Thursday, 25 March 2010

Bad Day for Democracy in Wales

The decision by Labour and Plaid Cymru Assembly Members not to cross the picket line yesterday was a disgrace.

I accept that the Civil Service Compensation Scheme is in need of reform.

It is regrettable that dialogue has broken down and that industrial action is happening for a second time.

Whilst I defend the union’s right to hold this strike I am concerned that the decision to boycott business again sets a dangerous precedent.

Yesterday, I led the Opposition in a debate on the "One Wales" agreement and the Assembly Government’s total failure to deliver improvements in the Economy, the NHS, Education, Child and Fuel Poverty, to name just a few.

No-one from the Assembly Government was prepared to defend their record in the Chamber. It was an affront to democracy in Wales.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Conservatives pledge Barnett Review

In a recent interview with the Western Mail, David Cameron said:

“The Barnett formula is coming to the end of its life, there is no doubt about that – even Lord Barnett says it’s coming to the end of its life. I think it’s very important that there should always be a proper needs-based formula which respects the fact that Wales has some areas of deep poverty and some needs and requirements greater than other parts of the United Kingdom, there’s no doubt about that”.

This is good news. Welsh Conservatives have long called for a review of the Barnett formula and a proper needs-based assessment of funding for Wales. I welcome David Cameron’s commitment to achieving this for Wales.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Dog Tax is Dangerous

The Government has announced a consultation which includes proposals to compel all dog owners to pay for compulsory third party insurance to be allowed to own their own dog.
This "Dog Tax" would not affect the owners of the most dangerous dogs as the Dangerous Dogs Act already bans the ownership and sale of fighting dogs like pit bull terriers. It is possible for dogs to be exempted from the ban, but owners must have their dogs neutered, muzzled and obtain third party insurance.

Owners of dangerous dogs which are already illegal are unlikely to take out such insurance as they will just continue to defy the law.

There are an estimated 330,000 households with dogs across Wales who would be required to pay a compulsory dog tax. Although some homes already have pet insurance, the poorest homes will be hit hardest by the new levy, such as pensioners for whom a dog may be their only company. The government has admitted that this dog tax may result in more stray and abandoned dogs and greater pressure on dog rescue centres.

Think again.!!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Good News as National Library reopens on Saturdays

The National Library of Wales is a wonderful place to visit with exceptional staff.

Its importance to both Aberystwyth and to Wales goes way beyond the beautiful and iconic building which overlooks the town.

Like many others, I expressed my concern at the time at its having to close on Saturday mornings due to budget cuts.

However, the good news is it is reopening on Saturdays from 8 May, although collections will be limited to items ordered in advance.

The meeting rooms, café and shop will also be open to the public.

This is good news indeed. The Library provides a huge boost to the tourism economy of Mid Wales by attracting people whose sole purpose in visiting Aberystwyth is to trace their ancestry. This institution belongs to the people of Wales and must be allowed to continue the excellent work and service currently carried out.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gordon Brown’s Record

William Hague made a devastating critique of Gordon Brown’s record of failure as Chancellor and Prime Minister in Brighton.

As he pointed out, when Labour came to power, Britain was the 4th largest economy in the world. Now it is forecast within 5 years to be the 11th, behind not just China, but also France and Italy.

In 1997, we were ranked 7th in the world for the competitiveness of our economy. Now we are 13th.

We were 4th in the world for our tax and regulation. Now we are 84th and 86th. And we are the last G20 country to emerge from recession.

Gordon Brown once claimed to have saved the world. If so, he did it by wrecking the British economy.

Concern for Future of Radio Ceredigion

I am very concerned at reports that Radio Ceredigion may be forced to close their studios in Aberystwyth.

This would not only result in job losses but would be a serious blow to local broadcasting and Welsh Language broadcasting in particular in Wales.

I hope the negotiations currently taking place will secure the future of the station and I have written to the Heritage Minister and to Tindle Newspapers who own Radio Ceredigion to stress the importance of this matter.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Death of a Great Parliamentarian

Michael Foot was a great adopted son of Wales.

I saw him last campaigning in Blaenau Gwent in the by-election caused by Peter Law’s sad and untimely death.

He was a parliamentarian of great skill, and one of the best post war orators.

A distinguished man of letters, he made a significant contribution to British public life. He was a remarkable man and in many ways, almost the last link to a more heroic age in politics.

Michael Foot was a champion of Parliamentary democracy and the House of Commons, who believed in public service and wanted to make it a better place. Above all he was an idealist, someone who was in politics for the right reasons and someone who wrote and spoke beautifully.

His death breaks a link with the political past but his contribution to national life will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dementia Plan for Wales desperately needed

Today at the National Assembly I met Service users and their families from the Early Onset dementia support service at Oldwell Court, Cardiff.

Their visit was to highlight the threat to the future funding of the service, and to promote the petition they are currently circulating.

This coincides with a Welsh Conservative debate this afternoon on the issue of dementia care across Wales.

There is a severe shortage of care home places in Wales dedicated to dementia.
Almost half of care home residents with dementia in Wales are not receiving care in settings suitable to their needs.

There is a ‘postcode lottery’ of services in the UK, with a report last year concluding that services in Wales are the worst in the UK.

Welsh Conservatives call for the Dementia Plan for Wales to be published as soon as possible. Wales desperately needs the National Dementia Plan in order to establish where to target resources. Only then can we even begin to develop the necessary facilities, which will not be done overnight.

Ceredigion and Dwyfor Meirionnydd

I have spent some time over the last few days discussing Ceredigion and Dwyfor Meirionnydd issues with Lisa Francis. She is, of course, very well known and respected in the patch and very familiar with the area.

The Aberystwyth Holiday Village remains an issue that concerns me greatly. There are many planning issues in Ceredigion and sometimes it seems that enforcement is not the strong suit of the County Council. Currently there are many people on the site concerned about their future because of the lack of planning permission on the site for all the mobile homes that are there. The issue remains unresolved. We have written to the County Council about this issue, of course. The Minister is aware of the situation though, for understandable reasons, cannot get involved.

Health issues too are very important in the area. The importance of CHCs and continuing local input is one that Lisa and I have discussed at length. The ambulance service, again, though it has shown some signs of improvement, is a real concern in rural Wales. It is not just response times that cause concern but, of course,non emergency ambulance transport and the fact that keeping an early morning (9.00 am) hospital appointment at Ysbty Gwynedd is impossible when you need to travel from Dolgellau (two hours away by road) and the ambulance service doesn't actually start until 9.00 am! Too many of our erlderly citizens are having to rely on the good will and kindness of their family and friends because this service fails to provide them with transport theyneed at the relevant time.

Another vital issue relates to school closures. This is currently a massive issue in Gwynedd. It is also an issue in Ceredigion and, indeed, in Powys. In rural Wales the importance of small, tightly knit communities and, of course, importance of our Welsh language, is also very much at the forefront of our campaigners minds.

Lisa has recently met with the excellent Louise Hughes who is doing very good work on this issue in Gwynedd, and we spent sometime discussing this too.

Business rate problems, large wind farms, farm payments also feature.