Friday, 30 April 2010


Another day, another Hustings, this time in Chepstow Comprehensive for the Sixth form at lunchtime today. Before the main event all the candidates present got a quick TV interview from the BBC - who having smelt blood in the water were were hanging about shark-like because of the 'alleged controversy' surrounding the spat between the Tory and the New Labour candidates. 

I use the phrase alleged because the whole thing has a faint whiff of manufacture about it. This is an attempt to inject some media interest into a pretty lack lustre New Labour and pretty dire Tory campaign. All in all it's pretty typical for the London based Parties, who would rather squabble amongst themselves rather than engage about the issues that really matter to most people within (and without) the constituency.

Rather than bickering, they should concentrate on the real issues at this election, the economic recovery, fair funding for Wales, decent and fair treatment for our pensioners, our serving soldiers and their families and decent treatment for our service veterans. The London based parties are threatening dire cuts after the election without giving our economy the chance to recover and not coming clean on the cuts that they are promising. 

On the doorstep - when you catch people a) in and b) with the time to talk, in Monmouth constituency people do raise the issue of immigration, but, they also raise many other issues, including the bankers, the sorry saga of MPs corruption and expenses, recycling, the poor state of public transport (especially buses to and from Monmouth town), the need for better school transport, saving the smaller village and community schools, saving the Cattle Market in Abergavenny and better treatment for our solders, their families and our service veterans, along with other issues.

Today was a well organised and well chaired hustings, which lasted just over a speedy hour - despite its shortness we covered a number of topics including immigration, the banking crisis, the Tobin tax, student loans, further and higher education funding, electoral tactics, electoral reform and how you get people (young or old) interested in politics - it was an interesting focused hour. All in all quite an interesting hour of questions and answers, even with the BBC floating around filming.


And speaking of the BBC - they just called me (c17.10pm) pulling the usual old standard trick of saying that there was a problem with the original interview - so could they take a quick quote down the line...  Oh please pull the other one... 


Only Polling Day will tell us whether or not Gordon has managed to dodge the electoral bullet - he managed to generate a few days ago, with his off the record comments. There are some shades of in the loop here - Gordon and his advisers forgot the absolute basic rule, which is always assume that the microphone / camera is on until you know different. Ironically,  he inadvertently may have provided the rest of us with a scant glimpse as to what the Westminster elite in the Westminster Village actually think about the rest of us humble voters. Roll on Polling Day!


Thursday night, so it must be Monmouth... Another Hustings, done and dusted, this was the Green Hustings, held in the Savoy Theatre, in Monmouth. A well organised, well chaired and reasonably well attended despite the attractions (or not) of the televised Leadership debate.

UK wise, with less than 7 days until Polling Day it is beginning to appear that the three London based Parties are too busy with their petty squabbling rather than concentrating on the key issues, especially Climate Change. Not so in Monmouth, where last night the Green Question was front and centre. 

In Wales, regardless of the bickering and squabbling in London, Plaid has made the case for more powers over energy production and conservation to be devolved to the National Assembly, so that we can tap into the potential for creating sustainable green jobs and helping the economic recovery through investment and tackling climate change.

This is the real agenda for the 21st century, rather than more of the same that's being offered by the 3 London based Parties. Plaid is absolutely clear about the threat posed by climate change, and the pressing need for long term measures to tackle it. What's more, Plaid can see the substantial economic potential in developing the green economy. 

A National Assembly with powers over energy would be an important step forward, enabling Wales to developing an Environmental Action Plan. With the right tools for the job, then Plaid could ensure that Wales leads the way in tackling climate change and creating thousands of sustainable green jobs. 

Our Environmental Action Plan would develop high-speed electrified railways in Wales and more green transport, investing in community based farming to produce more locally grown food as well as investing in energy saving projects such as home insulation. Plaid is also ambitious about creating more green energy through renewable energy projects and changing the national grid to support more local energy production. 

Plaid is serious about tackling climate change and realising the potential of green jobs and investment. The other parties may have chosen to put climate change on the back burner, while they indulge in petty squabbling (clearly a case of ego triumphing over substance) but its pretty clear that Plaid has stuck to hammering away at the key issues.

Last night we covered a wide range of topics from recycling, alternative energy, through to integrated public transport and reviving our railways, not to mention cutting down on the sheer volume of packaging that comes with every purchase. On to Chepstow later this morning, with a school hustings at lunchtime today and then one at the Drill Hall, Chepstow on Monday evening, followed by a final one in the north on Tuesday evening.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


The NFU Monmouthshire Hustings took place last night (at Alice Springs Golf Club, near Usk) and was well attended (which seems to be the pattern of Hustings of late). The questions covered a wide range of topics, some of which related to farming (and agriculture) including the economy, the banking crisis, supermarkets, party funding, fuel prices and micro- generation. 

Not surprisingly there was a focus on the future of farming (especially focusing on how the next generation of young farmers will get into the business. This is something that Elin Jones AM, Plaid Minister of Rural Affairs has began to address with the Young Entrants scheme. The farmers present were well aware of the Minister's ongoing activities on their behalf.

The slow but steady increase in fuel costs will have a harder impact in rural areas (where there is a lack of public transport) and also on food prices, where rising costs will hit both consumers and producers, with increased prices, falling profit margins and higher fuel bills - something that will hit both production and transportation costs. None of this is good news for either our farmers or us their customers.

One thing, we in Wales, cannot afford to neglect of the important agricultural sector, which still makes a significant contribution to our rural economy. And speaking of the farmers old traditional friends, it's worth remembering that not that long ago in the 1980's it was a Tory Secretary of State who literally sat by and quietly did nothing when many of our Dairy farmers got hammered into the ground by cuts in the milk quota.

Oddly enough when I mentioned this last night it was not picked up by the incumbent Tory MP who chose not to say a word on the subject. Whoever emerges from this Westminster election, in pole position (or on top of the pile) never again must any Welsh Minister fail to stand up and be counted and to fail to argue their corner on behalf of Welsh farmers.

