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Conservatives condemn museum head’s comments

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Political bias: Museum disputes Conservative claims

THE HEAD of Wales’ national museum has come under fire from an Assembly Member for an alleged “rant against Britishness” made at a Visit Britain event.

Leaders from across Britain’s tourism sector were invited to an all-day seminar in Westminster to discuss the UK tourism industry post-Brexit, for which guest speakers were asked to give talks on skills, investment and the industrial strategy.

Among the keynote speakers was David Anderson, director general of the National Museum Wales, who said: “I do not wish, ever again, to stand underneath the ‘Britain is GREAT’ banner. The words are a lie. We know it. Many overseas visitors know it. They just make us look stupid. They contributed to the collective delusional madness that is Brexit.

“Our tourism industry – led by Visit England and Visit Britain – must cease to peddle falsehoods of British ‘Greatness’, and frame an alternative, more honest, more positive and inclusive identity for the English part of these islands.”

Suzy Davies AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Culture, called his speech a “clear abandonment of his obligation to party political neutrality” as leader of a charity and publicly funded body.

Ms Davies said: “Speakers were asked to focus their talks on sharing best practice for promoting each body’s offer to tourists.

“Instead, he felt it appropriate to indulge in an incontinent rant, devoid of anything constructive, which amounted to little more than a party political rant against Britishness, Brexit, and a host of other issues outside the remit of the conference.

“This is a clear abandonment of his obligation to political neutrality as the leader of a publicly funded body and charity.

“His disavowal of the ‘Britain is GREAT’ campaign – which has generated more than £800m to the British economy – is simply cutting his nose off to spite his face. This was a squandered opportunity for the museum to forge closer links with Visit Britain, which would be a powerful vehicle to boost Wales’s overseas profile.

“What I find sad is that, among the hysteria, he may have had interesting points to make about how Wales can be better placed in that marketing campaign or, indeed, the role of the museum in helping tell Britain’s stories.”

Ms Davies claimed that visitor numbers to the National Museum of Wales had declined by 6% since Mr Anderson took up his post of director general in 2010.

However Mr Anderson rejected Suzy Davies’ criticism and stated that her contention on visitor numbers was wrong.

David Anderson told The Herald: “My office has been in touch with Suzy Davies to offer a meeting to address some of the concerns she raises, as well as to share a full set of visitor figures since 2010.

“Amgueddfa Cymru is on track to achieve its highest ever visitor numbers in 2017-18, having already broken a number of records recently. This includes 297,792 visitors to its seven museums in August 2017 – the best ever August visitor figure achieved by Amgueddfa Cymru, and up on August 2016 by 18.9%.

“On the point of neutrality, I would argue that museums are not just passive keepers of the past, but also play a key role in posing challenging questions and encouraging debate. And it is my role as Director General of the National Museum of Wales to stimulate debate.

“It was in this context that I put forward the argument at the conference that we urgently need a new and more contemporary definition of Britishness in which Wales’s voice is much more strongly heard, and that reflects the diversity of cultures and identities of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

“We have always worked closely with Visit Wales, and through them, Visit Britain to promote Wales both across the British Isles and internationally to ensure we make the most of the opportunities to attract visitors here.”

Politics

Chancellor visits local pioneering software company

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PRESELI’S Conservative candidate Stephen Crabb has welcomed the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to Pembrokeshire to visit a pioneering education software company.

Fishguard based Edukey provides innovative software for the classroom, helping pupils, teachers and parents and was founded by former teacher Duncan Wilson.

Sajid Javid, who was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer following Boris Johnson’s rise to Prime Minister this summer, was given an overview of the company by its founder before a short Q&A with staff.

Stephen Crabb said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Fishguard town centre to visit the outstanding educational software company Edukey.”

“Edukey is a brilliant Pembrokeshire success story. What Duncan and the team have achieved there is remarkable and, with more than fifty people now employed in the company in high quality jobs, Edukey is helping to regenerate the town itself.”

“Edukey points to the way forward for the Pembrokeshire economy. I am passionate about seeing more of these types of high quality jobs created so more young people can choose to stay in Pembrokeshire rather than all move away.”

