Friday, 30 October 2009

Fewer Polling Stations Closing Earlier

The latest crazy ideas from government in an action plan drafted by the Ministry of Justice for the Treasury (for the Treasury, of course, says it all) are proposals to reduce the number of polling stations and to cut voting hours. Quite how this squares with the oft expressed wish to increase democratic engagement and encourage more people to vote is a matter for conjecture.

What is obvious is that older people, and people in remote areas of the country, will find it more and more difficult to cast their votes in person.

In addition, of course, it is not exactly a green measure to encourage people who may, for understandable reasons, want to vote in person to undertake longer and longer car journeys to get to polling stations.

One more reason (as if such were needed) that this government should go and go quickly.

The Hain Settlement – Constitutional Barnett Formula

I am not alone, I know, in finding the Secretary of State’s stance on the LCO system astounding. The LCO construct, which was not recommended by the Richard Commission, was a Heath-Robinson (Hain-Morgan) construct to get the Labour Party out of a hole.

Reading the Secretary of State’s views now, and listening to his claims, one could be forgiven for believing that elements within the Labour Party see this as a sort of constitutional Barnett formula to be with us for many a year. Alas the Barnett formula without the rough justice and simplicity that that formula at least offers.

Originally we were sold this ‘pup’ as an interim arrangement. Now it seems that some arrangements are more interim than others.

Whilst Wales certainly faces key challenges, not least because of the economic mess that exists and the challenge to our country and our planet from climate change, it is clear that the Labour Party is changing its stance on the LCO system, or is it just a matter of parental pride on the part of the Secretary of State?


Many people in Ceredigion will be shocked to hear that plans for Wales’ largest wind farm will be considered by a Quango rather than by democratically elected politicians.

The Bristol based Infrastructure Planning Commission will decide on all major planning applications in England and Wales from 1 March 2010.

This includes large wind farms with a generating capacity of over 50 megawatts. The planned wind farm at Nant-y-Moch, near Aberystwyth, has up to 80 turbines generating between 140 and 170 megawatts.

This controversial proposal has already attracted opposition from local people who believe that Ceredigion already has more than its fair share of wind farms and who object to seeing even more of the county covered by these large industrial turbines.

And yet the final decision will be taken by unaccountable bureaucrats. This cannot be right.

I believe the final say over such projects should lie with the National Assembly for Wales, with democratically elected Assembly Members being able to consider all the evidence, come to a balanced decision and be accountable to the people for their actions.

I also believe we need to look at other sources of green energy-solar, tidal and hydro, as well as nuclear (with proper safeguards).

This is the way forward.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Promotion of Retail Trade

Yesterday I met with the Retail Trade Consortium. It was a useful meeting covering a wide range of issues from the levy on single use carrier bags, which they are firmly opposed to and which I strongly support, and the revitalisation of High Streets and town centres – which we both strongly support.

Some interesting ideas on helping to revitalise our town centres include specialist festivals, improved public transport, cleaner footpaths, alcohol control, promotion of independent traders, graffiti hit squads, information officers (perhaps only appropriate in the larger towns) as well, of course, as business rate relief. The last item we have already announced a policy and been pushing the Welsh Government to a position where at least they have provided some measure of relief in relation to the revaluation that takes effect next April, though not nearly enough.
The other policies are likely to be central to our manifesto for the 2011 Assembly elections.

Urgent need for cliff safety review

A 14 year-old boy from Swansea has become the latest person to fall whilst walking on Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth. Thankfully he escaped unhurt after plunging 100 feet and landing on a ledge.

I first called for a review of safety on these cliffs in January 2005 after two separate incidents caused concern. I have renewed my call on a regular basis, the latest being in September this year following an open verdict being recorded by the coroner on the death of a student who fell from the cliffs in August 2008.

I wrote to Ceredigion County Council on 10 September on this issue but still await a full reply,
This latest incident confirms my belief that safety barriers and low level lighting need to be installed urgently to protect the public walking on Constitution Hill.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Poll predicts big Conservative gains in Wales

A YouGov poll published in the Western Mail today suggests the Welsh Conservatives are on track to win no fewer than twelve seats in Wales at the next General Election.

