Putting Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney at the heart of Parliament
I was first elected to represent Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney in Parliament on May 7th 2015 and was subsequently re-elected in the snap General Election on 8th June 2017.
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney is my home, I’ve lived here all my life. Being raised in the village of New Tredegar where I still live to this day, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. I believe strongly that wherever you go in the world, you still won’t get a warmer welcome than Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.
I’m a passionate advocate of these Valleys; we live in the beating heart of Wales. Since the constituency elected Keir Hardie over 100 years ago our constituency has been at the centre of British Politics. We’ve led the debate for better wage, we were the first people across the world to raise the red flag of social justice, and our representatives have included two leaders of the Labour party as well as the Minister responsible for founding the NHS. We have been at the forefront of building a better Britain.
In my time as MP, I've tried to fairly represent our communities and values, putting them at the forefront of the British political debate as my predecessors have done. As a Labour representative I've put the values of fairness and justice at the heart of everything I do. I promise to stand up and speak out for equality of opportunity, and for all the people across the constituency. I
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Putting Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney at the heart of Parliament I was first elected to represent Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney in Parliament on May 7th 2015 and was subsequently re-elected in the snap...
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP, Gerald Jones, recently joined historian Simon Schama and TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky at the launch in Parliament of a project to map to preserve the historic synagogues of Europe. Simon Schama, a trustee of the Foundation, along with the event host, the Rt Hon Jim Murphy, and Dame Helen Hyde launched the project and its findings last week at the Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster.
Of the 3,318 synagogues identified in Europe, the findings have highlighted 160 which the Foundation believes urgently need attention if they are to be safe-guarded for future generations, so this rich cultural history is not lost for ever. Two of these are UK synagogues: Merthyr Tydfil and Sunderland.
In Merthyr Tydfil, conversations instigated by the Foundation have resulted in a feasibility study, which has already begun, to explore plans to restore the building and preserve it as a Jewish Museum of Wales, telling the rich story of the 250-year-old Jewish community here. It would also serve as a cultural centre for the town.
Speaking after the event, Gerald Jones MP said:
“I was delighted to attend the Foundation for Jewish Heritage’s reception in Parliament, where it was excellent to see Merthyr Tydfil’s synagogue on display on their pop-up banner to promote their proposals.
“I know that Dawn Bowden AM has been supporting the proposal at the National Assembly and I have spoken with the Foundation to offer my support to any funding bids that they intend to submit and I am meeting them shortly to discuss if there is any further support I am able to offer.
“We know that the synagogue is of significant historic, religious and architectural importance. The proposals by the Foundation would see this building once again playing a part in the life of our community here in Merthyr Tydfil and the wider community across Wales which is why I am more than pleased to support them.”
Backing the project, more than 40 high-profile supporters including Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes who attended the event; authors Linda Grant and Howard Jacobson; architect Daniel Libeskind; sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor; journalist Robert Peston and former ministers Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Tristrum Hunt, have signed a letter calling on European goverments and heritage agencies to support all efforts to save and preserve the most at-risk synagogues.
The Foundation also has support from many members of the Heritage world within Europe and beyond.
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP, Gerald Jones, recently joined historian Simon Schama and TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky at the launch in Parliament of a project to map to preserve the...
After two years of waiting, the 40 Welsh MPs finally gathered for a Welsh Grand Committee meeting to discuss the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. It was particularly historic as MPs were now able to contribute in both English and Welsh. During the debate, I said:
As a starting point, we know that the Prime Minister and her UK Tory Government have slashed funding to Wales by more than £1bn, imposed a public sector pay cap that impacts on Welsh workers and those across the UK in our most vital public services. We know also that the Government has refused to invest in vital Welsh infrastructure projects like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and rail electrification.
Unfortunately, the Chancellor did not use the opportunity of his Autumn Budget to address these shortcomings and invest in Welsh infrastructure, or to end the Tories’ failed austerity, agenda or lift the public sector pay cap. This budget really did feel like missed opportunities as far as Wales is concerned. It is clear that this Tory Government has proven time and again that they have little or no respect for Wales.
