Well, wasn’t that a fantastic weekend – beautiful weather and Wales winning the Triple Crown in such style against England! However, we must remember that even with the beautiful springtime weather, we must all continue to follow the guidelines and stay home to prevent the spread of the virus and to ensure that we give schools and the vaccination programme the best chance to continue their vital work without disruption. I know it’s difficult, but we must keep focused and hopefully, if the rates of the virus remain low and we can continue our incredible vaccination programme, we will see life beginning to return to normal.
The big news of the week was, of course, the announcement of the Budget. We have had the worst death toll in Europe and the worst economic crisis of any major economy because the Conservatives have weakened our country’s foundations and resilience and were consistently too slow to act during the crisis. Now, we need a Budget that will rebuild the foundations of our economy, with a relentless focus on jobs and delivering growth across the whole of the UK, support for our high streets, and protection of family finances. But what have this Tory Government given us? The threat of tax rises for political capital and delayed support for our vital businesses. We want a secure economy and a more equal society to create a prosperous future for all; the Tories are ensuring a return to insecurity for our communities.
At the start of the week, I was pleased to host a private briefing for MPs with the Modern Slavery Unit at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). There is a long history of the UK’s parliamentarians fighting slavery, but a shocking report from the CSJ in 2020 estimated that there could be at least 100,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. The 2015 Modern Slavery Act marked an important step forward in Britain’s anti-slavery movement and has had a significant impact across the world, but we must continue our work and ensure that the global pandemic does not diminish our commitments to eradicate the appalling crime of slavery in today’s world. We heard from Head of the Modern Slavery Policy Unit Tatiana Gren-Jardan about the progress that’s been made since the Modern Slavery Act; Cristina Huddleston, the Director of European Operations at Justice and Care about the frontline work that is fighting slavery; and from DCI Nick Dale on successful prosecutions. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to do.
I had two meetings for the Industry and Parliamentary Trust (IPT) scheme this week. The IPT is an independent, non-lobbying, non-partisan charity that works between Parliament and UK business. My first meeting was with Food Behind Bars, a registered charity dedicated to transforming the food served in prisons. They work closely with prison staff and residents to positively impact the health and wellbeing of prisoners through education and unique initiatives. They enable prisons to champion healthy and nutritious eating by working with catering staff to develop original menus that meet the needs of the prison population. Healthier people are often happier and their moods are better, they’re better able to concentrate and focus – something which is really important in the education and development schemes for prisoners that help to prevent reoffending.
I also met with the Prisoners Education Trust who provide remote learning to every prison in England and Wales. They fund courses and support prisoners to choose the right course to progress with their learning, reach their potential, and achieve their goals. They champion the life-changing power of education and through their networks, join up prisons, universities, third-sector organisations, and people with experience of prison. Too often, crime is perpetrated through a lack of education and lack of life chances – education is vital in reducing reoffending and giving people the tools to go back into society and feel that they have something to contribute and something to work towards. I was really pleased to hear about this fantastic work.
On Thursday I co-chaired a joint Gambling-Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group and Peers for Gambling Reform seminar on Public Health. It was fascinating to hear from a number of experts including Matt Gaskell, the Clinical Lead for NHS Northern Gambling Service, and Hazel Cheeseman from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) who spoke about the actions that have been taken to combat smoking and support people to quit and how these could be adapted to the gambling related harm context. It’s important that we change the perception of gambling addiction as something that is a choice – addiction takes that choice away from you, and most people will need help from trained professionals in beating their addiction. We have to start treating gambling addiction as a public and mental health issue and use some of the knowledge gained from those tacking other addictions to improve support for gambling disorder.
We are continuing to support those who are vulnerable and isolated locally by providing a lunch with the support of Morrison’s on a Wednesday and hot roast dinners on a Sunday. Thank you so much to everyone involved for their continued support – you’re all superstars!
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com – my team and I are here to help. And remember – stay home, observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!