Aberavon's Voice in Parliament

Hywel's monthly column from the Neath Port Talbot Guardian

June 2009

In these gloomy times there were two rays of sunshine one day recently. First of all I visited Baglan Primary School where I was very impressed by the quality of the teaching and the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the children. I was cross-questioned by the pupils on my work as the local MP and on the workings of Parliament. They were well prepared questions for what became a positive grilling. At the end of my visit the children gave a marvellous sample of their singing and acting including an illuminating piece on the Suffragettes.

The School will be visiting Westminster next year and I look forward to welcoming the children and their teachers.

And secondly, I was very impressed by Côr Meibion Aberafan’s Annual Concert at the Princess Royal Theatre. The choir is now under new ‘leadership’. We welcome Chris Owen as the new chairman following on from many years of excellent service by Vic Morgan. And we also have a new Musical Director, Gary Waters. It was an inspirational evening enjoyed by all.

Sadly in recent weeks our main preoccupation in Parliament has not been legislation but MPs expenses. I have always said that MPs should not be determining their salaries and allowances: they should be a matter for an independent body and that is why I welcome the present review by Sir Christopher Kelly whose recommendations should be accepted by us all without exception. Transparent and fair arrangements must be implemented acknowledging that MPs need only a reasonable pay level and an appropriate allowance that recognises that we work and live in two places which for many are separated by significant distances thus preventing daily travel.

The resignation of the Speaker Michael Martin has now cleared the way for a fresh start. It must not be used as an excuse for no action. The Commons and the country need a reforming Speaker committed to open-ness and to re-establish the power of Parliament.

I also believe that we should have only one master – our constituents – and not have a second income in the City or wherever. It is the responsibility of every MP to recognise that the future of our Parliamentary Democracy is at stake. The Chartists and the Suffragettes would not be proud of all this: they certainly did not die for this. I am pleased that all Party leaders now recognise the need to work together to rebuild trust in Parliament.

Let me end on a positive note. I recently had a letter from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) thanking me for supporting their successful campaign over the last two years to ensure that blind people would no longer be excluded from the Higher Rate Mobility Allowance of the Disability Living Allowance. This will give blind people an extra £29 per week towards their mobility costs. This will transform the lives of 26,000 people.

Could I thank my constituents from Glyncorrwg and Port Talbot who travelled to Parliament to support me and other MPs in the campaign to achieve justice for them and other RNIB members.

The European elections are on Thursday 4th June. Please use your vote.

You can contact me at my Constituency Office: Eagle House, 2 Talbot Road, Port Talbot SA13 1DH Tel: 01639 897660 Fax: 01639 891725 or email me at francish@parliament.uk

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