With respect to the Public Sector Pay Cap, Mr Hanson, whilst the UK government has made pay offers in excess of 1% for some sectors, the pay cap effectively remains in place for the vast majority of public sector workers. It is important that the Government does not cherry pick pay rises for some public sector workers in what could be seen as an attempt to divide. We need to see an end to the public sector pay cap, with a fully-funded pay rise for all those working in our public services.
I know that local authorities for example have tried to help ease the situation, the 2 local authorities serving my constituency Merthyr Tydfil CBC & Caerphilly CBC took decisions during the previous council term to become living wage employers, thus helping to mitigate against the pay cap. Across Wales, the Welsh Government have indicated their support for our public sector workers and have repeatedly called on the UK Government to end the cap on public sector pay and give workers across the UK a much-deserved pay rise, funded properly by the UK Government, stating, "The UK Government must do the right thing and lift the pay cap right across the UK public sector as part of a wider strategy to end their damaging policy of austerity”. There are suggestions that the Welsh Government could take action, however, lifting the public sector pay cap unilaterally in Wales, would mean that for every 1% above the existing cap, would mean £110m being taken from frontline services, with approximately £50 million coming out of the budget for NHS Wales alone. Clearly Mr Owen, this would threaten thousands of jobs across the public sector in Wales so is not a practical or sensible way forward. With huge cuts to the Welsh Budget and local government in recent years, they are clearly unable to take further action without the funding from the UK Government. It is therefore incumbent on the UK Government to take action, do the decent thing and remove the pay cap across the UK. The Welsh Government have already committed to use any funding consequentials they receive from the UK Government as a result of public sector pay rises more generally to raise the pay cap for public sector workers in Wales.
I would also like to take this brief opportunity to highlight the impact that the Tory budget and the austerity agenda more widely is having on keeping people safe in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney and across the country. Evidence that this Tory Government is failing to keep our communities safe is apparent after new figures revealed crime in South Wales and Gwent Police Force areas is increasing. The new crime figures show the highest annual rise in police recorded crime since comparable records began in 2002. Two thirds of my constituency is covered by South Wales Police & the remaining third is covered by Gwent Police. In the South Wales area, violent crime rose by 15%, sexual offences rose by 42% and total recorded crime rose by 11%. Meanwhile in Gwent, violent crime has risen 20%, sexual offences rose 31%, with total recorded crime rising 14%.
Meanwhile, we know that Tory cuts has sent Police officer numbers nationwide to the lowest level in three decades. South Wales Police has lost 257 officers, while Gwent Police has seen the loss of 283 officers since 2010. I think it is shameful Mr Owen that the public are now being forced to pay the price for the risk the Tories took with community safety when they slashed 21,000 Police officers across England and Wales.
I have worked to build close relationships with both South Wales Police and Gwent Police forces, and have raised the issues of police cuts numerous times in Parliamentary debates. I have also been privileged to have spent shifts with officers in both Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, seeing first-hand the officers’ dedication and excellent work they are doing to keep our communities safe, despite ever diminishing resources. Our Police officers are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances. However, the Government must realise that cuts have consequences and these latest figures certainly reveal the Tories are failing in their duty to protect the public.
Finally Mr Hanson, I would like to raise the issue of jobs and public procurement. In the budget and the Brexit negotiations, the Government constantly claim that they are working hard to protect jobs and the economy. However, I recent months there has been much speculation about MOD contracts for the new Mechanised Infantry Vehicles (MIVs) being awarded to German firms on a single source basis. This is deeply concerning for me as the representative of Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney where we have General Dynamics starting to assemble the new generation of Armoured Vehicles. General Dynamics have a long and proud history in South Wales, based for many years in my hon friend the member for Islwyn’s constituency. The additional base in Merthyr Tydfil demonstrates GD’s commitment to the area and to Wales. I believe that General Dynamics are well placed to compete for these contracts but should at the very least have the opportunity to compete in an open and transparent tender process. I hope that the Secretary of State can today confirm that the Wales Office are doing all that they can to ensure that the MOD will give Welsh firms, including General Dynamics the opportunity to bid for this work to support and sustain hundreds of Welsh jobs.
There are many other areas where this Government needs to take stock and listen. Their austerity agenda is failing, failing Wales and failing the UK. If this Government is unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to improve the lives of our constituents then they need to move aside and make way for a Government that will do the right thing.