We need to take practical steps to give Welsh farmers a fighting chance of making a real living; securing 80% of publicly procured food locally by 2015 is a realistic and practical aim. This is something that could provide the first practical step towards helping Welsh farmers and other producers make the most of the new opportunities that will arise from higher public purchasing of local products.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Hustings in Abergavenny last night was packed out, with literally standing room only, with the candidates from the 4 main parties being present. Naturally everyone present agreed that the UK Government should honour the commitment to delivering 0.7% of GDP as international aid - but in truth recession not withstanding this is not enough.

Plaid has long supported the campaign to cancel developing countries unaffordable debts and has called for more resources to be made available for the UN Adaption Fund which has been set up to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Plaid has demanded equal representation for developing countries in the decision making process on climate change action and has long supported the international Fair Trade movement.  

As you would expect Fair Trade, Fairness, Equality, Climate Change and Peak oil came up amongst other topics for discussion. VSO, OXFAM and other development agencies have specific programmes that aim to help poor men and women in the developing countries when it comes to health care, growing crops, access to literacy and to affordable credit. As poor education, poor health and lack of access to credit and markets has hit vulnerable groups in developing countries particularly hard. 

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, came in for some criticism - Plaid has long called for essential governance reform such international organisations so that they take into account human rights, the environment and workers rights.  The role of multi-nationals was also discussed along with their impact on the developing world along with how better use of procurement policies here in the UK could benefit both us and food producers, here and in developing countries.  

Tuesday, 27 April 2010



As the campaign progresses towards its final days, the days become pretty similar, what with leafleting, canvassing, talking and listening to constituents, a risk of dehydration and a stronger and stronger campaign tan. It's becoming an increasingly busy week, off shortly to Caldicot for the market and then more door to door canvassing (which is truth the only thing that really matters).

Hustings wise, this is the really busy peak period (in Monmouth constituency at least):
  • On Tuesday evening it will be the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Community Debate: International Development; Trade Justice which kicks off at 7.30pm at St Michael's Centre, 10A Pen Y Pound, Abergavenny, Gwent, NP7 5UD.
  • On Wednesday evening, it will be the NFU Cymru (Monmouthshire Parliamentary Hustings) which takes place at 7.30pm at Alice Springs Golf Club, near Usk.
  • And on Thursday evening, it will be the Green Hustings, which kick-off at 7.45pm at the Savoy Theatre, in Monmouth.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Giving our housing stock a lower carbon footprint and lower energy costs is something that is particularly important, especially when it comes to developing affordable housing and refurbishing existing housing stock. The planning policy (which was brought in 2009) for Wales, with new building regulations lead the way towards zero-carbon buildings and should be touted as an example of getting it right.

Lets be realistic though, while reducing energy costs in particular, as zero-carbon housing will be cheaper and thus more affordable over its entire lifetime - is a good thing. In truth, it does not directly and immediately help the young people in our communities who can't get onto the Housing ladder, but the construction of 6,000 affordable homes in every part of Wales (including Monmouthshire) is a small but significant step in the right direction.

The pledge to construct 6,000 affordable homes is part of the One Wales Agreement being driven through by Jocelyn Davies (AM), Plaid Minister for Housing is on its way to being honoured, while more needs to be done this is a step in the right direction, a statement of intention and action to try to solve the problem of affordable housing which affects every part of Wales.

Good intentions may have undue consequences, as we wobble or way out of the recession what could also happen is that the Plaid driven one Wales Government may come under sustained pressure from the building industry to relax the rules, water them down or delay implementing parts of them.

This certainly happened in 1997 when the New Labour Government almost entirely caved in to pressure from the Building industry, the problem of energy efficient homes or the lack of them in Wales is not something we can merely put off to help bail out a faltering building industry sector (which has made fat profits over the last decade) merely puts off the problems for another day.

Short term thinking will not do and there is a real danger that there will be pressure for short term budgetary savings made at a time when when government budgets are going to be cut, when there is less money to spare for incentives, grants and initiatives - this will come back to haunt us with a vengeance further down the line.

There is a real need for want of a better phrase joined up thinking, with the banks and the building societies needing to change their lending criteria for truly zero-carbon houses, as logically people paying less for their energy could be able to afford to pay more for their mortgages.

At the end of the day, this is a particularly good example of how the Plaid driven One Wales Government has thought differently and made a significant difference and is a positive step towards helping to solving the housing crisis as well as tackling one of the major issues facing the whole wide world. More of the same please! Think Different, Think Plaid.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


An interesting and educational morning in a warm and sunny 'Red Square' in Abergavenny, with a street stall, with Plaid activists, a steady stream of potential voters and at a slight distance some of New Labour's finest (some more on that later). Street stalls can be good fun (in Abergavenny and elsewhere) giving you a good opportunity (as a candidate) to get face time (which in truth is the only thing that matters) with potential voters.

So there we were doing the business with potential voters and up walks Carwyn Jones obviously looking for New Labour activists. there was the briefest of pauses, a slight wry smile and a minute moment of bewilderment as he clocked that the busy activists were actually Plaid, rather than New Labour, who were clustered up the hill, looking daggers, and then off he went.

Anyway, back to the main business, Abergaveny is a lovely old market town, for those who don't know it and people come from miles to visit it, so you bump into voters from all over Wales and from across the border - so you keep meeting people from different constituencies - a number of whom were pretty pleased to see us on the street - and a number of whom made a particular point of taking on of our leaflets and / or confirmed that they would be voting Plaid (either in their home constituency or within Monmouth constituency).

Five minutes later up walks Huw Edwards, the New Labour former MP for Monmouth, a rapid 'hail fellows and well met' followed and off up the hill he trundled to join the New Labour candidate, Carwyn and a cluster of New Labour activists. A pleasant, interesting and busy morning followed, made more pleasant by the staggered departure of New Labour, leaving us with the street to ourselves and the voters.

Friday, 23 April 2010


Adam Price makes a fair point when he observes that while the Cold War is long past and that the world has changed, he notes that the mindset and attitudes of the London based parties are still focused on the dynamics of the the old Cold War. The conflict that the UK is currently involved in is a world away from anything that could have been envisaged during the old Cold War days even by the coldest of cold warriors. Putin's Russia and Obama's America sat down recently, with a host of other states to discuss nuclear weapons and other nuclear issues and end up with a significant reduction in nuclear warheads - what do we get from the three London based Parties - silence!