Following the visit, the Chancellor Sajid Javid said:

“I was delighted to join Stephen in Fishguard to visit Edukey and learn more about how their innovative software is helping in schools across the world.

“Our plan to invest £5 billion to ensure everyone can access gigabit-capable broadband will create the right conditions for more of these companies to grow, bringing high quality jobs to Pembrokeshire.

“Only by backing Stephen in Preseli Pembrokeshire and backing a majority Conservative Government can we get Brexit done. That will mean we can concentrate on the people’s priorities, such as broadband, education and the NHS.”

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Politics

Significant concerns for EU citizens in Wales

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THE UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is causing significant problems for EU citizens currently living and working in Wales.

LOW REGISTRATION IN WALES
Wales has the lowest rates of registration in the UK.
Only 41% of those eligible to apply for EUSS to stay in Wales after Brexit have done so.
The rhetoric surrounding EU migration since the referendum has taken its toll on people’s emotional wellbeing, meaning they no longer feel welcome to live here.
The UK Government has proposed a £30,000 salary threshold for EU residents to qualify for a work visa after Brexit. This could damage the Welsh economy and leave Wales short of key health professionals, say Welsh employers.
The National Assembly for Wales’ External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, which focuses on the implications of Brexit for Wales, is today publishing a report looking at the impact of changes to ‘freedom of movement’ after Brexit. As well as the impact on services and employers, the Committee has looked at the effect on individual EU citizens currently living and working in Wales – there are currently an estimated 80,000.
The Committee heard evidence from a range of health professionals, employers and individuals who would be affected by the proposals to change the immigration system after Brexit.
Organisations representing employers and key workers including the Welsh NHS Confederation, the Royal College of Nursing Wales, Airbus, Universities Wales, Wales TUC and the Arts Council for Wales have voiced serious concerns to the Committee. The UK Government’s proposals for EU citizens after Brexit cause concern to health services and businesses. Under the UK Government’s proposals almost two-thirds of EU workers currently in Wales would not be eligible under the proposed system with the £30,000 salary threshold, and the threshold would lead to a 57% reduction in EU immigration to Wales over 10 years.

EU SETTLEMENT SCHEME – DIGITAL BY DEFAULT
As part of the Committee’s inquiry, it heard evidence from people directly affected by the changes to freedom of movement after Brexit.
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was established by the UK Government because, in most cases, EU citizens living in the UK will no longer have a legal right to reside in the UK once it leaves the EU and free movement ends.
EU citizens living in the UK must register for the EUSS.
The Committee heard many concerns about the system to register. The UK Government has adopted a ‘digital by default’ approach and there have been issues with the technology. The current system only allows the use of Android phones or tablets, not iPhones.

£30,000 THRESHOLD – TOO HIGH FOR WALES
The Welsh NHS Confederation, the membership body representing all NHS organisations in Wales, told the Committee that the proposals to include EU citizens in its £30,000 salary threshold for a visa would “exacerbate current staffing shortages”. It highlighted that 53% of EU NHS staff currently earn below that.
The Bevan Foundation highlighted that the average salary in Wales for full-time workers is £26,000, significantly below the proposed threshold. Airbus, a large employer in Wales, added that the threshold is “too high for key sectors” which could have implications for many services and industries. They argued that the proposals from the UK Government could “leave gaps in the requirements of Wales which can’t be filled in the short term.”
The Committee believes that a salary threshold set at this level will not meet the needs and requirements of the Welsh economy. It is calling on the UK Government to lower the salary threshold requirements and is recommending that the Welsh Government uses all the means at its disposal to ensure that the currently proposed salary threshold is reduced.