After two years of waiting, the 40 Welsh MPs finally gathered for a Welsh Grand Committee meeting to discuss the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. It was particularly historic as MPs were...
Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, has joined Western Power Distribution (WPD) Chief Executive Robert Symons in calling on people in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to seek support if they are struggling with their energy bills.
At a meeting at the House of Commons, they also discussed the importance of building a smart energy system that will help to ensure energy affordability for the future.
WPD operates an extensive support programme for customers in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney who are unable to afford their energy and/or to keep their home adequately heated. It works with a range of partners including the Centre for Sustainable Energy, the Energy Saving Trust, and Citizens’ Advice across their regions, offering a variety of support services including:
– Income maximisation (e.g. managing debts)
– Tariff advice
– Energy efficiency measures
– Boiler replacements and heating technologies
– Behavioural changes (e.g. how best to operate your heating system)
– Health and wellbeing measures
This year WPD has helped 15,000 customers to save £3.5million a year — that’s an average saving per customer of £233.
The company is also investing in a host of new technologies, systems and skills to create the smart network of the future, including leading the world’s largest electric vehicle use trial.
It also provides a priority service for vulnerable customers when there are power cuts.
WPD’s register supports people who may be particularly vulnerable during a power cut, such as those medically dependent on electricity, those who have a particular communication need or who may just find a power cut particularly difficult such as the elderly or disabled.
To sign up for priority assistance, customers can call WPD on 0800 917 79 53. The service is free and confidential. During a power cut, they should call 105 or 0800 6783 105.
Gerald Jones MP said:
“I was delighted to meet with Western Power Distribution and to hear about the important work it is doing in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to keep the lights on and to ensure those customers who need it get help with their energy bill and in the event of a power cut.
"I am calling on all residents of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to call 0800 917 79 53 if they believe they would be vulnerable if the power went off.
“I also discussed WPD’s investment to create a smart network for residents of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. As the country’s energy use and mix changes, our networks are being asked to do more to take the load. It was great to hear how WPD is developing new skills and innovations to adapt for the future, keep costs down and give consumers greater control.”
Robert Symons, Western Power Distribution Chief Executive said:
“We were delighted to meet with Gerald Jones MP to discuss our role of keeping the lights on and supporting our customers in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. Since 2002 we have cut the likelihood of power cuts occurring by nearly 40%.
However, we cannot eliminate the chances of power cuts completely, so it is vital that we know who our most vulnerable customers are so we can support them first. We also take our role very seriously in helping to find solutions for those people who are struggling with their energy bill.
“WPD is also rising to the challenge of creating a smart network that works for everyone. We are investing £7.1 billion between 2015 and 2023 to improve network resilience, connect new homes, businesses and generation, and to roll out new innovations. We also have a fully costed £125 million plan to convert the existing network to a smart grid, becoming a ‘Distribution System Operator’, at no extra cost to customers.”
Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, has joined Western Power Distribution (WPD) Chief Executive Robert Symons in calling on people in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to seek support...
Research by Centrica has found that distributed energy solutions, such as battery storage and energy saving devices, can provide savings on energy bills and a boost to the country’s overall economic growth. Centrica estimates that local authorities in Wales could save 15 per cent on their energy bills. In Caerphilly, this equates to £6.5m. And in Merthyr Tydfil, this equates to £2m. Across the 22 local authorities in Wales, this totals more than £150m.
Local authorities in Wales are looking to make cost savings particularly as council tax rates are being announced. Centrica estimates that local authorities could save at least 15 per cent on their energy bills by deploying distributed energy solutions including battery storage, onsite power generation and energy saving devices.
An example of this is the 3MW battery storage scheme Centrica recently installed for Gateshead Council. It forms part of a district energy centre and, once commissioned, will be used to provide flexibility services for the council, and eventually to meet peaks in local demand.
Gerald Jones MP, after attending an event at Westminster to learn about distributed energy solutions, said: “Energy costs can make up a large proportion of operating costs so making savings here can open up opportunities for Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly local authorities. Technology can help to bring energy bills down freeing up budget to be spent on essential services.”
Centrica and a team of independent economists assessed the opportunities distributed energy solutions can bring in industrial, healthcare, and hospitality, hotel & leisure sectors if 50 per cent of businesses deployed the solutions.