Now the UK government's 2006 White Paper (on Trident) stated that building replacements would cost between £15bn and £20bn and that would (using 2006 prices) include between £11bn and £14bn for the four boats, and between £2bn and £3bn for the refurbishment of the replacement warheads, not to mention an additional £2bn to £3bn for infrastructure and upgrades over the life of the submarines.Oddly enough these figures make no reference to running costs, maintenance, refits of the submarines, or any additional costs in the missile programme from 2030, when the Trident D5 missile will cease to be in service.

It's worth noting that not everyone agrees with these figures, certainly Greenpeace don't, they have estimated that the full cost of replacing and running the Trident system on a like-for-like basis (as New Labour and the Conservatives have promised to do), will be between £80bn and £100bn in total. Which works out at around £2bn pounds per year over the weapon system's expected lifespan of 40 years, in real terms this is estimated to be some 5% of the annual defence budget, which currently rolls in at approximately £38bn per year.

Replacing Trident with a like for like system, makes little military sense and no economic sense at all. To do this when the old style confrontation that was the Cold War ended some twenty years ago makes little sense. We in the West, face wholly different security threats which are a world away from the old Cold War. It's about time the the UK government caught up with the modern world and stopped living in the past and cut its budget and its cloth to match current realities.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Last week we saw the three London parties on television squabbling and bickering with each other in an increasingly desperate attempt to create some sort of impression that they actually offered the electorate something different. The convenient tactical exclusion of the Plaid (and the SNP) enabled them to not so cunningly conceal their planned cuts for the Welsh budget.

Tonight it will be the same old, same old, except that this time they will be discussing the field of foreign affairs. Plaid's solid record of opposition to New Labour's Wars and its stand in support of the welfare of our troops, their families and service veterans is well documented.

So it should come as little surprise to the impartial observer that the metropolitan media chiefs have once again managed to conveniently exclude Plaid (and the SNP), not doubt they will also manage to gag tonight’s audience (just like last week).

Democratic debate, the phrase stage managed farce comes to mind...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The first step towards fixing a problem is recognising that it exists, one such problem that has been recognised is the impact of out of town and edge of town shopping developments upon the commercial heart of our small towns, this being something that continues to have an impact across the length and breadth of all of Wales.

We need much better thought out and more consistent planning policies for in, out and edge of town retail developments in Wales – and has called for Local Government and the Plaid driven One Wales Government to develop a long term economic view when it comes to planning policies and to be prepared to call in controversial local planning applications for thorough review.

The small towns of Monmouth constituency and elsewhere have suffered in the past from ill-thought out developments and questionable short term economic thinking; local small to medium retailers and businesses and local consumers have suffered accordingly and ultimately we the consumers have paid the price with a loss of local services and choice. The continuing campaign to retain the livestock market in Abergavenny shows that many people do care about the economic future and the character of their communities.

It’s not too late; the decline of our town centres can be reversed and things can improve, so that local businesses and customers can gain economically and have a real choice about how and where they shop and do business? This why I fully support Plaid’s timely campaign to make the “Town Centre heart of our community".

Plaid has outlined a number of proposals to put town centres back at the heart of our communities including:

  • the extension of credit union principles to support small and medium sized businesses
  • a change in planning regulations to promote sustainable communities
  • a mandatory retail impact assessment with each major planning development
  • a level playing field for smaller, local businesses

This is a step in the right direction, far too often in the recent past our Local Authorities are often tempted by planning gain as developers offer includes, sweeteners and inducements to ease the passage of proposed developments, which have often brought little benefit to local residents and the local economy over the longer term.

When County Council’s fear the implied costs of supermarket development applications being taken to appeal if an initial request for planning permission is refused, has led to a marked reluctance to turn down ill-thought out developments.

To make matters worse Local Authorities often fail to have properly researched retailing policies within their development plans. If retailing needs have not been assessed then it is very difficult for Local Authority planners to refuse any potentially damaging planning applications from developers, and local small businesses, local suppliers and consumers end up playing the price.

Every Government since the 1980’s has talked the talk about promoting the vitality and viability of our small market towns, when in even the Conservatives under Mrs. Thatcher recognised the problem, but, did next to nothing to prevent the damage being done to our towns.

If one was cynical then one might wonder if the London based parties close financial relationship with some of the developers might have had an impact? Over the last twenty five years retail developments have consistently undermined our small towns economic cohesion and vitality, local authorities have either effectively turned a blind eye to the consequences of out of town or edge of town retail developments on the edge of market towns in England and Wales, or even colluded with the developers.

Despite the mistakes of the recent past, it’s not too late, with the abolition of the business rate for small businesses, better thought out more long term economic redevelopment plans and a change in attitude towards our small businesses, local suppliers it is possible to support our small town centres which should be making a significant contribution to our economy. The first step towards fixing this problem is to stop repeating the ill-thought out mistakes of the past, especially when it comes to planning and economic redevelopment.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Whether they are based in Westminster or based in Cardiff, we need our governments to actively develop of an energy strategy that will deliver sustainable secure energy and energy jobs for our communities in the 21st Century - leaving strategic energy planning decisions to a free market - is a no brainer and entirely irresponsible. The concept of Green Jobs and the economic contribution that they can make to our communities and to the Welsh economy is now well recognised by most people.

Across Europe, some countries have made more progress than others - some 250,000 people work in the alternative energy industry in Germany compared as opposed to barely 25,000 here in the UK, clearly more work needs to be done if our communities are going to reap the benefits of green energy jobs and secure energy. A Green Energy Jobs Strategy is an important component to sustainable prosperity, a stable economy and secure energy supplies.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government needs to work towards improving the efficiency of business operations and production processes to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions and to cut down on waste. We need to pursue the development of new cleaner technologies and processes for businesses and promote the use of sustainable infrastructures with regard to energy and waste.

