In the Senedd
Climate Emergency: On April 29th, the Welsh Assembly became the first parliament in the world to declare a Climate Emergency, following protests from schoolchildren around the world led by Greta Thunberg. The Welsh Government aims to have a carbon neutral public sector by 2030. There will be a much greater focus on eliminating fuel poverty, much better public transport and active travel to enable the Welsh economy move away from relying on fossil fuels.
I hosted the first Extinction Rebellion People’s Assembly in the Senedd on July 4th.
M4: On June 4th, the First Minister announced that the M4 relief road would not go ahead. He cited the burgeoning cost of £1.57 bn and rising and the environmental impact on the Gwent Levels. I strongly supported the First Minister’s announcement (See: http://record.assembly.wales/Plenary/5662#C198600) not to absorb the whole of the Welsh Government’s capital budget on 14 miles of road, something I have campaigned on for many years.
On July 15th, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinised the £116m invested in the road project. I questioned why the then Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart set up such a narrowly focussed enquiry in 2014 which only focussed on a road solution (See: http://record.assembly.wales/Committee/5461#C215052). A commission of experts is now looking at other ways of tackling the congestion around Newport. Once they have reported, the land the Government bought in the area around Newport will be sold on the open market – at a profit.
On May 21st I spoke about the need to introduce new electric buses to enable commuters into Cardiff and Newport to leave their cars at home. I am looking forward to action by Cardiff Council to curb the illegal levels of air pollution on some of our streets in light of its successful £5.7 million bid to the Welsh Government to clean up our buses.
Pensions: I spearheaded the campaign to divest the Assembly’s pension funds from fossil fuels; there is a clear majority of AMs who support this and we await action from our independent pension board.
I was part of the Equalities and Local Government Committee visit to Edinburgh to look at the costs and risks of devolving welfare benefits in Wales.
Sustainable Housing: On July 9th I spoke about the need to build not just well-insulated homes, but lifetime homes which are built to last, and have the green features required to adapt to our rising temperatures. I noted that homes in Cyncoed built 80-100 years ago, have been easily adapted to cater for people’s mobility needs, rather than rabbit-hutch homes which are barely fit for purpose (See: http://record.assembly.wales/Plenary/5672#C212225).
Autism: On July 17th I noted that the Cardiff and Vale Integrated Autism Service is providing both diagnosis as well as good support for families. I highlighted research in Canada on a child-friendly test for the condition; responses to photographs of faces are proving a much more sympathetic tool for identifying autism than a questionnaire and a psychologists’s report. Locally, I applauded the GAME store in the St. David’s Shopping Centre in the City Centre, which hosts bi-monthly autism-friendly nights and provides awareness training for staff. This ensures that those visiting the store with autism feel more comfortable.
Brexit No-Deal threat: I questioned the Brexit Minister on July 10th about help for small businesses in the form of advice vouchers or other non-financial support; retailers and suppliers are already suffering severe shortages of labour and goods (See: http://record.assembly.wales/Plenary/5673#C212964).
Public Accounts Committee
Our inquiries into Primary Care Out-of-Hours Services and the Management of follow-up of outpatients will be published in August. Cardiff and the Vale is doing much better on the former than the latter. I continue to be concerned about the long waiting lists for ophthalmology; many more people could be seen by their high street optometrist following e.g. a cataract operation and this would free up hospital consultant time for people who need an operation. If Aneurin Bevan UHB can do it, so can Cardiff.
On the bright side in our evidence session with the Welsh Government on NHS finances on July 15th we heard that Cardiff & Vale Health Board is now able to achieve a balanced budget.
Our latest report on the financial and other difficulties at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board was published on May 24th. The Welsh Government accepted all our recommendations.
Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee
Rethinking Food:, We published our report on Rethinking Food in Wales: Food branding and processing on June 18th. We want to ensure that, despite Brexit, Wales will maintain and improve its environmental, food hygiene and animal welfare standards.
Plastic Pollution: One in two insects in the Taff river system already contain traces of microplastics. The CCERA published a short report on plastic pollution and packaging waste on June 10th. In 20 years we have gone from recycling less than 5% to 63% of our municipal waste. However, to reach our zero-waste target by 2050, we need to see a ban on single-use plastic items like straws; as well as Deposit Return Schemes on bottles and cans. Taxes on plastic packaging with under 30% recycled content would accelerate the change needed.
Wild Animals: The Committee has now started its Stage 1 scrutiny of the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill. The Bill will ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales and we are now consulting on whether the scope of the bill should be widened.
The June meeting of the Cross Party Group on Women’s Health discussed the Strategy for Improving Sexual Health following a presentation by Zoe Couzens from Public Health Wales. I then raised the rise of sexually transmitted diseases in the Senedd, particularly the incidence of anti-biotic resistant strains.
The June meeting of the Food Cross Party Group discussed using public procurement to develop more local food businesses so we have more fresh food served in our schools and hospitals. Caerphilly seem to be in the vanguard on this.
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, was the main speaker at the June meeting of the Cross Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers which I now chair.
I was very pleased to attend the first meeting of an LGBT Gypsy and Traveller group. And particularly to meet the policeman for the North West of England who has highlighted the extent of G&T suicides amongst 18-25 year olds.
In the Constituency
During Ramadan I visited Al-Ilkhas, Dar Ul Isra and Masjid -e-Umar mosques; I also participated in the Iftar outside City Hall organised by Dar Ul Isra and Al-Manaar mosques which makes a special effort to include homeless people.
On June 25th I attended a fascinating talk on Jerusalem and its importance to the three Abrahamic faiths held at Dar Ul Isra mosue.
I am very grateful to the Cyncoed Synagogue for hosting a hustings for the Cyncoed by-election candidates.
The Lib Dems retained the Council seat on July 16th but I’m sure our excellent Labour candidate, Madhu Khanna Davies, will be back.
Go Green Day was celebrated by the whole of Marlborough Primary School on June 21st.
St David’s Primary School in Pentwyn celebrated Go Green during the first week of July where brilliant work went on across year groups to green the school environment
The Great Get Together in memory of Jo Cox was celebrated across the constituency. On June 21st I attended a fabulous meal with great conversation on the grass at St Teilo’s CiW School.
I had good conversations with some of Cardiff’s homeless at the United Reform Church on Windsor Place on June 22nd.
The picnic on Roath Rec on Sunday June 23rd, organised by Cardiff Central Labour Party in collaboration with several trades unions, was a huge success despite atrocious weather.