To begin the week my competition deciding which Cardiff Central pub I should nominate for this year’s Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition closed, and amongst a raft of Cardiff Central favourites the overwhelming choice once again was the Four Elms in Roath. Congratulations to Jon, Gareth and the team and I know you’ll be working hard to retain the title you won at last year’s inaugural competition.
Before heading to Westminster this week, I met this year’s politics team at Gair Rhydd – Cardiff University’s award-winning student newspaper. As well as meeting the team I enjoyed a wide-ranging interview that will feature in next week’s edition – you’ll be able to read it online here. Thank you to political editors Lowri and Maisie for your questions and best of luck for what I’m sure will be another very successful year for Gair Rhydd.
Wednesday saw a piece of history in the Commons. Trailblazing Diane Abbott became the first black MP at the despatch box, for Prime Minister’s Questions. We also had a really excellent debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which we thought had been lost because of the unlawful suspension of Parliament. I was pleased to be able to pay tribute to the work of Welsh Women’s Aid during the debate. I also spoke in a debate on the Tory policy of ending free movement of people from the European Union. I asked the Home Office Minister to explain how people can prove they had been given settled status. Incredibly, he couldn’t answer. I also raised how the good international standing of our universities is at risk from such an isolationist policy.
I was back in the chamber on Thursday asking questions to Ministers. Last week the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox had said he would consider publishing the legal advice he gave the Prime Minister that led to the unlawful suspension of Parliament. I asked him whether he would release his legal advice before Parliament is once again suspended next week. I also asked Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg whether we could have an Urgent Statement next week from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on what she’s doing to resolve the hardship faced by people claiming the Severe Disability Premium after being wrongly moved from Employment Support Allowance to Universal Credit – my office is currently supporting a number of severely disabled constituents impacted by this.
Thursday also saw the Prime Minister return to the House of Commons to present his ‘new’ Brexit proposal. This involves different proposals for the Northern Ireland border with the rest of the UK and with the Republic of Ireland. The proposals break every promise Boris Johnson made to the public in the 2016 referendum. They also break the solemn promises made to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the historic Good Friday Agreement. Businesses would be left trapped inside two economic borders and the future of every citizen would be subject to an effective veto of the DUP despite them polling less than a quarter of the votes in Northern Ireland. Within the day, both the EU and the Irish Government had concluded that this was a proposal they simply could not support, and I don’t blame them. The Prime Minister is seemingly intent on recklessly prioritising a hard-Brexit over the delicate peace and stability achieved in Northern Ireland. Instead, he should comply with the Benn Act, seek an extension to Article 50 and ensure that any next step involves a final say for the public in the form of a referendum.
Yesterday, there was disappointing news from the High Court in London with the 1950’s born women’s pension case about changes to the pension age, failing. I have been involved in the campaign on behalf of “Waspi Women” from the outset and will continue to support the campaign, helping constituents with complaints to the Ombudsman and working with the cross party parliamentary group to try to find a political solution that works for the nearly 4 million affected women. You can read about the statement our group issued yesterday after the judgment.
Last night I was back in Cardiff helping get out the vote for Labour candidate Marc Palmer in the Whitchurch and Tongwynlais Council by-election and today I’ve been busy meeting constituents at the Madni Masjid in Roath and holding a busy constituency advice surgery at Rhydypennau Library in Cyncoed. Thanks to everyone who called in to see me. I’ll be out again tomorrow listening to local residents in Cathays and then I’m off to see Cardiff Blues take on Edinburgh at the Arms Park, hoping we might get 80 minutes of dry weather! Have a good weekend everyone.