Madeleine Moon MP

Member of Parliament for Bridgend

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The was the last full week of parliament before the summer recess. It was a busy week of parliamentary debates, speeches and receptions. See what I got up to below...

MONDAY

Defence

On Monday, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his Ministers took to the Despatch Box to field questions from MPs.

I asked the Minister about the Chancellor's announcement in the Budget of an extra £50 million for Cadet Forces in schools. There is concern amongst Cadet Units in the community that they will not receive similar financial support from the government. I called on the Minister to clarify the government's policy and address their concerns.

The Secretary of State was also questioned over the use of UK military forces to combat Daesh (aka. ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. Karen Lumley MP asked Mr Fallon whether Government time would allocated for a debate and vote in the House of Commons, if and when the UK government decides to participate in air-strikes against Daesh targets in Syria. The Defence Secretary responded that 'RAF intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft are already operating over Syria at the moment' and promised that any he would 'return to Parliament for approval' before any decision to escalate UK involvement was made.

Mr Fallon neglected to mention that the RAF are already participating in air-strikes in Syria as part of a US-led coalition.  According to the BBC, about 20 personnel have been working alongside coalition partners to organise and carry out these attacks. It is deeply worrying that the Minister failed to tell MPs and the public that British military personnel were engaged in these activities. It calls both his competence and honesty into question. Click
here to read the exchange in full.

 

Click here to see me question the Minister
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TUESDAY

 

Defence

On Tuesday I attended the first Defence Select Committee meeting of the new parliament. It was also the first under the new Chair, Julian Lewis MP. The meeting coincided with the ruling of the inquest into the deaths of three SAS reservists in the Brecon Beacons. On one of the hottest days of 2013, three SAS reserves died during a training march. They were Cpl Dunsby, L/Cpl Roberts and L/Cpl Maher. The inquest into these men’s deaths concluded this week. The Coroner concluded that ‘Neglect’ played a part in the deaths of the three reservists. She did not judge, however, that the failing amounted to manslaughter by gross negligence. 
 
Serious mistakes and failings were attributed to Army management staff. It was found that there had been inadequate preparation for the training march.  Although the men were ‘very fit’, 37 of the reserves were not ‘conditioned’ as regular army servicemen and women would have been. For one of the men, insufficient water supplies had played a part in his death and in all instances the response to the emergency was ‘chaotic’ and untimely. On Tuesday, I was asked by the Defence Select Committee to conduct an enquiry. I will continue to put pressure on the MOD to ensure that lessons are learned.

On Tuesday I also hosted a reception for the Defence Police Federation. Not to be confused with Military Police or the Royal Military Police, the MOD police are a civilian force used to provide security and investigative resources for the armed forces. The Federation does important work in promoting the work of the force and representing their interests.

 

Me with Eamon Keating, the Chairman of the Defence Police Federation

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WEDNESDAY

WaterAid and the 'Great Stink'

On Wednesday I attended a WaterAid event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 'Great Stink'. In July and August of 1858 London was overwhelmed by the stench of untreated human and industrial waste that had amassed on the banks of the River Thames. The smell was so bad that Parliament had to be suspended. Disgust and fear at the smell, and the disease it signified, prompted a campaign for better sewage and sanitation facilities in the capital. The city’s inadequate waste disposal infrastructure was held responsible for several recent outbreaks of cholera. Joseph Bazalgette was appointed by the city’s authorities to design and build a sewer network for London that safely disposed of human waste.

 

The anniversary is a unique opportunity to reflect on the fundamental importance of accessible sanitation facilities and how often we take it for granted. This is a question of basic human health and dignity. Without access to sanitation facilities life becomes a daily repetition of illness and humiliation.

 

The squalor and disease of nineteenth century London may seem distant, but it remains a daily reality for millions of people across the world. Only two thirds of the world’s population have access to an adequate bathroom. The remaining 2.5 billion suffer daily indignity and ill-health. Poor sanitation is responsible for the spread of a range of diseases from diarrhoea and malaria to HIV/AIDS.

I am concerned that since 2010 spending on water and sanitation by the Department for International Development has risen at a slower pace than under the Labour government. Having more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, the growth in spending has since declined to just over 45%. There clearly remain further opportunities for the Department to improve sanitation in the developing world.

ADS Reception

On Wednesday I also attended
a reception hosted by ADS, the Areospace, Defence and Space trade association, to promote apprenticeships in these sectors. Last year alone these sectors provided 9,000 apprenticeships. In addition to providing these positions, these sectors also generate £56bn a year for the UK economy, including £31bn in exports, and directly provide 310,000 jobs.

