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Thank you for reading my May newsletter.

It’s been a very busy month in Parliament, starting with the Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament, and culminating in the explosive Dominic Cummings Select Committee evidence last week.

In Wales we’ve seen more of our economy and normal life return as we moved into Alert Level 2. As case rates continue to decline, and vaccinations continue at pace, we’ve seen non-essential retail and indoor hospitality and live performances resume.

My team and I remain on hand to help with any queries you may have, about COVID-19 or otherwise. If you need some help with an issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the details at the bottom of this email.

COVID-19 Update

Vaccinations 

Invitations for vaccine appointments in Cardiff have now gone out to all age groups above 18, and for the past few days, Bayside MVC has been operating as a walk-in service for people yet to have their first dose.

If you haven’t yet had yours, please contact Cardiff and Vale Health Board via 02921 841234 and you’ll be booked in for your appointment.

The vaccine rollout in Wales continues at immense speed and a number of important milestones have been reached over the past weeks. More than 3 million doses have now been given, and more than 50% of people aged 18-30 in Wales have had their first dose. In total more than 2,120,049 people have had their first dose, and 1,058,464 are now fully vaccinated with two doses.

Thank you to everyone involved in the rollout of the vaccines – and thank you to everyone who’s said yes to the offer of a vaccine. Getting vaccinated is a vital way of protecting ourselves and our communities as we come out of lockdown – so thank you for playing your part.

Lockdown Easing Continues

Wales has now moved into Alert Level 2, and restrictions have continued to ease as cases remain low. Pubs, restaurants and cafes are now able to serve indoors and gyms and leisure centres have now reopened. This has been tremendous news for so many businesses across Cardiff Central after the most difficult time.

As it stands, June 7th will see more easing of restrictions, including the rule of 6 being introduced inside private homes. The Welsh Government should confirm whether these easements will go ahead this week.

You can get the latest information on these changes on the Welsh Government website here.

Latest on Cases and Hospitalisations

Cases across Wales remain low – current weekly case rate per 100,000 people is 8.6 and test positivity for the same period is 0.9%.

Thankfully, the pressure on Welsh hospitals continues to ease also. Last week, the number of people in hospital in Wales confirmed to have COVID-19 has dropped below 10 for the first time since last August.

Visiting Care Homes - Rules Relaxed

Rules on visiting care homes have been relaxed in Wales.

Two people may now visit indoors at the same time - and there are different rules for visits to pods or visits that take place outdoors. More guidance is available here.

Travel Certificates

The Welsh Government continue to advise against non-essential international travel, but from today, fully vaccinated people who need to travel for essential reasons can apply for a vaccine certificate.

You should only request a certificate if you're travelling in the next 4 weeks.

Not all countries will ask for a vaccine certificate, so please check entry requirements for the country you're travelling to. Information on how to apply is here.

Return of Live Music and Performance in Wales

On Friday we had the wonderful news that musicians, singers, actors, dancers, circus performers and many more artists across Wales can return to work.

The suspension of live performance and events has been one of the biggest shocks to our sense of well-being and the arts economy.

The Welsh Government will also continue to support our music and arts sectors in Wales through their Cultural Recovery, Freelancer and Economic Resilience Funds.

Welsh Government Freelancer Fund: Closing Tomorrow

Our Welsh Labour Government Freelancer Fund is open until 5pm this Tuesday.

Freelancers in Wales will need to re-apply if they've applied previously and want to apply again. Each application will be given equal consideration and is not on a first come first served basis.

To apply, please click here.

In Parliament

Queen's Speech

The Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament to mark the start of the new session of Parliament were very different occasions this year to allow for social distancing and COVID mitigation measures, but sadly, one thing that hadn’t changed which was the paucity of the Conservative Government’s legislative programme for the new session.

After 11 years of Tory and Tory/Lib Dem rule leaving the country unprepared and underfunded to deal with the pandemic, we needed transformative action to ensure that our economy works for the whole country. Not tinkering around the edges, not more rhetoric or catchphrases, but real action to tackle the challenges we face in our recovery.

