This month I led the Shadow Wales team at Welsh Questions calling on the Government to confirm post Brexit support for almost a billion pounds of funding in Wales.
I asked the Minister if he would commit to protecting the pre-existing loans from European Investment bank loans to organisations & public bodies in Wales which total around £830bn.
In his answer the Minister refused to commit to protect and underwrite these loans post-Brexit, and so put at risk the prospect of defaults on loans for projects like the £110m to support Viridor’s ERF Programme in Cardiff, the £60m to help to pay for the Swansea Bay Campus in Neath Port Talbot Council area and £430m for improvements to the Great Western Mainline.
In the same session, the Minister also refused to commit to supporting jobs in the Ford plant in Bridgend post-2020, and would not offer Ford the same post-Brexit guarantee as recently given by the UK government to their competitor Nissan. The 100m investment recently announced by Ford was a reduction from the originally scheduled 180m. The company blamed 'global uncertainty' on the reduction, and with over 1,800 jobs dependent on the Bridgend plant, I called on the government to do more to offer Ford certainty that post-Brexit they would be able to operate in Wales without tariffs and on the same terms as competitors such as Nissan.
In refusing to give guarantees to Ford, Alan Cairns is offering businesses in Wales a worse deal than those in Scotland or Northern Ireland, after his cabinet colleagues David Mundell and James Brokenshire committed at the despatch box to offering the same protections for businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland as those offered to businesses in England.
Alan Cairns must be embarrassed by his complete absence of influence around the Cabinet table. Today he demonstrated his failure to stand up for people in Wales by refusing to protect the loans already funding vital works across the country.
The lack of clarity from Theresa May on her post-Brexit plans is creating huge uncertainty for businesses in Wales and putting the future of sites such as Ford plant in Bridgend at risk. We need to know what the terms of future trade will be, and instead of secret deals company by company, to protect jobs in Wales they need to know that major employers like Ford will be offered the same guarantees on tariffs as their competitors
This morning was my first appearance at the despatch box as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales. I was joined by my Shadow Ministerial colleague Gerald Jones.
With the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster so present for many in Wales this week, I took the opportunity to pay tribute to the spirit and resilience of the people of Aberfan in the face of such a tragedy.
I then questioned the Government on their priorities for infrastructure in Wales, asking the Minister to confirm when work would be accelerated to improve Cardiff Central Station.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Guto Bebb, refused to commit to the project or acknowledge the disparity between the lack of action in Cardiff despite modernisation programmes having gone ahead in Edinburgh and Birmingham.
On Thursday 15th September I asked the Transport Secretary if he believed that current legislation for taxis and private hire vehicles is adequate for the 21st Century given technological advancements in how we use private hire vehicle services.
The main legal framework governing taxi services has not undergone any significant reform for nearly 200 years. Private hire services legislation is more recent, dating from 1976 in most of England and Wales and 1998 in London.
There are no national standards, resulting in a very variable national picture. The piecemeal evolution of the regulation of taxi and private hire services has resulted in a complex and fragmented licensing system; the relationship between taxi and private hire services is not clearly defined. Mobile phones and the internet have revolutionised both the taxi and private hire trades, yet regulation has failed to keep pace. Sadly the Minister failed to really answer my question.
This month in my role as Shadow Prisons Minister I gave the Labour Party’s response at a Westminster Hall Debate on Prison Safety.
The debate was secured by Chair of the Justice Select Committee and MP for Bromley and Chislehurst Bob Neil, and focused on the Justice Select Committee’s report into prison safety which was published in May 2016 and the Government’s response which was published earlier this week.
Today in Justice Questions I asked the Justice Secretary what she is doing to improve the numbers of prison officers recruited in our public prisons, and called on the Justice Secretary to hold an urgent review quality of pre-sentence reports for the courts following the Government's privatisation of the probation sector.
The number of frontline officers working in public-sector prisons has fallen over the last year, despite Ministry of Justice plans to recruit additional staff to help respond to the highest levels of violence, suicide and self-injury since recording practices began.
Statistics show that there were 14,689 frontline officers (full time equivalent) in England and Wales in June 2016, down from 15,110 a year earlier. This leaves prisons with barely more frontline staff than the lows of 2014, which prompted the Ministry of Justice to embark on a major recruitment exercise.
As the prison population has grown and frontline officer numbers have fallen, safety in jails has deteriorated significantly.
I took the opportunity to ask the newly appointed Justice Secretary what she had planned that differed from her predecessor in recruitment more people into the prison service.
Since the EU referendum result there has been a resounding silence from the Government on whether they will keep the workplace and employment protections that EU law has developed and underpinned in the UK for many years.
Our right not to be discriminated against on grounds of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religious belief and age are there because of EU law. The same goes for vital health and safety at work protection.
This month I led for Labour in Attorney General Questions and focussed on seeking commitments from the Government law officers that none of these rights will be watered down or removed altogether as a consequence of us leaving the EU.
You can watch the exchanges here.
As my constituency includes three universities - Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales - I am very passionate about holding the government to account and securing a good future for research and learning in higher education.
This afternoon and evening Parliament debated the government's Higher Education and Research Bill. The Bill, according to the Government, is aiming to make University education attainable for a wide range of people, increase access and maintain high teaching standards.
This morning at Attorney General Questions I pressed the Government to look at the way the Serious Fraud Office is funded.
In my role as Shadow Solicitor General I asked Jeremy Wright, The Attorney General, about a report from HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, published this week, which found that the current funding model for the Serious Fraud Office does not represent value for money for the taxpayer. The report also found that the funding model does not support long-term strategy or the building of capacity for the future.
My concern is that the Serious Fraud Office could be subject to decisions made on the grounds of funding, rather than decisions based on the need to combat fraud and bring prosecutions.
The vital steel industry in the UK is under threat following proposals by Tata steel, owners of several major plants here in Wales, to close plants in Port Talbot and elsewhere if a buyer cannot be found for the businesses.
Steel plants are the lifeblood of the communities where they are based, providing employment not just for steel workers but for companies in the supply chain and local area.
This morning in Welsh Questions I took the opportunity to ask Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, a question about devolving responsibility for Air Passenger Duty to the Welsh Government.
Air Passenger Duty is paid by passengers as part of their flight ticket when they fly from the UK, and currently the rate (how much tax must be paid) is set by the UK Government and is the same for all departure airports.