Welsh Affairs

Part of International Women’S Day – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Shadow Secretary of State for Wales 4:39 pm, 2nd March 2017

I congratulate my hon. Friend Albert Owen on securing this important St David’s Day debate. He is not only a great ambassador for his constituency in north Wales, but an advocate of all things Welsh—he is not a quockerwodger. I echo his calls for unity and connectivity. I live in the Dulais valley of Neath where the signal falls like rain, but we have so much rain that we call it liquid gold.

I pay tribute to the former Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman. I have great memories of Gerald from when he stayed at my house many years ago and played with my daughter Angharad. I still have the photos, which I showed him when I became an MP. We will all miss him so much.

I must also mention the recent tragic death at age 20 of a young Welsh sports star. Elli Norkett was the youngest player at the Women’s Rugby World cup and had gained four Welsh senior caps by the age of 17. Elli started her career aged 15 at Neath Athletic RFC, and I had the fortune of meeting her and was inspired the charm, wit, and passion of a young woman who touched the lives of so many. Her smile lit up the room.

It is a privilege to be the shadow Secretary of State for Wales and to hear about the many Welsh issues and causes mentioned by Members today. I thank my hon. Friend Gerald Jones for his hard work in his role as my right-hand man—or perhaps that should that be left-hand man. It is great to see the Secretary of State in his place today. He is famous for his sartorial elegance, which is matched only by my hon. Friend Mark Tami. I must also mention the great outfits worn by Madam Deputy Speaker, but if she needs some fashion advice, she can call on our fashion guru, my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris.

Much has happened since last St. David’s Day, and it is important to reflect on some of that today. David T. C. Davies brought so much energy to his speech, just as he does when chairing the Welsh Affairs Committee and when I see him in the gym every morning.

My hon. Friend Nick Thomas-Symonds—my great friend—talked about economic development, saying that funding should continue beyond 2020 and that steel is central to Wales’s future.

Byron Davies spoke about the Swansea bay tidal lagoon project and the encouraging news that Ministers are looking at it closely. I hope that that is positive news, because we really need that project. He also spoke about the decline of the cockle industry, which we must work together to save.

My hon. Friend Jo Stevens talked about the importance of the higher education sector to Wales. Success in that sector breeds success across communities in Wales. She also mentioned Horizon 2020 and the Erasmus programme, stating that 17% of staff at Cardiff University are EU nationals, to which great consideration should be given.

Chris Davies said that St David travelled widely but came back to Wales. The hon. Gentleman started some sort of contest about who has the most beautiful constituency. Well, it is Neath. He said that he supports the tidal lagoon, but there is no sea in Brecon! He also had one fact that I did not realise until the other day: St David was a vegetarian.

My hon. Friend Susan Elan Jones said that St David’s mother lived in Brittany and urged the Government to think of EU citizens. She also spoke about Welsh language culture, and I congratulate her on securing the ability for Welsh to be spoken in the Welsh Grand Committee.

Craig Williams discussed the Cardiff city deal.