Monday, 14 December 2009

New Cabinet fails to offer Wales a fresh start

I have to say I am less than impressed with Carwyn Jones’ new Cabinet.

When Wales is in the middle of the worst recession it’s ever seen and with budgets stretched to breaking point I am stunned the new First Minister has appointed Jane Hutt who caused chaos in the health and education portfolios to handle business and budget.

This cabinet bears many of the hallmarks of the old one, when what Wales needs is a government that’s heading in a new direction.

A new start is needed now more than ever to promote enterprise, protect and create jobs, generate wealth, tackle climate change, and deliver first class public services.

What we don’t need is more of the same.

A week is a long time in politics

It was quite a week, last week.

I am delighted at Oscar joining the Welsh Conservative group in the National Assembly.
He has great business experience and detailed knowledge of the communities of South East Wales. I am also delighted that Natasha Asghar, Oscar's daughter who previously fought Blaenau Gwent and the European elections has joined us too.

Then Rhodri Morgan took the first important step in announcing an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sad death of Robbie Powell some 19 years ago. Nothing can bring back Robbie who died of undiagnosed but treatable Addison's disease but now an inquiry can establish the truth and lessons can be learned. I am extremely pleased at this act, one of the last by Rhodri Morgan in office as First Minister and I know Will Powell and the family are pleased too.

I was also pleased at the response of the incoming First Minister, Carwyn Jones, when I raised the matter in the chamber. It is clear that he is committed to carrying this inquiry forward once the terms of reference are agreed.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Financing Wales

Yesterday, I held a very useful meeting with Gerry Holtham on financing for Wales.

The second part of the review is due out in late March or early April 2010.

An examination of the Barnett formula on a UK basis is needed. Gerry confirmed my belief that the SNP is not nearly so keen on a review as we are in Wales.

I can understand that and some transitional help may be needed for Scotland on a needs based approach but if an examination of the formula demonstrates that Wales is not receiving appropriate help then we in the Welsh Conservatives will not be slow to push our case.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Welcome Oscar and Natasha Asghar

I am absolutely delighted that Oscar and Natasha Asghar have decided to leave Plaid Cymru and join the Welsh Conservative Party.

It is great that Oscar is going to be part of our Assembly team in the run-up to the next Assembly elections. He is a man who commands respect within the Assembly and in the communities of South Wales East.

His daughter, Natasha, is an energetic campaigner and an experienced candidate. I look forward to them both playing an important role in the Conservative Party in the future.

Their decision is another sign that only the Conservative Party, under David Cameron’s leadership, can bring about the change Wales and Britain needs.

I hope others will follow Mohammad and Natasha’s example and join us to make that change happen.

Concern over Carmarthenshire Care Home Closure Plans

I have written to Carmarthenshire County Council to express my concern at plans to close four council run care homes in the county.

The homes are St Paul’s Home for the Elderly and Caemaen Residential Home in Llanelli, Argel Care Home in Johnstown and Cartref Tawelan in Ash Grove, Carmarthen.

I understand it is proposed to close the two Llanelli homes and to place the existing residents in sheltered accommodation. Concerns have been raised that this will diminish the care cover available and currently enjoyed by the residents.

With reference to Argel Home and Cartef Tawelan, it is proposed to close these homes before a new facility at the Argel site is available.

It is likely that these proposals will cause considerable distress and uncertainty to these elderly residents who will have to be relocated.

That is why I have raised this issue with the County Council and I await their reply.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Figures reveal lack of support for Businesses in Ceredigion

I am concerned at the lack of funding to support businesses in Ceredigion under the Assembly Government’s ProAct scheme.

ProAct aims to help businesses cope with the downturn and develop staff skills ready for the upturn. The scheme provides training for employees who are on short time working, and helps businesses to keep skilled staff who may otherwise be made redundant.

However, figures I have obtained reveal that only £31,680 of funding under the scheme has been committed to help businesses in Ceredigion out of a total of £19,776,365.

While I have welcomed schemes like ProAct it is clear from the fact that unemployment is now at a 16-year high that they are not working to anywhere near the level we were promised.

The fact that only one application for funding has been approved in the whole of Ceredigion indicates a lack of awareness and raises questions about how widely publicised this scheme has been in the county.

We were promised Assembly Government help for businesses in every part of Wales. The evidence suggests this is far from the truth.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Carwyn wins

I congratulate Carwyn Jones on his election as Welsh Labour Leader in Wales and soon to be our new First Minister.

I also wish to pay tribute to Rhodri Morgan for his decade of service and for his commitment to his party, to the Assembly and to Wales.

After two months of political uncertainty and drift the Assembly Government can get back to business and address the many problems facing Wales today.

Next week will be Rhodri’s last First Minister’s Question Time. I look forward to crossing swords with Carwyn in the New Year.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cut the Beer Tax

The British Beer and Pub Association and the Society of Independent Brewers have launched a campaign called “I’m Backing the pub” in an attempt to persuade the Government to cut the tax on beer.

As Co-Chairman of the Assembly’s All Party Beer Group I welcome this.
Recent research conducted by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has found that many local pubs are struggling and around 1,300 pubs nationwide are currently under threat of closure.

Some of these are in rural communities in Wales-communities that may already have lost their post office, their village shop or their small school.

When you bear in mind the important role that pubs play in our communities, rural and urban, I am amazed that the Assembly Government has not undertaken any study into the impact of pub closures in Wales.

Labour seems happy to use pubs as unofficial tax collectors and yet is reluctant to stop this vital sector of the economy being taxed out of existence.