The focus should have been on good jobs, good pay and good prospects. We also needed to see detail on reducing violent crime and narrowing the inequalities between different parts of the United Kingdom – and these were absent. Still no promised Employment Bill to update rights and protections at work. What we got instead was a draconian plan to introduce voter ID, which is straight out of the US Republican Party playbook on voter suppression, and sham promises on ‘levelling up’. Announcing spending pots for different parts of the country to scrap over isn’t going to deliver the type of fundamental change we need.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I launched the Labour Party’s “Our Digital Future” report this month following an open consultation with people and organisations interested in Labour’s mission to build a digital future that is safer, fairer and more inclusive for us all.

It was a privilege to have Ian Russell work with us and help launch our report. Ian is the father of Molly Russell, who tragically took her own life in 2017, aged just 14, after looking at suicide and self-harm information online, with algorithms targeting more and more of that type of content to her. Ian wants to ensure that online regulation prevents this in future.

In the report we cover areas including innovation, online harms, personal data, technology and public services and digital inclusion. You can read our report here.
 
This month finally saw the publication of the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill, after a wait of over two years. It was promised by the UK Government to be “world leading” but has failed to live up to that promise. It will start its long legislative journey through Parliament, probably next month.
 
At Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Questions I questioned the Secretary of State on his late and incoherent guidance on amateur choirs in England who are prohibited from indoor rehearsals of more than 6 people in England, while in Wales, they are allowed to rehearse fully. This was a very late, last minute change in the guidance from DCMS which took over two million singers up and down the country by surprise. Confusing communication is the hallmark of this Government’s handling of the pandemic, and if we are to see a recovery in which our cultural and creative sectors can play their full part, the Government are going to have to get a grip on it.

I also asked him to issue clear instructions to local authorities and landowners in England confirming that ParkRun events can restart. More than 2m people enjoy taking part in this weekly event – and I’m pleased that the Secretary of State agreed to do that. He has now issued written instructions so Parkrun can start back.

'The House' Interview

I was interviewed by The House about Cardiff (and Wales's) cultural and creative scene, how the Welsh Government has supported them through the Pandemic and why the UK Government is failing to provide the support needed.

We did the interview across the Wales Millennium Centre and Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff - two places that show the variety and strength of our cultural scene in Cardiff. 

You can read the interview here.

*Photo courtesy of Polly Thomas.

Dominic Cummings Testimony

The seven hours of evidence from the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser set out a pattern of failure, delay and fatal misjudgement from the UK Government and the Prime Minister. The testimony painted a picture of chaos and incompetence which led to us having the highest death toll of any country in Europe.

The stark revelations about the negligence of the UK Government’s border policy are even more pertinent as the data shows that the Indian variant is now the dominant strain across England (and the Welsh Government expect it to be imported into Wales as a result).


On top of this, we had the farcical situation last week of some areas having local lockdowns imposed through the updating of the UK Government website but no consultation or notification to the areas involved.

Clearly Dominic Cummings was out for revenge in his evidence session and his past behaviour is hardly an example of clarity and honesty. But it’s what he described and the horrible plausibility of it that is so striking, describing the Prime Minister’s conduct of the pandemic response as reckless, contradictory, inept and irrational. He described the  image-obsessed prime minister who “changes his mind day after day” like an out-of-control shopping trolley “smashing from one side of the aisle to the other” as Government officials tried to get him to make vital decisions at critical points of the pandemic.

Labour has again called on the Government to bring forward the timing of the public inquiry into Covid, to start this summer  – the public deserves answers urgently and lessons have to be learned so we never end up in the dreadful situation again.

Violence in Gaza and Israel

We’ve all been shocked to see the desperate scenes over the past weeks, and I’m so relieved that a ceasefire has now been agreed.

Now this cycle of violence has been brought to an end, it is absolutely essential to address the root causes of injustice and insecurity. There will not be a just and lasting peace until the occupation is brought to a permanent end and both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy security, dignity and human rights.

The Labour Party remains totally committed to the goal of a two-state solution. The continued violations of international law, forced evictions and expansions of illegal settlements are changing the facts on the ground and making the prospect of a viable, sovereign Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel all the harder to achieve.

In 2014, the UK Parliament voted to recognise the state of Palestine, as nearly 140 other countries have done, but successive Conservative and Conservative/Lib Dem  Governments have failed to take this clear parliamentary mandate further.

