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Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.

The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.

The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.

However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.

In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.

“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.

“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.

“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.

“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.

“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”

“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”

Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:

“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.

“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.

“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.

“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.

Commenting on the latest developments, William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire and former AM for Mid and West Wales said: ‘Paul Davies & Darren Millar have now done the correct thing in stepping down, to allow due process to take place, both within Cardiff Council and within the Senedd.
‘While they both need to reflect and learn from recent events, the Welsh Conservatives must now be given the opportunity to select an interim leader to take their party forward into the upcoming Senedd elections.
‘Schadenfreude is one of the unattractive features of our current politics and I want no part of it. I will simply work with my Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues to hold Welsh and UK Government to account on the management of the pandemic.
‘My own journey of Covid-19 illness and recovery is a reminder that we should unite to double down on the virus, support our NHS and other key workers and endeavour to do the right thing.’

Welsh Labour Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire has called out Paul Davies over his involvement in his apparent disregard of COVID rules in the Senedd and has expressed her concern that no actions have been taken to suspend him by his Party.

Commenting on the Welsh Conservative Group not taking any action against Paul Davies, Jackie Jones said: “I am flabbergasted that the Tory party is sitting on his hands and failed to recognise the public concern at the events described this week. The latest revelations suggest that he didn’t’ just breach the rules once but maybe twice. Now that this information has come to light, it is only right that the Tories look again at the decision they have taken today.

“As Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd he should be setting an example, not flouting the strict pandemic rules by supposedly drinking till 2 am on Senedd premises. Paul Davies constantly criticises the First Minister and Health Minister for implementing rules that are there to protect all of us, but here he is reportedly drinking till who knows when – maybe on two occasions – totally hypocritical.”

Ms Jones added that “I’m sure the constituents of Preseli will be equally annoyed by his behaviour, when they have had to abide by the rules, not going to pubs, not seeing loved ones for months at a time. It is completely out of order.”

Elin Jones MS, said: “The Commission’s internal investigation has established that alcohol was consumed by five individuals in the Senedd’s licensed tearoom, four of whom are elected members.

“The investigation has concluded that a possible breach of regulations occurred and therefore the Chief Executive of the Senedd Commission has referred the matter to Cardiff Council.

“The Regulations in place at the time imposed strict restrictions on members of the public with regard to the consumption of alcohol.

“Given that the possible breach in question occurred as a result of the consumption of alcohol by Members of the Senedd, I have also written to the Standards Commissioner to ask him to investigate whether these Members acted in accordance with the duty in the Code of Conduct to conduct themselves in a manner which maintains and strengthens the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the Senedd.”

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Cllr Dowson asks police to stop UN-backed anti-racism day protests

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THE UNITED NATION’S Anti-Racism Day has upset a Pembrokeshire County Councillor, and he has written to the police in an attempt to stop demonstrations locally.

March 20 2021 is UN Anti-Racism Day – but Pembroke Dock Councillor Paul Dowson thinks events should not go ahead as planned in Penally, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest.

The controversial UKIP councillor who has been defending himself against accusations of racism of late. He also has had to defend the actions of a fellow UKIP member who has had his YouTube channel, in which he participated, blocked after a BBC and S4C investigation concluded that there was racist content.

The UN event he is opposing is being supported all over the world, will be marked, according to its organisers, with an online national rally with speakers representing the broad alliance of communities and organisations that make up the anti-racist movement.

“We will come together united against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism. We will stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants”, a spokesperson said for the cause.

A ‘national day of action’ in support of the UN’s efforts is being championed by the worker’s union Unison in the UK.

The plan for Pembrokeshire is laid out on social media. According to the Facebook group ‘Stand up to racism Pembrokeshire’ is a series of ‘socially distanced events’ starting at 11am on the day in Penally, which the group calls ‘Solidarity with refugees’.

That is to be followed by the online rally at 1pm organised by Stand Up To Racism. Then at 2.30pm there will be an event in Pembroke Dock described as ‘an event light the town in purple and declare it racism free’

The International UN Antiracism Day online rally starts at 5pm.

