Saturday, 30 January 2010

More Bad News on Jobs in Powys

I am saddened by more bad news on the jobs front in Powys, this time in Presteigne.
Car parts maker Kaye Presteigne has gone into administration and it is the main employer in the town.

This follows the announcement of job losses in Newtown by Shop Direct.

The scale of these closures is worrying as is their potential impact on the economies of both Newtown and Presteigne.

We must ensure that we help attract new businesses quickly to both these towns to support all the employees and their families at this time.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


If Welsh Rugby Union Chairman, David Pickering, wishes to organise a fundraising dinner for the Labour Party as a private individual, I have no problem with that.

However, the WRU should be above politics and its facilities should not be used to promote the narrow interests of the Labour Party. Rugby is something that unites the nation and this sort of action is totally inappropriate.

I know David Pickering has apologised for using the WRU’s email and I accept that.

But he and the WRU have some explaining to do as to why this was allowed to happen in the first place.

Peter Hain and Carwyn Jones, who were hosting the £1,000 a head dinner, should also apologise for their part in this saga.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Shocking Cuts in Powys Secondary School provision under consideration

I was shocked to hear that the new Lib Dem/ Independent administration in Powys is considering huge cuts into secondary school provision in Powys.

The Draft Strategic Outline Programme for Secondary Modernisation in Powys puts forward four models for future provision which fail to recognise the most successful schools, their financial state or their rurality.

I believe all four recommended models are unthinkable in Powys. As with all plans the devil is in the detail and some of the earmarked closures are actually some of our best schools both academically and financially.

I am at a loss how this document could have progressed so far under the current Lib Dem/Independent administration and have been in discussions with the Conservative Group on Powys as to how this can be stopped.

I am asking the Minister for Education to look into this report and its serious implications
It should never become a working document because, in my opinion, it is completely flawed.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Greatest Foreign Policy Failure

It is becoming more and more apparent that the Government took us to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and with insufficient planning as to our objectives and no proper exit strategy.
Some have claimed it is the worst foreign policy disaster since Suez, or even Munich. I think they are wrong. It is a greater disaster than these and even the mishandling of the American War of Independence pales beside it.

In both cases the consequences were quickly rectified, in the first instance by withdrawing our troops from Suez and in the second by abandoning the policy of appeasement and declaring war on Hitler.

We still face the consequences of the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, the threat of terrorism, and poor international relations with much of the world, not least the Middle East.

The Conservative Party supported military action by the international coalition in Iraq on the basis of the information that Tony Blair presented to the House of Commons and on the grounds that Saddam Hussein posed a credible and real risk to international peace and security.
However, it has become increasingly clear that the great difficulties of uniting and securing such a country were seriously underestimated.

The 2004 Butler Report into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War found that intelligence was pushed to its ‘outer limits’ to make the case for war.

Sir John Chilcot, who is chairing the current inquiry, was a member of the panel that produced the Butler Report. That report concluded that the limitations of the intelligence in the September 2002 ‘dodgy’ dossier were not ‘made sufficiently clear’, and that important caveats had been removed.

It also found that the 45 minutes claim for the time to readiness for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was ‘unsubstantiated’ and may have been included for its ‘eye-catching character.’ Butler did not go as far as to say that the British people had been misled, but he did say that ‘Language in the dossier and used by the Prime Minister may have left readers with the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence than was the case. It was a serious weakness that the Joint Intelligence Committee’s warnings on the limitations of the intelligence were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier’.

I believe the Iraq war represents probably the greatest failure of British Foreign policy ever.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

School Bus dumps pupils miles from home

I am genuinely shocked and angry to read reports that two pupils of Welshpool High School were left stranded by their school bus in Abermule, some three miles from their home in Llandyssil, due to the adverse weather conditions.

What is particularly worrying is that the parents of these pupils received no contact from the school to advise them of the position.

The potential consequences for the safety and wellbeing of these children do not bear thinking about. They were left in the dark to fend for themselves wearing inappropriate clothing for the extreme conditions.

