I thank the Government for bringing forward this debate on Welsh affairs. Of course, the calendar dictates that we are unable to hold the debate on St David’s Day, as
I also thank the Government for granting the debate in Government time, which has not happened for many years; not, I think, since Dame Cheryl Gillan became Secretary of State—I am sure that my hon. Friend Chris Bryant would be able to correct me on that, were he here, as his knowledge of the House is far better than mine. Certainly, since I have been taking part in St David’s Day debates, they have been Backbench Business debates.
Yesterday I bumped into my good friend Albert Owen, the former Member for Ynys Môn. We were reminiscing about Welsh affairs debates, among other things. Seeing Albert reminded me just how much I miss him, Ian Lucas, David Hanson, Susan Elan Jones, Owen Smith, Madeleine Moon, Anne Clwyd and, last but not least, my former shadow ministerial colleague, Chris Ruane. Those dedicated Welsh MPs have given years of service to the people of Wales, and their work should be celebrated for all that is good about being a Welsh Labour MP. We have two great new Labour MPs, my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) and for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones), who are already making their presence felt and will be fantastic additions to our Labour Team Wales.
Not many hon. Members know this, but in my constituency of Neath we celebrate not only St David’s Day, when the children dress up in Welsh costumes to celebrate our Welsh culture, but St Patrick’s Day. Patrick was born in Banwen, at the top of the Dulais valley, but he was kidnapped as a child and taken to Ireland. Every year we hold a fantastic celebration at a stone we have erected to his memory in Banwen. Schoolchildren, residents and special guests come along to hear the great Roy Noble giving one of his memorable speeches about St Patrick. We are indebted to the famous local historian George Brinley Evans, now 93, who researched this phenomenon and was the leading protagonist in establishing the St Patrick stone and the annual event. Please join us. We have a leprechaun who comes all the way from Ireland to take part too. I look forward to seeing Members there on
It is regrettable that I must begin my proper address in sombre tones, as we reflect on the impact that recent events have had on our great nation. Two storms and unprecedented flooding have taken their toll on communities across Wales, including, but not limited to, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Llanwrst, Monmouth and parts of my Neath constituency. From severe damage to bridges and iconic landmarks, such as the national lido of Wales, to the destruction of the entire contents of family homes, these floods will cost Wales dearly.
The First Minster, the Leader of the Opposition and, indeed, the Prince of Wales have visited households and communities right across the country, but alas the Prime Minster could not find the time to visit just one of the flood-damaged areas of the UK. He has said many times that he would not “die in a ditch”, but perhaps he was missing in action because he fell into the moat surrounding his holiday castle, or perhaps he could not find his wellies.
The community spirit and response in our devastated Welsh communities has shown the world the best of Wales: compassion, kindness, humour and solidarity have shone through the contribution of volunteers, emergency services, council workers, welfare halls, miners’ institutes, Royal British Legion branches, rugby clubs, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and so many more.