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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak today. Diolch am y cyfle i siarad heddiw.
My constituency was one of the hardest hit by the recent floods. Homes and businesses suffered, with costs of millions of pounds, and infrastructure damage is considerable. It was heartbreaking to see that people who had invested so much of their lives in their homes and in their businesses were so severely affected by the flooding. We have been fortunate in having such close- knit communities, and in having workers—from local government staff to those in the emergency fire and rescue services—who are willing to give so much to help those in need, but the toll that this has taken on the mental health and wellbeing of those who were flooded has been considerable, and they will need support for a long time to come.
All this costs money, and I make no apology for my next comments which—yes—are political. I do not “play politics”. This is not a game. My politics are based on compassion, care, fairness and equality, and if the flooding has done nothing else, it has shown how vital those qualities are. Unless we address the broader political issues, the people of Cynon Valley, and elsewhere, will continue to suffer disproportionately from the effects of such flooding.
Austerity policies and welfare reforms have hit Wales hard, and, as always, those reforms have hit the poorest the hardest. Parts of my constituency have some of the highest child poverty figures in the country, and, as we approach International Women’s Day, we should also remember that women have been hit particularly hard by the austerity and welfare reform measures of Tory Governments. Because of Tory Government austerity policies since 2010, funding per head of the population for day-to-day devolved public services in Wales will have fallen by 7% in real terms. A recent report by Wales TUC stated that as a result of the cuts, there are far fewer police officers and fire and rescue services, and more than 30,000 council jobs have been lost—and those are the people on whom we rely to help us at times like this. We can rely on them, but we cannot rely on our Prime Minister and this Government. Greta Thunberg says that
“the world is on fire”.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. What the Prime Minister was doing during the flooding I do not know, but whatever it was, he certainly was not doing it in Cynon Valley.
The issue of climate change is central to this debate. I have three children, and I want a future for them. While some moves have been made to appear to be addressing the issue, they have been inadequate. Targets remain too long term and plans remain thin on detail, and action is needed now. We must keep up the pressure on central Government to act quickly to tackle climate change.
Putting care for our fellow human beings at the top of our agenda is a political choice, just as pursuing austerity policies was a political choice by the Tory Government. We need to put this right now, because what will happen next time floods occur? The science is clear on this: our valleys can expect to see 50% more rain over the next decade. Unless we act now to redress the imbalance of wealth in the country and to properly fund a green industrial revolution, people in Cynon Valley and the rest of Wales will continue to suffer from the double whammy of poverty and the increasingly frequent and forceful effects of climate change.