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‘We are called to be peace-makers’, says Archbishop

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poppyWAR may sometimes be necessary but it is a sign of human failure, the Archbishop of Wales said at a candlelit vigil service to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

Dr Barry Morgan told the congregation at Llandaff Cathedral that we were called to be peace-makers and no conflict could be a good act.

The Archbishop was speaking at a commemorative service held jointly by the Welsh Government and Cardiff  Council in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.  He said the service was about remembering sacrifice, not celebrating victory, and he urged people to strive for peace in their own relationships, the nation and the world.

Dr Morgan said, “War may sometimes be necessary but the Christian Church has never claimed that war and violence are good acts.  To be involved in war is always to lapse from the God-given ideal of peace and reconciliation.

“If there is no other way except through war to establish justice, then it may be the right or necessary thing to do, as the lesser of two evils but such a choice necessarily involves one in sin.  It is never a good act.  It is only by a convoluted and tortuous process of reasoning that I can ever claim to be demonstrating God’s love towards my unjust neighbour by taking a gun and shooting him.

“That is why this service has a penitential section where we acknowledge our failures and shortcomings before God, since involvement in any war, for whatever reason, is a sign of human failure and in any conflict there can be no completely innocent party, even though one side may be more guilty than the other.”

While giving thanks for those who sacrificed their lives standing against oppression and injustice,  we need to resolve to ensure war doesn’t happen again, the Archbishop said.

“Wars do not solve the deepest problems of human life.  Not even the First World War resolved the issues that led to it for some of these conflicts still smoulder on in the Balkans and elsewhere.  At best, they give us breathing spaces in which to build and work for a world in which war will seem an obscene irrelevance.  That is why abstaining from conflict is never enough because more is needed.  We are called to be peacemakers, for as Jesus said “peacemakers shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”

He added, “Our prayer tonight then might be that conscious of our past, and all that it entailed, we seek to live compassionately and caringly for the whole of humanity by striving for the things that make for peace in our own relationships, our own nation and indeed our world.”

During the service, a message of peace was read by two members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s Youth Forum. Wreaths were laid by the Duke of Goucester, the First Minister of Wales, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and Wyn Calvin, a president of the Cardiff Central branch of the Royal British Legion. Saleem Kidwai, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, laid an olive branch on behalf of the Interfaith Council for Wales.

At the end of the service, lights in the Cathedral were dimmed and a candle was lit by the Revd Albrecht Kostlin-Buurma of the German Lutheran Churches and people kept a period of silence.

Following a blessing by the Archbishop, the Last Post was sounded and the Cathedral bells tolled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war.

 

Sermon – Commemoration of

World War I

bishop“The trouble with services about the two World Wars” wrote one veteran of World War II recently, “is that the ceremonies have been hijacked by politicians, the Royal Family, and the church – and they are not about any of them”.

Well, that seems to exclude a fair number of us here tonight but without becoming too defensive, what precisely are we doing when we hold a service such as this?

Well, it is certainly not about giving significance to any of the categories just mentioned nor is it about glorifying war.  As the Lambeth Conference of 1930 said “War as a method of settling international disputes, is incompatible with the teaching and example of Jesus”.

War may sometimes be necessary but the Christian Church has never claimed that war and violence are good acts.  To be involved in war is always to lapse from the God-given ideal of peace and reconciliation.  And it is interesting that people who have served in our armed forces usually both refuse to talk about the horrors of war and regard it as the option of a last resort.

If there is no other way except through war to establish justice, then it may be the right or necessary thing to do, as the lesser of two evils but such a choice necessarily involves one in sin.  It is never a good act.  It is only by a convoluted and tortuous process of reasoning that I can ever claim to be demonstrating God’s love towards my unjust neighbour by taking a gun and shooting him.

That is why this service has a penitential section where we acknowledge our failures and shortcomings before God (just look at the last hymn we have sung), since involvement in any war, for whatever reason, is a sign of human failure and in any conflict there can be no completely innocent party, even though one side may be more guilty than the other.

Memorials of the fallen in the First World War indicate the way in which our predecessors made sense of it all.  They saw the deaths of those who fought as a laying down of lives for the sake of others, as the First Minister points out in his foreword to this service.  Human sacrifice, not triumphalism about being victorious is the note they struck.  The  Annual Service of Remembrance is held at a cenotaph not an Arc de Triomphe.

