ST David’S Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 1:36 pm, 28th February 2019

The Welsh Labour Government do so many things so much better.

Examples of shocking disregard for Welsh communities are sadly all too many in number. Take investment in rail services. The electrification of the main line between London and Swansea had been a sworn promise for years; indeed, it formed a key plank of the Tory campaign in Wales during the 2017 general election campaign. We were told that reliability would be improved, journey times reduced and emissions cut. My constituents in Swansea East were elated to think they would finally see some improvements to a service on which so many of them relied. As we all know, Tory promises were once again broken, and in the most shameful manner: sneaked out in a press release. My constituents learned of the cancellation of the electrification programme in the same way that I did—through the newspaper. There is no investment for Wales, no interest in Wales, and no respect for Wales. Compare that with the Welsh Labour Government’s rail investment. After years of Tory underinvestment, the Welsh Labour Government, through Transport for Wales, are delivering new trains, more services and better stations. Despite some early teething problems, we are at the start of a 15-year, £5 billion investment programme, scrapping Pacer trains, boosting capacity by 65%, offering free travel for the under-11s and providing £200 million to upgrade stations. In Wales, we are working with the trade unions, not against them, to protect the role of the guard on every train. That is the Welsh Labour way, and it is a way that this Government would do well to look at and, may I suggest, to learn from. It has meant that, in Wales, we have 30 hours free childcare and education for working parents being rolled out across the country. That is the best childcare offer for working parents anywhere in the UK.

We have repealed major sections of the pernicious Tory anti-union law to protect the Welsh public sector workforce, while scrapping the right to buy, protecting the housing stock and helping more people access affordable homes. We are now building affordable homes in Wales at a record rate, curbing zero-hour contracts and delivering 100,000 all-age apprenticeships. Children leaving care in Wales will no longer pay council tax until they reach the age of 25. That is the Welsh way. That is the Welsh Labour way, and I am proud to celebrate it here today.

Finally, let me close with something that is so very close to my heart—funding for children’s funerals in cases where families simply cannot afford to pay for them. Since I first spoke in this Chamber of the passing of my own son, Martin, and the extraordinary difficulties that we faced in paying for his funeral, the Welsh Government responded by scrapping fees for children’s funerals, following a lead set by Welsh local authorities. I appreciate that the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, but time is a luxury that bereaved parents cannot afford. Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that the Children’s Funeral Fund would be in place by this summer. Although I had hoped for an earlier implementation, bearing in mind that it was first promised 11 months ago, I welcome the fact that we now have some clarity on timings. I sincerely hope that the summer, which is when the Prime Minister suggested that it would happen, arrives well before the “end of May”.