It also suggests that Labour would achieve its worst share of the vote in Wales since 1918.

The figures are Labour 34% Conservative 31% Plaid Cymru 15% and Liberal Democrats 12% with others on 7%.

Whilst these figures are encouraging, there is no room for complacency. The Conservatives still have to achieve a bigger swing and win more seats than any Party has done since 1945 to form a government.

We are going to have to work hard right up to polling day and that is exactly what we intend to do.

Tony Hawks

I am a great Tony Hawks fan. I enjoy his appearances on radio and television and his books, 'Touring -Ireland with a fridge' and 'Playing the Moldovan Football team at Tennis' .The. hitchhiking tour around Ireland as the result of a drunken bet is a great life affirming adventure. My copy of the book was worn and dog eared from much use and constant lendings when a friend from Ireland refused to believe that anybody could possibly tow a fridge around her native island. She now has custody of the tome which she enjoyed it enormously.

Imagine my great pleasure and surprise when a friend told me he had secured five tickets for the preview of the film and did I wish to see it. I did.

Tony Hawks playing himself and a script loyal to the original text made the film an excellent accompaniment to the film. I recommend it.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I welcome the news that charities and consumer groups in Wales have combined to fight fuel poverty.

It is estimated that one in four Welsh households, some 320,000 homes, experience fuel poverty, meaning they have to spend 10% or more of their income on heating.

One of the ways we can tackle this problem is by greater energy efficiency.

I recently unveiled our plans to cut carbon emissions, combat fuel poverty and create hundreds of “green” jobs by fitting loft and cavity wall insulation to homes across Wales.

It is estimated there are currently 250,000 homes in Wales with unfilled cavity walls and a further 3,000 with completely un-insulated lofts.

By acting locally we can make a difference globally when it comes to climate change.


Elin Jones has announced in a Ministerial Statement that she intends to totally ban the use of Electronic Training Devices in Wales.

In her original consultation she announced that she was minded to allow exceptions to the ban on the use of such devices in certain circumstances.

I have always believed in an unconditional ban and the Minister has listened to the submissions made on this issue, not least from the Kennel Club, and changed her mind.

This is great news and I hope the European Commission will signal its approval of this measure at the earliest opportunity so we can introduce a ban on these unnecessary and cruel devices as soon as possible.”

Monday, 19 October 2009

Decisive and set to surprise us all!!!

The BBC are reporting that Sir Emyr Jones Parry is set to “surprise” us all with the recommendations from the All Wales Convention. I for one will be at the front of the queue on the 18th November.

The Labour-Plaid Government in Cardiff Bay promised us a referendum; I wonder if this report is positive enough, will we get it? Sir Emyr Jones Parry promises to be decisive I doubt this will be followed by a divisive Government.

With over 3,000 views and public meetings across the country there should be a fair cross-section of society. At the beginning of this process I was concerned that it would be too bubble centric, by that I mean it would not leave CF99 (Cardiff Bay).

Sir Emyr Jones Parry to be fair though has done a tidy job. It has been hard to tune into a Welsh Radio station without catching an advert from the All Wales Convention and how to participate!

Admittedly there are massive issues confronting Wales like the credit crunch and climate change but clearly the question of powers affects the way that we do things in Wales. The report will, I am sure, make for interesting reading.


Businesses in Wales are going through a hard time at the moment trying to cope with the effects of the recession, so any help provided is welcome.

I heard recently that RBS and Natwest have launched a new telephone and email service to help businesses through the recession.

Called “Business Hotline” the new service is available to customers of ANY bank from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday, to offer advice guidance and support.

The service will be provided by a team of senior bankers who have experienced previous recessions and can work with existing or potential customers to ensure viable propositions have access to the finance they need.

This fantastic initiative will provide valuable guidance and support for businesses in Wales trying to cope with the economic downturn and could make the difference between many enterprises surviving or failing.

