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Politics

Paul Davies calls for ‘devolution revolution’

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has enough powers to do what it needs to do for the people of Wales and should stop pretending it has powers in policy areas outside its remit.
That was the uncompromising message of Conservative leader Paul Davies MS when interviewed by The Herald this week.

Instead of dabbling in international relations and commissioning reports into the potential devolution of powers over the justice system, the Welsh Government should direct its attention at those areas in which its powers can do the most good for Wales, Mr Davies said.

Rather than seeking new powers, Cardiff Bay should look at successive governments’ failures on health policy, education, and Wales’ fragile economy.

When challenged about whether his approach signalled a lack of ambition for Wales’ future, Paul Davies said: “I have plenty of ambition for Wales. The Conservatives are ambitious for Wales. But we have got to get to grips with the issues which affect Wales after twenty years of Labour-led rule in Cardiff.

“The structure of government needs to be overhauled and we must have Ministers who are accountable for their policy areas. Whatever goes wrong with its current policies, whatever mistakes are made, with Labour it’s always someone else’s fault. The Government is never to blame.

“That has to end and that is one of the most important changes that will take place if I am First Minister after May 2021.”

When it came to that sort of radical restructure, we probed further about what Mr Davies had in mind.

“Angela Burns is doing excellent work at the moment with our planned Office for Government Resilience and Efficiency (OGRE). She is working with colleagues to identify where we can get rid of duplication and waste in the current system. There are too many announcements; too many consultations; too much dither and delay before the Welsh Government gets round to doing anything.

“We will drive through an ambitious policy agenda which delivers services people need in good time. The Welsh Labour-led government is spending more time saying its thinking about policy than delivering the improvements Wales needs and its people deserve. To do that, we will cut the chatter and get on with the job.
“Ministers need to make decisions and be accountable for them in the Senedd and to the public.”

We suggested that breaking the cycle of Labour victories in Wales would be tough to achieve, but Paul Davies said there was cause for optimism.

Reflecting on the historically dismal turnout for elections to the Welsh Parliament, he said: “You have to remember that Wales has never elected a majority Labour Government. At the moment, it has a Liberal Democrat in the Cabinet. One of its other Ministers (Dafydd Elis Thomas) sits as an independent. Without those votes, Labour would be in a minority. Labour has been propped up by the Liberal Democrats and by Plaid Cymru in the past.

“Recent polls show an improving position for the Conservatives in Wales.”

Referring to those polls, we pointed out that they still did not show a majority for a Conservative government or even for the Party being the largest in the Senedd after next May’s elections.

“In last December’s General Election, we got an unprecedented share of the vote in Wales. Our job, as Welsh Conservatives is to convince those voters to turnout and vote Conservative for the Senedd. Our analysis shows that if we manage to get 75% of those voters who voted Conservative last December to vote Conservative in May 2021, we will get over the line and be in the best position to form a government.”

The remote possibility of a Plaid/Conservative agreement seems to have vanished. Last week, Adam Price ruled out a coalition with the Conservatives or supporting an effort by the Conservatives to form a government. That seems to leave little arithmetical room for manoeuvre. On the question of where the Conservatives would draw support from if it was the largest party but didn’t have a majority, Paul Davies wouldn’t be drawn.

“We will have to gauge that position if it arises. There are possibilities of drawing support from elsewhere, but I make no bones about it: I am aiming to form a government for Wales.”

In light of the close relationship between the Welsh Government and Wales’ national media, we asked whether Paul Davies thought his message could get through.
He didn’t mince his words in reply.

“The current Government gets an easy ride when it comes to scrutiny by Wales’ national media. Opposition voices are drowned out. It’s only recently that BBC Wales has started allowing opposition parties to respond the Welsh Government’s televised coronavirus broadcasts. That’s vitally important, because we’re not getting much chance to scrutinise the government’s announcements before they are broadcast.”

Mr Davies was, of course, referring to the latest and continuing row over the Welsh Government’s practice of delivering policy announcements in a way that avoids direct scrutiny by opposition parties before they have been spun to broadcast and print media.

“The right place for ministers to make announcements is in the Senedd. Look at the ridiculous position we have at the moment. Ministers can make it to the Welsh Government’s offices. They can get to Cathays Park for television broadcasts. They cannot, however, make the journey to the Senedd – which is where they should be – to answer questions and be held to account!

“It’s ridiculous that Ken Skates (Minister for the Economy and MS for Clwyd South) makes an announcement in Cardiff and then goes back to North Wales but can’t – or won’t – appear before the Senedd.

“Questioning ministers over a digital link is not the same as being able to question them on the floor of the Senedd Chamber. Welsh Government ministers are getting away with ducking scrutiny and Wales’ national media are letting them get away with it.”

We concluded by asking what positive message voters could take away from our interview.

“Make no mistake, what I want to deliver is a devolution revolution. A government which delivers for all of Wales and not just for parts of it. Too often, local concerns are swept aside because of big national strategies. We will be smarter and look at local circumstances. I’ve campaigned to stop Withybush being downgraded and losing services for years. Why are services being taken away? Because Welsh Labour says so. It doesn’t understand that Wales is more than those bits of it which vote Labour.

“We must have better services, delivered more efficiently, and for which Welsh Government ministers are properly accountable. That needs radical change and that is why I call it a devolution revolution. After twenty years of Welsh Labour government, its failed on its core responsibilities: health, education, and the economy – I want to do more and do it better. Devolution hasn’t failed Wales, Welsh Labour has.”

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Politics

Important information arriving ahead of elections

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IMPORTANT information about the Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May will be landing on all Pembrokeshire doormats this week.

Both the Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner elections will be held on Thursday, May 6.

The letters will ensure electoral records are correct, detail how to add/change any entries and urge those who are not registered to do so before the deadline of midnight, Monday 19th April.

