It was exciting this week to attend the inaugural AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause on Monday during which I was elected Chair of the Group. We will be leading an inquiry into various aspects of the menopause, including workplace policies, public health messaging, education and medical school training. Our menopause revolution is underway! It really is appalling that in 2021 women are still suffering in silence and without the support that they need to continue working and to be able to live their lives to the fullest. I’m determined that this inquiry will lead to some real change in practices and understandings across workplaces and within society.
On Wednesday I was pleased to be able to put a question to the Welsh Secretary about discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport about the appalling situation at the DVLA offices in Swansea. It really is beyond belief that a UK Government office has put their staff’s health and safety at risk during this Covid pandemic They have clapped for key workers, clapped for carers, spoken warmly of them, but when it comes down to taking action to ensure that they are all safe, their resolve appears to dissolve. At Welsh Questions I raised the case of the Union rep who had been subject to horrendous online abuse and threats for standing up for her colleagues’ safety. I asked the Minister to join me in condemning this behaviour and in encouraging the DVLA to remove any such content from their social media platforms.
I was pleased to co-chair a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing this week on the state of consumer confidence. The impacts of lockdown are far more varied and numerous than I think we all fully understand. While many news reports and politicians talk of our impatience to get back to normal – to go shopping in crowded shopping centres, to go out to eat in a restaurant without masks and social distancing, and to go to sports events – there are many people who do not feel confident about doing that. The beauty industry will be significantly impacted by this as footfall in local towns and high streets are crucial for their businesses and if people choose to stay away or are reluctant about going into salons, they could continue to struggle once restrictions are lifted. We need to ensure that salons are supported throughout the recovery and that consumer confidence is restored to allow these economic powerhouses to return to full capacity and to continue doing what they’re good at: helping people’s wellbeing by providing beauty services and contributing significantly to the national economy.
I was also pleased to chair a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm this week on the work carried out by the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS). The current regulatory framework contains no statutory mechanism for consumer redress. The Gambling Commission is a regulator without any consumer protection function outside of its remit to promote the Act’s licensing objectives, that is, preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime; ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way; and protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Instead, consumer redress is done on a voluntary basis and via non-binding adjudication. This function is carried out by the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS). IBAS has no statutory authority and while it works closely with the Gambling Commission to reduce the number of disputes between bettors and operators, it lacks the teeth of other sectoral Ombudsman. Complaints from consumers about the conduct of betting and gaming companies are frequent and range from unfair treatment following winning (refusals to payout) through to failures to apply their own harm prevention measures (leading to serious incidents of gambling harm). We heard from IBAS and other stakeholders, including some charitable organisations who support those suffering from gambling addictions and who support consumers who are treated unfairly.
The Gambling Commission has turned down an invitation to appear before the Gambling Related Harm APPG, to discuss the upcoming National Lottery licence procurement and the performance of the current provider. I took the opportunity on Thursday to ask the DCMS Minister about many of the products developed by the current provider, such as online instant win games, and their potential to cause serious harm. I was hoping for reassurance that there will be proper scrutiny of the next provider and that appropriate harm prevention measures will be introduced. Instead I got an answer that was ridiculously far off the mark with the Minister talking about people buying Lotto tickets, failing to listen to my concerns about online instant win games.
Congratulations to Kim Leadbeater and everyone involved in her campaign in Batley and Spen! I am absolutely delighted to see that the constituency rejected the politics of hate and division and elected Kim – a real local champion who will stand up for her constituents and continue the amazing work done by her sister, Jo Cox. I can’t wait to welcome her to Parliament.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org – my team and I are here to help. And remember – stay home, observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!