Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Power of Music

I had a recent meeting with Andy Eagle at Theatr Brycheiniog and we discussed how a scheme that had been set up in Scotland has helped deprived children. The scheme has had a really positive effect and achieved social transformation in the Stirling part of Scotland.

Raploch is a stunning location near to Stirling Castle in Scotland and is overlooked by the Ochil Hills. It is, however, one of Scotland’s most deprived areas with 33% unemployment, serious problems of drug and alcohol abuse and poor health. Only 4 children out of every 100 make it to Higher Education.

The project that has been set up to change the future for Raploch’s young people has meant immersing them in classical music and working with children at nursery and primary school level. It has been based on the Venezuelan El Sistema, a music education social inclusion project. 388 children have been involved and they receive extra tuition in after school clubs and during holidays. Parents questioned said their children’s confidence had improved, reports of better concentration and better discipline, and more focussed attention in school work has shown the scheme is having a great success.

It costs less than half a million pounds a year and its success is something that could be replicated in communities in Wales.

I am very keen that this should be pursued through the good offices of something like Theatre Brycheiniog which is already working with the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra throughout the area of Mid & West Wales.

What a fantastic scheme to help young children and, at the same time, to teach them classical music as well as the playing of an instrument.

I play no instrument and until relatively recently had no great interest in classical music. I think this is a marvellous project.

Friday, 4 March 2011


I was recently contacted by a constituent living in Carmarthenshire who needed cataract operations in both eyes. The constituent had one operation in October 2010 only to be told he was no longer a priority case and that he could not have a second operation.

I wrote to Hywel Dda Health Board about this and in their reply they said;

“Due to overwhelming demand on ophthalmology services, Hywel Dda Health Board has taken the decision not to see all patients referred to secondary care.”

They also said they had difficulties in recruiting medical staff. I am very concerned that Hywel Dda Local Health Board has confirmed to me that it will treat only one cataract per patient.

If a second treatment is required, the cataract will not be treated. This is wrong.

This sort of rationing is something that we can ill afford in Wales. It is not the way to run a national health service.

This clearly demonstrates the Welsh Conservatives are correct to commit to protecting the health budget in line with inflation and to cut waste and not health spending.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


I wrote recently to Carl Sargeant to raise concerns about proposed changes to the Fire & Rescue Services in Mid & West Wales.

This is causing massive concern throughout mid and west Wales. There is particular concern in Newtown, where full-time fire officers are to be replaced by a retained fire service, which would make it extremely difficult to get to incidents in due time. These proposals will not be made subject to public consultation.

It is vital that Minister makes a statement about these proposals to the Assembly.

Friday, 11 February 2011


I recently met with representatives of the South Meirionnydd Older People’s Forum who presented a petition to the Assembly in relation to the Dyfi Bridge.
They were calling for action to be taken to provide a second crossing.

Dyfi Bridge is frequently closed, partly because of heavy traffic causing difficulty on and much damage to the bridge, and partly, and increasingly, because of flooding.

I know personally of the effect that the recent floods have had on that bridge.

Later that day in the Chamber I called on the Transport Minister to make a statement on the important issue of the need for a new bridge across the Dyfi at Machynlleth.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


I am increasingly concerned about the lack of data kept by the NHS to assist the scrutiny of health services in Wales.

In answers to written questions I have been told that the data are not available to show how much is being spent on dementia-related illnesses in Wales and we cannot find out the amount spent per patient on cancer care, stroke care, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.

The Nuffield Trust has stated that there is a concern across all of the devolved administrations about the quality and quantity of available data.

It certainly makes a difference when we are trying to scrutinise the health service and its performance in the way that everyone wants to see to ensure that we get the best from our excellent staff and the health service.

The Assembly Government needs to address this issue because it makes a difference to the performance of the health service and to the scrutiny that we as Assembly Members can give it.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


The Welsh Conservatives remain the only Party in Wales committed to ringfencing spending on health.

Labour and Plaid Cymru have now confirmed they intend to cut the health budget by almost £900 million over the next three years.

I believe the NHS in Wales is our number one priority.

If you look at some of the problems we currently face, such as scandalously bad stroke services, the worst preforming ambulance service in the UK and patchy palliative care services, we cannot afford not to protect the health budget.

Wales is already falling behind in key health outcomes compared to those in England.

In our manifesto we will set out the significant waste we have uncovered in the Assembly Government’s budgets.

The people of Wales will be able to see for themselves that our commitments are affordable.

Labour and Plaid risk turning Wales into the sick man of the UK.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I spoke today in the National Assembly to affirm on a cross-party basis the support of all four parties for S4C and that we value the creative industries in Wales.

It is natural that concerns have been expressed about the changes announced to S4C’s funding arrangements. S4C was, after all, set up by Lord Wyn Roberts of Conwy. We cherish it.

All parties – in the wider sense of the word – are clear that independence for S4C is crucial.

Everyone can also agree that a sustainable funding stream is necessary. And there is still a discussion to be had about what happens after 2013/2014.

I believe it is incumbent on elected members of the National Assembly to embrace our responsibility for Welsh affairs.

I believe there must be a role for the National Assembly to somehow bring experience and knowledge to bear in the debate about the future of Welsh broadcasting.

The BBC Trust and S4C Authority will shortly begin their discussions on governance.

The Chair of the BBC Trust said last week he would like to “move quickly” to settle the future of the existing partnership.

S4C has already acknowledged – in A Process of Renewal - that “comprehensive reconsideration and a renewal of the channel’s mission and operation” is due.

This will allow the channel to adapt itself and remain independent.