We need new local authority planning guidelines and the introduction of feed-in tariffs to rapidly promote the incorporation of small-scale renewable energy installations in individual buildings and groups of buildings across Wales. To make this happen, we needs an energy strategy that will create realistic job opportunities for our people and take full advantage of the extraordinary natural resources we have available. If this happens, then there is no reason why we should not be amongst the most progressive countries in the field of alternative energy and green jobs.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government has allocated an initial £15m of funding to help Welsh community organisations invest in technology to generate clean, renewable energy – this is good start but more clearly can be done. While this is good news, but we need local plans to develop local energy plans, local energy supplies and welcome the development of community owned and community beneficial sustainable energy plants. We need new local authority planning guidelines and proper feed-in tariffs to rapidly promote the incorporation of small-scale renewable energy installations and much better insulation in individual homes, commercial and public buildings and groups of buildings - this is essential.

If we are going to make any of this happen, we needs a realistic and flexible energy strategy that will allow and encourage the creation of sustainable green energy job opportunities for our people and take full advantage of the extraordinary natural resources we in Wales are blessed with. If this happens, then there is absolutely no reason why Wales should not be amongst the most progressive countries in the field of sustainable alternative energy and sustainable green jobs and the UK can end its dependence on fuel supplies from unstable regions and unsavory regimes.

To make this happen we need more Plaid MP's in Westminster, MP's who will fight for their communities MP's who will make a real difference, instead of merely taking the money and parroting the line of their London based masters. In Wales, there is a real choice, Plaid offers a sensible different choice and we have different priorities - looking after pensioners, protecting our schools and hospitals and making sure our economy comes out of recession. Think Different. Think Plaid

Monday, 19 April 2010


A Sky News poll, records that Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister won the first Welsh leaders’ debate, being rated best by 55% of viewers, with 23% saying Welsh Secretary Peter Hain won and 19% backing Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams. Only 3% said the debate was won by the Conservatives’ Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan. Makes you wonder how the polls would be looking if there had been no London based Party stitch up to exclude Plaid (and the SNP) from the three leadership debates.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


Lets face it, our railways and our rail passengers have been neglected for long enough - we fork out a small fortune to the rail companies that hold the franchises - for a pretty poor unconnected service. Despite the threat (or promise) of future cuts to the Welsh budget there are opportunities to make a real difference locally.

Abergavenny Railway Stations should be a real asset to the town, a real gateway for travelers and tourists to the town and the Brecon Beacons National Park– the years of slow neglect must become a thing of the past, the station needs to be a real transport hub which inter-connect more fully with local bus services, regional rail services and provide links to enable rail travelers to access intercity services. The quiet on-going neglect must stop and the provision of better station facilities which will make a real and significant difference to rail passengers traveling to and from Abergavenny and the surrounding area.

Plaid Cymru, in Monmouth constituency has called for:

• More stopping services at Abergavenny during peak and non-peak hours.
• The provision of better facilities for passengers including waiting rooms for travelers.
• More safe and secure parking facilities at the stations.
• Better more thought out integration of Local bus services with train arrivals.
• The provision of disabled access to the station platforms.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government, working with Monmouthshire County Council and Network Rail should work to develop additional safe and secure car parking facilities, and fully integrate local bus services with train arrivals.

There are still some pretty significant gaps in services, more trains need to stop at Abergavenny, there is nothing quite so frustrating as standing on a platform watching a passenger train slow down to pass through the station without stopping. The station needs better toilet facilities and an extended waiting room for passengers, investment in facilities and better services will bring more passengers and more visitors to Abergavenny and the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Now there is an example of what’s possible in South Monmouthshire, at Severn Tunnel Junction where the Severn Tunnel Action Group continues to fight to develop the railway Station. They have delivered real results for rail users, with retained rail services, better passenger waiting areas, new electronic information boards, improved parking facilities and the restoration of platform 4 which opened as of Monday 4th January 2009, which means that there should be less delays to train services.

Over the years they have reversed alleged irreversible and permanent cuts in rail services which prevented passengers journeying to Bristol, Bath, Newport and Cardiff and beyond. They are still campaigning to get the foot bridge and the provision of lifts for easy access for disabled and elderly rail passengers – this may well be the model for a future campaign to improve facilities and services at Abergavenny railway station.

Friday, 16 April 2010


All in all, it was a pretty bland, metropolitan (London) centric debate - largely focused on winning English votes. There was next to nothing in it for Welsh, Scottish or Irish voters (or viewers). The really scary bit was actually the utter lack of choice being offered across the bridge / border to voters in England, that and how depressingly similar the polices of the big two actually are!

There were times when Brown and Cameron might as well have swapped scripts. Much of what they said was irrelevant to our communities. In Wales, there is a real choice, Plaid offers a sensible different choice and we have different priorities - looking after pensioners, protecting our schools and hospitals and making sure our economy comes out of recession. The people of Wales (and Scotland) were ignored last night - they won't be ignored by Plaid Cymru (and the SNP).

Thursday, 15 April 2010


We need more investment in our railway stations, better facilities for passengers and more stopping services at Caldicot, Chepstow and Severn Tunnel Junction railway stations. This would offer a realistic alternative to using the car and is something that manages to happen in most European countires on a daily basis - just not here.

In south Monmouthshire, Caldicot and Chepstow Railway Stations should be real assets to the community – the years of slow neglect must become a thing of the past, they should be a real transport hubs which inter-connect more fully with local bus services, regional rail services and provide links to enable rail travelers to access intercity services.

The quiet on-going neglect may well have (for the moment stopped) and the provision of better station facilities which is not a pipe dream, could make a real and significant difference to rail passengers from east Newport, south east Monmouthshire, the lower Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean.

Plaid Cymru, in Monmouth constituency has called for:
  • More stopping services at Caldicot, Chepstow and Severn Tunnel Junction Railway Stations during peak and non-peak hours.
  • The provision of better facilities for passengers including waiting rooms for travelers.
  • More safe and secure parking facilities at the stations.
  • Better more thought out integration of Local bus services with train arrivals.
  • The provision of disabled access to the station platforms.