Global Minimum Corporation Tax

Last week, Labour forced  a vote in Parliament for the UK to back US President Joe Biden’s  Global Minimum Corporation Tax rate proposal.

Currently, the UK is the only G7 country refusing to back plans to stop big companies avoiding paying taxes that should be invested here in the UK – levelling the playing field and ensuring our economic recovery from COVID is a fair one.

Conservative MPs voted against the plan and the vote was lost.

Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

While everyone waits and waits for the Tories to publish their promised strategy, our  Labour Party plan to end violence against women and girls was published.

The Conservative Government is failing to protect women and girls - overseeing record low conviction rates for rape and an epidemic of violence.

Read more about Labour’s plan to end the violence here.

Cladding and Unsafe Homes

When it comes to fire safety and removing unsafe cladding, the record of the UK Government is nothing short of shocking.

Earlier in the month, we forced a vote on an  amendment to the Queen’s Speech to protect leaseholders from cladding remediation costs and ensure unsafe cladding is removed by June 2022 to make all homes safe and protect leaseholders from costs. The Conservatives voted against this amendment too.

You can read more in the Mirror here.

Visiting Pitch Bar and Eatery

I was pleased to visit Pitch bar on Mill Lane to speak to co-owners Tomas and Ben about their re-opening and their plans for the future. The hospitality sector is a very significant employer in Cardiff Central and a driver of our local economy and I wanted to get an understanding of how business owners have felt about re-opening and the support provided during the pandemic.

Tomas and Ben have been running Pitch for about 5 years now, but the last year has been tougher than anything they’d have previously imagined.

They told me they had found Welsh Government support very helpful and particularly highlighted the hands on support that Cardiff Council had provided for them and other businesses around outdoor dining space and clear communication about what businesses could do.

We’re lucky to have such a great range of bars, cafes, restaurants and other venues throughout Cardiff Central, and painfully, many haven’t survived the last year.

Please support them if you can and let’s help them recover – but let’s do so safely.

Pavement Parking Ban on City Road

Cardiff’s first ‘pavement parking ban zone’ has been introduced along City Road and is in force from today.
Part of an 18 month trial, any vehicles parked either fully or partially on the pavement within one of these zones may receive a Penalty Charge Notice.

Signs are now in place along the no parking zone.

This is to ensure pavements are safe for everyone and are used for the purpose they were built for.

Beauty Banks Donations

Over the last week I’ve been busy dropping off the last of the BeautyBanks donations – first to Cardiff Women’s Aid to support the women that pass through there, and then onto the wonderful staff at Lakeside care home in Cathays as a small token of thanks for their inspiring work throughout the pandemic

Thanks for everything you do, and thanks again to Beauty Banks for the fantastic donations.

Settled Status Applications: Deadline Approaching

The deadline for applying for settled status for EU nationals is June 30th. Those who don’t apply by 30th June may lose the right to live and work in the UK.

Citizens Advice have some helpful resources to guide you through the application process and these can be found here.

If you're experiencing any issues with your application, please don't hesitate to contact me via jo.stevens.mp@parliament.uk and I'll assist however I can.

Test Events in Cardiff: Eid-al-Fitr in the Castle

I was delighted to see that two weeks ago, Cardiff Castle hosted the very first Welsh Government test event, which was a community celebration for Eid-al-Fitr in the Castle. More test events are on the way in Wales, including more than 5000 fans attending the Wales v Albania friendly in June at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Street Surgeries Around Cardiff Central

I’ve been out and about around Cardiff Central over the past couple of weeks speaking to residents via our street surgeries with MS Jenny Rathbone and local Councillors. Having been unable to do my usual in person advice surgeries since February of last year, street surgeries have been a safe and useful way to chat with residents and listen to any issues.

I’ll be carrying these on over the summer, aiming to knock as many doors in as much of Cardiff Central as I can. If you have an issue you’d like some help with, please get in touch using the details at the bottom of this email.

Funding Available: People's Postcode Lottery

Are you involved in a good cause in Cardiff Central and looking for funding?

Registered charities, with an annual income below £1m, can apply for funding of up to £20k raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

For further details, and to check if your organisation is eligible, please visit the Postcode Community Trust website below.

https://www.postcodecommunitytrust.org.uk/

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