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St. David's Day debate speech on Welsh Affairs

Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors
2nd March 2021.

I, too, welcome back to the House my dear friend and constituency neighbour, the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Jo Stevens.

I wish to make four quick points. First, others have mentioned the plight of freelance musicians and artists, who have been excluded from support because they do not fit the Chancellor’s criteria for support. The criteria were drawn up hastily, and there was an excuse for that, but they were not amended when it was clear that they had arbitrary and negative consequences—for which there is no excuse—for many artists, musicians and others. Tomorrow, the Chancellor has another chance to put that right. In Wales, funds were set aside to help freelancers, but what is really needed is action from the Chancellor to support those who have been excluded, as called for by the Musicians’ Union and others.

Secondly, we have missed the live music sector and could all do with a summer of live music events and festivals. The issue of insurance has already been mentioned in the debate. Last week, I received a written answer from the Minister for Digital and Culture that said:

“As such, HM Treasury does not believe that now is the right time for an insurance intervention.”

Well, if this is not the right time for an insurance intervention, there never will be an insurance intervention from the Treasury. This is typical Treasury orthodox thinking. Now is the time for an insurance intervention to make sure that we can have live music back this summer. It would be the best boost not only for the industry but for morale and the economy.

Thirdly, covid has been hard enough for the music industry in itself but, combined with the negligent no-deal Brexit for musicians and touring artists, it is a double dose of disaster. Covid was unavoidable; the consequences of a failure to do a deal on touring were not only avoidable and predictable but predicted. A small window now remains to fix that before many successful British businesses are ruined by this negligence. That should be a priority for the Government.

Finally, let me look to the future. Covid has killed live music, but it can be revived. As we have heard, covid has also shone a light on the inequities of the new economics of music streaming and how it is failing to deliver for music songwriters and composers. The House may know that the DCMS Committee is conducting an inquiry into the matter. Some change is happening already—at 2 pm today, SoundCloud announced that it is going over to fan-powered royalties and a user-centric system, which is a step forward by the industry—but as well as the industry the Government should be prepared, if necessary, to reform the law in favour of creators and away from wealthy corporate market powers. They have been enjoying a gold rush from streaming; after the gold rush, let’s have a “new home in the sun” for our brilliant musicians and songwriters.

Welsh Affairs
25th February 2021

Thank you deputy speaker

I beg to move that this house has considered the matter of Welsh affairs – and in doing so I thank the right honourable member for the Preseli Pembrokeshire and the honourable for Arfon For supporting the application to the backbench committee and to that committee for granting this time – although it is, and always has been my view, that time should be set aside as a permanent fixture of the UK Parliamentary calendar to debate the affairs of each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom Every year – Phone or around Saint Davids day in the case of Wales.

I want to open on a sad note by paying tribute to the former member for Aberafon Howell Francis died earlier this month.

How well entered the house nearly 20 years ago alongside me and other members from Wales who are still here – the members for from there, Alan and decide, carefully, and our van.

How well entered the house nearly 20 years ago alongside me and other members from Wales who are still here – the members for from there, Alan and Deeside, Caerphilly, and Aragon.

It won’t surprise Honourable members and others listening to new Howell that in his maiden speech in 2001 he spoke about Labour history, the miners strike of 1984, Welsh devolution, and the rights of disabled people – The subject personally close to Harold and his wife Meyer and their family – in calling for rights for disabled people in that speech he said “ Those are, after all, universal rights, whether they apply to a disabled child in Soweto or to a disabled minor or steelworker in skewing close “

Typical, I’m voice for the oppressed everywhere, and internationalist voice, a compassionate socialist voice, a distinctly Welsh voice.

Rest in peace good friend and comrades.

Deputy speaker – circumstances mean that I am participating in today’s debate from Wales is capital city – I recently heard a quote about Cardiff from the late great Victoria Wood who said it was “ Classy, but somehow CD at the same time“ – surely the slogan to put on our roadsigns – but in truth Cardiff has developed in the last 20 years – in the era of devolution – into a classy capital city that truly feels like a modern capital, with a vibrant cultural sector and the seat of the government of Wales.

When is the second only to London in percentage growth in music tourism recently – not least in Cardiff – and this Saturday in normal times its streets will be thronged with people for the six nations rugby encounter between Wales and England – sadly there will be no crowds the Saturday – but millions will watch on free to air public service television and I say to the W are you – do not lock this important part of our sporting culture in a cupboard behind a pay wall. When is the second only to London in percentage growth in music tourism recently – not least in Cardiff – and this Saturday in normal times its streets would be thronged with people for the six nations rugby encounter between Wales and England – sadly there will be no crowds this Saturday – but millions will watch on free to air public service television and I say to the W are you – do not lock this important part of our sporting culture in a cupboard behind a pay wall. Call Wales is six nations matches must remain free to wear in Wales in any new forecasting deal.

I don’t just want to talk about rugby union – but to say a few words about the state of the union of the United Kingdom and Wales is in it.

Any union – whether a sporting union, or a trade union or a political union of Nations, can only flourish with the consent of its members – that consent can only be obtained for a culture of respect.