The results of this were announced in a report, ‘Powering Britain’s Economic Future’. It calls for BEIS, public sector organisations and the Committee on Climate Change to undertake urgent assessments of how new solutions could reduce energy costs and carbon emissions for British businesses.
Key findings from the report include the opportunity for the potential benefits to gross value added (GVA) across industries in the UK to hit almost £14bn.
To read a copy of the report in full or to learn more about Centrica's work, go to www.centrica.com/economicfuture.
Research by Centrica has found that distributed energy solutions, such as battery storage and energy saving devices, can provide savings on energy bills and a boost to the country’s overall...
Merthyr and the Valleys Mind is encouraging people to come and talk about their mental health this Time to Talk Day (1st February 2018).
The charity, which is relaunching its counselling service on Thursday 1st February 2018 with Gerald Jones MP, is particularly keen for men aged 18-50 to open up about any problems they may be having.
Julian John, Chief Executive of Merthyr and the Valleys Mind, said: “Our Talk to Me counselling service offers people a space to talk through their negative thoughts or challenges. One in four people are affected by poor mental health every year and we want to help as many people as we can.”
The Talk to Me service is commissioned by the Cwm Taf University Health Board as part of its investment into talking therapies across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf. We support 240 people every year through the service, which is available to people via their GP.
Julian added: “We know it makes a real difference to people lives, and this year we want to reach out to more men. We want to enable men to talk about their feelings and to help them to find solutions to their problems; it often takes balls to talk.”
Gerald Jones MP said: “It’s really important that people who are struggling with their mental health are able to talk to someone. Merthyr and the Valleys Mind’s service gives the people in our community a safe place to come and get the help they need.”
Merthyr and the Valleys Mind is encouraging people to come and talk about their mental health this Time to Talk Day (1st February 2018). The charity, which is relaunching its...
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP, Gerald Jones, has warned the Tories are ‘failing to keep our communities safe’ after new figures revealed crime in South Wales and Gwent Police Force areas is increasing, as Tory cuts sent Police officer numbers nationwide to the lowest level in three decades.
The new crime figures released this week showed the highest annual rise in police recorded crime since comparable records began in 2002.
In South Wales, violent crime rose by 15%, sexual offences rose by 42% and total recorded crime rose by 11%. Meanwhile in Gwent, violent crime has risen 20%, sexual offences rose 31%, with total recorded crime rising 14%.
Since 2010 South Wales Police has lost 257 officers, while Gwent Police has seen the loss of 283 officers.
Gerald Jones, the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said,
“The public are now being forced to pay the price for the reckless risk the Tories took with community safety when they slashed 21,000 Police officers across England and Wales.
“Since being elected, I have worked to build close relationships with both South Wales Police and Gwent Police forces, and have raised the issues of police cuts numerous times in Parliament. I have also been privileged to have spent shifts with officers in both Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, seeing first-hand the officers’ dedication and excellent work they are doing to keep our communities safe, despite ever diminishing resources.”
“Our Police officers are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances. The Government must realise that cuts have consequences and these latest figures reveal the Tories are failing in their duty to protect the public.”
Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister said:
“This is the grim legacy of seven years of Tory austerity; dedicated police officers fighting hard to keep the public safe with fewer officers per head than ever before. Labour will recruit another 10,000 new police officers to help fight crime and keep us safe.”
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP, Gerald Jones, has warned the Tories are ‘failing to keep our communities safe’ after new figures revealed crime in South Wales and Gwent Police Force...
During Welsh Questions on Wednesday, I pressed the Minister about the issue of universal credit:
Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Labour): Q6, What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on reducing the time taken to make universal credit payments in Wales.
Stuart Andrew (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales): Diolch yn fawr, Mr Llefarydd. Rwy’n ddiolchgar i’m cydweithwyr am y croeso cynnes.
At the Budget, the Chancellor announced that all claimants will be eligible for universal credit from the first day that they claim it, removing the seven waiting days.
Gerald Jones: The DWP’s own analysis shows that half of those with rent arrears under universal credit said that they had gone into arrears after making a claim. Is the Minister content with the fact that more Welsh families who were not previously in arrears have begun 2018 in debt following their claim for universal credit?
