Thursday, 27 August 2009

Investment in Super Trains

Whilst welcoming the investment that Network Rail is making in infrastructure to link London to Glasgow and Edinburgh via the Midlands and the North West of England, I am extremely disappointed that there is not a similar commitment to Wales.

I have previously lobbied Westminster, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on the importance of a fast link from Swansea and Cardiff to Paddington. This would be an extremely ‘green’ investment and would help promote the economy of Wales whilst encouraging people to use the train service rather than cars.

I am seeking to find out what the Assembly Government has been doing (if anything) on this and have written to Lord Adonis as well as to the First Minister and Deputy First Minster.

The deafening silence from the Assembly Government on this issue is worrying to say the least.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Burry Port Brass Band and Gaddafi

The Burry Port Brass Band is one of the best in the world. My personal view is that the band should not be playing at Colonel Gaddafi's celebrations for his 40 years in power. It is ultimately, of course, a matter for them but given the comments of the Prime Minister, though tardy and perhaps dragged out of him, he is right in saying that the reception given to Abdul Baset Ali al-Magrahi upon his return to Libya was repulsive. Due to those scenes the Duke of York will not be attending the celebrations and Britain is clearly, at official level, boycotting them.

I would hope that the brass band, given its standing and skill, will be called on to play at significant celebrations in our own country – perhaps for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, now fast approaching. My view is that they should not be playing in Tripoli.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Chartermark Cwmni Cymru

We are currently looking at the attractive possibility of providing business rate relief to those businesses that satisfy some or all of a range of requirements that contribute to well being and economic performance.

These include:--

Green credentials such as using or producing renewable energy
Providing creche facilities or access to them for staff,
Providing flexi-time working which would, for example, help carers seeking employment,
Helping those who wish to use the Welsh language, and the
Provision of time off for staff who wish to engage in voluntary activity
There may well be further desiderata that can be added to the list The reduction in the level of business rates would clearly depend on how many of the criteria were satisfied, recognising that some may not be feasible for all businesses.
We are obviously studying ways of empolying these same criteria in the public sector.

Where possible a nudge is better than a bludgeon!

Welsh University Funding

I feared that financial cuts from the Labour/Plaid Welsh Assembly Government would lead to cuts in higher education in Wales. We can ill afford these.

At present we have excellent Universities in Wales. There is a serious danger that this position will not be maintained. There is already a massive funding gap in comparison with both England and Scotland. The higher education market is a competitive one and feeds through into skills and therefore economic performance.

This is not an area for cutbacks, the government is wrong.

Lockerbie Bomber

The Scottish Nationalist Government at Holyrood has got the release of Ali al-Megrahi seriously wrong. If he were to be released it should certainly have been to a hospital in Scotland. I cannot think what possessed the Scottish Justice Minister in reaching this dreadful decision. It sends out all the wrong messages and was predictably used by Libya in a farcical public relations exercise in Tripoli.

Great Weekend

What a brilliant weekend staying with friends and managing some long country walks punctuated by pub meals and a great cricket victory in the final test at the Oval.

The cricket victory was wonderfully set up after an extremely volatile series of matches, but the outstanding features of this final test for me were Stuart Broad’s emergence (deservedly Man of the Match) and Andrew Strauss’ superb captaincy. One of our group was actually an Australian. He took the result remarkably well but has threatened revenge in the next series!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Pembrokeshire Show

Congratulations to Malcolm and Jean Lewis on a very successful Pembrokeshire Show. It was good to catch up too with Angela and Paul, as well as Stephen Crabb.

The Pembrokeshire Show is a vital part of Pembrokeshire life, and it is good to see the Show was such a success, and to have the opportunity to tour the showground.

Congratulations to all concerned.

Aberystwyth Seafront

Aberystwyth Seafront Good to hear from Council officials that plans are afoot to seek funding from a variety of bodies, including National Heritage Fund funding, and possibly convergence funding for work on Aberystwyth seafront. The view of Cardigan Bay in Aberystwyth is iconic and when people think of Aberystwyth they inevitably think of the marvellous sweep of the bay. Some refurbishment work is needed to ensure that we make the most of this, both for local residents (of whom I am one) and realise the tourist potential – good news!