Please read the letter and check the details are up to date and only contact the Council if necessary.

You can register to vote at: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

For the first time, those who will be aged 16 or over on 6th May and are registered to vote can vote in the Senedd elections.

Foreign citizens who will be aged 16 or over on 6th May and are registered to vote can also take part in the Senedd elections.

For the Police and Crime Commissioner elections those aged 18 and over on 6th May who are registered to vote can cast their vote.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may wish to consider your voting options.

Polling stations will be open and will have undergone extensive preparations as well as ongoing monitoring to ensure that they are safe environments to cast your vote.

However, it is likely that more people than ever will wish to take up an option for a postal vote for the elections on 6th May.

Given the anticipated demand, please apply for a postal vote as early as possible to allow the Council’s elections team plenty of time to be able to process your application.

You can apply for a postal vote or proxy vote (someone you trust to cast your vote on your behalf) at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/voter

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News

MS summoned to Court over tweet

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PLAID CYMRU’s Mid & West Wales Regional Senedd Member Helen Mary Jones has been summoned to appear at Swansea Crown Court.

HHJ Paul Thomas QC ordered Ms Jones to court after she retweeted a third-party’s post which expressed the hope a defendant in an ongoing murder trial would be convicted.

The tweet referred to the trial of 70-year-old Anthony Williams, who killed his wife shortly after the start of the first lockdown in March last year.

Mr Williams had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.

However, while the trial was ongoing, a domestic violence campaigner tweeted:: “Another perp using the ‘I just snapped’. It is complete b******t! As so many of us will know, there would have been history of domestic abuse.
“I hope this jury finds him guilty of murder. Rest in peace, Ruth.”
On Saturday, before the jury returned its verdict, Ms Jones shared the tweet.

There was no history of domestic abuse and no suggestion of it was raised during Mr Jones’ trial.

When the Jury returned to Court on Monday, HHJ Paul Thomas said: “It’s come to my attention that, over the weekend, there have been some highly inappropriate comments made on social media about this case.
“I should make it abundantly clear that those comments have not come from anybody connected with the case and, having been shown the contents of one such piece of social media, they clearly don’t have any idea about the evidence in this case or the issues in this case.”
None of the jurors saw the offending post and continued their deliberations.

On Monday afternoon, the jury acquitted Mr Williams of murder.

By retweeting the remarks made by a third party, the risk existed that the jury could have been influenced and their decision-making compromised.

On Thursday, Helen Mary Jones will have the chance to explain her actions to Judge Thomas in person.

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News

UKIP politicians vow to overturn new smacking ban in Wales

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UKIP Wales has announced that it is committed to repealing the Welsh Government’s controversial ‘Smacking Ban’ ahead of the Senedd Elections, and that this will become part of its manifesto in Wales.

The ban on reasonable chastisement was introduced in January 2020 by Labour’s Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan. The legislation removes the defence of “reasonable punishment” in cases of common assault.

UKIP Leader and Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, Neil Hamilton, said: “Parents know what is best for their children, not politicians. Members of the Senedd need to get a foot in the real world, outside the Cardiff Bay Bubble and listen to the public.

“[The ban] received huge criticism when it was railroaded through the Senedd against public opinion. When consulted, up to 75% of parents in Wales opposed the restrictions that prohibited them from reasonably disciplining their children.

“The policy is practically impossible to enforce and is estimated to cost the taxpayer £8 million. It is another example of the Cardiff Bay politicians overextending themselves and forcing their own virtue-signalling morality on to the people of Wales.

“Senedd politicians from all parties have forgotten they are not the boss – the public are. As Members of the Senedd, their job is to represent their constituents not police how parents bring up their children.

“The Government must do everything possible to protect children from physical and psychological abuse. But this legislation has done, and will continue to do, nothing to stop cases of serious abuse. Instead, it penalises parents who take reasonable steps to discipline their children.

“In this year’s Senedd Elections, UKIP is standing up for parents to raise their children free from interference from an overarching, self-righteous political class in Cardiff.”

Pembrokeshire-based UKIP councillor Paul Dowson said: “In my opinion this is plain and simple common sense. It has cost the taxpayer 8 million pounds for a bill which is simply unenforceable.

“This over-woke labour Welsh government made up of out of touch ministers have no right to tell the public how to discipline their children.

“The latest generation have recently gone through the education system where there are no serious consequences for bad behaviour, the parents have been restricted regarding punishing bad behaviour, and the curriculum promotes 99 different genders along with a whole host of other WOKE topics above common sense and basic respect.
“Our future begins with our children and we need to be allowed to discipline our kids in a way which we see fit even if it does include a smack on the ass when required.

“The sooner we regain control of society the better.

“No better place to start than with bringing our children up properly instead of following the Drakeford formula. His own son is a prime example of poor parenting.”

Cllrs Dowson’s view is at odds with the NSPCC. The children’s protection charity said in a press release: “This is a remarkable achievement which closes an outdated loophole and finally gives children in Wales the same legal protection from assault as adults.”

Conservative AM Ms Finch-Saunders said: “With this bill the state is now stepping into the private lives of families”.

She added: “Through the involvement of the police and social services… this smacking ban this will potentially have far reaching consequences for us all.”

Julie Morgan, Deputy Social Services Minister, said it was a “historic day” after members passed the law with 36 votes for, 14 against.

Ms Morgan had campaigned for years for a ban and had broken the Labour whip over the issue when the Welsh Government did not support it, in 2015.

She said at a press conference after the vote: “This is not about the government telling parents how to raise their children or about criminalising loving parents,”

She added the government had listened to the “vocal minority” who opposed the move, but that removing the defence of reasonable punishment “is the right thing to do”.

“The children of Wales now have the same protection as adults in Wales have.”

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