I was pleased to speak on Times Radio this weekend to discuss how Parliament really works and the need to work together cross-party in order to get things done. We don’t see the committee work that goes on behind the scenes where MPs from different parties discuss issues, analyse legislation, and develop new ideas. What we do see in the news and reported in newspapers is the confrontation – the jeering at PMQs, the anger at answers given during departmental question sessions.
Obviously, the showboating is important to ensure coverage of important issues and to ensure politicians get airtime. Because of this the Chamber is not really fit for purpose, especially since Covid which limited the number of politicians could be present in the Chamber. We need a forum in which people listen, really listen to what is said, and think about their response without pithy quips or prepared insults but respond in a productive way. The media should be digging into Select Committee hearings, where MPs work with one another – they might disagree with one another, yes – but, of course, that’s not where the juicy stuff happens. We need to look beyond the showmanship that happens in the Chamber and look instead at the real politics that happens in Westminster.
In the Chamber
I started the week off speaking in a debate on Abortion in Northern Ireland. This is a very emotive subject, both in Northern Ireland and in the UK. When I was a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, I had the opportunity to go to Northern Ireland. I have a Roman Catholic background, and I appreciate the difficulties in discussing abortion and motherhood and the sometimes-divisive issues that result from a woman’s identity, but I listened and spoke to those women who gave evidence. They had to go through the most horrific experiences, and the situation cannot remain as it is. Women cannot be forced to travel long distances, without family or friends to support them, for healthcare that is now legal and which the Northern Ireland authorities have a statutory obligation to make sure is provided. I will work to make sure this is the case.
This week we had the awful news that the Iranian Government has handed another jail sentence to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I challenged the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa to respond to Richard Ratcliffe’s fear that he expressed last year, that if Nazanin did not return before Christmas, then he believed this situation would continue indefinitely. The Minister sincerely hoped not and that the incarceration of dual nationals was unacceptable, unjustified, and arbitrary, and that it must stop. I think we can all agree with him, but I think we’re all tired of hearing from this Government that the situation is unacceptably, that the Iranian Government’s actions are unjustified, and that the detention of Nazanin and other dual nationals are arbitrary. We want to know exactly what the UK Government are doing to ensure their release. Nazanin has a husband and young daughter waiting for her to come home; there are other families waiting for their loved ones to return home – apart from rhetoric around unjustness and political games, what are the UK Government doing to help them?
International Workers’ Memorial Day
Wednesday marked International Workers’ Memorial Day when we remember all those who have lost their lives at work over the past year and vow to fight for therights of workers everywhere. Covid has exposed the huge injustices that exist in our society and the fact that our key workers, who are generally among the lowest paid, are most likely to die in the line of work.
Our NHS workers, our bus drivers and train drivers, our supermarket workers, and our care staff have given so much this year – they have sacrificed time with family, they have spent hours and hours in uncomfortable and painful personal protective equipment, they have faced abuse and yet they have continued to go to work and look after us.
We owe it to all of them to rebuild a fairer society in which our workers are safe at work and are given a fair wage for the work that they contribute.
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Keep well and remember - observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe.