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MPs should be ‘a bloody nuisance’

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simon hart

A nuisance: Simon Hart

SIMON HART arrives for his interview with the air of a man eager to get cracking with business. That does not, however, stop him from taking time to chat about his experiences as a surveyor in and around Tenby and the deep connection he feels to his home locality. With a message sent on his mobile phone to explain he would be late for his next stop on a journey that had seen him visit a trampoline factory in Pembroke Dock before heading to The Herald offices and then off to visit Llawhaden, he gives the impression of being a man constantly active and on the move.

The same habits permeate his speech: he is, by turn, measured and bubbling with infectious enthusiasm as he warms to a subject. We start off with a subject featured in last Friday’s edition of The Herald. A couple of weeks ago, our columnist Badger offered an assessment of how the local seats in the coming election would pan out. In that column he described Mr Hart, whose chances he did not fancy, “a humane and committed constituency MP of a type becoming increasingly rare at Westminster”.

Badger’s words were met with correspondence from those who wished to draw attention to their contention that Mr Hart’s past as Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance made the word “humane”, at best, moot. That correspondence was featured, as was Badger’s somewhat pithy response. Mr Hart said: “I am interested that those who are opposed to hunting are those who appear to be obsessed about it and are constantly raising it.

“My priorities in my constituency are, I hope, basically the same as everyone else: jobs, housing, health, the future of Withybush. Of course, I have never made any secret about what I did before I was an MP.I am proud to have been associated with a 200 year old Pembrokeshire institution – the South Pembs Hunt. So, I have no problems. People must make their own judgements and if they found what I did before I was an MP too much to stomach, then I have to live with that.”

He continued: “The usual thing you hear about MP’s is that we are all the same and nobody knows what anyone stands for. I personally think that voters these days would prefer to vote for somebody who has beliefs and opinions and is prepared to stand by them. “It was not my party who spent 700 hours of parliamentary time debating hunting. In this Parliament not a single hour of debate has been devoted to the issue. I am not going to be accused of devoting time to a subject which, as I say, I never raised and which I never would have raised.”

We asked Mr Hart whether he was optimistic about the prospects for economic regeneration in his parliamentary constituency. He said: “I’m always somebody with a positive demeanour. Entering 2015, and trying to be realistic about the obstacles some families face, I am immensely proud of the fact that we have great businesses around here. Some of them are long-standing and some of them relatively new. This morning, I was at Atlantic trampolines in Pembroke Dock, who have sold 50,000 trampolines over the last few years and are selling their goods across the UK and worldwide.

“There is a lot to be positive about with small and medium-sized business opening up: the manufacture of the ZANO drone based at the BIC, in Pembroke Dock, puts us at the forefront of new and developing technologies. The lists of these new businesses is endless.” Simon Hart paused to take a sip of tea and continued: “It is fantastic we are seeing unemployment fall in the area. I hate it when people talk about jobs in tourism as “not proper jobs”.

If you are working on that caravan site or in that hotel, earning your own money and spending it in your community: that’s a proper job. I did that once and I think it is condescending of people to suggest that they are not proper jobs.” Looking at the loss of manufacturing jobs, at Murco and Cambrian Windows, Mr Hart acknowledged the challenges but remained upbeat: “There are career prospects in the County: I don’t want it to seem that I am looking at things through rose-tinted spectacles. There are a signifi cant number of new jobs being created and maintained. People are fi nding Pembrokeshire is a very good place to do business.”

In terms of what he has done for his constituents he replied: “My ambition is to provide a voice for people that they otherwise would not have. I like sticking up for the small guy. I think the role of an MP is become a bloody nuisance on behalf of people in need of help. “If that means knocking on the doors of the Welsh Government, the County Council and the Health Board, so be it. I know that there are times when the phone rings at County Hall when people go ‘oh no not him again’. Good!”

Moving on to discuss Withybush Hospital and the actions of the Health Board in respect of health services within Pembrokeshire, Simon Hart was very clear: “My frustration with Hywel Dda, and that should indicate how I feel about it, is that its communication is poor. It does not think it communicates either its intentions or its decisions effectively, either its staff or the public. This creates an information void which can be alarming.”