 

Fox Hunting

The government had planned to introduce a vote on amending the Hunting Act on Wednesday, that would have effectively reintroduced hunting with dogs. I was grateful for the considerable volume of correspondence that I received from constituents on both sides of the debate. In the event, the government lost their nerve and withdrew their amendment, it being clear that members of their own party and the SNP were planning to vote against the reintroduction of hunting. I remain emphatically opposed to any further attempt to reintroduce hunting, whenever that might be.
 

Here I am with Joseph Bazalgatte himself!

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THURSDAY

Reccess Adjournment Debate

Thursday afternoon in the House of Commons was reserved for a Recess Adjournment Debate. This provides an opportunity for backbench MPs to highlight issues that they feel have received insufficient attention and to indicate what matters they would like the government to discuss when Parliament returns in the autumn.

I took the opportunity to press the government over open-cast mining in the constituency and to point out their reluctance to deal with Parc Slip. This country is facing a crisis over what to do with orphaned open-cast mines. There are currently 34 open-cast mines across the UK—17 in Scotland, nine in south Wales and eight in England. There are also an unknown number of unrestored and orphaned sites, where developers have declared bankruptcy and disappeared. They are all a major health and safety risk. I am particularly concerned about the safety and security of the community of Cynfigg hill who live beneath the orphaned mine of Parc Slip. Although progress has been painfully slow with the government, I am relieved that the Minister Andrea Leadsom has at last offered to meet us in September. Click
here for my speech.

Continence Care

On Thursday afternoon I also made time to visit a reception hosted by a group of charities who promote awareness of continence care. Bowel and bladder problems are much broader problems than you might imagine. Some of the most common illnesses in the UK are related to continence or have bowel and bladder problems as symptoms. They can affect men, women and children of all ages. As a member of the APPG for continence care, I intend to apply for a parliamentary debate to push the government and health service on what more can be done to improve care and policy in this area.

I look forward to working with this remarkable group of people to promote awareness and openness about bladder and bowel problems.

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This Week In Parliament 13th-16th July

The was the last full week of parliament before the summer recess. It was a busy week of parliamentary debates, speeches and receptions. See what I got up to below......

This_week_in_Parliament_heading.jpg

Although this week was dominated by the Chancellor's Summer Budget on Wednesday, there were other important debates taking place in the House of Commons. See below for my take on the week's events.

MONDAY

Home Office Questions

On Monday, the Home Secretary Theresa May took to the despatch box to field questions from MPs. I was particularly interested in the issue  of violence against women in the UK, brought up by the two Labour MPs Gerald Jones and Keir Starmer. The UN Special Rapporteur on the issue recently published a report in which she described violence against women as a pervasive challenge in our country.


According to the report, over the course of the last year, 7% of women in England and Wales have reported having experienced domestic abuse. Considering that many women remain reluctant about coming forward, this is a troubling statistic. Young and vulnerable women are at particular risk. Almost one in three 16-18 year old girls have experienced 'groping' or unwanted sexual touching. I was horrified to read recently that half of women in prison have suffered domestic violence and one in the three have experienced sexual abuse. In light of these shocking figures, the Home Secretary's response seemed inadequate and complacent.

For the full UN report click here.

English votes for English Laws (EVEL)

In a week in which government business otherwise dominated proceedings in Westminster, Monday evening saw the Commons assert its rights against the executive. The government's ill-conceived proposal to create an English Grand Committee with the power to veto legislation that only effects English MPs was the subject of an application for an emergency debate. The government intended to introduce this profound change to Britain's constitutional arrangements by amending a Commons Standing Order and thereby avoiding a debate in the Commons. Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael argued that EVEL had a broader political and historical, rather than a merely procedural, significance. The speaker agreed to chair a debate the following day. 
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TUESDAY

Tax Credits

On Tuesday, Labour hosted another Opposition Day Debate. In anticipation of the Budget, and in response to the concerns of constituents across the country, the party chose to focus on tax credits. Over the past week I have received a number of letters from people in Bridgend who are deeply anxious about what cuts to tax credits will mean for them and their families. My analysis of the Budget in Wednesday's section will provide more detail.


