Nia Griffith MP has written to Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, urging the Government to rethink the way it plans to introduce price-competitive tendering for criminal legal aid cases in England and Wales.
The proposed reforms would see law practices having to bid for legal aid work, with a maximum number of four firms appointed to cover the whole of the Dyfed Powys area. Firms offering to undertake work at the lowest price are most likely to win the bid. Solicitors would no longer win work by building up a good reputation for providing an excellent service; instead the work would go to the cheapest provider, who would have no commercial incentive to provide a high quality service. This would drastically reduce the quality of the legal aid system and could put many legal practices throughout the Dyfed Powys area out of business. Under the proposed system, people whose cases are funded by legal aid would lose the right to choose their own solicitor, and there is no guarantee that a Welsh -speaking solicitor will be found for anyone who prefers to speak Welsh.
‘This model really does not fit the scattered rural nature of Dyfed Powys which is currently served by many small local firms of solicitors, which do not have the networks to work across the whole area, so who knows how far clients could have to travel, an expense which many of them simply cannot afford. Even more absurdly under these proposals, because the person seeking advice has to stay with the advice provider given to them initially, someone who commits four offences over the period of a week could be seen by a different legal firm each time, and end up being in court for all four offences on the same day, but represented by four different legal firms. Local solicitors have pointed out that considerable savings on legal aid have already been made, and they have identified other ways that additional money could be saved. The real effect of these changes will be that some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society will not be represented fairly in the courts. How can we risk those that cannot afford to pay for representation being convicted not because they are guilty but because the prosecution has better lawyers than they do?
‘It has taken decades to build a legal system, one which is admired around the world, which offers citizens equal access to legal representation. That is about to disappear. ‘
The Masala in Llanelli has been nominated by local MP, Nia Griffith, to take part in the prestigious Tiffin Cup competition to find the best South Asian Restaurant in the country.
Following the success of the Tiffin Cup 2012 MPs have for the 8th year running, been asked to nominate a restaurant in their constituency as the best South Asian restaurant in the UK in this mouth watering competition. Last year a record eighty nine restaurants were nominated from around the country.
The aim is not only to applaud the quality of South Asian food in Britain but also to raise much needed money for charity. This year the competition is in aid of the charity ‘World Vision’. The Grand Final of the Tiffin Cup 2013 is to be held in the House of Commons on Tuesday 2nd July 2013.
Nia Griffith MP said:
“I am delighted that the nomination for Masala has been accepted and will take part in this year’s Tiffin Cup. I very much hope that they will get through to the finals, and that I will have a chance to welcome them to the House of Commons. I am sure everyone in Llanelli will be wishing the Masala the best of luck in their bid to become Tiffin Cup 2013 Champions!”
Local MP Nia Griffith has nominated local pop-punk band ‘Initial Reply’ to take part in the prestigious Rock the House competition to celebrate the brightest and best unsigned British musicians.
The competition involves MPs nominating artists from their constituencies with the aim of raising the profile of the music industry and intellectual property issues. A panel of international music industry experts and musicians will then determine the finalists who will compete in a live battle of the bands. The lucky winners will receive some once in a lifetime prizes, while some will also get the chance to play a live set on the Terrace of the House of Commons on 26th June 2013.
‘Initial Reply’, a five piece band from the Llanelli constituency will now be competing in the Band U/19 category with their rhythmic and passionate track ‘Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost’.
Local MP Nia Griffith said,
“I am thrilled to be able to nominate ‘Initial Reply’ to take part in Rock the House 2013. With patrons like Brian May and Alice Cooper this competition represents a fantastic opportunity for ‘Initial Reply’ to further their ambitions in music. I am sure everyone in Llanelli will join me in wishing them luck, and I hope they get through to perform in the House of Commons.”
Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli and shadow Wales minister, is calling on UK Government ministers to keep the ASBO after figures obtained by Freedom of Information Requests show that 23,718 incidents of anti-social behaviour occurred in Dyfed Powys in 2012.
The ASBO is due to be replaced with the weaker ‘Community Trigger’, carrying no criminal sanction in the result of a breach, and requiring three complaints. The Government’s own crime survey shows that more than 80% of people think incidents have risen in the past year with over a third either being a victim, or witnessing incidents.
Nia Griffith MP, said:
“The UK Government doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of anti-social behaviour and the negative impact it has on local communities. By abolishing the ASBO the Tories and Lib Dems are failing communities and people across Dyfed Powys.”
“UK Government ministers need to wake up to the reality of what abolishing ASBOs will mean and think again about scrapping them.”
“As well as failing to punish and deter anti-social behaviour, the new plans would be more expensive for Police forces, local authorities and social housing providers.”
Nia Griffith MP has criticised the government for giving a tax break to millionaires whilst millions pay more.
