After the death of the veteran MP and Government Whip Sir Ray Powell, I was elected to the Parliamentary seat of Ogmore in the South Wales Valleys (a Labour seat since 1918) in the by-election of 14th February 2002. I was honoured to be re-elected to serve Ogmore in the general elections of May 2005, 2010 and 2015. In 2010, for the first time ever, Ogmore had the distinction of being the largest parliamentary majority of any party and constituency in Wales.
From when I was elected in 2002, and until I stood down in 2016, I worked hard in Ogmore and Parliament on a range of issues that affect both my home of Wales and the UK in general. During my time in the House of Commons, I made the most of opportunities to speak in the Chamber, allowing me to bring attention to many pressing issues. These included topics as varied as: international trade union rights; manufacturing and energy intensive industries, such as steel; coal compensation; compulsory voting; anti-social behaviour; renewable energy and climate change; environmental issues; social justice; poverty and inequality and international development.
In my fourteen years in Parliament I had the privilege of serving as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions, Northern Ireland and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; as the Government Whip for Wales; the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales; and as an Environment Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As a Backbench MP and as a Minister, I campaigned on many issues as diverse as the modernisation of rail lines into Wales; modernising Parliament; Police Reform; fireworks safety legislation; flood protection; access to the countryside and coast and marine protection.
Between October 2010 and October 2011 I served as Shadow Energy Minister (where I fronted the Labour campaign on the protection of the Feed-In Tariff for solar power). I was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Food, Farming and Rural Affairs in October 2011, holding the position till May 2015. In this role, I worked hard – with the support of Labour colleagues – to hold the Tory-led Government to account on its food policy, farming and rural affairs, including extending the availability of broadband. Following the general election in May 2015 it was a privilege to be elected as the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, a position I held till 2016.
In addition, I spent much of my time working with other MPs on issues important to my constituents, and to people across South Wales. I was a member of various All Party Parliamentary Groups – including the All Party Groups for Citizens Advice, Coalfield Communities, Energy Intensive Industries, Manufacturing, Maritime and Ports, Steel and Metal Related Industry, Children in Wales, Waterways, Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care, Biodiversity, Beef & Lamb, Pig & Poultry – I worked hard to highlight and address the issues facing Ogmore and South Wales. All Party Groups also provided me with the perfect opportunity to showcase the successes we have here in Ogmore and right across South Wales, including in aerospace engineering, car manufacturing, steelmaking, and healthcare products.
During my time in Parliament I also chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Recognition of Munitions Workers. ‘Munitioneers’ flooded to South Wales – and settled into large parts of Ogmore and neighbouring constituencies – during the Second World War to work at the Welsh Arsenal in Bridgend to supply our fighting troops with weaponry and ammunition; but their efforts – and of those all working in Royal Ordnance Factories across the UK – are yet to be officially recognised and the All Party Group worked hard to put that right.