Thursday, 26 November 2009

Minister performs u-turn on A48

I very much welcome news that changes are to be made to a junction to improve safety on the A48 Trunk Road at Cwmgwili. I recently tabled questions to Ieuan Wyn Jones on this matter after being contacted by Carmarthenshire County Council who were concerned at the Minister’s initial inability to meet with them to discuss this issue.

Now it has been announced that changes will now be made to a junction at Cwmgwili, where there was an accident recently causing two fatalities, as part of a wider review of safety on the A48 in Carmarthenshire.

I am pleased that the Minister has recognised the seriousness of the situation and taken this action.”


It is undeniable that there are some truly excellent centres of learning in Wales, and Bangor Business School is certainly one of them. The banking area of operation is probably the best in Europe.

What, alas, is also undeniable is that our higher education sector is not getting the funds it needs. There is a marked absence of company headquarters in Wales which means that private sponsorship is difficult to come by, even compared to England. What is therefore very disturbing is that there is a considerable funding gap with England in terms of public expenditure on the higher education sector. The division is even greater when one makes the comparison with Scotland. This must be addressed.

I had a first class evening with the Advisory Council of the Bangor Business School, chaired by Dafydd Wigley, last week. Convivial company, useful discussions, and a reassurance that we have such a strong academic presence in this vital area of activity.

I am unashamedly pro-business. I have never understood the attitude of some that if you are pro-business you must be anti-workers. This is crazy. Without being pro-business and ensuring a strong economy we can’t hope to deal with some of the problems in Wales and develop the resources we need to tackle some of the deep seated problems in our nation.

Businesses in Brecon & Radnorshire

Today I spent a considerable amount of time visiting businesses in Brecon, in Llandrindod Wells, and in Knighton. Despite what Rhodri Morgan told me in First Minister’s questions a few weeks ago, I have yet to find a business that will be paying less in business rates next year as compared with this year. It is true to say that some have got smaller increases than others, but that is scarcely surprising.

Today I met a business that will be paying £30,000 more per year in business rates next year than this year. That is truly massive and horrific, especially given the state of the economy.

In England, where there are also increases, there is at least the prospect of some transitional relief. It seems the Minister privately has said that is not going to happen in Wales. One of the frustrations in Wales, of course, is that we still don’t know what the Minister’s thinking is on small business rate relief or on transitional relief. We are relying on what he has told some Labour MPs rather than any statement he has made to the Assembly. I raised this with the Presiding Officer as a Point of Order some weeks ago and he encouraged the Minister to come and make an oral statement to the Chamber on the issue. Still we wait.

It is late evening before I depart from Brecon and there is mist and driving rain. Driving through the constituency in this sort of weather one could almost be anywhere, except for the smell of garlic (a smell I love). This reminds me I must be near Beacon Foods in Brecon.

I will raise the issue of business rates in the Assembly this Tuesday, once more, to highlight the plight of businesses which affects, of course, the livelihoods of my constituents in Mid & West Wales.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I hear that Brian Gibbons told BBC Radio Wales recently that he wants to see alcohol strength taken into account in pricing to tackle Wales’ drinking culture.

I am glad to hear this as it is Conservative policy.

Much of the disorder that blights our communities is fuelled by alcohol, which is why the Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, recently announced that we will introduce significant tax increases on the problem drinks, such as super strength beer and alcopops that are strongly associated with anti-social behaviour.

Supermarkets and other retailers will be banned from selling alcohol below cost price. We will also radically overhaul the licensing system to empower local councils and the police to clamp down on binge drinking hotspots and irresponsible retailers.

We must show law-abiding citizens that the criminal justice system really is on their side, and that troublemakers will not get away with making life a misery for others. I welcome Brian Gibbons’ support.

Friday, 20 November 2009


The National Lottery was fifteen years old yesterday.

In that time it has raised over £23 billion for good causes.

I mention this because, of the 28 villages in the UK shortlisted for funds from the Big Lottery under its "Village SOS" initiative aimed at breathing new life into our villages, no less than three are in my Mid & West Wales constituency.

They are Talgarth and Howey in Powys and Myddfai in Carmarthenshire.

The Talgarth Mill Green Energy Project would like to create a sustainable education and renewable technologies centre at an old flourmill.

The Ashfield Community Enterprise Ltd hopes to buy and re-develop a nursery.

The aim is for the community to sell locally-grown produce to be marketed under an Ashfield brand in Howey whilst"Made in Myddfai" wants to create a whole new range and brand of craft products from the village.

It is to John Major’s lasting credit that the National Lottery has benefited individuals and communities greatly and I wish all three villages every success in their bids.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech clearly demonstrates the need to get rid of this directionless, tired and failed Labour Government.

This was not a programme for Government. It was a series of sloganeering headlines with the intention of catching the Opposition off guard.

Very few of these Bills, if any, will make it to the Statute Book. Yet, on the issue of MPs pay and expenses, where there is cross Party agreement and a Bill could have been passed, Brown has chosen to remain silent.