FEELING UNWELCOME
The Committee heard evidence from people affected directly and how many people felt that they were no longer welcome in the UK following the EU referendum.
Some argued that the policy pursued by the UK Government since the referendum has exacerbated this.
Several people said that some of the rhetoric relating to the issue of EU migration had hardened and described the toll that this had had on their emotional wellbeing, and that of friends and family members.
One participant emphasised that it is not simply an administrative process, but that real people are involved and that it was important to remember how the process affects them.
Michal Poreba from Swansea, an EU citizen originally from Poland, who gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, said: “The EU settlement scheme and the UK Government’s immigration proposals after Brexit are not simply about administrative processes, they are about people’s lives. Real people are involved and it is important to consider how the process affects them and their families. Yet the debate appears to be all about the practicalities of the implementation.
“Questions are asked why so few people have registered so far and how to increase the uptake. But what does it offer? Why would anybody apply? The facts are that the scheme significantly reduces the rights of the applicants. Going through the process, while technically quite easy and straightforward, feels debilitating and comes with no legal guarantees. It feels like an act of political self-harm. No wonder there are no queues to do it.
“The message repeated by politicians appears to be the same – You will be allowed to stay. We want you to stay. Of course, economically speaking they need us to stay, at least for the short term. But there is a big difference between being allowed to stay, and being welcomed. There is a big difference between a legal right and permission.”

SHORTAGE OCCUPATION LIST
Wales has specific needs. The Shortage Occupation List is an official list of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers (including EU nationals) to fill vacancies. The UK list is supplemented by a separate list for Scotland.
The majority of those who gave evidence to the Committee supported the creation of a Wales-specific Shortage Occupation List to meet the specific needs of Wales. The Committee is calling on the UK Government to establish this, which the Welsh Government would be able to amend according to Welsh needs.
David Rees AM, Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee said: “We have significant concerns about the implications of Brexit on our workforce in Wales. The ending of freedom of movement will have consequences for business and our economy if we lose vital workers. What’s more worrying is the impact that the loss of EU citizens could have on our NHS. We rely on EU citizens who work as nurses and carers.
“We heard some very concerning and emotional evidence from EU citizens and their families living and working in Wales. We must not forget the human impact that the ending of freedom of movement will have.
“We are calling on the Welsh Government to do all it can to get the UK Government to reduce its proposed salary threshold of £30,000 in order to better reflect average earnings here in Wales. Under these proposals, almost two-thirds of EU workers currently in Wales would not be eligible to live here. This could mean that we would not be able to recruit key workers such as nurses and carers from abroad.
“The EU Settlement Scheme for those who already live and work in Wales is full of problems, with an online-only application process and limited access on smartphones, these problems must be addressed urgently.
“Wales’ economy has specific needs and changing demographics within Wales, including an ageing population, are likely to pose new challenges in the future. These challenges within the economy of Wales are likely to be exacerbated by an overly restrictive immigration regime after Brexit.
“Today we’re calling on the Welsh Government to show real leadership and send out a strong message that EU citizens are welcome, valued, and needed in Wales and we’re calling on the UK Government to rethink its proposals and take into account the needs of the Welsh economy and public services.”

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Politics

Plans to improve patient access to health professionals

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HEALTH MINISTER, Vaughan Gething, has announced plans to improve access to health professionals through new ways of working.

The new plans aim to allow people to directly access health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists dietitians and others at primary care health centres. There will also be a greater emphasis on prevention to reduce reliance on medicines and improve quality of life.

Mr Gething said: “Our long term plan for health and social care, A Healthier Wales, sets out how we need to radically change the way services are delivered to meet future demand. We also need to move away from health and social care which focuses on treating people when they become unwell, to one that supports people to stay well, lead healthier lifestyles and live independently for as long as possible.

By accessing allied health professionals such as physiotherapy and dietitians directly at their local health centre, people can get the treatment they need more quickly. There are already good examples of this happening around Wales. I want to see that best practice become standard, which these plans will help us achieve.”

Examples of current best practice include a first contact physiotherapy service in Caerphilly, walk-in podiatry service in Port Talbot, Prestatyn Iach Health Centre and direct access occupational therapists in south Pembrokeshire helping people get back to work.

Mr Gething added: “As we move towards a system of integrated primary care centres across Wales, the framework I’m launching today aims to make it easier and quicker for people to access services.”

The Minister officially launched the Allied Health Professions Framework at the National Primary Care Conference at the International Conference Centre, Celtic Manor, Newport today (Thursday, 7 November).

A new Allied Health Professions lead for Primary Care will be appointed to lead the transformation of services in primary care.

The framework will also improve access to allied health professions in secondary care and improve access to rehabilitation to help people recover more quickly after a hospital admission and return home as independently as possible. The Welsh Government recently provided £1.4m to health boards to increase access to rehabilitation services.

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