Speaking up in Parliament in a debate on the Finance Bill, Nia said,
“Modest income families are really being squeezed with above inflation increases in the cost of the basics like food and energy bills. It is not only unfair and inhuman to give a tax break to millionaires, whilst hitting low and modest income households with further cuts to tax credits and benefits, it is economic madness. People on lower incomes out of necessity spend their money immediately back into the local economy. Local businesses are going bust and shops are closing because people simply do not have the money to spend. But the cash given to millionaires by reducing the 50% tax rate down to 45% is far more likely to end up abroad than helping to stimulate the economy here.”
Nia Griffith MP is calling on the UK Government to include firm decarbonisation targets for 2030 in the Energy Bill which is currently going through Parliament. The MP is backing amendments to put those targets firmly in the bill.
Speaking up in a parliamentary debate yesterday Nia Griffith said
“Certainty on decarbonisation targets now would be good for the future of the planet, good for manufacturing and good for the consumer. Targets for the decarbonisation of the power sector are vital, not only for that sector, but as a contribution to decarbonisation in other sectors, such as transport, industry and buildings.
It is absolutely vital that we get those targets now. Instead the Government’s position is that no targets will be set until 2016 at the earliest, with no guarantee then as to what those targets might be. Targets are absolutely vital for industry, because we need absolute certainty to encourage investment in low or zero-carbon technologies. We want to get ahead, rather than seeing big investment in green energy components go elsewhere
I am secretary of the all-party group on steel and metal related industry, and we see huge opportunities for the steel industry in the production of turbines for offshore wind farms and of marine current turbines. Without targets, however, we will lose those opportunities to other countries. The steel industry in this country is facing a real crisis in demand, and certainty about decarbonisation targets now would bolster investment in renewable technologies and help that manufacturing to stay in the UK.
If we delay setting decarbonisation targets, that will lead to an increased reliance on gas. We can all understand why we had gas power stations when we had North Sea gas and why we then imported gas to take over from North Sea gas, but can anybody understand why a country would wish to rely so much on imported gas now? First, importing gas contributes to greenhouse gases and the speeding-up of climate change, but secondly, following the oil crisis in the ’70s, surely we must understand the volatility of oil prices and, linked to them, gas prices. In addition, there is increased world demand and the volatility of some nations that supply gas to us. Furthermore, the versatility of gas means that when we do have it, rather than use it to generate electricity, we should be using it to pipe directly to industry or homes.
As for shale gas, it is highly controversial in a densely populated country such as our own, and encouraging more reliance on imported gas looks even more bizarre when we have huge potential here for renewables.
Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research puts paid to the myth that decarbonisation will increase fuel bills. Leaving aside all the disgraceful ways in which the big energy companies exploit the consumer as a result of weak regulation, excessive profits and now, we understand, dubious taxation practices, simply looking at the price of decarbonisation, the conclusions are that increased reliance on electricity generated from gas will cost the consumer more, and that is on conservative estimates of price rises without unpredictable events. So certainty on decarbonisation targets now would be good for the future of the planet, good for manufacturing and good for the consumer”
Nia Griffith MP congratulates Mynyddygarreg Senior Citizens on their grant from the Lottery Awards for All scheme, which will help them participate in a series of cultural visits across South Wales.
Nia Griffith MP joins Llanelli’s Gurkha community and Multicultural Network to celebrate the Gurkha New Year 2070 with colourful costumes and dance, stunning slides of Nepal and plentiful, delicious food.
Nia Griffith MP, Labour’s Shadow Wales Minister reflects on the impact of government policies on women in Wales.
This weekend we mark two important days in the calendar for women. The first is March 8th which is international women’s day, a day traditionally linked to celebrating women’s achievements, and inspiring women to continue the struggle to roll back prejudice and campaign for equal rights. It dates back to 1909, a time when women were fighting for the right to vote and hold public office, as well as starting out on the long struggle for greater equality in the workplace.
Then on Sunday we will also be celebrating Mother’s day, when families try to show some appreciation of the tireless dedication and hard work that mums do, all year round, to make sure everyone else in the family is sorted.
But women in Wales have little to celebrate at the moment, particularly those on lower incomes.
Over the years, women have won better maternity rights, and better recognition that a family needs support at the birth of a child, a time of great joy, but also very often a time of considerable strain on the family finances. But David Cameron and his Tory government are turning the clock back, and taking away support from families just at a time when they need it most, so the 35,000 women who are having a baby this year in Wales will find themselves amongst the worst hit by cuts, which will hit the poorest hardest.
So, for example, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons Library, a family with a new baby with a joint income of £24,000 will be losing £1,300 worth of support for mums and their babies during pregnancy and the first year after a baby’s birth. This is happening because of the scrapping of the health in pregnancy grant, child trust fund and the baby addition to tax credits, together with real -term cuts to statutory maternity pay, sure start maternity grant and the child care element of tax credits. As if that was not enough, at the same time, they, like other families, will see a freeze in their child benefit amounting to a real terms loss of about £400.
