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Labour’s legislative plans announced

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Final programme for departure: Carwyn Jones unveils legislative aims

DEPARTING First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced the Welsh Government’s legislative programme for the Assembly’s term following the summer recess.
The programme makes good on the Welsh Government’s policy promise of ending the physical punishment of children in Wales. The measure, which has been opposed by the campaign group ‘Be Reasonable’, is one of a package of members aimed at promoting child welfare.

Commenting on the move, an NSPCC Cymru spokesperson said: “The NSPCC has long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults so the Welsh Government’s intention to remove the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ in the coming year is hugely welcome.

“It is a common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children.

“It is wrong that a legal defence which does not exist in a case of assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child.

“Closing this loophole will bring Wales in line with dozens of countries around the world and finally give our children equal protection under the law.”

A bill will also be brought forward to establish duties of quality and candour in health and social care. This will place statutory obligations on all health organisations in Wales to be open and transparent and will ensure lessons are learned and improvements made where necessary. A new independent body will be created to give people a stronger voice for their experiences of health and social care services.

The government will bring forward a local government bill, which will include reform of local authority electoral arrangements, including reducing the voting age to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

The way animals are treated is an important reflection of society and over the next 12 months, a bill will be introduced to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds.

The government will also introduce a bill to make Welsh law more accessible. The Legislation (Wales) Bill will be the first major step towards achieving a clear and well-organised statute book.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “The year ahead will be one of the busiest for us in legislative terms since Wales gained primary law-making powers.

“Making our statute book ready for EU exit is a big challenge for the Welsh Government and the National Assembly but we must not let this limit our ambitions. We will keep driving forward progress and delivering for the people of Wales.”

In addition to the Welsh Government’s legislative programme, the National Assembly will be asked to undertake a substantial programme of correcting regulations under the EU (Withdrawal) Act between October and March in preparation for EU exit.

However, Carwyn Jones’ final statement on the Welsh Government’s law-making priorities for the year ahead have been branded “unambitious, last-minute scribblings of a tired administration” by the Welsh Conservatives.

One of the proposals to be brought forward is a ban on wild animals from performing in travelling circuses, something Welsh Conservatives have been calling for in recent years.

Legislation to merge councils is likely to face much contention following fierce opposition from the Welsh Local Government Association over the past few months after being told they will have to merge voluntarily, or have t imposed upon them.

Interim leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies AM, said: “After nearly 20 years at the helm, the Welsh Labour Government have been proven to be unimaginative and tired.

The headline bills to be announced today is typical Welsh Labour: tinker at the edges, but do nothing to resolve the fundamental challenges to Welsh society and its economy.

“We have an underperforming health service, a health board in special measures for three years, and an education system that ranks bottom of the UK nations.

“It is time to be more radical with public services – not only to deliver better value for money for taxpayers, but also better outcomes for everyone in all parts of Wales in health, education, and beyond.”

And Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood also expressed her and her party’s disappointment at Labour’s programme.

“I congratulate the First Minister on delivering his eighth and final statement on a future legislative programme.

“However, I am saddened to say this looks like a re-hash of a legislative programme we have seen before. At a time when our democracy, our nation, is in flux, we need ambition, vision and leadership. Values I do not see demonstrated by today’s statement.

“We can agree that Westminster is failing Wales. But this Parliament – the new home of Welsh democracy – was meant to give us the opportunity to do things differently. When they cancelled plans for a tidal lagoon, legislation should have been brought forward for a new nationalised Welsh energy company. We must take our future into our hands, not allow Westminster to tie them behind our back.

“We are leaving an environment that is increasingly inhospitable. Air pollution kills tens of thousands every year and plastic waste litters our coastline and countryside. But a Clean Air Act and bottle return scheme are nowhere to be seen in this statement. There is also no proposed legislation or laws to create a feminist Welsh government a reality as promised.

“Many key decisions have also been kicked into the long-grass. The size of our parliament and who can participate in our democracy, for one.

“There is not a single piece of legislation planned for education, transport, energy, the environment, housing, social care, farming and fisheries.

“This is a legislative programme of old ideas and no ambition. The Welsh Government can do better. The National Assembly can deliver better. Wales needs better.”

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We need to ‘mobilise for war’ says head of British Army – ‘this is our 1937 moment’

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THE NEW head of the British Army has said it must ‘mobilise’ in response to the threat posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, invoking memories the Allies’ struggle against Nazi Germany in the 1940’s.

Patrick Sanders, a general who became the army’s top officer this month, said Moscow’s attack on its neighbor represented “a clear and present danger” to Western “principles of sovereignty and democracy.”

In a wide-ranging speech to mark taking over the role, he argued Britain’s armed forces must react by accelerating modernization plans and immediately increasing battle readiness alongside NATO allies.

“This is our 1937 moment,” Sanders told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) military think-tank, referring to Western allies’’ struggle to subdue Nazi Germany’s aggression in the run-up to World War II.

“We’re not at war. We must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.”

Adding it is “dangerous” to assume Russian aggression will end with Ukraine, he predicted Moscow will pose “an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it has before.”

“The Russian invasion has reminded us of that time-honored maxim that if you want to avert conflict, you better be prepared to fight,” Sanders said.

His comments come as NATO members begin to meet in Madrid Tuesday for a summit, and follow the military alliance announcing it will boost its high-readiness force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops.

Its chief Jens Stoltenberg has called the move “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”

Sanders said the gathering in the Spanish capital was an opportunity for Britain to demonstrate its “enduring commitment to our allies” and “lead by example” in mobilizing the army.

He noted mobilisation would now be the army’s “main effort” over the coming years, “to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win alongside our NATO allies.”

“It will be hard work, a generational effort and I expect all ranks to get ready, train hard and engage,” he added.

The army head also backed the US and UK governments’ stance of aggressively arming Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

“This is the moment to defend the democratic values that define us,” Sanders said.

“This is the moment to help our brave Ukrainian allies in their gallant struggle. This is the moment we stand with our friends and partners to maintain peace throughout the rest of Europe.”

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said:

“We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said:

“This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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WASPI women call on Simon Hart MP for help with compensation package

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PENSIONS Minister Guy Opperman, like Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales have said that they have no plans to meet with WASPI campaigners.

In the latest twist for these women, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq questioned the Government on when the last meeting between a minister and the women of WASPI was held, and when the Government next intends to schedule one.

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions, stated there had been a meeting between a minister and representatives of WASPI.

However, he acknowledged this had occurred years ago on June 29, 2016.

Jackie Gilderdale said that “The Ombudsman has been clear that the Department could be pro-active on compensation”.

“All we are asking is that Ministers meet with us to discuss a fair, fast compensation package now before more women die waiting for justice. We have lost over 220,000 women during this campaign including members of the local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales.

“The MPs refusal is ignorant. They need to remember they’re paid from the public purse, to represent their constituents”.

Rupa Huq MP, who posed the original question in Parliament, has described the Government’s response as “shocking”.

She has called for the Government to take further action on the matter for women affected.

Ms Huq added: “The DWP has already been found guilty by the Ombudsman of maladministration”.

On Saturday some 1950s women joined over 115,000 people in London at the TUC rally, demanding justice now.

Simon Hart MP/Secretary of State responded recently to one of his 1950s WASPI Women of Wales constituents who asked for his help. His opening paragraph in his response was as follows:-

“Thank you for your recent email regarding pensions and the cost of living. I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with the increase in heating and electricity bills; I appreciate the stress it is causing in households across the country”.

Local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales Organiser, Jackie Gilderdale said: “It’s all very well that Simon Hart responded, but what does he intend to do to help the 1950s women and others during an economic crises caused by his Party, and the fat cats who profit through Tory Policies? His responses continue to be cut, copy and pasted from websites, rather than from himself”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies stated today that as a result of increasing the state pension age from 65 to 66 the income poverty rate of single people aged 65 rose by 22 percentage points, from 16% to 38%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-olds with at most GCSE-level education rose by 21 percentage points, from 14% to 35%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-old renters rose by 24 percentage points, from 22% to 46%.

The rise in the state pension age from 65 to 66 led to larger increases in income poverty rates among those affected than the increases in poverty rates seen following earlier rises in the female state pension age. This is due to a growing gap in state support over time for those just above and just below the state pension age, together with the fact that people are more reliant on state support at older ages as fewer people are in paid work.

With lower state benefits and higher tax revenues from employment, the increase in state pension age from 65 to 66 boosted the public finances by £4.9 billion per year, equivalent to around a quarter of 1% of national income, or 5% of annual government spending on state pensions. The benefit to the exchequer is the key counterpart to the reductions in household incomes caused by the reform.

Jackie said that “just to make it clear, the national insurance fund has a surplus of approximately £30 billion and that surplus has been generated by the women who have paid national insurance. All we ask is that the 1950s women are given what they are entitled too – after all they’ve paid into the system for decades. The state pension should be seen as a right, but the Government have changed the terms and conditions of that right without consulting the 3.6 million women affected! 12 months ago the Government and DWP were found guilty of maladministration and now we await the findings of stages 2 and 3, so these women can be rightfully compensated”.

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