Similar demos have taken place before locally (Pic Herald photographer)

The Facebook page then goes on to say that at 5.29pm at Haverfordwest Picton Fields demonstrators will ‘Take the Knee with Louisa Calderon’ at the same time as Swansea and Cardiff footballers before their game – in solidarity with BLM

“We will be all compliant with Covid regulations… Please wear a mask and socially distance” it says.

In this letter to the police Cllr Dowson wrote: “As County Councillor for The Pembroke Dock Central ward, I am concerned about the fact that a public protest has been scheduled to take place.. in breaching tier 4 lockdown regulations.

“I am reliably informed that there are people attending from outside the county and outside Wales.

“The posters advertising these events also state the same.

“Like all other towns in the country, we have a section of the community who are more vulnerable to Coronavirus than others and it is the duty of all of us to ensure that we do not place these people at risk by adhering to the COVID-19 lockdown legislation.

“These planned social gatherings are wilfully and deliberately intended to ignore legislation. If I were to do the same I’m certain I would be reported for the offence. The people attending this planned gathering on the 20th March have no justifiable excuse for placing local people’s lives in danger.

“I would appreciate your reassurance that this mass gathering will be dealt with according to Welsh Government legislation on tier four lockdown.

“I’d also be grateful for your confirmation that any person travelling from outside the permitted area will be reported for the offence and sent back home.

“As a County Councillor people are looking to me for reassurance… that [the demos] will be prevented from taking place and penalties will be issued accordingly.

An organiser told The Herald: “The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a fresh spotlight on the horrific levels of racism around the world. With the Coronavirus crisis intensifying, structural racism & health inequalities mean the epidemic is continuing to disproportionately impact Black communities.

“On March 20 2021 we will come together united against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism. We will stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants.”

Last month Cllr Dowson hit back at the BBC – calling the broadcasting company a ‘shambolic mess’ following a news report where fellow UKIP members were accused of displaying racism on their YouTube channel.

The controversial who represents the Pembroke Dock Central Ward has also taken aim at what he calls online ‘bullies’ who have set up Facebook groups with the sole intention of harassing him, simply because he doesn’t agree with their views.

The county councillor has come out in defence of the Voice of Wales hosts Dan Morgan and Stan Robinson after the BBC and S4C broadcast a news item last week where accusations were made by senior politicians from the Senedd that ‘unacceptable’ language and hate speech had been used by the YouTubers and guests on their channel.

In 2020 the controversial councillor denied he shared images on social media that were racist, hateful to women and people of different religions.

Dowson said the images, alleged by the union Unison to have come from his Facebook account, were “manufactured” by political opponents.

Speaking at the time he told a reporter from BBC Wales: “Give me 24 hours and I could come up with the same screenshots in your name.”

Mr Dowson “categorically” denied sharing the allegedly offensive posts. He also denied he was racist. Elected with a majority of just four votes to represent the Pembroke Dock Central ward in 2017.

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Fr. Liam Bradley to become Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police

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THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in Haverfordwest will see some changes over the coming weeks as Father Liam Bradley, who has been the parish priest for seven years is to move from his post to become the Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police.

From Cardiff, Archbishop George Stack said in a statement: “Fr. Liam Bradley has given outstanding service as volunteer chaplain to the police in Haverfordwest over recent years.

“So much so, that he has been seconded by the Diocese of Menevia to become Lead Chaplain for Dyfed-Powys Police with responsibility for a team of volunteer chaplains. He will be engaged in this work of spiritual care and pastoral support of police officers and civilian workers for a period of three days each week. He will be based at Dyfed-Powys Police Headquarters in Carmarthen.

“Whilst this means that Fr. Liam will have to stand down as parish priest of Haverfordwest, I am pleased to say that he will continue to have responsibility as chaplain to the staff and patients at Withybush Hospital for two days each week. In addition to this, he will also offer his services to the Cistercian community at Holy Cross Abbey, Whitland.

“I am grateful to Canon Pius Valummelmalayil for his invitation that Fr. Liam should take up residence at St. Mary’s Presbytery, Carmarthen.

“I have asked Fr. Matthew Roche-Saunders to assume pastoral responsibility for the parish of St. David and St. Patrick, Haverfordwest and the Immaculate Conception, Narberth, for the foreseeable future. These changes will take place after Easter.

