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No monopoly of wisdom or compassion, says MP

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no monopolyIT’S FUNNY how a spontaneous comment on Facebook can get picked up and played back, but that is what happened to a few words of mine about benefit reform and its impact on Pembrokeshire. And I am glad that it did.

In a thread of comments responding to the local charity PATCH I said that “no Government or Party has a monopoly of wisdom or compassion, and that none were evil either”. I thought no more about it but thanks to the Herald, I am now.

One of the things that I find frustrating about my job are the claims that there is only ever one cause of the nation’s concerns (them) and only one solution (us). If only it were so easy. The reform of the benefit system was largely seen as essential by all parties, but we differed on the detail. For me benefits are there for people in need; for that time when life goes wrong, when you lose your job or your health; for old age or some other unexpected hardship. They should not be a lifestyle choice, or a cosy alternative to work if work is available or possible.

And I think it is right that the way in which benefits are handed out are as fair to the people paying for them (you and me) as they are the recipient. If that means being reassessed from time to time then so be it. This is taxpayers money and billions of pounds of it.

Did you know that if over your lifetime you earn on average £32,000 or less per year you actually take more out of the state than you put in? I didn’t either, nor did I know that 30% of the UK’s income tax comes from just 1% of people paying it. What this means is that every working family is spending a huge proportion of their cash on benefits for other people – we are all happy to do that if we know those benefits are vital for that person’s quality of life.

By reforming the system like this we get other advantages too. Health and social problems, as well as crime can often be associated with a workless environment or extreme poverty. By changing the system to enable more people to get back to work and stay there we take huge pressure off our NHS, Police, and other services. And the numbers really are looking up. We have more jobs on offer in the region, lower unemployment and lower youth unemployment. New figures show that treatment for drug addiction is getting better. And as for housing I see nothing fair in keeping families in overcrowded conditions if their next door neighbour has two empty spare rooms. Surely we owe it those families to make better use of our housing stock?

Nevertheless I recognise one flaw in this otherwise positive picture. How can we apply these ‘one size fits all solutions’ to a nation which is clearly not one size? How can we make assessments as fair for someone with a mental condition as we do for someone with a limited physical one? Or encourage people to opt for a smaller house if no such houses are available?

This is where fairness comes in and where the nucleus of the problem lies. To be honest I think the Work Capability Assessment has fallen well short of expectations, especially for mental health sufferers. I have highlighted this point in Parliament – but I support the overall aims. The spare room subsidy is perfectly fair, but I regret that we did not have a longer transition period for Councils to work within. (It is of interest that in some councils the “discretionary housing fund” – used to help those facing a spare room subsidy cut – is denied to anybody with a Sky subscription or who smokes)

And it is a source of profound concern that anyone should genuinely face a choice of feeding their families or heating their house or flat. But I support the plans to move, by lots of carrot or a tiny bit of stick, people out of a benefit-dependent lifestyle.

Here in Westminster we mix with members of other Parties much more than the press would ever have you believe. I know and respect my opposition colleagues and in the main our differences are not as pronounced as all that. Strange though it may seem, we all strive to make our home areas that little bit better. The idea that there are any sections of society, young or old, rich or poor for whom we have
nothing but hatred or contempt is simply ridiculous.

This is why MP’s should be entirely non-judgmental when it comes to our constituents. You can love us or loathe us, you can vote for ‘us’ or ‘them’ or for no one at all, but in the end we are here to represent you and to use our judgment in doing so. We don’t always get it right, which is why I used those Facebook words in the first place.

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Charity

Calls for help over VHF radio may have been a hoax, say RNLI

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THE ANGLE All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch on service at 10:23am this morning, Monday (July 22).

Following a call to the Coastguard from Milford Haven VTS, the crew were tasked after the VTS operators overheard a female voice calling for help on VHF channel 12.

After narrowing down the transmission to having been received on the Pembroke aerial site, the crew were requested to conduct a search.

Launching at 10:30am, the lifeboat made best speed to the moorings at Hazelbeach, and a hasty search was requested by the Coastguard of any moored vessels. The crew began making their way amongst the moorings, heading up to the moorings off Neyland. With nothing untoward sighted, the crew proceeded to search the moorings off Hobbs Point, Barnlake Point, Burton, Llanion and Rudders Boat Yard.

With nothing found, the Coastguard requested that the crew continue their search up river to Picton Point. The lifeboat continued searching up the western shore encompassing Llangwm before altering course just past Landshipping and searching the eastern shore back down the river, calling in to Lawrenny on the way to check any vessels moored there.

The RNLI said that the search continued back down as far as the Cleddau Bridge.

On Facebook the organisation posted :”Following a thorough visual, communications and radar search the crew were subsequently stood down when no further information or calls had been received.

“The tasking was therefore deemed to be a hoax call.

“The lifeboat was back alongside and readied for further service by 1pm.”

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Crime

Police investigating after man injured during altercation in cemetery

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POLICE have confirmed that they are investigating a report of an altercation which occurred in the cemetery off Gelliswick Road, Hakin, Milford Haven sometime between 4.30 and 5.00pm, Wednesday 17th July, 2024.

Following the incident, a 32-year-old man went to hospital for treatment and was later released.

A 19-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail pending further police enquiries police have confirmed.

The incident caught the attention of locals, who said there was a large police response to the incident included armed officers.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: 394 of the 17th

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org

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Crime

West Wales man jailed for rape after victim’s cries heard

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A WEST WALES man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for raping a woman in an attack that ended only when her cries for help were heard by others. Charlie Evans, a 22-year-old former Exeter University student, ignored his victim’s repeated pleas for him to stop during the 45-minute ordeal.

The incident took place after Evans and his victim had attended a party, where both had been drinking. The court heard that after kissing, the pair left together, with the woman under the impression that Evans lived in a flat with her friend.

Upon returning to the flat, the woman used the toilet before Evans raped her, despite her repeatedly saying no. The prosecutor described the victim as crying hysterically and added: “She did not want these things to happen.”

During the attack, one student testified they could hear the victim not consenting and begging Evans to stop. Another person said they were so concerned they inquired about what was happening.

Police were alerted after the incident was reported to campus staff, who then contacted the emergency services. Evans was told to leave his flat and was subsequently removed from the university. He denied the offence during his police interview.

Evans, of Victoria Avenue, Mumbles, Swansea, was convicted earlier this year at Exeter Crown Court of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 12. In a victim statement, the woman said her life had been forever changed by Evans’s actions. She expressed feelings of fear, confusion, and shame during the incident and continues to suffer from nightmares. She now feels distrustful of men and has sought support to cope with her trauma, the court heard.

Christopher Quinlan KC, defending, presented multiple good character references for Evans, describing him as a “kind and respectful” young man who was “always positive, compassionate and thoughtful.” He argued that his client’s life was “in ruins” as a result of his actions.

However, Judge Stephen Climie told Evans he had “completely misrepresented” his victim’s position, adding: “She was so far away from wishing to engage in your sexual activity that the only explanation for your attitude and approach was alcohol that blinded you to what was clearly and obviously the word ‘No’.” He continued: “So far as your life is concerned you will be crushed as a result of the sentence I’m required to impose.”

Following the sentencing, DC Michele Hicks from Devon and Cornwall Police’s major crime investigation team praised the victim for her courage and resilience throughout the investigation. She said: “I hope this case reassures the community how seriously the police take reports of sexual violence against women and girls and gives people the courage to come forward in future.”

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