Visibly warming to a subject upon which he has campaigned vociferously, Mr Hart continued: “We need to know what the longterm is and whether the Board sees a future for Withybush. Without that we cannot plan for our families or our businesses. “One thing the Board says is an issue is recruitment, and it has blamed a lot of things for that being a problem for it, but the real issue affecting recruitment is the lack of certainty about Withybush’s future.

How does the Board think it will attract professionals to Pembrokeshire if nobody knows whether the jobs on offer are permanent? “The Board has created a selffulfi lling position for itself in recruitment. Until we have certainty about the future of the hospital for the next ten or fifteen years, we are still going to encounter that problem.”

Discussing the Welsh Government’s role in the NHS, Simon Hart expressed concerns that the Welsh NHS had not had its funding protected in the same way as the NHS in England. Speaking of a meeting he had the previous day with Mark Drakeford he said: “Mark Drakeford made some sensible points about the treatment of patients, but it worries me that the budget has been cut and that the public is losing confidence in the NHS.

“In relation to comparisons between the performance of the NHS in England and Wales, Mark Drakeford said that comparisons were unfair, and then proceeded to make some to illustrate his argument. “Whether it is true or not, people believe that the Welsh NHS is not as good and it has a signifi cant economic impact on Wales. We are trying to encourage people to come to Wales with their businesses and families, and the negative perception of the Welsh NHS is discouraging them.” The Herald will reveal part two of this interview next week.

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Community

Two Pembrokeshire residents honoured in King’s Birthday List

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PEMBROKESHIRE is celebrating the achievements of two distinguished locals who have been recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours. John Fletcher, a dedicated farmer, and Professor Andrew Campbell, a prominent academic, have both been awarded the MBE for their respective contributions.

John Fletcher: Champion of Shire Horses

John Fletcher, 70, the founder of Gentle Giants Shires in Moylegrove, has been honoured with an MBE for his services to the conservation of shire horses. His journey with these majestic animals began at the tender age of nine on his parents’ farm at Penrallt Uchaf. Inspired by his father, who had previously used a shire horse for ploughing, young John developed a lifelong passion for the breed.

In 2003, following the sale of the farm’s milking herd, Gentle Giants was established. Today, the organisation boasts a global following of 69,000 on Facebook and provides shire horses for weddings, funerals, and other events across the UK. The Gentle Giants have also featured on several television shows, including “Don’t Tell the Bride” and “Coast and Country”, as well as in the award-winning film “Calon Gaeth”.

John’s dedication to shire horses has not gone unnoticed. In 2021, during a Royal visit to Nevern, he and his shire horse, Prince George, met His Royal Highness. The future King praised John’s efforts, expressing his gratitude and interest in the farm’s breeding programme.

Gentle Giants remains a family-run venture, and the Fletcher family took to social media to celebrate John’s accolade. They expressed immense pride in his tireless work and commitment to training and promoting shire horses. “Not one to take things easy, he always has a new project on the go,” they shared. “Buyers often return due to the high standards achieved by the horses he has trained.”

John’s influence extends beyond the UK, with his horses working and competing as far afield as Norway and Italy. He is passionate about educating the public on the versatility of shire horses and enjoys welcoming visitors to the farm in Pembrokeshire.

Professor Andrew Campbell: Advocate for Tourism

Also honoured with an MBE is Professor Andrew Campbell of Goodwick, recognised for his services to tourism. Professor Campbell, who describes himself as “passionate about tourism, cake baking and swimming in the sea,” has made significant contributions to the field.

A professor of practice in tourism with the University of Wales, he is currently the chair of the Welsh Government’s Economic Ministerial Advisory Board. Until September 2021, he served as chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance, representing over 6,000 tourism businesses throughout Wales. The Welsh Government describes him as “a respected academic within tourism, a key economic sector,” noting his valuable insights into the challenges facing the tourism and skills sectors.

Living and working in north Pembrokeshire, Professor Campbell is known for his hands-on approach and commitment to enhancing the region’s tourism landscape. His recognition in the King’s Birthday Honours underscores the importance of his work and his dedication to the community.

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Community

GWR advises customers to check before travelling on Sunday 16 June

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GWR is advising customers to check their journey tomorrow morning before leaving home because of a shortage of train crew.

With fewer people available to work, GWR is warning of short notice cancellations and alterations, especially on long distance services between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads.