Writing of this appointment, Fr. Liam said on the parish’s social media page: “Whilst I am sorry to stand down from the role of parish priest at Haverfordwest and Narberth, I give thanks for serving the community for the last seven years. The huge need for spiritual and pastoral support of those who work at the front line in serving our communities and keeping us safe lies behind this appointment. My voluntary work with the police has taught me how much they value such support.

“I offer it on behalf of the Catholic Church to those of all faiths and none”.

Fr. Matthew added: “I wish Fr. Liam every blessing in his new role of bringing the service of the Church to the wider world. His gifts for such outreach have been recognised in this appointment. I am pleased that he will continue to remain in contact with parishioners in Haverfordwest through his work as hospital chaplain.

“I am grateful for the mutual support and friendship we have enjoyed over the last two and a half years and look forward to it continuing”.

“Please do keep me and Fr Matt in your prayers. Pray also for each other, and treasure in each other the may gifts that each brings to our community of faith.

“This is the closing of one chapter, but beginning of something new and exciting too.

“In all things let us give glory to God who guides us by his divine providence, and supplies what we need to complete his work.”

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Failures over use of ‘filthy’ barracks for asylum seekers – inspectors

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THERE were “fundamental failures” over accommodating asylum seekers in former military barracks, parts of which were “filthy”, inspectors have said.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons visited Penally Camp in Pembrokeshire and Napier Barracks in Kent. They said both sites were “run-down”.

In a preliminary report seen by The Herald the inspectors said at both locations residents described feeling trapped in poor conditions. They feared that if they moved out they would jeopardise their only source of support and possibly their asylum cases, it was concluded.

Inspectors added: “We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all of those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some points.

“At both sites about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.”

Home Secretary has been asked by Plaid Cymru to consider her position (Image: File)

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel and immigration minister Chris Philp have both previously defended the use of such sites.

There have been repeated demonstrations in both Pembrokeshire and in Kent by people from both ends of the political spectrum, and by local residents, causing security costs to spiral.

On Monday evening (Mar 8), the department repeated its assertion that “it is wrong to say it is not adequate for asylum seekers”

Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at British Red Cross, said: “These sites are completely inappropriate and inhumane as housing for people fleeing war, persecution and violence.

“The people we’ve spoken to in Penally have told us that they didn’t receive health screenings, were given little or no information about what was happening to them, and simply do not feel safe in the barracks.

“Our worst fears about the impact on people’s mental health have been realised.”

The cost of policing the camp has been higher than expected, running into millions of pounds (Pic Herald)

The BBC is reporting Labour has said the findings are “utterly unbelievable”, and Plaid Cymru called for Home Secretary Priti Patel to “consider her position”.

Inspectors said both sites – which witnessed protests over living conditions in January – were “run-down and unsuitable”, but particularly criticised Napier.

They said given the cramped, communal conditions, “once one person was infected with Covid a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable” at the site.

Many men said they were depressed, and a survey found a third of respondents at both sites had mental health problems, while a third at Napier had felt suicidal.

Reacting to the findings, Detention Action director Bella Sankey said: “This is the sort of report that should make decent people consider their positions.”

She called for the barracks to be closed immediately and for “those responsible fully held to account”.

Police and protestors in stand off in Penally in 2020 (Pic: Herald)

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “At a time when the Home Secretary and Permanent Secretary have told us they are making major changes to improve the culture and the humanity of the department in response to the Wendy Williams Windrush review, this report shows they haven’t yet learnt the lessons.”

Shadow immigration minister, Holly Lynch, said: “The Home Secretary has recklessly put the lives of all those staying at the sites, those working there, and the surrounding communities, at risk during a pandemic.”

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said Ms Patel “must consider her position” in the wake of the report, which highlighted “fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office”.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “During these unprecedented times we have met our statutory duty to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation and three meals a day all paid for by the British taxpayer.

“We expect the highest possible standards from our service providers and have instructed them to make improvements at the site.”

The Home Office has said people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach rather than making the crossings, and has said illegal migrants are being returned to safe countries.

The Home Office also said it had instructed service providers to make improvements to both camps. The government department has also said it is winding down use of the camps. In Pembrokeshire the policing costs alone have exceeded a million pounds.

Rooms in the camp were said to be too small for social distancing (Pic: Camp user)

 

Penally camp: Unsuitable in its current condition, said inspectors

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