EVEL

On Tuesday afternoon, the promised debate on EVEL was held. The government's proposal threatens to undermine the Union and to do so without any scrutiny or debate. Living as we do in a collection of interdependent nations, it is not clear what the government means by an exclusively 'English law'. Since its formation the Union has been irregular and imperfect. Following the 1707 Act of Union, Scotland retained distinct educational, ecclesiastical and legal institutions. The principle that all members are equal in Westminster has helped to hold the Union together for over 300 years. The government's petulant English nationalism is putting the future of the Union at risk.

For the full debate, including my intervention in Charles Walker MP's speech, click here.
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WEDNESDAY/ BUDGET DAY

On Wednesday the Chancellor set out his plans for Britain's economy. He said that his is a Budget for working people. It is nothing of the sort; it is a cruel ideological experiment with the British economy.  So far, the Chancellor has only provided a broad overview of his analyses and proposals. I will be updating you with the details as and when I receive them.
Cuts to Tax Credits and Benefits

The Chancellor announced swingeing cuts to tax credits and benefits. He used this reduction in spending to fund an abolition of inheritance tax on properties below £1 million. He also announced a planned reduction in corporation tax to 19% from 2017-18 and to 18% from 2020-21. There is little evidence that either measure will help to boost growth or create jobs in Britain.

I am deeply concerned about the Chancellor’s announcement of a dramatic restriction in the eligibility for child tax credit. He also announced that working age benefits, including tax credits, will be frozen for 4 years. Support through Child Tax Credit will also be restricted to two children for children born from April 2017 onwards. This not only hits poorest families hardest, but may also have serious implications for the UK's long-term economic outlook. With an ageing population, we need a growing working-age population who can pay for the care and pensions of the elderly.

The Chancellor's proposed Living Wage fails to supplement the loss to household income caused by the cut to tax credits. The compulsory Living Wage, starting next April at £7.20 and rising to £9.00 by 2020, is below the level recommended by the Living Wage Foundation. It is also calculated according to median earnings rather than prices and thus fails to tackle the high cost of living.
 
The following calculations illustrate the deception at the heart of the Budget. In 2016/17 a lone parent with two children working a 16 hour week on minimum wage will gain just over £400 from the Chancellor’s so-called Living Wage, but will lose £860 from tax credit changes. A family with one worker on the average wage will lose £2,000 in tax credits from the changes announced yesterday.

The Chancellor also announced that ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) is to be aligned with JSA (Job Seeker's Allowance). The full details and implications of this decision remain uncertain, but it is likely to result in a reduction in ESA of up to 30%. This will have a serious and detrimental impact on the living standards of the sick and disabled- some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Defence

On a more positive note, the Chancellor announced a £50 million investment to increase the number of cadet units in state schools to 500. Cadet forces offer young people unique and valuable life experience and skills that equip them for both military and civilian professions. Although I cautiously welcome this proposal, I am concerned that cadet units outside of schools will be excluded from this investment. 

The Chancellor also committed 2% of UK GDP to defence spending- the target set by NATO for member states. At the moment it remains unclear where this money will be invested. Until we know it is difficult to evaluate the full impact of the Chancellor's commitment.
For the Chancellor's speech and Acting Labour Leader Harriet Harman's response, click here.
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THURSDAY

On Thursday the Common's continued to digest the Budget and consider its implications for Britain's economy. Following Harriet's response to the Chancellor on Wednesday, Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie offered his critique of the Budget. In his speech Chris unearthed the true impact of the Chancellor's decisions beneath the media hype and spin:

When one cuts through the rhetoric and the headlines that the Chancellor spun, one sees that yesterday’s Budget leaves working people worse off. It is the working families of Britain on low incomes, trying their hardest to do the right thing, who will pay the price for the gap between what the Chancellor said and the truth of what his Budget actually means.


Chris accused the Chancellor of  risking economic growth and prosperity to pursue his own personal political ambitions. Rather than sensationally slashing tax credit eligibility, he argued, the Chancellor should crack down on benefit over-payments. This might generate fewer headlines, but it would be the fairer and more effective way to reduce the deficit.

To view Chris's full speech click here.

Towards the end of the proceedings, it was announced that there would be a Welsh Grand Committee hearing into how the Budget relates to Wales. I look forward to the opportunity to represent the concerns of my constituents over how the Budget will impact the lives of working families in Bridgend.
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This Week In Parliament, 6th-9th July

Although this week was dominated by the Chancellor's Summer Budget on Wednesday, there were other important debates taking place in the House of Commons. See below for my take on the week's...

