Prior to entering politics, I was a continental lorry driver and worked alongside my father to manage the family haulage business. I still have many friends in the industry who are understandably concerned about the shortage of trained HGV drivers. Delivery drivers are the backbone of our country and without them, things quickly grind to a halt. It occurred to me that there must be HGV licence holders in prison and as an MP, I have long championed the idea of using this untapped resource to plug the gap. I went to see several ministers at the Ministry of Justice to discuss how we could help prisoners undergo training for employment in the haulage industry. HMP Prescoed piloted a scheme which led to several men gaining placements with local transport companies and going straight into secure work as HGV drivers upon release. Fast forward a few years and I was back at Prescoed to hear about the New Futures Network being run by HM Prison and Probation Service. Around 50,000 people are released from prison in England and Wales each year. Many worked successfully before going to prison and they deserve to be given a second chance after making a mistake. New Futures Network connects prisons with employers to help businesses fill job vacancies from a diverse talent pool of prison leavers who have a range of backgrounds and life experiences. This fantastic initiative is making a real difference to the lives of prisoners and their families and is good for society. I joined employers from the retail and logistics industries at Prescoed for what was essentially a jobs fair. Prisoners who are due for release or eligible for release on temporary licence were able to attend numerous stalls and discuss job opportunities directly with employers. I was delighted to see the haulage industry there, including Llangybi-based Arthur Brothers Transport Ltd - which was one of the first companies involved in recruiting prisoners. I had a long chat with Chris Arthur, whose father used to do business with my father 30 years ago when they were transporting brake parts across Europe. Chris put me through my paces on a lorry simulator, which was great fun! He said I hadn’t lost my HGV skills but could do with brushing up a bit! I look back on my time behind the wheel with nothing but fond memories and would recommend it in a heartbeat. As an ex-trucker, it gives me a great sense of pride to know haulage companies are working alongside prisons to help give people a new start in life in a brilliant and worthwhile industry.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 02 August 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 03 August 2023*