I have written to the Education Minister to ask that schools immediately review their procedures relating to school transport and the sending of children home in severe weather.
We must ensure such an incident does not happen again.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Peter Hain, MP for Fantasy Island

Peter Hain is becoming increasingly desperate as the General Election approaches.

On a visit to Carmarthenshire, he is reported as saying:

"We know the Tories will bring the axe crashing down on Llanelli and we shall have massive cuts."

He really should pay more attention in Cabinet.

In an interview last weekend the Chancellor, Alastair Darling, told The Times that:

"The next spending review will be the toughest we have had for twenty years. To me, cutting the borrowing was never negotiable. Gordon accepts that, he knows that."

It is a pity Peter Hain doesn’t.

After thirteen wasted years in power Labour’s record is so bad that all Peter Hain can do is indulge in negative scare stories to shore up their core vote in once safe seats.

The sooner we have a General Election the better.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Welsh Self Caterers face double whammy

The Wales Association of Self Catering Operators has joined forces with the Wales Tourism Alliance to highlight two issues that could inflict series damage on this vital sector of the Welsh Economy.

The first is the Treasury’s proposed changes to the Furnished Holiday Letting tax rules which will considerably reduce the profitability of self catering establishments.

Secondly, the Business Rates Revaluation which means many self catering businesses will be hit with large rate increases.

Although the Assembly Government can do little about the first issue, thanks to the Labour Government in Westminster’s decision to ignore its weak protests, they can act to alleviate the worst effects of the rate revaluation.

I have called on the Assembly Government to postpone the revaluation exercise until at least April 2011. I have raised this matter in the National Assembly and will continue to do so until the Minister brings forward a package of measures to assist businesses faced with staggering increases.

My party has proposed to exempt businesses with a rateable value of £10,000 or less from paying rates altogether, with tapered relief for firms worth up to £15,000.

With new figures showing Wales as having the second lowest rate of business start-ups in the UK, we must do more to protect those businesses we already have, as well as to encourage new businesses.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Building success and getting Wales on the right track

Despite the economic gloom and the fact that we still remain in a parlous financial position, long term aspirations for our country are important and two issues that I am looking at in some detail and which the Shadow team will be considering are the need to build substantially more houses than has happened over the last decade, and also the need to invest in new rail lines and to enhance the existing rail services that we have.

I believe that we need a spurt of house building which will involve giving local authorities an incentive to release land for development and to encourage the private sector to build more houses. There is a massive need for more housing in communities up and down Wales and, of course, construction is very labour intensive which will help the economy.

We will be looking at ways of providing incentives to local authorities to build more and, of course, the new houses will be built to strict regulations to ensure that we promote green friendly energy policies and ensure that homes are carbon neutral. This will also help grow the green economy in Wales.

Similarly, supportive of a green agenda, will be a commitment to enhance existing rail services in Wales. I believe strongly that we need, once resources allow, a high speed rail link to Swansea from Paddington. This underpins the union as well as being of immense economic and social significance for Wales and the west of England. As a priority we need to see what the cost of this is and when it can be reasonably delivered.

Additionally we need to look at opening new stations, improving existing rail services and possibly opening or re-opening rail lines.

I have always been a strong supporter of rail. Once it may have looked like romantic quixoticism, now happily it makes social, cultural and economic sense as well, and contributes to saving the planet.

That is why I am keen, as is the Party, to look at ways of enhancing rail services in Wales.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Britain Out of Recession?

Labour politicians are taking to the airwaves to announce Britain’s economic recession is over
This is because the economy grew by a magnificent 0.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2009.

Gordon Brown’s promise that Britain would lead the world out of recession lies in tatters.

We were one of the first in and we are the last of the major world economies out of recession.

Gordon Brown’s decisions as Chancellor left Britain ill-prepared and his judgements as Prime Minister made the recession even worse.

In Wales, 21,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months alone, and we have the highest unemployment rate of any UK nation. Firms are closing or moving out of Wales altogether.

We need a fresh approach to creating and protecting jobs, supporting businesses, and investing in skills and training.

The skills and ability and resourcefulness of the Welsh people are the reasons to be cheerful for the future-plus, thank goodness, the likely prospect of a change of government at Westminster.