I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today.
The recent election campaign was punctured by a number of tragic events, from Manchester to London. In Wales, there was another sad event, which brought together the nation. The loss of our former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, was felt in homes across Wales. Some may remember his time here representing Cardiff West, as well as his wife, Julie Morgan, who represented Cardiff North, and who still represents the constituency in the National Assembly. Julie and Rhodri were a team for over half a century. Rhodri was always a close friend and wise counsel. He is much missed, and I am sure Members will join me in extending our love and sympathy to Julie and the family.
The history of the modern Cardiff North is a history of how industry and people changed and revolutionised the city and the whole of south Wales. But it is industry that has defined the modern part of the capital that I represent. It was the wealth created by the traditional industries of south Wales that created the gothic splendour of Castell Coch, and it was this same industry that brought people to create Cardiff and that led to the growth of Whitchurch, Rhiwbina, Llanishen, Pontprennau, Heath and Llandaff North, to name only a few of its communities.
That industry also created a cosmopolitan, multicultural city that is home to Cardiff’s first Welsh-medium secondary school—a school where my daughter learns through the medium of a language that is growing and that will be spoken by 1 million people in the coming decades.
It is the people of Cardiff who voted to remain in the European Union. The vote in many parts of Wales was not a vote against Europe or the concept or the reality of the European Union; it was a vote against politics—against the reality of the decisions taken here. The cumulative impact of benefit cuts and reductions in public spending has hit the poorest hardest, so I intend to use my time here to speak up against a failed austerity where the richest people have forced the poorest people to pay the price. The UK Government seem to have abandoned austerity for Northern Ireland today: what about the rest of the UK? The UK is weaker and less united this evening than it was this morning. I also hope the UK Government understand that it is important that the whole of the UK is represented in these talks and negotiations. At present, the UK Government are in danger of losing the argument not only in Brussels but in Cardiff as well, with a disunited kingdom where jobs and livelihoods, workers’ rights and action on climate change are sacrificed in the pursuit of an impossible imperialist fantasy.
During the business statement last week, Mr Deputy Speaker, you were kind enough to allow me to raise the issue of the loss of over 1,000 jobs in my constituency because of the closure of a Tesco customer care centre, and I am grateful. Since then, I have had the opportunity to spend time with and speak to many of the workers who have been told they have lost their jobs. They are devastated; many have two or three members of the same family working there. Over the weekend, one of them wrote to me. Her words speak for everyone affected there. “Please fight for us”, she said, continuing:
“Each and every single one of those 1,100 people are heartbroken and terrified as we face uncertain futures for ourselves and our families. Anything you can do, anything at all—we all will be forever grateful”.
Those are her words, not mine, and they are a challenge to us all. It is those people and their voices that are in my mind today and will be guiding me.
My fear is that if this Government are allowed to drive through a Brexit where the jobs and livelihoods of the people we all represent are treated with disdain and indifference, then these will be the stories we hear every day, every week, and every month. I intend to use my time to stand up against failed austerity measures and for a more prosperous, fairer and more equal society. I look forward to working with my colleagues here. Thank you.