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I think we should give credit where it is due, so I welcome the Government’s action on global health, particularly in addressing malaria and Ebola. The Government, campaigners in these sectors and our own health sector deserve a thumbs up for this vital work. I think the Foreign Secretary was right to emphasise these cross-party priorities today.
However, Blaenau Gwent needed three things in the Queen’s Speech: a plan for good jobs, better transport in our eastern valleys and action on public health. Unfortunately, the Queen’s Speech failed—failed—to deliver any of these. There is a Bill to protect pension schemes, and nearly 400,000 people have transferred out of pension schemes since the Government brought in what they called pension freedoms. But, at the same time, we have seen a significant increase in poor transfer advice and pensions scams that are costing people £4 billion a year, so it is important that this legislation ensures tough action against rogue financial advisers.
There is so much potential in my constituency of Blaenau Gwent. There are major firms such as Thales, which is setting up a new digital centre in Ebbw Vale. There are leading manufacturers such as Continental Teves, and excellent institutions such as Coleg Gwent, which is developing a cyber-security hub to train young people in this thriving sector. But we need the right support from the Government to help unlock this further. That is why we need a proper industrial strategy to create good, well-paid jobs for the future, with commitments like Labour’s pledge to build a new gigafactory producing electric car batteries in South Wales.
Secondly, many people in Blaenau Gwent need reliable public transport to access jobs in Cardiff. That is why we need prompt funding from the new shared prosperity fund to improve the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff train line. However, more than two and a half years since the fund was promised, we still have only vague details of how this will work and we have no real timeframe.
Finally, Blaenau Gwent has real public health challenges that need addressing. Locally, groups such as the Sole Sisters in Cwm and Parc Bryn Bach running club in Tredegar have really stepped up and are doing incredible work to help people improve their mental and physical health. But at a UK level, we still do not have, for example, a junk food advertising ban. As recent work by Richard Layard has shown, improving people’s mental health and wellbeing can save billions of pounds.
We need to celebrate excellent community groups and reinforce the work that they do by putting effective policies in place, so when it came to what Blaenau Gwent needed, what we got was a disappointment— reheated announcements and half-baked proposals, dressed up with some warm words. The Queen’s Speech Blaenau Gwent actually needed was a Labour programme, such as investing £250 billion in infrastructure to create jobs and strong action on public health. The election is over, but this Queen’s Speech has confirmed that Blaenau Gwent and our country need a Labour Government now more than ever, and I will continue to fight for this.