Our Conference in Liverpool was fantastic, with bags of ideas and a unified, clear vision for Labour’s offering at the next election presented through many brilliant and invigorating speeches.
I was especially enthused by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ speech and of course Keir Starmer’s, which I would recommend reading in full here.
Keir set it out plainly. The achievements of the last Labour government vs the 13 years of Tory failure we have all been subjected to. The fact that, although the way back will be hard, what is broken can, and must, be repaired.
This will require a new approach to politics, a mission led government focused on the giving working people the future they deserve. Higher growth; safer streets; publicly-owned clean and cheap energy; breaking down the barriers to opportunity for all and getting the NHS back on its feet.
As he said in his closing remarks, Britain will get its future back.
Last month, in my role as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House, I gave a speech setting out the state of play as we headed into adjournment.
As I said there, it is important that we reflect on the year since Liz Truss’ disastrous budget of 2022 and what we have to show for it. Soaring mortgages, food inflation, a weaker pound and a broken Britain. Ordinary working people paying the price for Conservative ideology.
This is a tired Tory Government, on the down and on the out. People have had enough. After 13 years of Conservatism, Britain needs new ideas. Only Labour can offer the change that our country desperately needs, with a government that will end the cycle of sticking-plaster politics, bring forward national renewal and prepare Britain for the future.
I was very pleased to see this week that the Serious Fraud Office is going to be investigating Safe Hands funerals.
I spoke to The Times recently about my campaign to help constituents – like retired school caretaker Gary Godwin from Nantyglo, and Alan and Barbara Richards from Rassau – who lost money in the collapse of the funeral plan firm.
My concerns remain that there were missed opportunities for this to be avoided or, at the very least, for losses to be minimised.
I have received confirmation that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was writing to Safe Hands with concerns about how it was being run in 2014. I recently spoke with the founder of Fairer Finance, a consumer group that was waving red flags about Safe Hands as early as 2017, and that also wrote to the Treasury in June 2021 with concerns about the potential of businesses folding as the sector was brought under regulation.
So, while the Treasury trumpeted the new regulations as a way of preventing firms from failing their customers in the future, there was nothing in place to help those customers at risk of losing money already paid in.
Unfortunately, these concerns were not passed along to customers.
Had they known there was a danger of their policies not being fulfilled, or their money being lost, they could have cancelled their plans and found alternative arrangements
Instead 46,000 were eventually left a total of more than £60m out of pocket.
I intend to quiz both the Treasury and FCA further, as their responses so far have been poor. I will also be meeting with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, as he agreed to do when I raised this in Parliament, to discuss this further.
It would also be good if the Treasury Select Committee looked into this matter.
It was good to hear that the Financial Conduct Authority has finally caught up with Darren Reynolds of Active Wealth. Reynolds was fined more than £2m and banned from working in the financial services industry after being found to have dishonestly advised more than 670 customers, including 150 British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) members.
I had specifically called out Reynolds as one of the worst scoundrels involved in BSPS in Parliament and also mentioned him during an FCA hearing with Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England.
It was helping one of Reynolds’ victims, a steelworker from Ebbw Vale, that first alerted me to the British Steel Pension Scheme scandal in 2018.
From there I spearheaded the campaign to ensure that steelworkers affected were compensated for the money they lost.
This campaign was a long slow process at times, but I’m glad that so much progress has been made.
I will continue to stand by our steelworkers. I also asked a question in Parliament about the government’s failure to back their industry.
The transition to green steel should be an optimistic time for steel communities. Instead, the Government is spending half a billion pounds to make 3,000 people at Tata Steel Port Talbot unemployed, delivering a blow to the self-sufficiency of our steel industry and undermining our defence capabilities.
I took a moment during my speech to the House to pay tribute to former Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd who passed away in July.
Ann was a friend and a mainstay of our Labour family in south Wales. We used to sit together on the back benches discussing about Welsh politics and foreign policy.
She was both gentle and made of stern stuff. I will miss her as a friend and as a comrade.
I send my condolences to her family.
Ebbw Vale Brass
Congratulations to Ebbw Valley Brass Band on recently becoming First Section National Champions, a remarkable triumph rounding off a period of great success for the band.
As band president I am proud of their achievements and recently congratulated them during my speech in Parliament.
The band are a fantastic bunch, thriving under conductor Gareth Ritter.
I was delighted when they accepted my invitation to provide musical accompaniment at the special NHS 75 Parkrun I organised at Parc Bryn Bach a few months ago, a performance that showcased their skill and dedication, boosting runners as they made their way around the lake at Parc Bryn Bach.
Well done all.