Jo Stevens

A strong voice for Cardiff Central

News

Last week we heard that the planning application to build a block of flats next to Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street has been withdrawn.

This was music to the ears of the Save Womanby Street campaign.

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Such a development would have been completely unsuitable for Womanby Street, which is a centre for grassroots live music and performance venues.

 

Victory for Womanby Street Campaigners

Last week we heard that the planning application to build a block of flats next to Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street has been withdrawn. This was music to the... Read more

Last week I joined Guide Dogs UK at Labour Party Conference to find out about their campaign to make sure everyone with an assistance dog can access taxis.

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It is against the law for any taxi or minicab driver to refuse to take an assistance dog or charge extra for carrying it. Unfortunately, Guide Dogs found that 42% of assistance dog owners have been turned away by taxis or minicabs in a one-year period. Theei research also found that 38% of assistance dog owners had been asked to pay extra.

Guide Dogs UK - Making Taxis Accessible

Last week I joined Guide Dogs UK at Labour Party Conference to find out about their campaign to make sure everyone with an assistance dog can access taxis. It is... Read more

Dates for advice surgeries in October have now been confirmed.

Thursday October 12th 1pm - 2pm Adamsdown
St German’s Church Hall, Star Street, Adamsdown CF24 1LA

Friday October 20th 2pm - 3pm Cyncoed
Rhydypennau Library, Llandennis Road, CF23 6EG

Saturday 21st October 10am - 11am Roath
Penylan Library, Penylan Road, CF23 5HW

Saturday 21st October 11am - 12 noon Cathays
Cathays Library, Fairoak Road CF24 4PW

Friday 27th October 4pm - 6pm Roath
Constituency Office, 116 Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3RU

You can view future advice surgery dates by clicking here.

Advice Surgeries in October

Dates for advice surgeries in October have now been confirmed. Thursday October 12th 1pm - 2pm AdamsdownSt German’s Church Hall, Star Street, Adamsdown CF24 1LA Friday October 20th 2pm -... Read more

 

 

In her speech to Labour Party conference this week, my colleague, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP made the very welcome announcement that the next Labour Government will completely reform the legal and regulatory framework governing the export of arms from the UK to foreign governments. 

All over the world the place you are most likely to find “Made in Britain” is stamped on a weapon.

The UK supplies 12.8% of the world’s global arms market at a value of around £7.7 billion per annum. Around 58% of these sales are to countries in the Middle East, often to very repressive regimes. For instance kit supplied by Britain is very important to the Kingdom of Bahrain which used British weapons to put down Shi’a protests during the Arab Spring and afterwards. More recently British made bombs have pounded Yemen, contributing to a staggering humanitarian crisis.

Labour has demanded that arms sales to Saudi be suspended and steps taken to encourage a dialogue between both sides in Yemen's civil war to end the fighting. But, we also need to think and act strategically and ensure reform of the current systems we have for regulating the UK arms trade. The Government’s export licensing process does little to impede the trade. It is supposed to take human rights, conflict and other concerns into account, but with, for example, military goods going to Israel whilst it was bombing Gaza in 2014, the licencing process clearly needs reform.

The UK has an international obligation to ensure its weapons are not used in human rights violations but arms export decisions made by Tory Ministers are entirely subjective assessments, taken without proper parliamentary scrutiny, without listening to independent, expert advice. Instead they listen far too much to lobbyists for the arms trade and repressive foreign regimes. This is a process that leads to ridiculous double standards where the Government can decide far too late that selling arms to Myanmar is wrong, but immediately increase its sales to Saudi.

A Labour Government will profoundly reform the arms trade in this country. A wholesale reform of the legal and regulatory framework fully implementing the International Arms Trade Treaty with clear rules, tests and criteria for decision-making, based on independent, expert advice and the objective assessment of evidence. A new system, that will prevent the misuse or abuse of licences and adhere to the principles of transparency, true parliamentary accountability and freedom from undue influence.

When the UK sells weapons to other countries, the UK owns the consequences of their use and the suffering they cause. As Emily Thornberry MP said; we must set an entirely new standard for Britain and a shining example to the world. And if that sounds like setting our ambitions high, well you’re damn right it is and we should not apologise for that.

Time is Long overdue for Reform of Weapons Export Rules

    In her speech to Labour Party conference this week, my colleague, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP made the very welcome announcement that the next Labour Government will...

 

 

The Universal Credit roll out will happen in Cardiff in February 2018 despite major and widespread concerns about its impact on recipients so far. I have written, with other MPs, to the Conservative Minister asking for the roll out to be paused.