Journey planners and other industry systems will not be correct until the early hours of Sunday morning, as GWR works to staff as many trains as possible – and customers are being warned that they will need to check their journey on Sunday morning.

If your train is cancelled, you can use your existing ticket on the next available service.

Rail replacement buses will operate on the Kemble line between Swindon and Gloucester.

GWR expects to run a full level of service on Monday 17 June.

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Falkland Islands flag raised in Milford Haven to mark Liberation Day

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THE Falkland Islands Government flag was raised at Pembrokeshire County Hall and the British Legion in Milford Haven to commemorate Liberation Day, marking the end of the Falklands War on 14th June 1982. This solemn event was carried out by veterans of HMS Ardent, a Royal Navy frigate that played a crucial role in the conflict.

The Mayor of Milford Haven, Cllr William Elliott was joined by his mother, Mrs Wendy Elliott and the Deputy Mayor Cllr Eddie Davies for the HMS Ardent Association Flag Raising and Reception at Royal British Legion Club. Also in attendance were a number of Pembrokeshire County Councillors including Milford Haven’s Cllr Viv Stoddard, and Cllr Terry Davies.

On 21st May 1982, HMS Ardent was lying in Falkland Sound when it came under fire from the Argentine Air Force. Twenty-two of the 199 crew members on board were killed, and the ship sank the following day after suffering devastating damage.

As the first wave of Argentine aircraft attacked HMS Ardent, cook Jon Major threw himself to the floor and prayed. He survived, but 22 of his shipmates, including a close friend, did not, and dozens more were injured.

Speaking anniversary of the attack, Mr Major, then 62, recounted the terrifying moments. “Anyone who said they weren’t scared would be lying. It was extremely frightening,” he said. “We were all told to take cover when we saw the aircraft coming in. We all lay on the floor with our hands on top of our heads. When the first bombs hit, the whole ship shuddered. The first thing I did was pray.”

Mr Major was one of eight cooks onboard the Type 21 frigate. Three members of the close-knit team were killed. “Cooks were used for what is known as ‘defence watch’, watching out for incoming aircraft. It was eight hours on, eight hours off,” he explained. “When we were off-duty, we tried to get our heads down as best we could, but there was always something to do. We’d often be involved in moving shells and other ammunition around the ship.”

Mr Major was also a first-aider, although the scale of the damage inflicted in the raids meant he could do little to help. “Most of the damage was down aft (the back of the ship),” he said. “The bombs took out the galley. Because of the smoke, we couldn’t get down there.”

As the attack continued, the captain, Commander Alan West, gave the order to “abandon ship”. According to the official report into the loss of HMS Ardent, the ship “succumbed to two determined multi-aircraft attacks, which she had little chance of deflecting, and was seriously damaged”. The report added that the damage to the vessel would have been greater had a number of the bombs dropped not failed to explode.

Mr Major recalled, “To us, it all seemed to happen in seconds.”

Survivors of the attack were transferred to HMS Yarmouth and taken to South Georgia, before making the long voyage home where they were greeted by their families. “My mum and dad came down from Hull,” Mr Major said. “I remember just feeling numb.”

After returning to the UK, he and his fellow crew members were given four weeks’ “survivors leave” before being redeployed. “It was basically a case of ‘get on with the rest of your lives,'” he said. “Back then people didn’t really talk about mental health. I think it would have helped people if they had talked.”

Mr Major remained in the Royal Navy for another 20 years before leaving the service. “I had some great times, but I also had some pretty bad times, like losing 22 shipmates. It’s something you don’t forget,” he said.

Liberation Day commemorates the victory and liberation of the Falkland Islands from Argentine occupation, a conflict that lasted 74 days and concluded with the surrender of Argentine forces. The raising of the flag serves not only as a remembrance of those who perished but also as a celebration of the enduring freedom and sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

The bond between Milford Haven and HMS Ardent remains strong, symbolising the town’s support for the Royal Navy and its dedication to remembering those who served and sacrificed. The flag-raising ceremony is a testament to the bravery of the crew of HMS Ardent and the resilience of the community that honours their memory.

In total, 255 British military personnel, three islanders, and 649 Argentine soldiers died during the 74-day Falklands War. A service to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict will be held at 14:00 BST on 19th June at Hull Minster.

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