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.
09.01.16 - Use proceeds of crime to help prevent crime, says Islwyn MP. read more
09.12.16 - Let’s get Brexit right. read more
06.12.16 - ‘War widows deserve pension justice’ says Islwyn MP. read more
02.12.16 - ‘Government should be ashamed over food bank use’ says Islwyn MP. read more
24.11.16 - Islwyn MP hits out at ‘failure’ budget. read more
18.11.16 - Islwyn MP throws his support behind boundary review amendment Bill. read more
18.11.16 - Islwyn MP calls on constituents to help ‘spread the warmth. read more
16.11.16 - Islwyn MP calls out ‘unjust’ and ‘disproportionate’ county court judgements and urges reform. read more
11.11.16 - Islwyn MP pays tribute to inspirational Youth Summit. read more
04.11.16 - Islwyn MP demands government answers for financial services. read more
02.11.16 - Islwyn MP celebrates contribution of health and social care workers. read more
27.10.16 - Islwyn MP slams boundary proposals at hearing. read more
26.10.16 - Islwyn MP calls on government to act on overseas territories’ secrecy. read more
25.10.16 - Islwyn MP says Wales needs trade ambassador and industrial strategy. read more
19.10.16 - ‘Think differently about money’ says Islwyn MP. read more
18.10.16 - ‘Government’s draft BBC charter and agreement is rushed’ says Islwyn MP. read more
13.10.16 - Islwyn MP encourages constituents to help shape arthritis research. read more
12.10.16 - ‘There is no place in Wales for hate’ says Islwyn MP. read more
12.10.16 - ‘There is no place in Wales for hate’ says Islwyn MP. read more
04.10.16 - Islwyn is a great place for business, says Islwyn MP. read more
30.09.16 - ‘Everyone deserves clean air’ says Islwyn MP. read more
29.09.16 - ‘Mary Berry has competition from Cwmcarn Pensioners’ says Islwyn MP. read more
29.09.16 - ‘Nominate environmental champions for an award’ says Islwyn MP. read more
27.09.16 - ‘Make simple changes to keep warm this autumn and winter’, says Islwyn MP. read more
27.09.16 - ‘Look out for the signs of prostate cancer’ says Islwyn MP. read more
26.09.16 - Islwyn MP celebrates contribution made by environmental groups. read more
23.09.16 - Islwyn MP says more should be done towards ‘rehabilitation revolution’. read more
21.09.16 - Islwyn MP invites local students to show funny side for competition read more
21.09.16 - Islwyn MP invites local politics students to enter video competition. read more
20.09.16 - ‘Seek advice to avoid problem gambling consequences’, says Islwyn MP. read more
16.09.16 - Islwyn MP congratulates ILS students for community project read more
14.09.16 - Islwyn MP urges Post Office action to prevent closures read more
12.09.16 - Islwyn MP pledges to fight for the community after boundary proposals read more
09.09.16 - Islwyn MP backs campaign to bring back local post office read more
08.09.16 - Islwyn MP says local charities should apply for funding boost read more
07.09.16 - Islwyn MP welcomes grant advice for artists read more
05.09.16 - ‘Read a book to feed your imagination and learn something new’ says Islwyn MP read more