The Plaid driven One Wales Government, working with Monmouthshire County Council and Network Rail should work to develop safe and secure car parking, and an integration of local bus services with train arrivals. There are still some pretty horrendous gaps in services, more trains need to stop at both Caldicot and Chepstow; there is nothing quite so frustrating as standing on a platform watching a passenger train slow down to pass through the station without stopping. There’s a real need for toilet facilities and extended waiting rooms for passengers at both stations, investment in facilities and better services will bring more passengers.

An example of what’s possible can be found at Severn Tunnel Junction where the Severn Tunnel Action Group continues to fight to develop the railway Station. They have delivered real results for rail users, with retained rail services, better passenger waiting areas, new electronic information boards, improved parking facilities and the restoration of platform 4 which opened as of Monday 4th January 2009, means that there should be less delays to train services.

Over the years they have reversed alleged irreversible and permanent cuts in rail services which prevented passengers journeying to Bristol, Bath, Newport and Cardiff and beyond. They are still campaigning to get the foot bridge and the provision of lifts for easy access for disabled and elderly rail passengers. So there is some merit in not taking No for an answer - particularly if you want a better rail service.


The absence of a St David's Day bank holiday for Wales from the UKIP manifesto, which included reference to a St George's Day bank holiday for England, just about sums UKIP's attitude to Wales up... out of site and out of mind. And that's before you start to examine their tax proposals, which make interesting reading.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I have enough friends who have set up their own businesses to know how traumatic a process it can be when it comes to making that idea grow. We really need to invest in innovation if we want our communities and our country to benefit from real sustainable economic development. Plaid has already called for a substantial investment programme to address the climate crisis and to generate sustainable green jobs across Wales.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s Green jobs Strategy is a welcome step in the right direction but clearly more needs to be done. The National Assembly needs to have the power to vary business taxes in order to help boost our businesses, as well as encourage investment in skills and the tools of their businesses and their workers.

I firmly believe that Wales is a nation of aspiring entrepreneurs and to encourage and enable them, our communities and our economy to flourish we need to encourage the development of community owned social enterprises. The Rowlands review into the provision of growth capital was most welcome; it recognised that an economical vibrant SME sector is vital for economic growth. There has been a lack of provision for companies in Wales who are looking for between £2 and £10 million pounds in capital, this has to change if we are to encourage sustainable economic growth and development.

It’s pretty clear that the present financial market and its institutions have failed over recent years to supply sufficient venture capital for the SME sector in Wales. We need a venture capital fund for Wales, which should be established by, but independent of the Welsh Assembly Government. Such an independent venture capital fund could raise capital and deliver investment through a co-investment model, with approved private sector partners to our SME sector, where such investment would make a real difference.

More of the same old twaddle from Whitehall and Cathays won't do at all, vastly expensive one egg, one basket schemes to generate the seemingly standard 6,000 jobs, just won't do. And speaking of twaddle that's all we have been offered by the London based political parties, its time to think different, its time to think Plaid.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


That Plaid has focused on protecting public services, jobs and our most vulnerable people should come as no surprise. Plaid is the only party fighting in this election for the priorities of the people of Wales. With the emphasis on taking pensioners out of poverty and protecting jobs, schools and hospitals from the London parties’ cuts – this manifesto reflects the conscience, values and priorities of the people of Wales.

At the launch of Plaid Cymru’s Manifesto, which will take place later on this morning, in Cardiff, Ieuan Wyn Jones is expected to say that unlike the other parties, protecting the most vulnerable in society is the moral spur which drives the party’s vision for a stronger, more confident Wales. Quite rightly Plaid will prioritise the needs of the families and communities of Wales above all else while the London parties pamper to the “haves” of so-called middle Britain, rather than the “have nots”.

Among Plaid’s election pledges is a promise to fight for a significant increase in the state pension in order to combat poverty amongst older people. The party is also calling for a Venture capital fund to be established in order to help start up businesses, boosting the Welsh economy.

In what will be a closely fought election, with a hung parliament being a real possibility, Plaid with its partners the SNP, will be in a strong position to negotiate the best possible deal for Wales and Scotland, working to ensure that Wales and Scotland get a fair deal.

Plaid’s Manifesto will focus on 7 key priority areas.

They are:

  • Protecting the Welsh Budget - including jobs, hospitals and schools - from the London parties’ slash and burn cuts
  • Increasing the state pension to ensure that our older people have a pension upon which they can live
  • Caring for our troops and veterans who have been shamefully neglected by this Government and bringing them home from Afghanistan
  • Helping Welsh business grow by improving connectivity through broadband and high speed rail links as well as creating a Venture capital fund
  • Creating a new environmental action plan to enable Wales to lead the way in the green revolution and create thousands of high-quality green jobs
  • Having proper powers for our National Assembly to ensure that we in Wales have the tools to do the job and make an even greater difference to people’s everyday lives
  • Tackling the deficit by stopping costly and unnecessary Government spending; closing tax loopholes and introducing more progressive taxation measures. Plaid also wants to see reform of the banks and for bonuses to be curbed immediately.

Monday, 12 April 2010


I am very pleased to support the Open Space Society’s 10 point action plan to preserve, protect and safeguard our public open spaces and rights of way. The Open Space Society has been active since 1865 and has fought hard to preserve common land, village greens, footpaths, public rights of way and access and our open spaces for the enjoyment of the public. What with being a keen hill walker to support this worthwhile campaign to further the good work done over the years to protect our historical and public rights of way throughout England and Wales.

The Open Spaces Society is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. They campaign to create and conserve common land, village greens, public paths and open spaces, throughout England and Wales. Their members include individuals, organisations and local authorities at all levels. They advise on and assist in the protection and enhancement of paths and open spaces.

They are by law consulted on all applications for works on, or exchanges of, common land, and for the alteration of public paths. Paths and open spaces are vital to us all. They provide opportunities for quiet recreation close to home and further a field, they promote health and well being and, by their use, may generate income for the local economy.

