan last month.
Then, as we have seen time and time again, the government finally performed one of its trademark screeching u-turns and decided that a windfall tax was, in fact, the right thing to do and announced a ‘cost-of-living emergency package’.
Once more the Tories have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the right course of action.
I have been continuing my work to get answers about the ongoing crisis at the Passport Office and support for people whose plans are being put in jeopardy.
After raising it with Home Secretary last month Priti Patel last month and also being granted an Urgent Question on the issue I was told that hundreds of new staff members were to be drafted in to man phones at the passport helpline.
I was invited on to GB news to speak about the problem and also spoke out after uncovering data showing that the number of fast track passport applications had more than doubled from December to April with families being forced to fork out high fees to make sure their passports arrived on time – all in the middle of a cost of living crisis.
As I said previously, this was all avoidable.
The government should have foreseen that there would be a surge of applications for passports when travel restrictions lifted and had plenty of time to prepare accordingly.
They didn’t, and now it is ordinary families that are paying the price when all they want to do is get away.
It was great to attend the opening of ResilientWorks, the latest addition to the expanding Thales NDEC tech centre in Ebbw Vale.
A few years ago when I was first working on helping to bring the new cyber security training hub to our local college, I heard from industry experts how they were crying out for skilled young people to fill well-paid cyber roles in their firms. These are the jobs of the future.
This is why I knew it was so important to get the new cyber hub up and running in Coleg Gwent Ebbw Vale, and why I was so pleased when I first met with Thales several years ago to discuss their plans to come to Blaenau Gwent.
The links that are being forged between the college, Thales and other firms to create jobs and apprenticeships in these sectors will give our young people a big head start in the industries of the future.
It’s also very encouraging to hear about Thales’ outreach work with local schools. Getting young people interested in digital early and giving them the skills they need for the jobs of the future is vital.
I am delighted that Blaenau Gwent is at the spearhead of big plans for these sectors in Wales and that such great opportunities are opening up for young people here.
The latest bit of digging I have been doing around the issue of PPE contracts is finding out how much the government is spending while trying to claw back the £2.6bn blown on 176 PPE contracts which are now in dispute over either contractual breaches or the quality of items received.
I have uncovered some shocking data about the billions blown on unusable PPE during the pandemic – most of which is still stuck in shipping containers and some of which is unbelievably now set to be burned for fuel – and I continue to have big concerns about the cronyism and questionable decisions made in awarding contracts.
I have now asked for a breakdown from the Health Department on how much is now being spent on legal advice and consultants to deal with the disputed contracts.
The response I received was unclear, referring to the total cost spent on legal advice and consultants across the PPE programme, not specifically regarding the disputed contracts.
This is yet another case of the government failing to be transparent, using vague answers to muddy the waters.
It’s not right. People deserve clear answers about how much the government is having to spend on the ongoing issue of PPE mismanagement.
I spoke about the issues around the Ajax armoured vehicle project on BBC Radio Wales this week, an issue I have looked into through my work on the Public Accounts Committee and also asked Parliamentary questions about.
I support the project and want it to succeed, not just because of how important it is for defence but because it supports 800 good jobs in South Wales – including at the General Dynamics site over in Merthyr Tydfil.
Unfortunately, the programme has been riddled with problems.
There have not only been the widely publicised design faults causing safety issues, but also numerous problems with project management and oversight of the project as whole by the MOD.
The plan was for 600 vehicles to be made at a cost of £5.5bn, but so far it has cost £3bn for 26 vehicles.
The UK badly needs this defence capability, we must protect the jobs in our valleys and we shouldn’t waste the £3bn already invested.
This project must get back on track as soon as possible.
It was great to be able to help promote Wales Tourism Week recently, by paying a visit to learn about some of the new activities on offer at Parc Bryn Bach – still the closest place to heaven on earth as far as I’m concerned.
I enjoyed seeing children from Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Helyg having a great time paddleboarding on the lake and I was glad to be able to chat with Onsite Duty Manager Steve Hughes about all the goings on at the park.
You can read more about Wales Tourism Week in Blaenau Gwent here.
Brace’s Bread is a great firm that employs people from across our valleys, based on the outskirts of the constituency at Croespenmaen Industrial Estate.
My father delivered for them and as a child I would help him on his rounds. Later, as a teenager, I worked there myself, manning the hot ovens.
I paid a visit recently to hear about how business was going – finding out about how the invasion of Ukraine was affecting the bread-making industry – and also to speak with staff about the cost-of-living crisis, Covid and other issues.
You can read more about my visit here.
Aberbeeg park run
It was the 100th parkrun at Aberbeeg a few Saturdays ago and I was pleased to be able to take part alongside well over a 100 fellow parkrunners in glorious weather.
Well done to everyone who took part and big thumbs up to the volunteers who turn out to make it happen every week.