This Country deserves better. We need a General Election to consign Brown and his clapped out Government to the dustbin of history.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


This morning the All Wales Convention published its long awaited report on Devolution in Wales.

I very much welcome the publication of this report and Sir Emyr Jones-Parry and his team deserve our thanks for all their hard work and dedication in bringing this report together.

The Convention has clearly identified the failings of the current system and seen advantages in moving to full powers.

It is also clear from the Convention’s research that there is strong support for devolution here in Wales and majority support for further steps to be taken.

David Cameron recently set out our position regarding the holding of a referendum on further powers by stating that if a request was received by a future Conservative Government he would not block it.

It only remains for politicians in all Parties to carefully consider their response to this report.


Last Saturday morning I met with representatives of TruckGas, a world-leader in alternative fuel.

TruckGas replaces conventional diesel engines with Duel Fuel engines, which substitute Liquefied Natural Gas for up to 80% of conventional diesel fuel. LNG is not only a clean and low-carbon replacement. In reducing the quantity of diesel required, and therefore the level of carbon emissions, it also leads to cost savings for the operator.

Between now and the next Assembly elections, Welsh Conservatives will explore in full the possibility of encouraging operators of Cardiff’s buses, taxis and other public vehicles to switch to this method of duel fuel with the intention of rolling out a fleet of environmentally-friendly vehicles in Cardiff and other Welsh cities.

By innovating now, we can help to secure improvements in the natural environment for all.

Monday, 16 November 2009


Research has revealed that 9 out of 10 car trips could be replaced by walking, cycling or public transport.

That’s why in September Welsh Conservatives announced that we would use money raised by the plastic bag levy to fund an expansion in the cycle and walkway networks across Wales.
By investing £4 million over a period of four years, we hope to encourage people out of their cars, to walk and cycle to work or school instead.

This would give each of us every encouragement to pursue a healthier, more active and environmentally-friendly way of life as well as helping us to cut down on transport emissions.
At the South Wales Conservative Policy Forum on Saturday I announced a further measure to encourage cycling.

We would support Cardiff’s flagship Smart Bikes scheme and extend that scheme in Cardiff and other parts of Wales.

The free-to-use bike scheme is an exciting carbon reduction measure, which Cardiff Council has partnered with the Assembly Government.

A similar scheme launched in three cities in England in 2005 found that car journeys went down by 12%. Walking increased by 17% and cycling was up by a third.

Cardiff has the potential to do the same, but at the moment the scheme is too small.
We will provide the financial backing for the programme to be extended from 70 bicycles to 500 in total.

This will help to generate lasting improvements in reducing emissions in our national capital.

Friday, 6 November 2009


On a visit to North Wales today, David Cameron said that if we win the next election and the Assembly asks for it, a Conservative Secretary of State for Wales will not block a request for a referendum on more powers.

This is good news.

This clearly demonstrates the Conservative Party’s commitment to devolution and to making it work for all the people of Wales.

We were the first party to suggest a referendum on the Assembly’s future powers following the Richard report and the present LCO system cannot last.

I very much welcome David Cameron’s statement.

There are many urgent challenges facing Wales today, not least the credit crunch, but still a lasting constitutional settlement is much needed.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I am very concerned about the Auditor General’s report on Coastal Erosion and Tidal Flooding Risks in Wales in which he concludes that current flood defences cannot keep pace with environmental change.

He states there is an imminent need to bolster protection for Aberaeron, Borth and Aberystwyth whilst sea defences at Tywyn are dilapidated and at Pwllheli, existing coastal defences may not remain serviceable for more than a decade.

Both Gwynedd and Ceredigion Councils are aware of the issue and support the need to take action but are being hampered by the lack of a national policy which the Assembly Government has failed to produce.

Gwynedd and Ceredigion are engaging with the non-statutory bodies that operate to help deliver effective coast protection but, being non-statutory, they are not funded by the Assembly Government. At a time when both local authorities are struggling to meet a difficult budget settlement they simply do not have the funds available for additional sea defences.

Until the Assembly Government gets a grip on this issue and delivers a properly funded All-Wales flood defence agency, these communities in Mid & West Wales will continue to be at risk."


I wonder how many people in Wales know that they are entitled to a free Home Fire Safety Check from their local fire crew.

The crew will call by appointment to check a property for fire risks, to assist with an Escape Plan in case fire should break out and to fit or replace smoke alarms.

Appointments can be made by calling free on 0800 169 1234.

This is an excellent scheme to increase public safety by reducing the risk of fire in the home.


I welcome news that the Assembly Government has issued guidance to local authorities in Wales encouraging the setting up of more 20 mph speed limit zones around schools and built up areas.
Back in May I urged Ieuan Wyn Jones to consider introducing 20 mph speed limits near recreation grounds and other areas frequented by young people.

Although the setting of appropriate speed limits is the responsibility of the local highway authority, I suggested the Assembly Government issue guidelines on this issue. To his credit, Ieuan Wyn has taken action that should increase the safety of children and young people in these zones.