That way of seeing things, helps people deal with the pain of loss.  Death seen as sacrifice has remained the language through which those whose loved ones in today’s conflicts also find solace.  And so we give thanks for men and women who gave up their lives to safeguard values such as justice, freedom and liberty and for men and women from every race and nation who have stood against oppression and injustice.

But, alongside penitence, there is repentance.  The word “repentance” means to have a change of heart.  It involves a resolve to ensure that such a thing never happens again.  Japan is an example of this.  Since the last war, as if to make amends for its atrocities, Japan has become one of the most peace loving of all nations.  It has committed itself to peace and non-military economic growth.

Wars however do not solve the deepest problems of human life.  Not even the First World War resolved the issues that led to it for some of these conflicts still smoulder on in the Balkans and elsewhere.  At best, they give us breathing spaces in which to build and work for a world in which war will seem an obscene irrelevance.  That is why abstaining from conflict is never enough because more is needed.  We are called to be peacemakers, for as Jesus said “peacemakers shall be called the sons and daughters of God”.

R. H. Tawney was a major figure in the development of British political thought,  a Christian socialist who had also fought in World War One and found himself alone in No Man’s Land for nearly two days, after being wounded by the fragments of a shell.

He wrote “why is it that marshalled against an enemy, is given to a nation a common outlook, a spiritual unity, a power of co-operation and a comradeship in service which eludes it in peace time.  How can people lay down their life for one another in war but not in peace?”

The idea of a fellowship limited to the business of killing and absent from the business of living haunted him.

“Why are we”, says Tawney “so willing to pay for our armed services but reluctant to pay for social, educational and health services?  Wasted lives in war ought to lead to a prevention of wasted lives in peace”.

Our hope is that by reflecting on all these things in an act of worship, God may be able to work on us and change us for the better.  As one theologian puts it “We come into the presence of God with our human emotions, with pride and courage and grief at loss and waste.  As we pour out our prayer, our mourning, our pride, our shame, our convictions, God is able to work upon us.  He is able to deepen and enlarge our compassion and to purify our thanksgiving.  People who come mourning their own losses, then find not just consolation but a spirit which enlarges their own compassion for others”.

Our prayer tonight then might be that conscious of our past, and all that it entailed, we seek to live compassionately and caringly for the whole of humanity by striving for the things that make for peace in our own relationships, our own nation and indeed our world.

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Labour promises ‘most significant investment in Britain’s ports in a generation’

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LABOUR has said this week that it will “Build it in Britain” with the most significant investment in Britain’s ports in a generation, as part of Green Prosperity Plan to support the creation of 650,000 good jobs across the country.

A Labour Government will “Build it in Britain” Keir Starmer said on Thursday, as he visited the North East of England to highlight Labour’s plans to deliver the most significant upgrade of Britain’s ports in a generation. 

Visiting a port in the North East, Labour Leader Keir Starmer, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, and Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband will set out how Labour’s £1.8 billion investment in Britain’s port infrastructure will help crowd billions more of private sector investment into the UK’s energy industry.

Labour’s announcement comes after Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, visited the Port of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire last month alongside with Henry Tufnell, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Mid and South Pembrokeshire, to learn more about the port’s operations and challenges.

After the visit, Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens said: “Upgrading our ports, like this one here in Milford Haven, can help us seize the golden opportunity we have to become a world leader renewable energy, delivering cheaper bills and the jobs of the future.
 
“But the Conservative government is holding Wales back, with narrow-minded, poorly run investment schemes that leave us lagging behind international competitors.
 
“A UK Labour government will switch on GB Energy to invest in projects that can secure our lead in floating offshore wind, unlocking the jobs and investment that the Tories have left to languish.”

Henry Tufnell, Labour’s candidate in this year’s General Election, added: “Pembrokeshire’s first Labour MP, Desmond Donnelly, was instrumental in the creation of the Port of Milford Haven, transforming Pembrokeshire’s economic fortunes. Today, as in the 1950s, we face a crossroads. We must put our county at the forefront of a new Labour Government’s industrial strategy to build it in Britain.

Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan will secure our energy supply, develop industry, and create good well paid jobs right here in our county. We don’t want the young people of Pembrokeshire to feel they must leave their home county to get on in life. We want to provide opportunity here, and we want to provide it now.”

Labour’s plan for ports will help reverse fourteen years of industrial decline under the Conservatives and support domestic manufacturing across the country. The pledge is funded through Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, which includes a proper windfall tax on the oil and gas giants making record profits, to fund investment in British industries.Keir Starmer’s announcement comes as Labour confirms that its Green Prosperity Plan will help support the creation of up to 650,000 good jobs in Britain’s industrial heartlands, including here in Pembrokeshire, by crowding billions of private investment into industries such as Britain’s nuclear, steel, automotive, and construction industries. 

The last Labour government led the way on upgrading Britain’s ports, providing funding for the development of port sites to support offshore wind turbine manufacturing. This industrial advantage has been squandered after fourteen years of the Conservatives, with recent research showing the UK could have created almost 100,000 more jobs in the wind industry if it had followed Denmark’s example in recent years and built up domestic supply chains in clean energy.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Labour Leader Keir Starmer outlined the choice facing millions of voters: continued industrial decline after 14 years of Conservative rule, or national economic renewal with Labour, saying:“The legacy of fourteen years of Conservative rule is Britain’s industrial strength reduced to the rubble and rust of closed-down factories. They have let good jobs go overseas and done nothing about it, and every community has paid the price. 

“A Labour government will reindustrialise Britain – from the biggest investment in our ports in a generation, to a British Jobs Bonus to crowd billions of investment into our industrial heartlands and coastal communities.“

The wealth of Britain was once built on a bedrock of industrial jobs that offered security and a good wage. By investing in Britain’s homegrown energy sector, we can rebuild this dream for the twenty-first century- good jobs, higher wages, and the pride that comes from good work for all.”Through policies such as Great British Energy, the National Wealth Fund, and the mission for Clean Power by 2030, a Labour government will invest in technologies like floating offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage, which will help secure Britain’s energy independence.

This will create a new generation of skilled jobs in growing industries, which will offer people good wages, give confidence in their job security, and provide them with opportunities to progress. This policy is part of Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, to cut energy bills for families, make Britain energy independent, and rebuild the strength of British industry.

This historic investment in working people and their communities is the only way out of the high energy bills, energy insecurity, and the doom loop of low growth, high taxes and crumbling public services under Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.Commenting on Labour’s landmark plan to invest in Britain’s port infrastructure, Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband MP said: “Making Britain a clean energy superpower requires flourishing national ports. Whilst the Conservatives are letting other countries plunder jobs that could be ours here in Britain, Labour has a plan to help win the race for the industries of the future.“

This is what Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan will do for every community in Britain – slash energy bills, create good jobs, boost our national energy independence, and help to tackle the climate crisis.”

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Scheme to upgrade Dinas Cross holiday park withdrawn

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PLANS to create a ‘five-star resort’ in one of Wales’s most popular holiday locations have been withdrawn.

In an application submitted to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Chester-based Boutique Resorts Ltd sought permission to relinquish 50 mixed touring pitches (caravans and tents) at Fishguard Bay Resort, Dinas Cross, replacing them with “36 high quality timber-effect holiday lodges”.

The application, recommended for refusal at the April 24 meeting of the national park’s development management committee, also included an increase in the site area of the approved park, a new entrance, a new reception lodge, staff and visitor parking area, with extensive environmental improvements.

The site, established in the 1950s, currently has planning permission for 50 static caravans and 50 mixed touring units, and it is intended 23 of the proposed lodges to be sited at the entrance, with a further 13 throughout the site.

Despite the proposals seeking a reduction in outright numbers, the applicants say the scheme would see an increase in the number of full and part-time jobs associated with the resort, from 29 to 62 jobs.

A previous application was refused in 2019, mainly on visual impact, ecological impact and highway impact, and the applicant has sought to address the issues raised by that refusal, a supporting statement says.

It adds: “The applicant purchased the site in 2014 with the intention to upgrade the site into a five-star luxury resort. This is very much still the applicant’s intention and whilst he has replaced some existing static caravans with luxury lodges, he also seeks to replace the touring caravans and tents with luxury lodges too.

