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Politics

Labour back Tory Brexit amendment

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Dark day for Wales: Adam Price

Dark day for Wales: Adam Price

THE WELSH Labour Government has been accused of adopting a ‘hard Brexit’ position after their AMs voted in favour of an amendment tabled by the Welsh Conservatives.

The original motion from Plaid Cymru called for membership of the Single Market.

However, the amendment, tabled by Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies, instead noted the importance of access to the Single Market.

Carwyn Jones admitted during First Minister’s Questions that the ‘red line’ for Wales in the Brexit debates was the free movement of goods rather than people.

Plaid Cymru, predictably, fiercely criticised Welsh Labour, with Adam Price calling the vote ‘the most shocking event since devolution’ and accusing Labour of ‘voting against the Welsh national interest’.

“Due to the way Labour voted, David Davis’ hard Brexit policy has now been adopted by the Welsh Government,” the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM added.

“This is a dark day for Wales as the National Assembly becomes the first parliament in these islands to vote in favour of a hard Brexit, and to yield any possible leverage in securing the best deal for Wales, thanks to Labour joining forces with the Tories.

“Ever since the Brexit vote, the Labour government’s position on membership of the Single Market has been confused at best, with successive statements expressing contradictory positions. One minute Labour was in favour of full membership then just access the next; one minute they wanted free movement of people, the next minute they were calling for a moratorium on free movement.”

However, a spokesperson for Ken Skates AM hit back, describing the Plaid Cymru motion as ‘sloppy’ and ‘designed to generate a press release and not a meaningful debate’.

“It does no-one any favours to have these wild claims every time the Welsh Government declines to play this semantic parlour game on how best to respond to Brexit,” they added.

“Our view is clear – we support continued, unfettered access to the Single Market. We have not supported hard Brexit today, nor will we ever – the Cabinet Secretary was very clear about our aims and priorities.”

It is worth pointing out that, given that Brexit negotiations have not yet properly begun, no time scale exists yet for the triggering of Article 50, and that the UK government appears unable to agree on the best possible Brexit outcomes, that any motion passed in the Assembly at this stage could quickly become irrelevant. The free movement of people within the EU was also considered to be a major factor in Wales voting as a country to leave the EU.

In a turn of events so rare as to be almost without precedent, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, praised the Welsh Labour Government. Mr Davies said: “This was a bright day for Welsh democracy, and I’m pleased that the Welsh political establishment has at last heeded my calls to accept the result and to move on to securing the best possible deal for Wales.

“My party tabled a sensible, constructive motion which sought cross-party consensus in order to heal the tensions which have remained in Welsh political discourse since June 23.

“We now have a collective voice for Wales and, though there will be bumps along the road, a set of basic starting principles have been established. “Not only does it send a strong message to voters that the Welsh Assembly accepts that the public want a degree of control over immigration, it also sends a signal that we now want to work collectively as a country to support the Prime Minister in moving this process forward.”

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Councils warned they have two years to improve local elections

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COUNCILS across Wales have been warned they have just two years to improve local democracy, after a new report has highlighted major issues with the most recent elections in May.

Time for Change: The 2022 Welsh Local Elections and the case for STV, published by campaigners ERS Cymru, has highlighted a slew of uncontested seats and disproportionate results under the current first past the post system [1]. 

It comes as local councils in Wales have the chance to change voting systems, with each council now able to vote to move to a fairer system, the single transferable vote (STV). However, councils will have to vote to move to STV by the 15th November 2024, two years from today in order for this to take effect for the next elections in 2027 [2]. 

Analysis of the 2022 Welsh local elections found that 74 seats in Wales were uncontested, meaning over 100,000 potential voters in Wales had no choice on who represents them in their local council. 

Furthermore, there are eight councils in Wales with ‘unearned majorities’ where a party holds over 50% of the seats on less than 50% of the vote, a third of all councils. 

The report also compares the Welsh local elections in 2022, with the Scottish local elections, where STV has been in place since 2007. It finds that Scottish election results are dramatically more proportional, with only two local authorities in Scotland with ‘unearned majorities’ – , just 6% of councils compared with over one third in Wales.

It also finds that uncontested seats have vastly reduced in Scotland under a fairer voting system, with just 27 uncontested seats in total in the four elections since the voting system change, compared with 61 in just the final First Past the Post election alone. 

Commenting on the report Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“Our research shows a stark picture of a voting system that does not deliver for voters in Wales. Everyone should be able to go into a polling station on election day knowing their vote will count. But for over 100,000 people their elections were cancelled this May with the winners declared without a single ballot cast. For millions more there was no guarantee that their vote would matter or be reflected in the result.

“The good news is that there is an alternative. This report highlights how much of an improvement moving to STV has been in Scotland, reducing uncontested seats and making votes count so much more. 

“We have the chance to follow Scotland’s lead and for each council in Wales to vote to move to STV. Councillors must grasp the nettle and vote for this much-needed change in the next two years to really ensure a strong local democracy for Wales”. 

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Politics

CIEH joins over 60 charities calling for measures to tackle fuel poverty this winter

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THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH (CIEH) has joined over 60 charities in their call for the UK Government to implement a suite of measures to prevent millions of households falling into fuel poverty this winter.

CIEH have signed a joint letter released last week as part of our involvement in the ‘Warm this Winter’ campaign. Warm This Winter is a new campaign demanding the government acts now to help people struggling with energy bills this winter and to ensure we all have access to affordable energy in the future.

The Government has already introduced a number of measures designed to support households with soaring energy bills, namely the Energy Price Guarantee. Originally introduced by Liz Truss, freezing the price cap on energy for two years, it was then reduced to 6 months by the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Secondly, the Energy Bills Discount Scheme introduced by Boris Johnson, which offers £400 to households, spread over 6 months from October to March.

However, even with the Government’s support package this winter, 7 million UK households will still be in fuel poverty and forced into making impossible choices. This will rise to 11 million households – over a third of UK households – next Spring without additional targeted support.

Warm This Winter are seeking to put pressure on the Government by making the following asks:

  • Urgently expand the support available to people this winter, including confirming that benefits will be rise in line with inflation as normal, and clarify the future of financial support from April 2023
  • Rapidly embark on a national programme of insulating homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces, which could save households on average around £500 on their bills each year
  • Implement a plan for a rapid roll-out, in harmony with nature, of clean, renewable energy to move the UK beyond expensive, volatile fossil fuels and enhance UK energy security

CIEH has consistently supported calls for the Government to both increase financial support for households facing fuel poverty this winter as well as calling for the rollout of a national programme of insulation measures.

Ross Matthew, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: “CIEH are delighted to lend our support to the Warm This Winter campaign.

“We have been consistent in our calls for the UK Government to provide greater support to households who are being faced with the impossible choice of turning on their heating or putting food on the table.

“While current government measures may prevent a full-blown crisis this winter, we are concerned that there is no long-term plan beyond Spring. That is why we also support Warm this Winter’s calls for the rollout of a national programme of home insulation as well as greater investment in renewable sources of energy in the long term.

“We urge the UK Government to recognise the severity of the situation many households face and to take urgent action.”

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Plaid to investigate ‘very serious’ allegations against top party bosses

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HERALD EXCLUSIVE

TWO senior figures in the Party of Wales face an internal investigation following allegations of serious misconduct.

A former Plaid Cymru employee made the allegations via Twitter yesterday (Tuesday, November 1).
The Herald has screenshots of the allegations. However, we cannot detail the allegations or identify the persons they relate to for legal reasons.

We spoke with the complainant and respect their request for their identity to remain anonymous.

The former employee has now deleted their tweets and locked their Twitter account.

The tweets allege a toxic culture within Plaid Cymru, echoing the “Pestminster” scandal that engulfed the House of Commons in 2017/18.

We approached Plaid Cymru on Tuesday, November 1. We asked them to respond to the serious allegations, including one of sexual assault. We provided details of the tweets and asked for a response before publication.

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson told The Herald: “Plaid takes all allegations very seriously, and the party has processes in place to investigate them.

“At present, the allegations in question remain just that.

“We ask for everyone to respect the process the party must follow in this situation, and to guard against making any comments that may be considered to be baseless insinuations, or indeed defamatory about the situation or the individuals involved in it.”

The Herald believes the Chair and the Head of the Disciplinary Committee discussed the allegations in a meeting yesterday.

Plaid Cymru came under scrutiny earlier this year for the National Executive Committee’s attempt to rewrite its disciplinary procedure after one completed that did not lead to the result some on the NEC wanted.

As a result, Plaid Cymru said it would revisit and strengthen its disciplinary procedures to provide more protection to those making allegations of abuse.

A Plaid Cymru insider told The Herald: “These are extremely serious allegations.

“The party has covered up other incidents of this nature; however, in this case, the victim going public means that those who have covered up in the past cannot hide from this issue any longer.

“The only way for the party to restore public confidence is through a transparent investigation and, if necessary, strong disciplinary action against those concerned.
“While the investigation takes place, those concerned should not participate in the party’s activities and the party must safeguard the complainant.”

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