I am still having to pinch myself about the incredible generosity that Gareth Bale has shown this week – a legend on and off the pitch! With his incredibly generous donation to our ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ campaign, we will be able to distribute 300 glorious Christmas hampers to families who are struggling and give them something nice for Christmas. It’s been a truly awful year for so many people, but I have been so cheered by the generosity of spirit that has supported our Swansea Together campaign and that we are seeing already for our Christmas campaign. I love this community and I am so proud to represent this lovely part of South Wales.
It’s been another busy week in Westminster! First, I chaired a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm to discuss the pernicious impact of gambling on children. We heard from Dr David Zendle, a Computer Science lecturer at the University of York and leading expert in the effects of ‘loot boxes’, Aaron Mansfield, the Health and Wellbeing Manager for Young People at the Royal Society for Public Health, and Louisa Mason, the Senior Policy and Communications Executive at the Royal Society for Public Health and Gambling Health Alliance Lead. We don’t think about children when we discuss gambling, but the prevalence of gambling advertising and the ease with which children can access gambling sites online is having a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of our kids. Gambling is no longer something confined to betting shops and the similarities now between children’s games and gambling games with the graphic design of websites is persuading children that gambling is something normal and harmless. We have to protect children and teach them that gambling is something to be done responsibly as it can have serious negative effects.
I then chaired another meeting with the Group on the National Lottery. Recent news reports have shown that in 2017-18, 16- and 17-year-olds splurged an insane £47 million on National Lottery games. In the UK, the minimum age for gambling is 18, but the Lottery can be played from 16. . I hope the Lottery will heed our warning and prevent under 18s from playing, to protect children from the harms of gambling.
You can listen out for me discussing gambling related harm on the ‘All Bets Are Off’ podcast, the gambling addiction recovery podcast. We have come such a long way in recognising the dangers and the harm of a gambling addiction and it is great to see the varied support that is available for everyone who needs some help controlling their gambling. This podcast offers stories of recovery from addiction to signposting support and chats with industry specialists. I was so pleased to be invited along!
We also secured a campaign victory earlier in the week as the Gambling Commission reported that they have been exploring regulations that could cap gambling losses at £100 per calendar month as it has emerged that more than half the population has a ‘discretionary’ income, that is money remaining after the essentials are paid for of less than £250 a month. Other measures being explored include time limits on bonus winnings. These moves are welcome, but we still have a long way to go until real regulations and protections are in place and working effectively.
Also this week, I was interviewed for That’s TV to discuss the beauty sector and lockdown. The beauty sector is incredibly important for our economy, I have said this again and again in Parliament, but the UK Government have yet to recognise its importance. This sector needs more support – such as the VAT cut from 20 to 5% that has been given to the tourism and hospitality sector. Beauty businesses are the lifeblood of our high streets, often bringing people in to browse the shops and sit in the cafes before or after a haircut or manicure. It is ridiculous that the UK Government are refusing to see sense and I am seriously worried now that if they do not take action soon, we will see many viable beauty businesses fall before Christmas.
I was so pleased today to speak virtually with Cefn Hengoed Community school and Ysgol Tirdeunaw, two schools here in Swansea East as part of UK Parliament week. The schools received the UK Parliament pack which included a ballot box, bunting, and free t-shirt. It’s great to speak to young people about politics and getting involved as they really are our future and it’s so important that we hear their voices and what’s important to them. I was thrilled to hear their views on the issues facing young people and the country today, and I think I spied one or two who we may well be seeing in the Commons representing us in the years to come!
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 – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!