Open Spaces Society’s ten-point action plan for the 2010 general election

  • a right of appeal, and a requirement to provide suitable alternative land, before public open space is taken for another purpose,
  • law change to give county and unitary authorities a duty to take action against unlawful works on common land,
  • legislation throughout England and Wales to enable people to reclaim ‘lost’ commons for the common-land registers,
  • a timetable for processing town and village green applications, so that legitimate applications are swiftly resolved (and mischievous ones swiftly rejected),
  • requirement to include on planning-application forms questions about the existence of public rights of way, common land and town or village green within or adjacent to a proposed development,
  • law change to require an independent review to protect users’ rights when there is an opposed order to gate an alleyway, and to prohibit the use of permanent gating orders,
  • repeal of the provision for seeking changes to footpaths and bridleways in the magistrates’ court, as this is intimidating and costly to members of the public,
  • swift implementation of the new English coastal route and associated access land (the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009),
  • greater use of agricultural subsidies to secure new rights of public access, and ensure existing public paths are not obstructed,
  • all public paths in England and Wales recorded, open and easy to use, with a formal definitive list of all public highways, from roads to footpaths.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market

The ongoing campaign to Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market (KALM) and to preserve the unique character of Abergavenny as a traditional market town shows that both local residents and many local farmers wish to retain the Cattle Market in Abergavenny. Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) should (if it had half a brain) make the most of an real opportunity to get things right. What KALM has effect8ively done it present MCC with a real opportunity to begin the whole process afresh, this time working hand in hand with concerned local residents, farmers and small businesses to ensure that Abergavenny retains its Cattle Market and it’s fundamentally unique character as a market town.

Across Monmouthshire (and elsewhere in England and Wales) we have to often in the past seen ill-thought out unsympathetic redevelopments that have had a detrimental effect on the local economies in both Chepstow and Monmouth and elsewhere. The retention of the cattle market in Abergavenny presents a real opportunity to do something fundamentally different, something
that should be able to address both environmental and economic concerns and contribute to the retention of the unique character of the market town that is Abergavenny.

National Assembly Ministers, under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 have the power to call in any applications for planning permission for their own determination, somethinghtat clearly needs to be done in this specific case. While there is a tendency to consider that development proposals are best dealt with by planning authorities that know their area, its needs and sensitivities, it is pretty obvious that with regard to MCC, and the redevelopment of Abergavenny and its cattle market this is clearly not the case, hence the need to call in this proposed development.

Planning applications can be called in when they raise issues of more than local importance, issues which are in conflict with national planning policies; could have wide effects beyond their immediate locality; may give rise to substantial controversy beyond the immediate locality and are likely significantly to affect sites of scientific, nature conservation or historic interest or areas of landscape importance which covers almost every aspect of the proposed redevelopment of Abergavenny cattle market.

Most people can see that Abergavenny needs to retain its unique, attractive features and not join the sterile trend towards large retail and supermarket-dominated clone town centre deserts – save for MCC. In the not so recent past a whole range of suppliers, traders and small businesses who sell to consumers and too each other have along with whole communities suffered from this increasingly well recognised but misguided model of retailing and economic development. Elsewhere in Monmouthshire, the damage done to Monmouth and Chepstow by ill-thought out retail chain dominated economic redevelopment - no one in their right mind would want to damage Abergavenny’s economy and unique character as a market town.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


If the Housing LCO had an obituary, it could read killed of by an unholy alliance of self-serving New and Old Labour and Conservative MP's in Westminster, who put their self-interest before the needs of their constituents in Wales. There appears to be little chance that said MP's will even have the decency to appear somewhat shamefaced as a result of their actions and the company that they keep.

Both New and Old Labour and Conservative MP's have delayed for a combination of political point scoring and self interest throughout the long and tortuous three year process that it took to develop the Housing LCO (Legislative competence order) which reached its final stages and had it been passed would have meant devolving powers over housing in Wales to the One Wales Government.

Despite the delaying tactics, Plaid Cymru doggedly persevered in both the National Assembly and the Palace of Westminster over the crucial piece of Housing legislation, which was publicly backed by several leading Housing organisations. Earlier this week Welsh Secretary Peter Hain urged all parties to support the measure before Parliament was dissolved, he said that it would be "a huge blow for homeless and vulnerable people" in Wales if the LCO was not passed.

Yet ironically it was the Tories' who (busy doing New Labours dirty work) made the running in the last successful attempt to block the passage of the LCO which has not only served to undermine the devolution system (and the devolution settlement) but showed that the current LCO system is clearly not fit for purpose as it had not worked to the advantage of the Welsh Assembly Government and the people of Wales.

There may be a faint degree of irony, that even during the dying days of this unloved New Labour Government, that new Labour was prepared to pout its needs and the needs of the Tories in advance of the needs of Welsh constituents. A combination of the farcical LCO system itself allowed the Tories - an opposition party in Westminster - to block the democratic will of the National Assembly.

Moreover the process had been full of contradictions with the Tories supporting the transfer of these powers to Wales in a future Referendum but not through this current Legislative Competence Order.

Plaid’s Hywel Williams MP, commenting on the sorry business last week, said:

“Neither the Tories nor Labour are free from blame in allowing this situation to arise. Let’s not forget that both parties in Westminster blocked the first piece of legislation. The second was denied to the Assembly by a cabal of Conservative MPs.

"This Order would have allowed the Assembly Government to address the shortage of affordable housing as well as provide housing support for the most vulnerable. The London parties should be ashamed.

“When this LCO system came into being it was said that MPs would not be able to block the Assembly from having powers on ideological or political grounds but these events have shown that the system is clearly not fit for purpose.
“And today we see the Tories – the same old ‘nasty party’ – scoring petty political points rather than helping those who are in need of Government support.

"There were of course opportunities to propose amendments during committee scrutiny in both Westminster and the National Assembly but the Conservatives did not do so on either occasion.

“Indeed, the Conservatives gave their full support to the proposed LCO during the Committee stage in the National Assembly. This sudden turn around is political game playing. We urge them to put this to one side on such an important issue as people’s homes, tackling the pressing issue of a shortage of affordable housing as well as housing support for the most vulnerable.”

Friday, 9 April 2010


Yesterday (as parliament was dissolved) another New Labour failure was almost swept under the carpet. Some seven years after the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett (remember him!) made much off promises to go after the “homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars” of crime barons, criminals are holding on to their assets. The Times (9th April 2010) reported that New Labour's efforts to seize millions of pounds from fraudsters and tax evaders are failing because criminals are managing to hide their gains from the authorities.