 

Intended to replace six means tested benefits, Universal Credit has left many people in dire need. They have found their existing financial entitlement replaced with nothing at all and the bureaucracy surrounding Universal Credit has increased rather than decreased, which was one of the improvements the government claimed would happen. The system is clearly not fit for purpose and I am really concerned about the impact it will have for people in Cardiff Central unless these problems are quickly resolved.

 

Universal Credit has been a broken project from the start. Implementation has been delayed 7 times and the project has cost the taxpayer £16 billion. It has been reset, rethought and even some Tory MPs have publicly admitted that its purpose is to cover cuts in social security payments.

 

The net result of all this effort and cost has been a system that is collapsing. Universal Credit has been piloted in a number of areas before the increased rollout later this year, and the results have been dreadful. Even on a best case scenario, families are required to go 6 weeks without any payments at all when they go from their current entitlements to Universal Credit. A quarter of people using the system are not receiving any payment even within those 6 weeks, 40% of people cannot access the Verify portal that is meant to be a cornerstone of the new approach and payment delays of 12-13 weeks are not uncommon. Under this scheme, a family might have to wait a whole school term for a single penny. A quarter of claimants are falling into rent arrears, threatening homes up and down the country.

 

Bizarrely, the Government’s response has been to view the pilots as a success and they are accelerating the roll out. Citizens Advice have said that this will be a “disaster” if it goes ahead. The system cannot cope with the numbers it has to deal with at the moment on the pilots. Adding more claimants may cause the system to crash entirely, leaving thousands of people stuck with no way of getting support and trapped in a spiral of debt that will end in foodbanks, eviction and misery.

 

I am challenging the Secretary of State to listen to the concerns raised in my letter and hit the brakes rather than the accelerator on the Universal Credit roll out.

 

I call for a Brake on Universal Credit Rollout

    The Universal Credit roll out will happen in Cardiff in February 2018 despite major and widespread concerns about its impact on recipients so far. I have written, with other...

This week, I attended the Holocaust Memorial Day Parliamentary Reception, organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. HMD is a day to honour the survivors of these atrocities and learn the lessons of their experiences to challenge hatred and discrimination in the UK today.

At the Parliamentary Reception, the HMD Trust issued a call for any organisations to put on an event to commemorate HMD.

Extensive education resources and specially tailored guides for different settings can be accessed through the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website. A specific national resource for Wales, which includes local stories to help groups engage with HMD, is available here.

The HMD Trust are also running a series of workshops for those planning HMD events across the UK throughout the autumn. The closest for any Cardiff Central constituents considering running an event is taking place in Swansea on 19 October. For details and online booking please click here.

For any further information, you can visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trusts website by clicking here.

Would you run an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in 2018?

This week, I attended the Holocaust Memorial Day Parliamentary Reception, organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions murdered in...

 

 

On 21st July, the Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, slipped out a written statement in parliament on the last day before the summer break cancelling electrification of the mainline between Cardiff and Swansea. The government have tried to present this as ‘good’ news on the basis there will be no disruption for passengers and residents living near the line as a result of electrification works.

 

The continued neglect of rail transport infrastructure in Wales by the UK government and this disgraceful broken promise on electrification is in stark contrast to the money that they are happy to pump into London and the South East, never mind their £1 billion bung to the DUP to prop up their minority government.

 

Wales has 11% of the UK’s total railway lines but we get only 1.5% of UK Government investment in the railways. This recent announcement forms part of a series of failures to provide adequate funding for transport in Wales. The failure to provide funding for basic maintenance and upgrades, such as safety and highway improvements connected to electrification, has allowed our railways to fall behind other UK regions. Most recently, the government’s failure to confirm vital funding for the new Wales and Border franchise agreement, which has cast doubt upon the future of the new South Wales Metro project, is very concerning. The UK government’s unwillingness to work constructively with the Welsh Government to fill the £1 billion funding gap is counterproductive and is letting rail passengers across South Wales down.

 

All 22 South Wales Labour MPs  wrote to the Transport Secretary and the Welsh Secretary urging the government to reconsider the decision to renege on electrification to Swansea, which would include the funding of safety improvements, highway upgrades, and commit £1 billion to secure a sustainable new Wales and Border franchise agreement. In the light of the Government's recent commitment to the £30 billion Crossrail 2 project it is difficult to justify their decision to end investment in rail infrastructure across South Wales. Similarly, if the HS2 rail project goes ahead as planned in England, Wales is owed £2 billion as a Barnett consequential, which would go a long way in helping to deliver the infrastructure improvements required that includes the redevelopment of Cardiff Central railway station.

My Call for Action on Rail Electrification

    On 21st July, the Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, slipped out a written statement in parliament on the last day before the summer break cancelling electrification of...

