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Wales needs and deserves better from the UK Government and Chancellor



Here's a video of my budget speech from last week's historic Welsh Grand Committee, where we were able to use Welsh for the first time in a Parliamentary debate.

Translation:

It is a pleasure, Mr Owen, to be able to address you in the language of heaven here in Westminster for the first time. This truly is a historic occasion as it is possible to speak in a debate in a language other than English for the first time in 800 years. This is entirely appropriate, since Welsh was spoken across Britain long before the Westminster Parliament or the English language existed. Outside Wales, it is not widely understood that the names of cities far north such as Edinburgh and Glasgow come from the Welsh language originally.

I also wanted to speak in Welsh today as a tribute to the late Rhodri Morgan, who was my predecessor as MP for Cardiff West and the former First Minister of Wales. This is the first Welsh Grand Committee meeting since his sudden death last May. In the ’90s, Rhodri was a pioneer in pushing to change the rules so that the Welsh language could be used when the Welsh Grand Committee met in Wales. I am sure that if he were here today he would have several amusing anecdotes to tell us in both languages.

This debate relates to last autumn’s Budget and its impact on Wales. There is some extra money for Wales as a result of the Barnett formula, but the fundamental problem is its lack of vision at a time when ambition is needed. That is the result of having a weak Prime Minister and a Chancellor with all the excitement of the English rugby team—I hope I will not regret that comment after next Saturday’s match at Twickenham.

Before the autumn Budget I wrote to the Chancellor regarding the future funding of S4C. Over recent years, S4C has faced brutal cuts from this Government, and any further cuts would endanger the quality of the service. I wrote to the Chancellor expressing concern after hearing that S4C could face cuts of up to £9 million over the next three years. I asked for a promise that no such cut would take place.

In their response, the Government said that they were

“committed to the future of Welsh language broadcasting and supporting the valuable service S4C provides”.

However, almost two months since that letter from the Treasury, and more than two years since the independent review of S4C was originally announced, the review has still not been published. That is unacceptable.

Today, I yet again call on the Government to publish the independent review and to offer S4C fair funding. I am afraid that, all too often, culture and the arts is seen as cuttable. The Welsh Labour Government are trying to shield Wales from the effects of Tory austerity. However, without enough money, that is a very difficult task. S4C is crucial to the future and to reaching the goal of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Years of austerity have failed. All of the cuts were meant to be for a purpose—to pay off the deficit by 2015. The Government said that the cuts would be worth the pain. A child born in Wales in 2010 could have gone to school, finished university and started a family of their own by the time the Government achieve that. They said the debt would be gone before that child started infant school. That is a complete failure, and it is due to old-fashioned financial orthodoxy.

The fact is that it was not too much spending on Welsh schools or Welsh hospitals that caused the economic problems of 2010. Rather, they were caused by irresponsible gambling by greedy bankers. The answer was not to cut spending so savagely as to hurt the economy, but rather to invest for wealth creation in the future—in roads and rail, housing, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, digital infrastructure and clean energy. We therefore looked hopefully, if not in expectation, for the Chancellor to lose his “Spreadsheet Phil” soubriquet and to announce a plan for national renewal that would help to build the Wales of the future, in partnership with the Welsh Government and business, local government and communities and so forth.

Perhaps, we thought, the Chancellor would show confidence by announcing his support for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project, or by giving additional funding to electrify the main line to Swansea, or by helping to create the metro in Cardiff and the valleys, or by helping to build the houses we need to bring jobs and homes. Instead, we got tinkering around the edges.

Wales needs and deserves better from the Government and from the Chancellor. We now face the danger of Brexit, which I am sorry to say that a majority in Wales voted for, although not in Cardiff. My appeal to the Secretary of State for Wales is to not be content to be a mouthpiece for economic orthodoxy and to not be content to sit at the Cabinet table, admiring the view. Rather, fight, fight, and fight again for investment in Wales and for a fair future for everyone in Wales.

Blog: Air guitar - it's no joke

For professional musicians, touring can be a crucial source of income and a valuable way of building a reputation on the music circuit. However, musicians planning to take flight with their instruments often face more difficulties than they should.