So far, only £30 million of £174 million ordered to be repaid in England and Wales since 2005 has been recovered so far. The figures were released on Thursday 8th April, no doubt under the illusion that most people would not notice, show that some seven years after David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, promised The returns should seriously call into question what should be one of the key weapons in the fight against organised crime, and this has come to pass despite the recruitment of dozens of specialist staff who were recruited by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to lead the fight to recover criminal assets.

Oops! Perhaps yesterday was a good day to bury New labour bad news after all?

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Only a strong Plaid team of MP's who can act as local champions for their constituents can be trusted to break the Westminster bubble and deliver the best deal for the communities of Wales in a hung or balanced Parliament. Our communities have been particularly ill-served by New Labour and previous more Conservative Governments. The last thing our communities in Wales need is more of the same, it was politics as usual got us into this sleaze ridden mess, as did MP's who sought to further their political careers within their London based parties, at the expense of their constituents needs e.g. Jessica Morden (Newport East) and Wayne David (Caerphilly) to name but two.

We need independently minded MP's who will stand up for their constituents needs and aspirations and the issues that really matter, who will be much more than mere lobby fodder. Whether you live in Amlwych or Chepstow only Plaid MP's can be counted on to put the needs of their communities first. There is a real danger that this Westminster election campaign will turn into an argument between Brown, Clegg and Cameron about who is going to cut the hardest and the deepest, so that they can continue to bail out their banker chums in the City.

It's worth remembering that it was New Labour and the Conservatives who were willing to allow the deregulation of the banks and the subsequent mismanagement of the UK’s finances. It was these same London parties – Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems – who are more than happy to be bought (sorry funded) by the same big corporations, the same banks and city financiers who helped get us into this economic mess in the first place. This is the real legacy of the cosy Westminster club and you wonder why people feel let down and disillusioned.

However, to coin a phrase it does not have to be this way - there is a real choice available in Wales. Only Plaid can be depended upon to ensure greater support for our pensioners and fairer funding for the Welsh budget to protect jobs, schools and hospitals, with more Plaid MP's we can guarantee that the needs of Wales will count for something, especially within a hung parliament and get a better deal for Wales.

Plaid MP and leader of the Westminster group, Elfyn Llwyd said:

Plaid MPs are now synonymous with ambitious campaigns motivated by justice and fairness – whether it was the Impeachment campaign against Blair or compensation for miners – there are examples of issues where Plaid has led the way. It is undoubtedly because of Plaid MPs’ repeated efforts to hold the Government to account over the illegality of the immoral Iraq War that the current Chilcot Inquiry is underway – one which we hope will finally get to the truth of the matter. No other party has been consistent over Iraq and now we are the only party to being calling for a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Plaid is the party that can be trusted to care about business growth, to care about our communities, to care about creating a better future for the people of Wales. But We need an even stronger team in Westminster. My appeal is that people do not waste their vote on May the 6th on yet another Labour, Tory or Lib Dem MP to toe their London party line. Vote for an independent-thinking Plaid MP who puts your area first. “With the likely outcome of a more balanced parliament following this election, we can guarantee that the greater the vote for Plaid – the better the deal for Wales.”

Thats the only real choice on the ballot paper come May 6th...


Outstanding - check the others out at:

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


As we enter the final stages of the current Westminster Election Campaign, everyone (and every political party) will be heard over the next few weeks calling ever loudly for more Police Officers on the beat, something which most people want to see. Now ask any senior Police officer in a guarded quiet moment and you may get told that it's the most inefficient form of Policing going, with officers walking for (on average) something like 49 miles before they come across a crime in progress. This may be true, but, obviously ignores the deterrence and reassurance that is generated on our streets and in our communities and may well be influenced by pressures from the Ministry of Justice, a lack of Police officers and the need to generate reams and reams of arrest related statistics.

Perhaps the desire for local bobbies on the beat goes back to an earlier simpler era (certainly UKIP would like to take us back to the day before the Suez crisis broke, if only to urge Antony Eden to press on), maybe it’s a TV inspired nostalgia driven desire for that mythical Dixon of Dock Green figure now almost a real historical memory – killed off by successive police reorganisations, force mergers, budget cuts and top down largely then Home Office driven changes in the way our communities are policed i.e. panda cars, the loss of local Police stations, reduced opening hours, etc.

Now, lets be brutally honest nostalgia and Policing are a dangerous heady mix, there were Conservative politicians in the 1990's who argued against the use of body armour, stab vests and side handled batons, pepper sprays, etc – saying that it would change the nature of Policing, create unbreakable barriers of hostility between the public and the Police, end tradition, etc. All that aside, one thing all of those things did was significantly reduce the number of Police Officers stabbed and killed in line of their duty – so enough with the nostalgia.

We have to get past the meaningless platitudes about being tough on crime, etc. During the final weeks of the Westminster campaign the voters will hear much about getting serious about cutting crime, reducing anti social behaviour, and making our communities safer – now that’s all very fine, but just empty rhetoric unless we will actually seriously invest in the Welsh Police Services and make more creative use of existing financial and manpower resources. We could begin to make our communities safer by making more use of Community Support Officers, but without full powers of arrest, and lacking in proper training this can be nothing more than a temporary short term solution, what we need are more Police Officers.

The reality of modern (and old time policing) is that funding drives everything, our hard pressed Police Service (whether in Gwent, South Wales, Dyfed-Powys or North Wales) all need additional funding and an increase in the number of serving officers. On top of that our Police Officers actively need the active support of our communities, especially if we are seriously going to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour and to ensure proper Policing within our communities.

We also need to develop a much more flexible approach to shift patterns so we can tackle those periods of the day when higher levels of criminal offences take place and actually responding to local communities’ real concerns rather than the Ministry of Justice’s (formerly the Home Office) perceived priorities and targets. There is a need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when it comes to basing Policing strategies on core or periphery because the end result is that some of our communities lose out when it comes to access to Police services and resources.

