As someone born and raised in the South Wales valleys, it is an honour to be elected to represent the community of Islwyn in Parliament.
I was brought up in Wattstown, a small village in the Rhondda Fach. I attended Aberllechau Primary School and Porth County Comprehensive School before studying for my ‘A’ Levels at Pontypridd College. Later, I graduated from Trinity College, Carmarthen with a history degree, a subject I am still very much interested in.
After university, like other members of my family, I worked in betting shops spending three years with Jack Brown Bookmakers.
From there, I became a Personal Account Manager with Lloyds TSB before moving on again. First for a short stint at the University of Glamorgan and then again in 2004 when I was appointed an Area Secretary with the Union of Finance staff, based in Cheltenham.
Representing finance workers gave me a sense of helping people and a realisation that collective action could really make a difference as we managed to save a number of jobs from being relocated to call centres overseas.
Following this, I felt immensely proud to have worked for Don Touhig, my predecessor as MP for Islwyn, as a parliamentary researcher. I look back on my years working with Don as a real master class in how to be an MP and made some great friends.
My interest in politics began when I was given a book about JFK, when I was 13. This eventually led to me joining the Labour Party at 15 and since then I have held positions at every level of the party, from Youth Officer to Ward Secretary. I stood for my first Council seat at the age of 21.
Growing up in the Thatcher years and seeing the devastation as family and friends lost their jobs I felt politics was the best way of bringing about change.
In April 2004, I was selected as the Labour candidate in Cheltenham for the following year’s General Election. On Election Day, I held the vote up on a very bad night for Labour. I thoroughly enjoyed being on the campaign trail, meeting so many people and hearing their stories. This opportunity reaffirmed to me that politics can really make a difference.
When Don Touhig decided to stand down, I had the privilege of replacing him as the Labour candidate for the General Election in 2010. It meant a lot to be selected as Don’s replacement in a constituency I knew so well through my work over the years.
I was elected as the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Islwyn on May 6th with a majority of 12,215.
My maiden speech focused on pay day lending. Loan sharks and providers of high interest credit have been a sad feature of Valleys communities for many years. It is my belief that everyone should have access to affordable financial services. That is why I have continued this campaign throughout my time as a Member of Parliament and in March 2012 I tabled a 10 minute rule bill calling for the introduction of legislation to tackle the problem of financial exclusion.
I was also pleased to discover that I was the first person to raise the issue of Inflammatory Bowel Disease when I led a Westminster Hall debate on employment opportunities for people with the illness. I called for the debate after being shocked to learn just how many people suffer in silence; too embarrassed or afraid to speak openly about a condition which affects every aspect of their day to day life.
Another issue I have been heavily involved in is the campaign against fuel poverty. As energy prices rocketed and more and more of my constituents faced the heartbreaking choice between heating and eating I called for a Westminster Hall debate on fuel poverty.
To see my latest questions and speeches please click on the In Parliament page.
The Islwyn Work Experience Programme
Since becoming the Member of Parliament for Islwyn in 2010, my major concern has been youth unemployment.
To me, it is a tragedy when someone becomes unemployed. Skills go to waste and society loses out. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to develop their talents to the fullest.
However, whenever I ask any young person about the barriers to getting a job the answer often seems to be the same – a lack of experience.
Without work experience it is difficult for young people to get on the job ladder. That is why I have teamed up with local employers from across the constituency to launch the Islwyn Work Experience Programme.
The scheme offers 18-24 year olds the opportunity to gain experience by undertaking an 8 week placement with a local employer.
Not only will this provide a young person with practical experience of a workplace but it will have no impact on their Jobs Seekers Allowance – enabling them to continue to look for permanent work.
While work experience can never be a substitute for a full time job, the programme seeks to ensure that young people will be able to get a feel of the world of work.
For more information on the scheme, contact my constituency office on 01495 231 990
Although I enjoy politics I believe it is important to have outside interests. In my spare time, I enjoy running. You can read more about this by clicking here
Further to this, I enjoy reading as well as being an avid sports fan.
18.07.14 - Newbridge hosts Zimbabwe arts and crafts market. read more
18.07.14 - Islwyn MP opens Markham Flower Festival. read more
18.07.14 - Islwyn MP asks ‘which number are you? read more
15.07.14 - Islwyn MP joins Blackwood Brownies at Big Brownie Birthday bash. read more
02.07.14 - Women in work deserve better’ says Islwyn MP. read more
02.07.14 - Islwyn MP joined the launch of the first dementia-friendly parliament in the world. read more
02.07.14 - Islwyn MP warns posties to watch their fingers. read more
25.06.14 - Islwyn MP congratulates the credit union on its 50th anniversary. read more
24.06.14 - Islwyn MP says ‘People with Motor Neurone Disease have a voice. read more
18.06.14 - Islwyn MP teams up with former actor to premier disability hate crime video. read more
10.06.14 - Islwyn MP wishes constituent happy 100th birthday. read more
10.06.14 - Islwyn MP opens Blackwood art group’s debut exhibition. read more
23.05.14 - Other schools should follow Waunfawr Primary’s example. read more
19.05.14 - Islwyn MP hosts Blackwood business breakfast with Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. read more
12.05.14 - Islwyn MP has warned that more advice needs to be given to cancer patients on welfare benefits. read more
08.05.14 - Islwyn MP congratulates new Caerphilly Council Leader. read more
08.05.14 - Islwyn MP wishes Risca United AFC all the best for promotion push. read more
07.05.14 - Islwyn MP congratulates apprentices on sailing to success. read more
06.05.14 - Chris Evans MP’s ‘money lessons’ plan for local schools. read more
25.04.14 - Islwyn MP pays tribute to Mayor as patron of the arts. read more
25.04.14 - Islwyn MP pays tribute to outgoing Council Leader Harry Andrews. read more
25.04.14 - Islwyn MP congratulates new Councillor for Blackwood. read more
11.04.14 - Islwyn MP supports call for armed forces credit union. read more