Musicians report that airlines are increasingly requiring that musicians travelling with guitars, or other similarly sized instruments, purchase seats for their instruments or place them in the aircraft hold. Social media is abuzz with horror stories about damaged precious instruments and extra charges. Extra cost is a barrier, temperatures are often very low in the hold, and instruments can be damaged during transit.

This makes life for musicians much more difficult than it needs to be. For professional musicians, musical instruments are both essential for working and often very costly to purchase. I’ve heard first-hand about the anxiety musicians feel, worrying that their instruments might be damaged or facing additional charges for an extra seat on the aircraft. The difficulty and uncertainty of taking an instrument abroad can make touring a real challenge.

The Musicians Union has raised this issue repeatedly with airlines over recent years, but it has still not been fully resolved. That’s why I started EDM 775, which already has cross-Party support, and raised airline charges for musicians in the House of Commons. I am calling on the airlines to agree to a code of practice to give travelling musicians consideration, fair and consistent treatment, as well as peace of mind.

In the Government’s recent reshuffle, Matt Hancock was promoted to Secretary of State for Culture. While there are many areas where Labour and Tory culture policy will clash, I am hopeful that this is an area where we can work together for the benefit of working musicians. Taking a proactive step to resolve this issue would be a positive, productive way for Matt Hancock to begin his tenure as Culture Secretary.

I’ve written to him asking if he will take up this issue with his colleagues in the Department for Transport, and call in the airlines, together with the MU and other interested parties, for a roundtable discussion to try to agree an industry code of practice for musicians travelling with musical instruments. I've raised the issue with the Transport Secretary too.

This USA’s Department of Transport have already issued regulations which could provide a useful springboard for discussions.

Airlines’ treatment of travelling musicians can cause stress, anxiety, and damage to costly instruments. But it could be largely resolved with a common sense, consensual solution that wouldn’t impose serious cost on business. In fact, by working together to establish trust and goodwill between the parties, everyone could benefit.

Air guitar – it’s no joke.

Blog: UK Government's power grab on EU Withdrawal Bill

Over the past few weeks I have had hundreds of emails lobbying me to take various positions on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Many of the emails I have received have suggested that by voting against the Bill I am either refusing to accept the Referendum result or on the other side of the coin that this bill is not doing enough to stop Brexit. However this Bill is about either of those things. Put bluntly this Bill is about the Government putting huge and unaccountable power into the hands of government ministers, side-lining Parliament and the devolved administrations on key decisions and putting crucial rights and protections at risk. Far from bringing back control to Parliament, it would result in a power-grab for UK Ministers. 

The Bill risks eroding basic human rights and could prevent a transitional deal on the same basic terms we currently enjoy – including within the single market and customs union, as well as undermining powers that already are in place for our National Assembly. I voted in favour of amendments that would protect those rights. 

I voted against a fixed date of exit from the EU as we have absolutely no certainty from the Government as to the nature of any deal on the EU and on any transitional arrangements that may be in place.

As I have stated before I voted and campaigned for a remain vote and I also voted against the triggering of Article 50, and I have not changed my view on the consequences of leaving the EU. The full article from the time explaining my view can be found
here.

The Government with its DUP helpers voted against all reasonable amendments. We were able to defeat the Government on one vote which guaranteed that Parliament will get a vote on the terms of how we leave the EU. Due to their unreasonable intransigence I voted against the whole Bill at its Third Reading.

As the Bill enters the Lords where the Government and DUP does not have a majority I hope we will see amendments to the Bill.

Need for Government debate to discuss problems musicians have with airlines

Business of the House
11th January 2018

Kevin Brennan MP: Has the temporary Deputy Leader of the House seen early-day motion 775?

[This House notes with concern that airlines are increasingly requiring musicians to purchase a seat for guitars, and other musical instruments of similar size, or requiring that they be placed in the aircraft hold where temperatures are very low and damage may occur during transit; further notes the campaign led by the Musicians Union to show more consideration to musicians travelling with their instruments; and calls on the airline industry to adopt a code of practice to give musicians travelling with their instruments greater consideration, fair and consistent treatment, and peace of mind.]