Stuart Andrew: That is exactly why we made the announcements in the Budget. Now, households who already claim housing benefit will automatically receive an additional two weeks of housing benefit when they claim universal credit. We are responding to the lessons that we are learning, and we will continue to do so as we roll out the project.
During Welsh Questions on Wednesday, I pressed the Minister about the issue of universal credit: Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Labour): Q6, What discussions he has had with the...
During a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday about Personal Independence Payments, I said:
Gerald Jones MP (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Labour): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Laura Pidcock) on securing this important debate and on a making a powerful opening speech.
At Prime Minister’s questions a few weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister whether she agreed that the PIP assessment process was fundamentally flawed, and what action she intended to take to avoid the undue stress and hardship being caused to my constituents and thousands more across the country. It is very clear to hon. Members here and the people whom we represent that the process is not fit for purpose.
The chaos that is being caused is having a cruel impact on thousands of people across the country. The Prime Minister’s reply was that the assessments are being conducted as well as they can be, and that people are getting the awards that they should be getting and are entitled to. She also stated that since the Government introduced the personal independence payment, 8% of cases have been appealed and 4% of the decisions are changed on appeal. In my easy calculation, about 50% of decisions are overturned on appeal, and things are getting worse.
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North, Labour): Does my hon. Friend agree with my view? My constituent, Sarah Hassell, has cystic fibrosis, a degenerative disease. She is 30 and will not see retirement. Not only was she taken to a tribunal, but after that process, she was brought forward again for assessment. Her benefit was taken away, and she tried to kill herself because of this process, which she had already gone through once. The system is simply not working, and the tribunals are not working. When I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask for a response, I was just sent to a civil servant and was not graced with a response. My constituents need much better from this process.
Gerald Jones: My hon. Friend outlines a very sad and tragic case. It is one reason among many why the Government have to take note and listen.
The Prime Minister also stated that in the majority of cases, the change at appeal is due to the presentation at appeal of new evidence that was not presented at the original case. However, in the vast majority of cases that are brought to my attention at my constituency office and through Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly citizens advice bureaux, no new evidence is presented at appeal. The appeals are agreed, because the appeal panel recognises that constituents are genuinely in need of PIP and it supports the appeal. Furthermore, a growing number of assessments are consistently refused, and people are forced to go to mandatory reassessment and to appeal. I understand that currently about 65% of claims are overturned on appeal at tribunal. The growing number of appeals means that tribunals are taking longer to get to court—in my area, they are taking anything between four and seven months.
Hugh Gaffney (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, Labour): Every one of us has an email inbox full of these claims. Every single week, a new claim comes forward. The Minister has spoken about home assessments, but home assessments are not being done. It can be seen in Westminster Hall today how supportive the Labour party is, and how unsupportive the Tory party is, in relation to the whole PIP process.
Gerald Jones: My hon. Friend makes an important point, with which I wholeheartedly agree. The number of cases being brought to appeal and the length of time taken highlight the unnecessary cost of taking the cases to a tribunal. It stands to reason that if a large percentage of appeals are accepted, the original decisions are fundamentally flawed.
Liz Twist (Blaydon, Labour): Does my hon. Friend agree that for those with long-term conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, the right level of assessment is important to avoid the need for people to go to appeal, given that an understanding of the condition could avoid that appeal?
Gerald Jones: My hon. Friend highlights the current state of affairs and how necessary it is for the Government to take action.
I will conclude by briefly highlighting one of the many cases that has been brought to me. A client in my constituency—a gentleman who lives with his wife and three children in a housing association property—suffers with epilepsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety, depression and heart problems. He was already in receipt of PIP and was awarded enhanced daily living and mobility at tribunal in February 2015; that award was backdated. He switched his enhanced mobility for a car through the Motability scheme.
My constituent was contacted about the renewal of his claim in April 2016, and the renewal was sent to him. The local citizens advice bureau assisted him with completing the form, and medical evidence went in. His condition had deteriorated, but he was awarded zero points for daily living and mobility. So he had to return his mobility car, which he relied on, and borrow money from a family member to purchase a car.
