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Politics

Cross-party calls for Palestine to be officially recognised

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SENEDD members from Wales’ four main political parties set their differences aside to call on the Welsh and UK Governments to recognise the state of Palestine.

Plaid Cymru’s Peredur Owen Griffiths tabled a statement of opinion co-submitted by Labour’s John Griffiths, the Lib Dems’ Jane Dodds and the Conservatives’ Darren Millar.

The statement, which is similar to an early day motion in Westminster, will not be debated nor voted on in the Senedd chamber but MSs can add their name to support the cause.

It urges the Senedd to:

  1. Recognise historic links between the Palestinian people and people of Wales.
  2. Reaffirm its calls for an immediate ceasefire on all sides, the release of all hostages and an end to the conflict in Gaza.
  3. Call upon the UK and Welsh Governments to immediately recognise the state of Palestine as a first step in a process to enable a path to a lasting peace and two-state solution.

Mr Owen Griffiths urged fellow members to support the cross-party statement which was signed by seven MSs when first published on May 16.

Palestine is recognised as a sovereign state by most of the UN’s 193 member states, with Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Malta set to become the latest to join the list.

The South Wales East MS called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the return of hostages, a massive humanitarian operation and the rebuilding of Gaza.

“We also need to establish Palestine as a recognised state in the eyes of the international community,” he said. “That is the best path to securing a just and long-lasting peace.

“We want the Welsh and UK Governments to step up, recognise Palestine as a state in its own right and then apply whatever pressure they can to achieve this change.

“The state of Palestine has already been recognised as a sovereign state by a majority of UN member states with many more already pledging to follow suit in the coming weeks.

“It is incumbent that the governments of Wales and the UK are not left behind by this growing movement in the international community for peace and justice in Palestine.”

Labour’s John Griffiths pointed to growing momentum to recognise Palestine as a state, agreeing it would be a key first step towards a lasting solution.

Mr Griffiths, who has represented Newport East since 1999, organised a meeting between MSs and Husam Said Zomlot, Palestine’s ambassador to the UK, on May 15.

He said Dr Zomlot provided an update on the situation on the ground in Gaza and his big ask was for support for the campaign to recognise Palestine as a state.

Mr Griffiths tabled a separate statement on the same day to mark 76 years since some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the Nakba in 1948.

Darren Millar, who represents Clwyd West, said: “Recognition of a Palestinian State is a key step on the road to a permanent peace between Israel and Palestine.

“The sooner it happens, the better.”

Politics

Senedd plan to ban lying politicians ‘unworkable’

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PLANS to ban Senedd Members for deliberately lying may be unworkable, according to the Welsh Government’s chief legal adviser.

Mick Antoniw, Wales’ counsel general, raised concerns about Adam Price’s proposals to disqualify politicians from the Senedd for deliberate deception.

The ex-Plaid Cymru leader’s amendment to the elections and elected bodies bill, which would create the offence of deception, was agreed after Labour’s Lee Waters abstained.

Giving evidence to an inquiry on accountability, Mr Antoniw said: “I’ll put my neck on the line at the moment and say I don’t think criminalisation is the way that it actually works.

“I think it’s actually unworkable probably.”

He said the issue would be best considered by the standards committee inquiry, suggesting Welsh ministers will try to delete the clause during the next amending stage set for July 2.

Vikki Howells, the Labour backbencher who chairs the standards committee, asked whether Wales should adopt Westminster’s approach to removing MPs between elections.

In the House of Commons, a recall petition can be triggered by a custodial sentence for 12 months or less, a suspension of ten sitting days or more, or an expenses offence conviction.

Mr Antoniw broadly agreed with the criteria, emphasising the importance of consistency across parliaments while accounting for Wales-specific circumstances.

He said the 12-month threshold – above which Senedd members are already automatically disqualified – seems “rather high”, suggesting six months may be more appropriate.

Plaid Cymru’s Peredur Owen Griffiths pointed out people could be imprisoned over a matter of conscience such as protesting about the environment, nuclear or the Welsh language.

Mr Antoniw recognised the concern, saying peaceful protest is part of a democratic society, but he said a six-month threshold would exclude “nearly all of those sorts of circumstances”.

He cautioned: “Discretions are always very difficult in terms of things like disqualification.”

Asked whether a recall system should apply to members who change their political allegiance after an election, Mr Antoniw warned it may be a step too far.

The counsel general said politicians defecting to another party risks inappropriately changing the balance of the Senedd and the outcome of an election.

But he told the committee a politician could leave a party over a matter of conscience, such as a group changing its position on an issue post-election.

Mr Antoniw argued the most effective way forward would be to ensure Senedd members cannot form or join another political party, with a requirement to sit as an independent.

He made the case for an appeals process as part of any recall system, warning the absence of one could throw up “all sorts of human rights issues” and lead to legal challenge.

But Mr Antoniw stressed the importance of proceeding at pace as he raised concerns about previous standards committee processes going on for a “very, very prolonged period”.

He argued a simple majority vote of the whole Senedd should be required to sign off on recall processes, rather than a two-thirds supermajority.

“Whips can’t apply,” he said. “I don’t think that would be appropriate in any circumstances.”

Responding to Mark Drakeford’s concerns about the risk of a minority blocking recall, Mr Antoniw agreed with the ex-First Minister that a supermajority risks over-politicisation.

Mr Owen Griffiths asked how the counsel general would envisage the process working in light of the complexities of Wales’ new fully proportional “closed-list” electoral system.

