Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week In Parliament, 14th-18th September

This Week In Parliament, 14th-18th September

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14th-17th September

This was the second week of a packed fortnight of parliamentary business, sandwiched between the summer recess and conference party season. I spent a long weekend attending an international defence conference in Strasbourg, in my role as a member of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. I returned to three busy days of debates, receptions and meetings.

MONDAY

The Trade Union Bill

On Monday, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, introduced the government's Trade Union Bill at its Second Reading. This was the first opportunity for MPs to debate the legislation, denounced by the Labour Party, and significant sections of the Conservative Party, as a vindictive attack on the rights of working people. It was also Angela Eagle's first Common's appearance as the Secretary of State's opposite number and she made a powerful impression.


The Bill would introduce a draconian regulatory framework designed to overwhelm unions with pedantic bureaucratic processes and to severely restrict their freedom to organise strike action when the pay and conditions of their members is under threat. Under the proposals, Certification Officers (COs), the government's trade union regulators, would be given new powers to investigate a union on the slightest suspicion of impropriety. Although COs would perform a semi-judicial function, they would not operate within an established system of checks and balances, but would exercise their powers autonomously and arbitrarily. If a CO were to decide that a union had breached any of the raft of new regulations, he or she would have the power to issue a fine of up to £20,000- no questions asked. It is, as the Conservative MP David Davis put it, like something out of 'Franco's Spain'.

The government claim that the Bill is a necessary component of its long-term plan to make Britain the most prosperous major economy in the world by 2030. But there is not an authoritarian solution to the economic challenges that we face as a country. As the Labour Party has argued for over a century, the economy grows through collective endeavour, mutual trust, and respect for the democratic process.

(Because I was in Strasbourg for the conference, I was unable to make the vote. But don't worry; a Conservative MP was also at the conference, so we cancelled each other out).

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TUESDAY

Tax Credit Changes

On Tuesday, the House of Commons voted on the government's proposal to weaken the tax credit system. By penalising people in full employment, the government's plans will hit working families the hardest, particularly those on lower incomes. In our constituency, over 65 percent of families with children claiming tax credits, are in work. The centre-right think-tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), has confirmed that the changes will disadvantage working families. The IFS calculates that over 3 million families will lose an average of "£1,000" a year, and that the government's so called 'Living Wage' will not make up for the losses. Everyone under the age of 25 will lose all entitlement to tax credits, compounding the enormous burden of debt and low pay with which young people are starting life

The government has provided so little explanatory material and evidence to support the Bill that the Social Security Advisory Committee have felt unable to properly scrutinise the changes. The changes are being pushed through without proper consultation or consideration and face unanimous opposition from the Labour Party. Even some Conservative MPs registered their concerns and rebelled against their government on Tuesday evening. Click here for the full debate.

Battle of Britain

On Tuesday evening, I attended a dinner at the RAF club to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the
Battle of Britain. At a time when service personnel, particularly in the air force, are risking their lives to fight the barbaric forces of DAESH (aka. ISIS) in the Middle East and North Africa, this was a welcome opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifice rendered by the armed forces in defence of Britain and its values.

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WEDNESDAY

PMQs and Welsh Questions

At midday on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn, the newly-elected Labour Leader, took to the despatch box for his first PMQs. Keen to change the way debates are conducted in the Commons, Corbyn asked the Prime Minister questions that he had been sent by 40,000 members Labour members and registered supporters.

But there was another first on Wednesday morning. Before PMQs got under way, Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli and Labour's new Shadow Welsh Secretary, took part in her first Welsh Questions. She was joined on the front bench by Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East, because a Shadow Minister for Wales had yet to be appointed. In anticipation of the Rugby World Cup, which will see thousands of tourists arriving in Cardiff, Jessica asked the Minister whether he would commit to a reduction in the Severn Bridge toll. The present high toll acts as a disincentive to investment in South Wales and places a heavy burden on small business and families.

Operation Gritrock

Following his engagements in the House, the Prime Minister led a delegation of House staff, MPs, Peers and Ministers to greet personnel from the military, Department for International Development and Department of Health, who had been involved in Operation Gritrock fighting Ebola in West Africa. This was followed by a lunch reception on the terrace of the House of Commons.

It was a privilege to celebrate the achievements of this extraordinary group of men and women. They were working in an environment in which their first mistake would be their last. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for preventing an Ebola epidemic in Europe and for restoring order and normality to the afflicted areas of West Africa.

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THURSDAY

On Thursday evening there was a Backbench Business Debate on Courts and Tribunal Services, in light of the recent announcement that the government plans to close 91 courts and tribunals that 'are unused or underused, or that are simply unsuitable for the services we need to provide from them'. The proposal includes plans to close Bridgend Law Courts at Sunnyside in the constituency. It is proposed that the civil, family and tribunals’ work would be transferred to Port Talbot Justice Centre, and the magistrates’ work to Cardiff and the Vale Magistrates’ Court.

The debate ranged across a variety of issues related to the planned closures. The Conservative MP for the Vale of Clwyd, Dr James Davies, articulated the concerns of many in rural and semi-rural constituencies when he
raised the issue of public transportand access. I am also concerned that dividing up the responsibilities of Bridgend Law Courts and relocating the tribunal and magistrate to separate locations outside of the constituency will undermine the smooth administration of justice in the local area. It will impose a substantial additional travel cost on solicitors and will increase the incidences of late or non-attendance of witnesses. There is also the danger, mentioned briefly by Dr Davies, that victims could have to undergo the potentially traumatic experience of travelling on the same bus or train, in areas where public transport provision is basic.

It is important that people feel that the justice system is easily accessible and works for them. Only then will it command their confidence and respect. I am concerned that under the direction of the Conservative government the justice system is becoming increasingly remote. As well as further eroding trust in our political and legal establishments, this could have serious implications for the safety and cohesion of our local communities. I am collating and producing a submission to the government's consultation on behalf of the constituency. I would be grateful if I could receive your individual submissions by the end of September.

 

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