I wish it every success.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


I have received confirmation from the Heritage Minister that the Labour/Plaid Assembly Government has caved in to Westminster about taxation changes which could have a devastating effect on thousands of self-catering operators in Wales.

Massive concern was expressed to me earlier this year by the Wales Association of Self-Catering Operators (WASCO) and many other small business owners regarding the repeal of the Furnished Holiday Letting Rules.

The proposal, introduced to comply with European Law, disallows capital allowances and will be incredibly damaging to self-catering operators who make up a huge part of Wales’ tourism industry.

Now Alun Ffred Jones has confirmed that Labour Treasury Ministers failed to advise him of plans to repeal the rules and that they have no plans to review the decision.
This is a deplorable situation as there has been a total lack of consultation with self-catering operators regarding these proposals and the impact they would have on their businesses.

The tourism sector in Wales is vital to our economy and it deserves better than a Labour Government that treats both it and the Assembly Government with contempt and a Minister in Cardiff Bay who has singularly failed to defend its interests.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Local Government Settlement

Every year we go through the same points with this Welsh Assembly Government, they simply do not get it - I thought Plaid Cymru joining Labour in Government might have helped bridge the gap between the M4 and rural Wales, clearly not. I found myself emphasising again that councils in rural areas have particular difficulty in delivering effective local services!

Powys is a prime example, Powys has again received the worst settlement, tied with several other authorities, from the Labour - Plaid Welsh Assembly Government. This is all despite its rurality and covering the largest area in Wales. There are inherent difficulties in delivering services such as waste collection over a huge geographical area, never mind maintaining all those roads. One thing is certain all our Local Authorities will face the impossible task of deciding whether to cut services or hike up council tax bills in order to balance the books. I suspect they will end up doing both.

Let me get this point straight though; this is all because Labour and now Plaid failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining. Now we are all going to get cold and wet while they try and do a patch job!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Happy Birthday Maggie!!

Today is the 84th Birthday of the former Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher.

I mention this because yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference.

No-one who was present at that Conference or watching on television will forget the terrible events of that night.

The fact that the Prime Minister insisted that the conference continue as normal and was there on time the following morning remains a testament to the courage of this remarkable lady.

Monday, 12 October 2009


I am a fan of the BBC. I abhor the BNP and everything that they stand for.

I cannot understand how the BBC feels it is right to give a platform to the BNP via two prominent members one of whom was actually their publicity director and to introduce tham as two young guys who are members of the BNP as if they had just dropped in to the studio from the local.

This misrepresented the ' professional ' nature of their appearance on the programme, quite apart from their unsettling contributions on the subject of Ashley Cole coming to this country when he is London born.

The BBC has some answering to do and should set up an inquiry into this affair.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Rhodri Morgan

I have just heard that Rhodri Morgan has announced he is standing down from the post of First Minister.

Although I have had many disagreements with Rhodri, these have always been about policies and not about personality. In private we have always enjoyed a good working relationship.

Rhodri will be fondly remembered for his quick wittedness in the Chamber. I remember him saying to me during one exchange that “Denial is more than a river in Egypt”.

I am sure Rhodri will continue to play an important role in Welsh public life and I send him my best wishes for the future.

Barrie Harding OBE

I had known Barrie Harding for many years as a friend and colleague.Barrie had held about every post that existed in the Welsh Conservative party and was very supportive of the changes that had been made to the party in Wales.

Yesterday along with Alun Cairns I went to Barrie's funeral in Llanelli. It was a white knuckle ride down the M4 to get there on time. I won't say who was driving but it wasn't me!

There is to be a later memorial service where I am sure there will be masses of friends and colleagues from within and without the party.

There were a lot of family and friends at the service yesterday. It was a humanist celebration of his life but to cater for us all there was the great John Bunyan hymn 'He who would valiant be'. We hammered it out with great gusto. I smiled to myself because that thinking of others was Barrie's greatest characteristic. I suspect that he liked the hymn too - who says the Devil has all the best tunes?
The address captured Barrie to a tee.

Rest in Peace good friend and condolences to all your loved ones especially Lyndy and Beryl.