Nick Smith MP

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ImageVaultHandler_aspx.jpgNick Smith MP has called for a new deal for the Valleys to revive our economy after the decimation caused by the loss of industry in the eighties.

 

In a Parliamentary debate on coalfield communities, the Blaenau Gwent MP said the Tory destruction of the mining industry had for decades crippled areas such as South Wales.

He added without the infrastructure and support for those communities to have a shot at bringing in business, the UK Government were hobbling areas such as Blaenau Gwent all over again.

He said: “We can all recognise that jobs and opportunities are clustered in the big cities or rich areas such as South East England, but that shouldn’t mean boroughs such as the one I represent being left to rot.

“If this Tory Government is going to continue to attack public services – and we’ve all seen the cuts it has forced our councils to make – then they have a duty to give our communities an equal chance to compete.

“I’m proud of my home and the childhood and chances it gave me. I want to know that for the generations coming through, they will realise their potential.

“This is why I’m calling for a Valleys agenda. With promises such as the Jobs Guarantee scheme, I’m confident a Labour Government could lead the way to a better future.”

The speech was as follows:

A few weeks ago, my borough of Blaenau Gwent had the privilege of screening the Welsh premier of “Still the Enemy Within” in our historic and award-winning Market Hall cinema. That moving documentary about the ’84 strike captured the most important trade union dispute of our lives. It reminded me of the worry that I felt for my family—the knot that I had in my stomach for that whole year, when nearly all my uncles and cousins were colliers on strike. It took me back to the time when the community was united in standing by our lads. It also reminded me of Tory Minister Nick Ridley’s insidious plan to take on the miners—the miners whose side I would always be on and for whom I would always work.

Blaenau Gwent was built on the two pillars of coal and steel. The community and the culture were as strong as those pillars. There was not a lot of money in anyone’s pocket. I remember picking coal off the mountains as a small boy to heat our home during one strike. Families knew the toll that the heavy industries took—a terrible legacy that is shown these days in our poor health record. Despite all that, we had strong roots to rely on and high hopes for the next generation.

In the 30 years since, Blaenau Gwent has had a fight on its hands to get back on its feet. The two pillars are long gone and not enough private sector industry has filled the gap. Blaenau Gwent is slowly pulling itself up by its bootstraps, but we need a new deal to get us properly back on our feet. We have received good support from the Welsh Government and Europe for towns such as Ebbw Vale, which has a new school complex, a new hospital and much more on the site where the steelworks once stood. We now need support that not only strengthens our public services, but gives us a chance to thrive once more.

Blaenau Gwent is not alone. Our neighbouring valley boroughs need support too, and we need a valleys agenda to help us move forward. That is why I will continue to campaign for infrastructure improvements, such as the electrification of the valleys rail network and a new metro system. That would help to improve the access that valley people have to the bigger jobs market on the coast.

We need first-rate guidance for young people to dramatically improve their social mobility and access to the professions, so that they can get well-paid work and do not get trapped in low-skilled, low-paid jobs. We need a range of employers to be given every incentive to make coalfield communities such as Blaenau Gwent their home. Half measures are not enough. We have a strong responsibility to give every young person in Blaenau Gwent the chance to succeed. They do not have to pick coal off the mountain during strikes like we did, but they have their own difficulties in getting a good start in life.

The people in the south Wales valleys towns deserve the best possible support and a new deal for a better future. Only a Labour Government can see that job through.

Valleys still hurting three decades after strikes

Nick Smith MP has called for a new deal for the Valleys to revive our economy after the decimation caused by the loss of industry in the eighties.   In...

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Nick Smith MP has attacked the Government’s failure to protect the Rugby World Cup from touts as secondary ticket prices shoot through the roof.

The cheapest seats available on the likes of Viagogo and Stubhub for games such as England against Wales are now more expensive than the most expensive seats you can buy officially, with the last batch of tickets still to be released.

Mr Smith was part of the cross-party group on Ticket Abuse, whose robust advice to clamp down on touts was ignored by the Government.

Now with prices continuing to climb, the Blaenau Gwent MP again challenged the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in Parliament to state what actions they are taking to stop fans being ripped off.

But he said their claims that “tickets will get into the hands of rugby fans” masked the core problem with touting – that only those with the biggest pockets would have a chance.

Speaking after the debate in Parliament, he said: “I cannot understand why this Tory Government keep backing the internet spivs and mass touting operations over the ordinary fan.”

“We have a situation where £75 tickets are being sold for more than £500. It’s easy to say eventually the tickets will get in the hands of people who like rugby.

“But if touts were curtailed, the fans would get them for their face value from the start. The organisers don’t gain a penny from sky high prices, and fans don’t gain from a false free market.

“Only the tout gains from doing next to nothing – and the Culture Minister hails them as entrepreneurs. It’s parasitic profiteering at its worst.”

As of Friday, October 24, the cheapest seats for the England against Wales games stood at £588 on Stubhub and £484 on Viagogo (both having a face value of £75).

The RWC organisers also revealed they had caught hundreds of mass touting attempts in the applications for tickets, though they were unsure as to how many had slipped through.

Mr Smith said: “It’s good to see the organisers do their best, but something like the Rugby World Cup is an opportunity to unite the country.

“That means making it as accessible as possible for everyone, not just the rich. If the Government allow the touts to run amok then they are ruining that legacy.”

“Parasitic profiteering” caused by Government ignorance

Nick Smith MP has attacked the Government’s failure to protect the Rugby World Cup from touts as secondary ticket prices shoot through the roof.

Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to deliver for Blaenau Gwent after they admitted electrification of the Valleys lines was a “vital investment”.

The Blaenau Gwent MP has pressed new Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb on whether the delays in agreement on funding the project will result in spiralling costs.

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With other Welsh MPs confirming similar growth across the network to the Ebbw Vale-Cardiff line, the Welsh Secretary branded electrification of the Valleys network as a “transformational project that would deliver a much-needed boost to the Welsh economy”.

Mr Smith has also pressed the top official at the Department of Transport at a recent Public Accounts Committee meeting, to check whether there have been increased costs because of the delay in a funding agreement.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Smith said the Welsh Secretary must make good on his promise to find a way to crack on with the project - or risk a bigger bill for the taxpayer.

“From my time on the Public Accounts Committee, I have seen far too many delayed projects leading to a spiralling of costs.  

“I don’t want that to happen again and risk Blaenau Gwent’s chance to have a rail network that would encourage businesses to the area and make it attractive to commuters.

“The Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line is a massive success story. The Labour Welsh Government’s work to confirm the extension into Ebbw Vale town centre and add the passing loop to the line mean the potential is there to be realised.

“We need to give our youngsters the chance to get to the jobs out there. We can’t let this chance slip by.”

Mr Smith has campaigned for both electrification and the passing loop in recent years as part of his Move on Up campaign, polling commuters on the line and using their responses as evidence of the demand for an improved service.

“I’ll continue to offer my support to the hard work the Welsh Government are doing to improve our line and hope there is a solution to this impasse soon”, he said.

“But the danger of spiralling costs cannot be ignored. We have people in towns across the borough all calling for improvements at their part of the line, and I wouldn’t want the future development of the service to be crippled by dithering right now.”

Electrification deal must be delivered soon

Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to deliver for Blaenau Gwent after they admitted electrification of the Valleys lines was a “vital investment”. The Blaenau Gwent MP has...


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