I am genuinely worried that the UK government, yes Prime Minister and the current Secretary of State for Wales don’t understand that.

We read that the union unit set up at the very heart of Whitehall to save the union has been so disunited itself and beset by Bootle round that it has had to be suspended.
If the government can’t even keep a unit in charge of unity United what hope is there that I can keep the United Kingdom United?
We read that the union unit set up at the very heart of Whitehall to save the union has been so disunited itself and beset by brutal rounds that it has had to be suspended.
If the government can’t even keep a unit in charge of unity United what hope is there that it can keep the United Kingdom United?
That all may not be lost – because the union unit is replaced we are told by the cabinet committee consisting of – and a “press reports “prime minister Boris Johnson, Welsh secretary Simon Hart, Scottish secretary Alistair Jack, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis and other Cabinet members“ They are to discuss how best to save the United Kingdom – forgive me if I’m sceptical that this news will have people running down to the bookies to put money on the improve chances of The survival of the union

The problem is there is no evidence here any understanding of the principle of consent and respect – in fact we have clear evidence to the contrary from the secretary of state for Wales himself, in an act of aggressively undermining the democratically elected Welsh sellers and government by centralising spending powers from Wales said this week -

“I do wish Welsh government would stop fretting about their own little status in Cardiff“

Those words deputy speaker “their own little status in Cardiff’ contain not an ounce of respect in there for Welsh photos and the two referendums which established elected devolved tissues in Wales.

I say to the Secretary of State – he is treading a dangerous path – he has revealed he has no respect for Wales is democratic institutions – choosing instead to look down his nose from Gwydr House sneering words “their own little status“ with reference to the elected government of Wales – I presume he’ll soon be getting fitted for his governor general costume and print hat at this rate.

Now I sometimes hear colleagues say that these constitutional issues don’t matter.
I have never heard anyone on the Ely omnibus talk about devolved powers – that may be right – but they do matter the things people really care and talk about.

It does matter to Welsh people that they have the right to elect a government that genuinely reflects their values and aspirations and is empowered to make real changes that affect their lives.
 
Devolution has allowed those values of the Welsh people to be expressed in progressive policies that are in alternative to Neo liberalism and running the country in favour of the wealthiest through crony capitalism.

It doesn’t matter to people in Wales that their NHS has been true to its Welsh roots – free from market driven motives and privatisation which the UK Tory government is now trying to emulate with the abject failed experiment in competition under the Lansley reforms.

It does matter that Wales can decide to have an integrated public transport system denied from the centre to all the London until recently – with rail brought back into public control bringing Wales in line with modern European countries.

It does matter to people that their education system remains comprehensive, free from divisive selection, local governance free of outsourcing and fragmentation.

And in this Covid crisis – it has mattered to people at the Welsh Labour government has not duct or delayed difficult decisions – as always put health and welfare first – And in this Covid crisis – it has mattered to people that the Welsh Labour government has not dumped or delayed difficult decisions – as it always put health and welfare first – Struck better deals on PPE for the NHS and social care because of its public service values rather than turning too expensive and devious outsourcing that has repeatedly failed.

It has mattered to people that has had a successful publicly one contact tracing service rather than a massively wasteful outsourced Chumocracy.

And it matters that in Mark Drakeford we have a first Minister writing praised for integrity, difficult decision-making, grasp of detail and open communication in contrast to a prime minister held hostage by headlines and headbangers.

Now is not the time for Empire realism from the Welsh secretary or the Prime Minister – now is the time to recognise that this voluntary four nations can only function through equality and respect for devolution and a commitment to enhance and develop our democratic institutions in Wales and also in the nations and regions across the United Kingdom.

‘Don’t let them bully you’: British MPs urge Australians to stand firm against Facebook blackout

The chair of the British Parliament’s committee for the media and technology says Facebook’s “irresponsible” decision to cut off news and official government feeds for Australian users constitutes “bullying” and will unite legislators from around the world into wanting to curb Big Tech’s abuse of its monopoly.

The Australian government has expressed shock and outrage at Facebook’s decision to stop Australian users from posting and sharing news content, as well as wiping the posts of some government authorities, MPs and charities.
Facebook has taken a hard line with Australia over its media bargaining code.

The Silicon Valley giant took the action to protest the proposed media bargaining code, which would force the company to pay Australian media organisations tens of millions of dollars in recognition of the news content shared on the site.

Kevin Brennan, a Labour MP who sits on the committee, said Facebook had exposed its own double standard.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s true colours have been exposed,” Brennan said.

“On one hand Facebook claims it can’t stop an Australian terrorist live-streaming a massacre but in a single change to its algorithm can cut off every Australian news organisation and a host of essential government services.

“This aggressive approach by Facebook towards Australia should serve as a warning to other countries that the market power they have acquired through the harvesting of people’s data can undermine the democratic right of nations to frame their own laws and raise their own taxes.

“The Battle of Zuckerberg is a battle to defend democracy against big tech bullying.”

 *Read in full on the Sydney Morning Herald's website here.

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