 

Recently I wrote to Boots plc with Labour MP colleagues about the extortionate cost of emergency contraception at their pharmacies. Boots were charging significantly more than other pharmacies such as Tesco and Superdrug. So I was pleased when they wrote to me to say they had made a decision to slightly reduce the price. I wasn’t so pleased that their lawyers had sent a threatening letter to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service about a legitimate and properly successful campaign.

 

I have also signed a parliamentary motion drawing attention to the gap between production and retail pricing of emergency contraceptives in the UK. Prices for contraception can be 5 times more than in other EU countries. This suggests that the cost of production and distribution are not the main drivers behind the price differentials in the UK and that maximising profit is.

 

 

I Call Retailers to Account on Emergency Contraceptive Prices

  Recently I wrote to Boots plc with Labour MP colleagues about the extortionate cost of emergency contraception at their pharmacies. Boots were charging significantly more than other pharmacies such...

 

I have written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, along with 156 parliamentarians led by my Labour colleague Rushanara Ali MP, calling for government action to help end the appalling violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

 

The letter is below.


 

Rt. Hon Boris Johnson MP,
Foreign Secretary,
Foreign Commonwealth Office,
Kings Charles Street,
London,
SW1A 2AH
 
6th September 2017,
 
 
Dear Foreign Secretary,
 
RE: Violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
 
We are writing to you today regarding our serious concerns over the unfolding crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar and the indiscriminate targeting of Rohingya Muslims.
 
The government of Myanmar has every right to take action to defend itself against terrorism, however, it appears that rather than seeking to arrest terrorists from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) involved in attacks against government buildings on 25th of August, the military is using the attacks as a pretext for the mass clearance of the Rohingya population from large parts of northern Rakhine State.
 
Based on reports from the United Nations, human rights organisations and Rohingya organisations, we are witnessing human rights violations on a scale extreme even by the standards of Myanmar’s history. Estimates of people killed range from official figures of hundreds dead, to estimates by reliable Rohingya organisations of between 2,000-3,000 killed. Eye witnesses describe civilians being shot indiscriminately, people forced to lie down in rows and then shot in the back of the head, beheadings, rape, rounding people up into buildings which are then set fire to, and deliberate shooting of children.
 
At the same time, ARSA appears to have been targeting ethnic Rakhine, the Mro minority and people of other races and religions, exacerbating communal tensions and violence. More than 10,000 people have been displaced by such attacks, with more than 140,000 Rohingya having arrived in Bangladesh and it is estimated at least as many again are displaced in Myanmar. A major humanitarian crisis therefore currently exists in Myanmar and in neighbouring Bangladesh.
 
The twin priorities are to do whatever we can to halt the military offensive against Rohingya civilians, and address the urgent humanitarian needs. While we welcome the statement the Foreign Secretary made earlier this week calling on Aung Sang Sui Kyi to use her position to stop the violence, we believe it is vital that greater pressure is brought to bear on Min Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of the military in Myanmar. It is he, not Aung San Suu Kyi, who has the power to order the military to halt their attacks. While there is no single measure which can persuade the military to halt its attacks, any leverage that can be used must be used.
 
We also request that the government review its current approach towards the Burmese military in light of the serious human rights violations which they are committing now and have been committed in recent years. We request that the current training programme being provided to the Burmese military is suspended and an evaluation is carried out to assess its effectiveness and value for money. Any resumption should be conditioned on commitments from the military to abide by international law and the government should halt the export of any kind of equipment to the military.
 
Furthermore, the government should support an urgent resolution on the situation at the new session of the Human Rights Council, and support a resumption of the annual resolution on Myanmar at the United Nations General Assembly.
 
Additional funding must be provided to meet urgent new humanitarian needs, rather than coming from the existing budget allocated to Myanmar.
 
Longer term solutions to address the root causes of the problems in Rakhine State will be hard to implement as long as this current crisis continues. In this regard, we welcome the recommendations of the Rakhine Commission led by Kofi Annan and urge the British government to work with the government of Myanmar, providing both financial resources and expertise, to ensure they are implemented as swiftly as possible.
 
The scale of the human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar is unprecedented in its recent history. It requires the attention of the British government at the highest level. We hope that as in the past, the government will show global leadership in support of the people of Myanmar as they face this new crisis.
 
We look forward to hearing from you.

Letter to Foreign Secretary on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

  I have written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, along with 156 parliamentarians led by my Labour colleague Rushanara Ali MP, calling for government action to help end the...

Tonight, I will be voting in the House of Commons on the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Bill has reached what is called the second reading stage of its passage through Parliament.

The Bill sets out the government's approach to how Britain will leave the EU and what role Parliament will play in the process. I will be voting against the Bill.

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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Tonight, I will be voting in the House of Commons on the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Bill has reached what is called the second reading stage of its passage through Parliament. The... Read more

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