Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reflections on a wartime identity

This week a little bit of history has been passed to me. A small bracelet that belonged to my grandmother, who I loved dearly. I have been given a little disc on a small bracelet which has on it her name, address and blood group. It is a small thing, worthless to anyone else, but hugely important to me. In that one disc is so much that is implied. My grandmother worked for years for the British Red Cross. It speaks of the reality of war, it is an identity disc. Name and address, so your kin could be notified if anything happened to you. A potentially life saving disc, as it has her blood group on it, something I have never really spent that much time thinking about, what is my blood group? I have no idea. I know that the NHS know, as I have a daughter, and they will have tested me and it will be on my records...but I have never felt the need to wear it on my wrist. It is also a small piece of history, 70 years ago the family postal town was Denbigh, now it's Abergele. It's a little thing, but something that has made me think of army tags, and the unknown which was and is the fear engendered by war. I am lucky that I don't have to wear that information, but others from Wales face that same uncertainty,not here but in Afghanistan. I am not facing the day to day reality of war. The truth is I can only look at that bracelet with the benefit of hindsight, knowing my grandmother as a very practical person, and also someone who would stand up and be counted. A small thing that speaks of so much.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Budget for Wales

Today's budget announced by the Coalition Government is a budget for growth in Wales.  North East Wales will benefit from capital allowances in the Deeside Enterprise Zone, which will provide jobs and growth accross North Wales.  It also shows that Minister Edwina Hart has been foolhardy in not engaging earlier and better with UK Ministers on behalf of Wales, as clearly the business case for other enterprise zones in North Wales has not yet been provided.

I am delighted that the personl tax allowance has been raised to £9,205 which will mean that an extra 42,000 people in Wales will now not pay tax, meaning that since the UK Government has come into power 95,000 low paid workers in Wales have more money in their pockets and don't pay tax.  Those on low pay will also see an increase in the National Minimum Wage.  Not only those changes, but the reduction in corporation tax will increase the attractiveness of Wales as a place to do business, reinforcing the commitment to jobs and employment.

Wales will also get an additional £11.7 million from the UK Government, meaning it has had an additionl £500 million since the spending review in 2010.  How this will be spent will be upto Labour's Welsh Goverrnment.  Given their capacity to waste huge amounts of money, I don't hold out hope that it will be put to good use.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Scrutiny, Energy and the National Assembly for Wales

For the last few months the Environment and Sustainability Committee has been undertaking work on an enquiry into energy in Wales, and in particular renewable energy in Wales.  I will not pre-empt the conclusions of that work.  However today we sat in private session.  That session was to discuss areas on which we may wish to ask questions of the Ministers concerned.  Next week we will have 4 Ministers in front of us. Carwyn Jones, Edwina Hart, John Griffiths and Carl Sargeant.  In total we will be given 30 minutes with each.  This undermines the democratic accountability of the Assembly.  It means that the Ministers will not have sustained and detailed questioning about current policies such as TAN 8.  For those who feel that there is a lack of accountability for Ministers decisions both to the Assembly, and outside the Assembly, I would say that you are right.  I have raised the issue of scrutiny and timetabling today....... we shall see what the result is later (if any). The public in Wales need to know that Ministers should be accountable and are being scrutinised, from my experience to date, I would say that the current new structure of Assembly Committees is not delivering that for the public in Wales.  The First Minister in the last 6 months has not made a single oral statement to the Assembly on Energy.  No one has held him to account for this.  He has not been properly questioned by Assembly Members, and when there has been a chance, there have been severe and inappropriate time constraints.    For communities accross Wales facing large windfarm and other energy developments, you should be aware that debate and scrutiny on these issues is not reflecting the concerns as expressed so publicly by you.  30 mintues for each Minister is not enough for proper democratic accountability.