A further six people died over the weekend after a boat carrying migrants sank in the English Channel. This tragic loss of life is sadly another reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in small boats – and how vital it is that we do everything possible to break the people smugglers’ business model and tackle illegal migration. More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Channel on small boats in the last five years, which is placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system. It is unfair that £6m of taxpayers’ money is being spent every day on hotels for asylum seekers, so the UK Government was absolutely correct to look at cheaper alternatives. Barges play an important role in this and criticism of offshore accommodation is quite frankly disappointing. Huge effort is being made – at great expense - to look after every person who comes to the UK illegally in a civilised, humane and kind fashion. Evacuating the Bibby Stockholm barge as a precaution after low level traces of Legionella bacteria were found in the on-board water systems shows we will always put safety first. But we cannot have the open-door immigration policy which Labour is calling for. I fully support the government’s policy of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda and remain disappointed that this is still subject to legal challenge.
Labour-run Monmouthshire County Council finally appears to have woken up to the great concerns being raised in Monmouth about the closure of the Wye Bridge for up to five weeks. Obviously, I think we all accept the fact that major resurfacing work needs to be done. But it is going to be devastating for businesses and residents, particularly those based on the Wyesham side. There must be a way of allowing traffic though at certain times during the day and I will continue to press the council on this key local issue.
The agricultural show season is in full swing, with Chepstow Show having returned to Chepstow Racecourse on Saturday. If you missed it, there is still plenty of time to enjoy Monmouthshire Show on Sunday 20 August and Usk Show on Saturday 9 September. These shows are not just for the farming community; they are a great family day out for the thousands of people who live in neighbouring towns and offer something for everyone. In the past, I have met people from all over the world attending our agricultural shows. These annual local celebrations of livestock and produce are a fantastic opportunity to display the very best of the beautiful Welsh countryside and rural way of life.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 16 August 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 17 August 2023*