Under the members and elections bill, which is set to receive Royal Assent, people will vote for parties rather than individual candidates in future Senedd elections.

Mr Antoniw suggested a simple retain-or-replace public vote, saying it would effectively be a referendum on whether an MS should be removed.

“It’s not so much a petition because a petition is to ask permission to do something,” he explained. “And it’s not a byelection because there are no other candidates.”

He said the next person on a party’s initial list, which can include up to 12 candidates, would replace an unseated MS, retaining the make-up of the Senedd determined at the ballot box.

Asked whether parties should have discretion to later reorder lists, based on factors such as gender balance, Mr Antoniw cautioned against the added complexity.

Mr Drakeford highlighted that the 32 constituencies in Wales that will be used in the July 4 general election will be paired to create 16 for the next Senedd poll.

The Cardiff West MS suggested a threshold should be required in each constituency rather than across both, saying: “Fairness should trump anxieties about complexity.”

He said it is possible constituencies such as Blaenau Gwent and Monmouth, which have a different character, could be paired by the Electoral Commission.

Mr Drakeford warned: “Unless you have a threshold that applies to both, one half could actually determine the outcome for the other.”

Mr Antoniw accepted issues could arise, such as between industrial and rural constituencies, but his “gut feeling” favoured the simplicity of a combined threshold.

Asked whether polls should be open for a single day or longer as in Westminster’s system, Mr Antoniw preferred the latter as he argued it would best maximise participation.

The Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar asked about the chances of a recall bill being passed before the next election, and said having 96 more MSs will raise the risk of misbehaviour.

Mr Antoniw told the June 17 meeting: “The commitment given from the Welsh Government – from the First Minister – is that we would like to see this legislation in place by 2026.

“I think that is the public expectation as well.”

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Business

Emergency work at Royal Lion Hotel given the go-ahead

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A PROMINENT Tenby hotel, which had an Urgent Works Notice served on it by the national park due to the unsafe condition of external windows, has been given the go-ahead for works.

The poor condition the Grade-II-listed Royal Lion Hotel has recently led to an Urgent Works Notice being served on it by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Safety concerns have been raised in recent months by councillors and members of the public over the hotel, in the town’s conservation area, overlooking the North Beach.

A listed building planning application to reinstate the hotel’s windows was submitted to the authority by South Terrace Developments Ltd.

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has previously said: “The Park Authority has served an Urgent Works Notice on the Royal Lion Hotel in Tenby.

“The owners acknowledge the risk posed by the windows and have proposed an alternative scheme to begin remedial works, having recently submitted a listed building application to reinstate the windows to the High Street and White Lion Street frontages.”

An Urgent Works Notice can be served by an authority which believes that a building is not being properly maintained. It gives the owner a specific time in which to carry out necessary works.

The plan for the hotel sought consent for replacement bays and windows, insertion of a new door replacing an existing window, and minor ancillary works.

As a consultee to the proposal, Tenby Town Council’s members sought more information as to the materials to be used for the replacement windows.

They were also concerned about the proposal to install a door opening on to White Lion Street.

It was pointed out: “The carriageway is narrow in this location and vehicles often mount the pavement to pass each other which could compromise safety of individuals using this door.”

A report for planners, recommending approval, said: “An Urgent Works Notice is in force with regards to the unsafe bay windows to the front elevation.

“The application relates only to the original hotel building with listed building consent sought for replacement bays and windows, insertion of a new door replacing an existing window and minor ancillary works.

“The proposed scheme is in keeping with the character of the listed building, and its setting in terms of design and form. As such, the application can be supported subject to conditions.”

The application was conditionally approved by officers under delegated powers.

The hotel was rebuilt in the late C18 and extensively altered 1853-4 when the façade was remodelled and raised a storey to four floors with two tiers of canted bay windows, the report for planners said.

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Business

Goodwick horse training school plans denied

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PLANS for a north Pembrokeshire equine training school for a business that doesn’t yet exist on some of the best agricultural land have been turned down by the national park.

In an application submitted to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Mr G W Richards sought permission for a 39-metre-long sand school for use in ‘breaking’ and training horses at Llanwnwr Farm, Trefasser, Goodwick.

An officer report, recommending refusal, said the proposed site was located “within an agricultural field which The Predictive Agricultural Land Classification Map identifies as Grade 3a land”.

It adds: “Best and most versatile agricultural land is defined in Planning Policy Wales as Grades 1, 2 and 3a. Land in grades 1, 2 and 3a should only be developed if there is an overriding need for the development. Officers consider that the applicant has not demonstrated an overriding need for the sand school to be located on agricultural land classified as best and most versatile. A recommendation to refuse planning permission is made.

“The proposal is to develop a sand school for use in ‘breaking’ and training horses. The Design and Access Statement states that this will allow the applicant’s son to stay within the area and develop a small business on the family farm. The business does not currently exist.

“The proposed use involving breaking and training horses is a use which typically requires a countryside location. In this particular case however, the proposal is for a business that does not yet exist and very limited information has been submitted to support the proposal.   In addition to the lack of justification for the use, Officers have significant concerns regarding the specific proposed location of the proposal. Planning Policy Wales Edition 12 section 3.58 states that agricultural land of grades 1, 2 and 3a is the best and most versatile, and should be conserved as a finite resource for the future.”

The application was refused on the grounds it would be “an unjustified development in the open countryside which would result in the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land (Grade 3A)” and “The proposed development is not considered to be well designed in terms of place as other land within the applicant’s control is available of a lower grade agricultural land value”.

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