The fact that the Ministry of Justice (and honestly changing the name has not fixed the basic problem) has long lost the plot and has become bogged down in a morass of spin, number crunching, paperwork, bureaucracy and red tape; add to the fact that it largely exists in an unreal world far removed from the realities of day-to-day policing on streets of Abergavenny, Caldicot, Cwmbran, Newport, Underwood or Tredegar, let alone Llanbedr Pont Steffan (especially on a Saturday night at chucking out time).

If we are really serious about reforming and reorganising Policing then we need to develop a coherent national community safety strategy for Wales with a clear approach to tackling crime and the fear of crime in our communities. And ask and answer the hard questions: do we want two tier Policing? Should Policing target be generated by local Police officers and local communities, where are we going to find the money, because Policing is not cheap? If we want to solve or curb crime in Wales, then it makes sense for the control of Policing as well as Justice and Prisons within Wales to be fully devolved to the National Assembly, much of this already happens in Scotland, are we less capable than the Scots or less of a nation than Scotland? - I think not!

And by way of a final thought it is worth remembering that the Dixon of Dock Green (in the original film "The Blue Lamp") was shot dead during a robbery...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


If either the Tories or New Labour win outright on the 6th of May, there will be a lot more people who will pretty rapidly become members of David 'Call me Dave' Cameron's new exclusive club 'the great ignored'. Membership of which may end up including significant numbers of people in Wales, Scotland, the north of England and many English urban areas.

While the electorate in Wales and Scotland can have a real choice at the polls, the depressing lack of any real choice facing the English electorate ("cuts or more cuts") may come to really rue the day for the inhabitants on Wales and Scotland. It may come down (in England at least) to a choice of the lesser of two evils - sleaze ridden inept New Labour or a potentially sleaze ridden Conservative Party eager to get its snouts into the trough - some choice!

While New Labour abandoned it's historic traditional supporters to eagerly slip into the embrace of the bankers and the City Money men, it also turned its back on the UK's manufacturing industry, something that had pretty severe consequences across much of South Wales. One thing is certain you can be sure that the Conservatives will look after their own and the rest of us will pay for it (and the tax cuts for the super rich) again and again.

In truth, we (in Wales) need to think different, we need to think Plaid. Neither Wales or Scotland can afford the consequences of either a New Labour or a Conservative election victory as they are as bad and each other. A plague on both their houses, roll on a hung parliament and a strong Plaid voice of Wales in Westminster, only then can we get a better deal for all of Wales.

Monday, 5 April 2010


The SNP and Plaid Cymru are absolutely right to appeal against the decision by the BBC not to include their leaders in a televised UK general election debate. Alex Salmond and Ieuan Wyn Jones have written to the BBC Trust to request an oral hearing to appeal against the BBC executive's decision.

The pair are understandably angry their parties will not be represented in three debates to be televised on the BBC, ITV and Sky. While the BBC somewhat self righteously argues it has clearly set out how impartiality will be achieved, one wonder how a measure of balance and impartiality will be achieved and maintained if the Plaid and SNP leaders in Westminster are conspicuous by their absence.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


I welcome the new report (from the National Assembly's rural development sub committee) that recognises that for our hill farmers to survive and make a decent living that they will need new sources of income. With the right level of support (and encouragement) there may be real opportunities for our hill farmers to diversify into areas such as carbon management, renewable energy, and tourism. The report recognises that there is a need for much more help with planning and research.

The committee's seventh month inquiry wants to change the established view of the uplands as a physical barrier in the heart of Wales. Our uplands have been rightly identified as the "backbone" of Wales. The report also recognises that unless action is taken to stem the flow of young farmers out of its communities then there will be a real rural farming crisis. Assembly members on the committee have recognised that our uplands should be "a resource pool" which the whole of Wales can draw on, not just for food and recreation, but also clean water, clean air and clean energy.

Small scale green energy schemes along the lines of what has been developed in the Green Valleys project in the Brecon Beacons, which generates power from 10 wild mountain streams and aims to make the Brecon area a net exporter of electricity, has won (one of three) awards for helping to a £1m prize for saving carbon emissions at the local level, from Nesta, a lottery-funded body, which encourages innovation in the UK, may provide the key to helping our hill farmers to develop alternative income streams, secure a decent living and stay in the farming business.

The Green Valleys project uses small scale hydro-power which does not rely on a traditional dam, but uses what’s called micro-hydro, which actually diverts up to 50% of a stream's flow into buried pipes that lead to camouflaged generators. The Green Valleys project plans to build 40 more of such micro-power stations. Nesta estimates that with advice from energy advice surgeries, super-efficient vehicles and wood-burning stoves, 13 local communities in Brecon have cut carbon emissions by about 20% in a year.

The Green Valleys project (which was established in May 2009) is a not for profit Community Interest Company based in the Brecon Beacons National Park, which takes ideal geography and topography for small scale hydro-electric generation by making use of the small streams and steep sided valleys within the National Park area. The project was Wales' only finalist in NESTA's Big Green Challenge competition. This is creative thinking, combined with local ownership which is benefiting the local community - another excellent example of people motivating themselves.

Friday, 2 April 2010

4 Wales, 4 Scotland

The leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, Alex Salmond MSP and Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, have unveiled '4 Wales, 4 Scotland' - the SNP and Plaid Cymru's joint agreement to secure a better deal for the people of Scotland and Wales in the event of a hung parliament.

The key elements of the four part programme will be:
  • Fair funding for Wales and Scotland
  • Protecting local services and the most vulnerable
  • Action to help the green economy
  • Support for business growth

Wales and Scotland will need strong representation, as both New Labour and David ('Call me Dave') Cameron's Tories are threatening particularly deep and particularly harsh cuts which will seriously damage and endanger Scottish and Welsh economic recoveries. A hung parliament would be the best result, with more Plaid and SNP MP's, especially when you have the Chancellor Alistair Darling already admitting that any cuts planned by the New Labour Government will be "harsher and deeper" than those inflicted during the Thatcher era, then Wales and Scotland needs a strong bloc of SNP and Plaid MPs, who can influence and win vital concessions for Wales and Scotland.