Zero Hours Contracts

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): In welcoming the new Minister to his post, may I suggest that, instead of trying to do an impression of a jumped-up rottweiler, he should try to understand and recognise the reality of the miserable state of employment for far too many workers in Wales, whether they are on zero-hours contracts, are among the 150,000 who are underemployed and want to work more hours but cannot, or are among the 50,000 people who are being shoved off disability benefits and into a world of work that is mean, difficult and hard?

Alun Cairns: The abuse of zero-hours contracts is an important issue and that is why this Government are taking action to ban them. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned people in part-time employment. Only 19% of part-time employees are looking for full-time work. We will take strong action against those employers that are abusing zero-hours contracts, but zero-hours contracts are important to many people, such as carers, to encourage and facilitate their path back to the workplace.

Hain Celebrates 50 Years of Wales Office

Neath MP and former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain joined with other past Secretaries of State to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wales Office.

Mr Hain, one of only three former Secretaries of State to hold the position more than once, recalled of his time in the Wales Office, ‘I am very proud of my achievements in Gwydyr House from the securing of free bus travel for pensioners, to developing a new policy bringing together post 16 schooling, further education and training under one umbrella and taking through the far reaching 2006 Government of Wales Act which put full legislating powers on the statute book.’

Devolution Of Fiscal Responsibility

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is it not the case that people in Wales would be buying a pig in a poke if income tax were devolved without a proper floor being put underneath the Barnett formula? The failure to address that issue has resulted in Wales being short-changed, so if income tax were devolved without the Barnett formula being addressed, it would be a bad outcome for Wales.

Mr Jones: I fear that the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked the arrangements that we put in place with the Welsh Government in October 2012, which ensure that if there is any danger of convergence, then the issue will be resolved. I believe that we should all be ambitious for Wales, and we should indeed be looking for a lower rate of income tax in Wales to give Wales the competitive advantage that it needs.

Hain Supports Food bank Drive with Local Shoppers

Neath MP and former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain MP joined in with Foodbank at an event hosted by Tesco’s Neath Abbey to support foodbanks within the constituency.

The food banks act as a temporary measure for local people who are in desperate need of help, many of whom have been forced to choose between heating and eating.

However, since their rise, the support given to them by Neath residents has been remarkable.

Mr Hain said: “It is a fantastic tribute to the decency of local shoppers that they are so generous with contributions to the Tesco collection for Neath Foodbank.”

“It’s also good that Tesco top up the donations by another third because I know that hundreds of people rely each week on Neath foodbank to feed themselves.’


David Williamson: Peter Hain was a big beast from Wales – will Westminster see his like again?

By David Williamson 

The Neath MP has never known a quiet life – and he is not about to retreat from the public stage now.

There was an echo of Tony Benn when Peter Hain last week announced he was to leave the House of Commons where he has served as MP for Neath since 1991.

Just as the late Labour left-winger announced his own departure from parliament on the grounds he planned to “spend more time on politics”, Mr Hain made it very clear that he has no intention of stepping off the public stage. This is not a bowing-out act but the transition to a new act.

Using Twitter, he said he was “moving on to remain active in politics, campaigning for justice, freedom, equality, democracy”.

This will not be the second act in 64-year-old Mr Hain’s career but at least the third. As the 19-year-old chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour he sprang to national attention as a vociferous anti-apartheid campaigner who disrupted the all-white Springbok rugby tour of Britain. The cancellation of that year’s cricket tour was a major victory which cemented his reputation as a young South African ready to rock the establishment.

Mr Hain has never displayed any inclination towards a quiet life, although that was never an option for him.

His parents received “banning orders” from the South African regime as a result of their anti-apartheid activities and took the family to Britain only when it became impossible to earn a living in their homeland. Due to his own campaigning, Mr Hain was sent a letter bomb and the UK Government put him under surveillance.

He was a founder member of the Anti-Nazi League in 1977, a move which cemented his status as an enemy of the British far right. The UK had no shortage of radical left-wing parties at this time but Mr Hain switched his allegiance from the Young Liberals, where he had been president, to Labour.

A job as head of research at the Union of Communication Workers immersed him in the world of Britain’s trade unions and his victory in the 1991 Neath by-election ensured he would put down roots in Labour’s Welsh heartlands. Many of Labour’s rising stars gravitated to seats in the former industrial heartlands at this time but the move proved particularly meaningful for Mr Hain, who has embraced a political identity as a “libertarian socialist”.

In his statement last week he made it clear we should not expect to see a “for sale” sign anytime soon at his Aberdulais home.

He wrote of his constituents: “They warmly welcomed me as an outsider, and members of my family subsequently moved to the Neath Valley where I will remain living after I have stepped down and continue to support Labour in our mission to build a better Neath.”

In Government, he would serve as Welsh Secretary, play a central role in securing a Yes vote in the 1997 Assembly referendum and lay the legislative foundation for the 2011 public vote on primary law-making powers.

His wife, Elizabeth Haywood, is one of the highest-profile figures in Wales’ business community as a former chair of CBI Wales and a Welsh Woman of the Year winner.

Critics may wish more powers had come the Assembly’s way while he was at the helm, and the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition came the closest to splitting in 2009 when a joint-statement by Mr Hain and First Minister Rhodri Morgan signalled their party would not start consulting on the All Wales Convention’s referendum recommendations until after the 2010 election. Ahead of the 2007 election he insisted there was “no prospect” of Labour doing a deal with Plaid and in February 2011 he urged his party to “kick the nationalists out of government”.

Nevertheless, Mr Hain was on the stage at the Welsh College of Music and Drama that night in 1997 when the victory for the Yes campaign was announced. He speaks with pride of delivering devolution and – from his perspective as a Labour MP with Scots about to vote on independence in less than 100 days – he may well feel he was justified in his concerns about the entry of nationalists to government.

But one of the most striking aspects of his parliamentary career is how he was both intimately involved in Wales’s constitutional evolution and yet played a role on the frontline of Westminster politics.

Today, ambitious young Welsh politicians face the choice between fighting for a seat in an Assembly in which they will not have a say on international affairs, defence and, for the time being, welfare, or seeking to enter Westminster where they will not be able to vote on Wales’ health or education policies. It is interesting to ask where Aneurin Bevan would go if he was starting out today.

As a foreign minister and later a Work & Pensions Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Hain was a big beast from Wales. When he brought Sinn Fein and the DUP together in government jaws dropped around the world – his intimate knowledge of a nation other than England can only have helped him in this role.

UK politics will be diminished if we do not see his like again but the man himself is not preparing to escape the spotlight. Rather, a new adventure may be about to begin.

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