Newbridge on Wye Show

Great that after being rained off last year the weather for Newbridge on Wye Show was fine throughout the day, despite meteorological predictions to the contrary.

Congratulations to the President of the Show, Gwilym Williams.

The show was attended by Councillors, and Suzy Davies and I took the opportunity to meet with farmers and visitors to the show during a busy programme of constituency activity during the day.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Royal British Legion - A moral obligation

I am extremely disappointed by the Royal British Legion again today. I have tried for some weeks to get a meeting together to discuss the future or the lack thereof for Crosfield House in Rhayader, the only RBL care home in Wales!

The background is that over the past couple of years the Royal British Legion has thought about shutting the care home but there has always been a last minute reprieve. After what seemed a settlement for the future of the home – they issued this statement out of the blue: 'reluctantly informed staff and residents of Crosfield House that its Board of Trustees has decided that options are explored to sell the home'.

No one was more shocked by this than I, I have had several meetings which ended in a promise to retain the home to the delight of residents, the local community and politicians.

The onus is now on The Royal British Legion to find a suitable buyer for Crosfield House; someone who will ensure the future of care provision at this facility. The residents and staff at Crosfield need some assurance and The Royal British Legion must see it as their moral obligation to provide this.

It seems strange that I consider it necessary to remind an organisation like the Royal British Legion of their moral obligation… but meeting after meeting has been refused. I even cleared a day in the diary and offered to meet them at their HQ in London. Frustrated beyond belief! I wonder why the reluctance?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi

Predictably the Burmese Junta has fixed the trial against Aung San Suu Kyi placing her under further house arrest and ensuring that she won’t be able to participate in next year’s elections. Clearly these elections will be a total sham. The world knows that if she were permitted to campaign and participate in these elections she would achieve the sort of endorsement that ‘tin pot’ dictators can only organise by fixing the system.

Ultimately, of course, democracy will win through in Burma and it will be in no small part because of this brave, dignified, gracious woman leader.

Karen Robson

Well done to Karen Robson. She was a first class Assembly candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth and will now be fighting Cardiff Central in the general election.

Cardiff Central is a seat where we have been improving our performance recently, and historically a constituency where we have done extremely well.

We now have our complement of candidates for the general for the Cardiff seats, and a strong field it is too:-

Jonathan Evans in Cardiff North, my friend and colleague who has, of course, previously served in Brecon & Radnorshire, and has led our MEPs in Europe;
Simon Hoare in Cardiff South and Penarth
Angela Jones-Evans in Cardiff West

Our capital city could not be better served than a clean sweep of Conservative victories in the general.

The Bala Eisteddfod

I can’t remember a better Eisteddfod than this one. It has been very well organised and it is very welcoming.

The Welsh Conservative Party had a very good position on the Maes too. Well done to Mair and Jack Reeves and the Dwyfor Meirionnydd Association for their help, and to Lisa Francis who was there throughout. Paul Davies AM also did a very good job co-ordinating the presence of Assembly Members for the Eisteddfod, and there was a very good buzz about the Maes.

It was good to see Wyn Roberts here too looking very youthful and clearly enjoying himself.

The Welsh language and Welsh culture are central to Welsh nationhood.

Increasingly I become convinced that the appropriate place for deciding matters relating to the Welsh language should be the National Assembly for Wales. It is hard to see any other logical position regarding this. There may well be (and are) disagreements about what language rights should exist and how the Welsh language is promoted and cherished but the case for placing the decision on this in the National Assembly in Cardiff seems to me to be irrefutable.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Art of Referring

I called into Aberystwyth Library today to pick up a book on "The Art of Refereeing". A friend of mine in the Assembly insists it is in order for the referee to try and kick the ball in the winning side's net.

I cannot believe it. Sure enough book concludes that this is not in order.