As for families whose low income means that they qualify for housing benefit, from 1st April this year, a couple with two children under 10 who have been an allocated a three –bedroomed council house (because most social housing in Wales is three-bedroomed) will from April 1st be paying the bedroom tax – that means that whereas up until now, their rent was paid, cuts mean there will be a shortfall that they will have to make up from other income. And they will have little prospect of finding a two-bedroomed property as they compete with 46% of all social housing tenants of working age in Wales, namely some 40,000 families, who will also be chasing the few smaller properties.
The cuts to maternity pay could see some women struggling to go back to work earlier, if they can sort out childcare arrangements. That is of course always supposing that they still have jobs to go to.
As the cuts in the public sector really begin to kick in, the impact will be particularly great on women. 64% of public sector employees are women, so just on crude numbers, more women than men are likely to be affected by the cuts in the public sector, but when you think that men still hold a disproportionately high number of the top posts, and in many sectors cuts seem to fall disproportionately on the junior ranks, where women are over-represented, the impact on women is even greater. Of course, some posts will be eliminated by early retirement, but already we are beginning to see the effects of a freeze on recruitment, with numbers of young women in Wales who are unemployed rising rapidly. Many of the traditional routes into work for women in the public sector are simply not recruiting. But it is not only the public sector; yet again this week, a familiar town centre firm Thomas Cook has announced widespread closures, and you only have to look up and down the local high street and see the boarded up shops to be reminded of the impact of the government’s economic policies on the retail sector, another area which has traditionally employed high numbers of women.
All this is having an absolutely devastating impact on opportunities for young women in Wales with a massive 19% increase in the past year in the number of women under 24 who are out of work, some 3,000 more than last year.
With women paying for three quarters of government changes to tax and benefit systems, it is hardly coincidental that out of the eight Conservative MPs in Wales, not one is a woman, and Cameron has only four women in his cabinet. No wonder women have been the first to see through his pathetic pretence at modernisation of the Tory party – and seen it is nothing but a sham from a Prime Minister who robs pregnant women and their babies to give a tax cut to millionaires.
Notes to Editor:
From April this year, the Government will restrict Statutory Maternity Pay to a 1 per cent annual increase. By 2015, this real terms cut in maternity pay will effectively be a £180 ‘Mummy Tax’ on working women – and it’s on top of a series of additional cuts being faced by new mums, including:
- Cuts to child benefit for 1.2 million families from January
- Scrapping of the £190 Health in Pregnancy Grant
- Scrapping of the £250 Child Trust Fund voucher
- Frozen child benefit payments for three years
- Restriction of the Sure Start Maternity Grant;
- Scrapping of the baby addition to the Child Tax Credit
- Instead of being uprated by CPI, in the years 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16, SMP will be uprated by just 1 per cent – a real terms cut. Figures verified by the House of Commons Library show that, this year, new mums can expect to receive £53.64 less in Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) than if their entitlement had been uprated using CPI. By 2015, new mums will be receiving £180.11 less in SMP than if SMP had been uprated by CPI.
Local MP Nia Griffith, who was one of the first to challenge Gordon Brown on his abolition of the 10p tax rate, has welcomed Ed Miliband’s announcement that Labour will reintroduce a 10p rate.
“Back in Spring 2007, I was concerned at the budget announcement abolishing the ten pence tax rate, precisely because it would hit those on low and moderate incomes, and it was not long before perceptive local individuals brought me worked examples of what they would lose. There was such excitement at the time about the reduction in standard income tax rate from 22p to 20p, that abolition of the 10p rate didn’t get a look-in. I raised it both in writing with the treasury team, and directly with Gordon Brown in his leadership hustings. The answer I got was that the effects would be mitigated by tax credits. Now certainly the introduction of tax credits was a cost effective way of targeting money at the households most in need, but because they are related to total household income, taking into account what partners earn and if you have children, they did not solve the problem for many people on modest incomes who stood to lose out from the abolition of the 10p tax rate.
But of course, as with so many budget announcements, it was only nearly a year later in February 2008, just weeks away from the implementation of the change that the national media suddenly began to take an interest in the fact that I had been raising the issue with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling at the parliamentary Labour Party meetings. And then when people finally woke up to what was happening, there was uproar, not just from those who would be personally affected, but from Labour Party supporters far and wide who saw it as fundamentally unfair, and contrary to our principles of redistribution, and our core belief that we should ask more from those who earn more and less from those who earn less.
That’s why I am very glad that Ed Miliband has said that we need to admit the mistake and return to a more graduated taxation regime, which is one way of trying to make our society fairer. It needs to be part of a wider strategy of improving basic wage levels, so that employers pay workers a proper wage rather than relying on the state topping up wages with tax credits. To get the local economy going you need to put money back into the pockets of people on low and moderate income who will spend it here, not give tax breaks to millionaires to stash away abroad.”