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This was a busy week of parliamentary receptions, debates and meetings with Ministers. Although my engagements spanned a bewildering range of important policy areas, I was also able to take a moment to relax with reserves and cadets in what was a highlight of my week. See what else I got up to below...

MONDAY

On Monday I was honoured to host a reception for Reserves and Cadets from across the UK.  

Britain’s defence and security is increasingly dependent on the men and women in our Reserve and Cadets forces. The vital role that Reserves play in the nation’s defence and in their local communities is too often hidden from view. Monday was a chance to remind MPs and peers that the armed forces are not a distant and separate group in society. They are composed of men and women working alongside civilians on a daily basis in our communities. It is important that they know that their voices are heard across both Houses of Parliament. Having been offered an insight into the world of Reserves and Cadets, MPs were delighted to show representatives from their regions around the Palace. 

I was particularly pleased to meet volunteers from Airbus in Wales, including a Cadet traning leader. Not only do they do important work at the cutting edge of aerospace engineering, they also give up their spare time in defence of their country and in the service of their communities. We must never forget their quiet bravery and daily sacrifice. 
We were privileged to be joined by the Minister for Reserves, Julian Brazier MP (far right).
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TUESDAY

Tuesday was dominated by All Party Parliamentary Groups. These are groups of MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum who agree to work with each other on issues of shared interest. Whilst they do not have legislative powers or formal constitutional status, they remain important organisations through which to campaign around government policy. I am chair of the Motor Neurone Disease, Suicide and Self-harm Prevention, Kidneys and Reserves and Cadets APPGs. I am also Co-Chair of the Parkinson's APPG.

On Tuesday, the focus was on the Suicide and Self-harm Prevention, Turkey and Women in the Penal System groups. I was shocked to learn that the female prison population has nearly doubled over the last twenty years. Too many women are sentenced to short-term prison sentences that are expensive for the taxpayer and traumatic for the prisoner. I want to see more money diverted to women's centres and diversion schemes that have proven success in rehabilitating women prisoners.

On Tuesday I also participated in a parliamentary debate on the welfare aspect of the Scotland Bill- the piece of legislation going through Parliament at the moment that brings into law the recommendations of the Smith Commission for the further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. I intervened in Kate Green MP's speech to highlight the cases of people with Motor Neurone Disease who have had their benefits challenged even following their receipt of a DS1500 giving them less than 6 months to live. For Kate's speech and my intervention, see the link below or click here for the text.


 
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WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday morning I welcomed Gurkhas in the British Army to the House of Commons and gave them a tour of the Palace. It is important that they know that their voices are heard in Parliament. They give twelve years of their lives to uphold our security and way of life and they deserve our respect and gratitude.
I also attended a Fair Fuel Campaign reception on Wednesday. Whilst it is vital that families and businesses reduce their reliance on cars for transport, I also support a reduction in the price of fuel to help out with the cost of living.

Here I am with former BBC 'Top Gear' presenter, Quentin Wilson.
 
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THURSDAY

On Thursday, I took meetings with two ministers. The first was with Mark Lancaster, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. I was relieved to hear that after nearly two years of me persistently lobbying his Department, the Minister now acknowledges that it must do more to assist ex-servicemen and women who were illegally dismissed for having formerly received a police caution. I will continue to monitor the MOD's progress on this important issue.
Later on in the day, I went with representatives from the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Parkinson's UK to meet the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson. We had a productive discussion about the challenges facing claimants of the Personal Independence Payments scheme. I look forward to meeting with the Minister in autumn to check on the progress of his Department in making the process more open, accessible and sensitive to the needs of claimants with life-ending degenerative illnesses.  
In the House on Thursday, the Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, made a statement on 'English Votes on English Laws'. This is the question of whether MPs from constituent nations of the United Kingdom with devolved assemblies should be allowed to vote on laws that only apply to England. This is also known as the 'West Lothian Question', referring to the constituency served by Sir Tam Dalyell who first framed the question.

The government's proposed solution to this problem is for committees considering a piece of legislation to be composed only of MPs from nations that the legislation effects. Whilst the Shadow Leader of the House, Maria Eagle, recognised that there was a constitutional irregularly that needed addressing, she criticised the government for rushing what was a profoundly sensitive decision. See the link below for the debate, or click here for the Hansard text. 


 
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This Week in Parliament 29th June- 2nd July

This was a busy week of parliamentary receptions, debates and meetings with Ministers. Although my engagements spanned a bewildering range of important policy areas, I was also able to take a moment...


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