Remembrance 2020, taking the Chancellor to task, and should fireworks be banned? - Weekly update 06/11/2020
I was pleased to lead a debate this week in Westminster Hall on the sale of fireworks - and thank you to all the Gower constituents who signed my petition calling for a ban on the sale of fireworks given the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in this year. Fireworks are dangerous; each year around the 5th November, there are thousands of visits to A&E because of injuries caused by fireworks and traffic to the NHS website giving advice on how to treat burns and scalds skyrockets. The NHS is under extreme pressure this year with the second wave of the coronavirus coinciding with the usual winter pressures and the impact of the first wave on scheduled procedures and routine check-ups. I know how much people enjoy Bonfire Night – I remember as a child sitting with our hot dogs and watching the fireworks over Stradey Park - but this year, we will have to do things differently. Protecting lives and safeguarding health must come first.
On Tuesday, I was called to speak in the Urgent Question to the Treasury on the economic support that will be in place during this next lockdown. The Prime Minister on Monday said that funding for furlough schemes would be available to the devolved nations, not just during the current lockdown, but in the future if devolved nations are forced to lock down regardless of England’s measures for public health reasons. On Wednesday, however, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government cast doubt on this assertion, claiming that it would be a matter for the Chancellor and not the Prime Minister to decide. The Treasury Minister then failed to clarify who had ultimate responsibility for the judgement – the Chancellor or the Prime Minister. The Chancellor’s subsequent announcement on Thursday that furlough be funded through to March is welcome, but it’s ridiculous - and fundamentally damaging to business - that it took so long for him to confirm.
On Thursday, it was a busy day in Parliament with Welsh Affairs in the morning, followed by an Urgent Question to the Health Secretary and a Statement from the Chancellor. During Welsh Affairs we discussed the impact of the Brexit negotiations on the Welsh economy and how the UK Government are negotiating with regards to Wales. The UK Government must work to ensure that Brexit does not disadvantage any of the devolved nations in the UK. I am concerned that the focus is on Westminster priorities rather than considering that devolved nations may experience different impacts in different sectors and that these are not being properly addressed.
Thursday’s Health Urgent Question was on the issue of assisted dying and the impact of the Covid restrictions on travel for the purpose of seeking end of life care abroad in countries like Switzerland where assisted dying is legal. It is such an emotive and sensitive issue, and there are related concerns within the UK around hospices. Our hospices provide crucial care to those needing palliative care and the Covid pandemic has hit them incredibly hard. They rely hugely on the finances raised through charity shops and with long periods of closure and donations being restricted at times, they have had to make drastic cuts to staffing. The UK Treasury must commit to providing the necessary resources so that these services cannot only continue to provide care but are able to do so in a dignified and peaceful manner.
I was also able to speak in the discussion after the Chancellor’s statement on the extension of the furlough scheme. This is, of course, an announcement to be welcomed, but I am getting rather tired of feeling like the devolved nations like Wales are ignored when they ask for help and only get given the support they were asking for when England is given the same, or should we say the South of England? Why does the Chancellor insist on suggesting that the Welsh should be grateful for what they receive when the English receive it and not that they are equally and fairly entitled to the support? The Chancellor needs to remember that he acts for the whole of the United Kingdom and not just Tory constituencies in the South of England.
As with everything this year, Remembrance Day Is going to look very different. There will be no long march past the Cenotaph in London and no organised gatherings at local memorials. However, Remembrance Day isn’t about the display and the pageantry; it’s about the people we remember and honour. It’s about the brave men and women who sacrificed so much during those dark days in the 1930s and 1940s, the men and women who answered the call of their country and contributed in whatever way they could. It’s about honouring those today who serve their country and this year, I will be thinking about the great support our military men and women have been providing during this pandemic. Thank you to each and every one of you, past and present, for the service you have given to this country.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Keep well and remember – and remember - observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!