The mandatory reassessment was lodged, and my constituent was awarded nine points for daily living and eight points for mobility—on appeal, those were enhanced further. The case went to tribunal and the judge advised him to go back to the Motability scheme as soon as possible and get his car back, but in the meantime he had wasted money on purchasing one. Interestingly, no additional evidence was given at the appeal stage that the DWP had not had prior to the tribunal. That is just one of many cases, and I am sure that Members across the country have similar concerns. The situation is grave, as most Opposition Members and our constituents know.
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire, Labour): Before my hon. Friend finishes, I want to make the point that there is a fundamental lack of understanding and compassion among assessors. Unbelievably, one assessor telephoned my deaf constituent and left them a message, which they would never, ever be able to access. How many penalties would they have for that? That is so basic that it is a disgrace.
Gerald Jones: My hon. Friend highlights an interesting point, and it is something that the Government need to get a grip on.
Unfortunately, the Government seem unwilling or unable to see the mess that is being caused or to do something about it. Will the Minister take stock of what she has heard in the debate this morning, give us some answers and get a grip on the situation?
During a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday about Personal Independence Payments, I said: Gerald Jones MP (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Labour): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship,...
Earlier today I responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the Seventh Report of the Defence Committee, Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel, as Shadow Minister for Defence. I said:
"It is indeed a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I start by paying tribute to the Chair of the Defence Committee, the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), and to the members of the Committee for their work in producing the report. This is an extremely important and profoundly serious issue and wholly deserving of the Committee’s attention. The Chair of the Committee made a very considered and thoughtful opening contribution to the debate. He outlined the Committee’s approach and, obviously, the need to consider all views.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) talked about the delicate nature of the issues that we are discussing—delicate for families and for armed forces personnel. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) made his contribution with the added knowledge from his military service. From the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), we heard a very moving reflection on the troubles. He reminded us of the complex and delicate nature of the issues that we are discussing. From the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), we heard a personal reflection on his time in uniform, as we did from the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who as a young infantry soldier served in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) gave an account on behalf of one of her constituents and talked about the links to the armed forces covenant.
The past presents many difficult and unanswered questions to families and individuals in Northern Ireland, as well as to those across Britain, including our armed forces veterans who served in Operation Banner. In all communities, there is a desire for truth and clarity about what happened to loved ones, and the quest for answers has not diminished with the passage of time. Like many hon. Members across the Chamber, I am of a generation that vividly remembers the troubles, as well as the anguish and conflict that that period represented. It is always worth reminding ourselves of the good work that led up to the landmark achievement of the Good Friday agreement. We are all committed to a future for Northern Ireland that guarantees peace and security for all citizens.
The report deals specifically with the issue of fatalities involving British personnel who served in Northern Ireland. We rightly expect the highest standards of conduct from our service personnel, and we know that members of our armed forces are keenly aware of that. Where there are allegations about improper or unlawful behaviour, they must be investigated fairly and thoroughly. Of course, there have been cases where investigations have, regrettably, not been fair. The Opposition welcomed the closure of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, because that forum relied too heavily on referrals from one discredited law firm and was simply not working.
[Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]
On the separate issue of fatalities in Northern Ireland, we are clear that the best means of dealing with this is through the full implementation of the Stormont House agreement and the institutions that that agreement provides for. The Stormont House agreement addressed many important issues relating to legacy, including providing for an independent historical investigations unit to take forward outstanding investigations into deaths relating to the troubles.
I know that there is deep frustration on all sides about the lack of progress towards fully implementing the agreement. One of the many groups eager to see progress is the Ballymurphy families, who earlier today met the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith). I know that their desire for progress is shared by all parties. The frustration at the lack of progress is also a point that the Committee’s report makes only too clearly. I fully recognise the Committee’s view that the status quo is simply not sustainable.
We all want to see progress made in resuming power sharing in Northern Ireland as soon as possible. As my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said recently, we need the Government to come forward with a clear path to rebuild trust between the parties and restore power sharing. That should involve the enlisting of an independent chair to manage the talks. Only then, and with the implementation of the Stormont House institutions, can we make the progress that we all so badly want to see, and ensure that those affected by the violence of the troubles get the answers and the truth that they deserve."
You can also watch my speech here: https://www.facebook.com/GeraldJonesLabour/videos/1615147408570394/
Earlier today I responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the Seventh Report of the Defence Committee, Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel, as Shadow Minister for...