I declare my interest as a member of the Musicians Union. Airlines are increasingly making life difficult for musicians who have guitar-sized and smaller musical instruments. Is it not time for the Government to have a debate about this, or at least to call in the airlines to talk to them about setting up some kind of code of conduct to ensure that our very talented musicians are not impaired in this way?

Paul Maynard MP (Government Whip): I know the hon. Gentleman has raised this issue before on a number of occasions. I have not yet got to the stage of taking my EDM book home with me for bedtime reading, but perhaps I should go down that path. As he knows, we have Transport questions on Thursday, which is a perfect opportunity to speak to the new aviation Minister to see what they have to say about this important issue. I recognise that this can be a real challenge, particularly for those with larger instruments.

WalesOnline: Save Womanby St campaigners now want to protect live music in other cities

Thousands of music lovers last year backed a campaign in Cardiff to “Save Womanby St” when there were fears that an application to built flats next to the iconic Clwb Ifor Bach could lead to a reduction in opening hours.

Welsh MPs are now pushing to ensure that the type of protection for live music venues that has been introduced in Wales will also apply in England.

Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens and Cardiff West’s Kevin Brennan – a member of the parliamentary rock band MP4 – are backing a Bill that would roll-out in England a measure to protect music venues that has been introduced in Wales.

Cardiff West’s Mr Brennan said: “The ‘Save Womanby Street’ campaign was started in Cardiff by a group of passionate members of the public determined to protect grass roots music in our city. Their passion sparked interest and campaigning across the UK.”

“The Scottish Government, the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and now the UK Government are all considering following the Welsh Government’s pledge to adopt the Agent of Change principle into planning law. This is an important step in helping to protect music venues because it will put the onus on property developers to protect new residential buildings from noise and rather than loading the costs and bureaucracy onto existing music venues, often forcing their closure.

“With 30 million people attending UK music events last year, it’s vital we have the music venues available for the nation to continue our love of live music and grow the talent of the future.”

Read in full at WalesOnline
here.

Campaign for an Agent of Change principal to help protect music venues


Cardiff’s ‘Save Womanby Street Campaign has been praised in the House of Commons today as MPs seek to recreate the campaign’s success in Wales by changing the law in England.

A new Bill supported by Cardiff MPs would introduce the ‘Agent of Change’ planning principle in England - just as the Welsh Government has pledged to do in Wales in response to the Womanby Street campaigners.

In a speech to introduce the Bill John Spellar MP for Warley, said:  “There are already moves being made around the country to address these concerns, many grass roots campaigns are being mounted to save local venues.”

“Two of my co-sponsors, the Members for Cardiff West Kevin Brennan  and Cardiff Central Jo Stevens have been supporting the Save Womanby Street campaign, along with the members for Cardiff North and Cardiff South and Penarth, and that has led directly to the adoption of the Agent of Change principal across Wales. A welcome adoption by the Welsh Labour Government.”

Cardiff West MP, Kevin Brennan, who strongly supported the ‘Save Womanby Street’ campaign is Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister and has been campaigning for the rest of the UK to follow Wales to protect music venues in planning law.

“I think it was only right to acknowledge the ‘Save Womanby Street’ campaigners because it’s a brilliant example of how well-organised public activism in our Music City of Cardiff can spread positive change across the country,” said Kevin.

“The ‘Save Womanby Street’ campaign was started in Cardiff by a group of passionate members of the public determined to protect grass roots music in our city. Their passion sparked interest and campaigning across the UK.”

“The Scottish Government, the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and now the UK Government are all considering following the Welsh Government’s pledge to adopt the Agent of Change principle into planning law.”

“This is an important step in helping to protect music venues because it will put the onus on property developers to protect new residential buildings from noise and rather than loading the costs and bureaucracy onto existing music venues, often forcing their closure”

“With 30 million people attending UK music events last year, it’s vital we have the music venues available for the nation to continue our love of live music and grow the talent of the future.”