“The resort is now considered one of the most desirable holiday parks on the Pembrokeshire Coast which is evident on the number of holidaymakers who return to the resort year on year. Such is demand for luxury lodges on the site, the applicant requires additional units.

“The applicant now wishes to move the resort further by replacing the mixed touring pitches with luxury lodges but also provide a much-needed new entrance into the resort.”

Objections to the scheme were received from the National Trust, the national park’s strategic policy and ecologist, and the South Wales Trunk Road Agency, and 12 members of the public, along with one letter of support.

The application was recommended for refusal for reasons including it was “likely to have a significant detrimental impact on the special qualities of the National Park by intensifying the visual impact and intrusion of a large static caravan site within the extensive coastal views of this section of the National Park,” it would represent an intensification of the site, and was likely to “have an unacceptable impact on neighbouring residential amenity through increased noise and traffic movements”.

The application, listed for consideration by park planners next week, has since been withdrawn.

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First step towards council tax and business rate reform

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MAJOR reforms to council tax and business rates have cleared the first hurdle in the Senedd.

MSs backed the general principles of the local government finance bill, which would introduce a five-year cycle for council tax revaluations from 2030.

The bill would lay much of the groundwork for Welsh Government proposals to redesign council tax, with current bands based on property values from 2003.

It would also increase the frequency of business rates revaluations from five to three years.

Rebecca Evans told the Senedd the bill forms a vital part of the Welsh Government’s wider programme of local tax reform.

Wales’ finance minister explained the bill would enable ministers to modify business rate relief exemptions and the multiplier to support policy priorities.

John Griffiths outlined the local government committee’s stage-one report recommendations aimed at improving the bill and guarding against unintended consequences for taxpayers.

Mr Griffiths explained that the bill provides a framework for future policy changes to be made by the Welsh Government via secondary legislation.

The Labour MS, who represents Newport East, said the committee heard concerns that this limits opportunity for public engagement and scrutiny by the Senedd.

Welcoming the Welsh Government’s commitment to retaining the single-person council tax discount at 25%, he highlighted wide-ranging powers in the bill over vital reduction schemes.

In terms of business rates, the committee chair said MSs heard broad support for a move to three-yearly revaluations, which he described as a reasonable, proportionate cycle.

Peredur Owen Griffiths, who chairs the finance committee, backed the bill’s key aim to create a fairer, more flexible system.

The South Wales East MS welcomed reassurances from the Welsh Government that the intention of council tax reforms is not to raise more revenue.

“Given the regressive nature of council tax, we support the aim to make it fairer without affecting the tax base,” he said.

Plaid Cymru’s finance secretary said the proposed powers will reduce the Welsh Government’s reliance on UK bills to make changes.

Alun Davies, a Labour backbencher, warned that delegated powers in the bill risk diminishing the role of the Senedd.

Sam Rowlands, the Tories’ shadow local government secretary, raised concerns about the bill putting more power in the hands of the Welsh Government rather than councils.

He warned the bill is a stepping stone towards higher taxes through the back door, saying: “This bill in and of itself does not necessarily do that but it certainly enables future changes.”

The former leader of Conwy council, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, called for reforms to the formula used to allocate funding to Wales’ 22 councils.

Raising concerns about digital exclusion, Mr Rowlands opposed a provision in the bill which would remove a duty to publish council tax notices in local newspapers.

He said: “We believe it’s a really important part of the democratic process in local government, especially in relation to transparency.”

Backing a revaluation of all 1.5 million properties in Wales, Labour MS Mike Hedges described council tax as fundamentally unfair.

He said: “Someone living in a property worth £100,000 pays around five times as much council tax relative to the property value as someone living in a property worth £1m.”

Mr Hedges, who represents Swansea East, also opposed the removal of the duty to provide council tax information in newspapers.

On business rates, he said: “I’ve always supported the returning of them to local authorities. We don’t need an all-Wales system; let each local authority set its own business rates.”

Ms Evans told the chamber she intends to make a statement on the next steps for council tax reform before the summer recess.

The Senedd agreed the general principles of the reforms without objection, and the bill now moves to stage two which will see MSs consider detailed amendments.

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