It's been another busy week in Westminster and Gower. On Monday, I was able to ask the Secretary of State for Wales about the impact of Brexit on the shellfish trade. Since 1st January, when we entered our new relationship with the EU, the shellfish exports industry has lost significant trade because of a change of policy from the EU Commission. The Government’s dealing with this issue has been a complete shambles, and the ban is going to have a devastating financial impact on historic cockling communities, such as Penclawdd. I asked the Secretary of State what conversations had happened between himself and the Welsh Government to ensure that the fisheries disruption fund reaches Penclawdd. He conceded that it would be a UK-wide fund, open to anyone from Wales, and that conversations are ongoing with the European Commission to try to come to some arrangement.
I was also able to ask the Business Minister, Paul Scully MP, about guidelines in place in Government agencies to ensure Covid-secure working where work cannot be done from home. We have seen in recent weeks the appalling news of unsafe conditions at the DVLA in Swansea but the Minister’s answer that safer workplace guidance is kept under continuous review and that scientific advice informs that guidance does not seem to match up to what we know of the situation at the DVLA. From instructions to switch off their NHS tracking app to prevent calls to self-isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive to a lack of measures in place to ensure social distancing can be maintained, it is clear that UK Government agencies are not looking after their employees.
I spoke in support of the Maternity Bill that the UK Government are bringing to Parliament during the debate on Thursday, on the proviso that the Bill ensures all new mothers are able to take maternity leave and not just those in Cabinet positions. I arrived in Parliament in 2017 and, as a single parent, was largely only able to do so with the support of my mother. Parliament should be an example to all employers and should not present a view that maternity leave is something for the privileged few; it is a right that all working mothers should expect. We can see in Parliament the fantastic contribution that women can make to our society and we should be promoting and enabling women to take on any job, secure in the knowledge that employers will support them should they choose to become a mother. Women do not lose their abilities or their skills in becoming mothers, but they often gain new perspectives, something we need a lot more of in Westminster and in business across the sectors. It’s time we in Parliament showed the flexibility and support to make that work.
We had the news from the Welsh Labour Government this week that free school meals in Wales would be guaranteed up to Easter 2022. It’s awful that children are going hungry in 21st century Britain, especially when many of these children come from working families – the low wages simply aren’t enough to feed a family. I know from my own experience as a teacher that teaching hungry children does not yield results! Children who are hungry lack concentration and motivation to learn and it’s heart-breaking as a teacher to know the potential that is being kept buried from something as simple as enough food. I am proud to be a Welsh Labour MP and that we are supporting the most vulnerable so that they are able to achieve their potential and contribute to a fairer society.
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!