Monday, 28 February 2011


The Westminster government is to begin its consultation on the proposed high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham. The new route would cut journey times by around half an hour, with work due to begin in 2015 if the plan is approved and might cost £17 billion. Meanwhile the Con Dems are deferring (avoiding to you and me) making any decision on upgrading and electrifying the Swansea to London railway line...

Sunday, 27 February 2011


A great deal of copy (some of it good, some of it bad, some some of it dreadful and some of it straight outright lies) has been written about next Thursday's referendum. This piece by Matt Withers of the Wales on Sunday (27.02.2011) brings a great deal more clarity to the subject that most, some of whom have churned out reams of pretty turgid prose on the subject.

Friday, 25 February 2011


Scotland is in the midst of a boom in small scale hydroelectric energy schemes, with scores of streams and rivers being earmarked and investigated for development. There's a sustainable energy 'gold rush' starting in the Scottish hills. Water rather than gold is one of Scotland's most abundant resources.

What the energy consultants and developers are looking for specifically is water that flows down steep enough slopes and ravines to allow it to generate an increasingly precious resource: energy.The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is encouraging the development of hydro power schemes within the park's boundaries and local communities are also planning to build their own local schemes (something that will deliver sustainable cheap energy and other financial benefits as well).

One of the reasons why the hydro rush will work and deliver long term sustainable benefits new feed-in tariff that came in last year. The subsidy for producing green energy has been increased and it makes schemes more viable, this fact combined with a progressive Government that is driving the growth of sustainable non oil and gas and non nuclear dependent energy supplies'

This is something that every Government with or without half a brain in Europe should be striving to accomplish, all this means that Scotland is on the up energy wise. One simple observation, if it works in Scotland then why not in Wales, are we not blessed with rain and blessed with some reasonably steep hills, the odd slopes, not to mention gully's and the occasional ravines?

I mention this because cheap sustainable secure energy is important, it's the potential game changer. Its also worth noting the energy companies are busy gouge mining profits from their domestic customers. The latest being British Gas who's operating profits rose 24% in 2010 to £742m.This news, welcome to shareholders if no one else, comes barely two months after the UK utility announced a 7% rise in domestic energy bills, which it blamed on rising wholesale prices.

British Gas also said it had increased its number of customers by 267,000 during the year to 16 million. Parent company Centrica to achieve pre-tax profits of £2.8bn, with operating profits up 29% to £2.4 billion. Not to mention the fact that unrest in the Middle and near East is leading to a rise in Oil Prices which will also hit us at the pumps and elsewhere with increased food and energy costs.

With all that in mind why are we not seriously and actively pursuing the development of sustainable, reliable and secure (not to mention community owned and community beneficial) energy supplies here in Wales and elsewhere in the UK with a serious degree or urgency?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


On Friday 25th February 2011 the people of the Irish Republic go to the polls to pass judgement on those who oversaw the collapse of the Irish economy in the banking crisis. The Irish people are a tad angry and a potential if selective electoral armageddon may well be anticipated. Fianna Fail, who were in charge when the Irish economy went bust, in the last election it won 42% of the vote; the latest poll suggests support is down to 12% - ouch!

This side of the Irish Sea this is a particular electoral bullet that New Labour has by and large so far managed to dodge. Admittedly they lost the Westminster election, no doubt with a degree of quiet relief because their defeat meant that the Con Dem’s will have to carry the can for the inevitable cuts to the public sector that followed the economic meltdown that had been overseen by New Labour.

New (or former New) Labour has no positioned it as the protector of the public sector, despite the fact that they (had they won the last Westminster election) would not doubt have indulged in equally savage public sector spending cuts. As we progress to the Welsh General Election on May 5th its worth remembering the mess that New Labour created and the harsh price that we are all paying to rectify their failures.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


There is more than a faint whiff of hypocracy surrounding William Hague's somewhat belated condemnation of the brutal repression currently being undertaken in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. If my memory serves me correctly UK PLC has been actively supporting, nurturing, arming up-skilling and re-tooling the forces of repression across the globe in a whole host of unsavoury regimes. Now that for want of a better phrase the various peoples of the Middle and Near East are trying to find their political and economic freedoms then the house of cards so ably supplied and abetted by Old Labour, Conservative, New Labour and Con Dem threatens to come crashing down around the Foreign Offices' ears.  If Hague's musings are somewhat embarrassing to listen to, then just imagine all the sweet nothings he would be whispering to Mubarak if he had survived.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Plaid has outlined some of ambitious yet achievable proposals for the rail network in Wales calling for the electrification of the railways in the Valleys. This makes sense as it would create a modern transport system, help with carbon reduction programmes and create a quicker, cleaner and more efficient railway network and will allow for larger passenger numbers. hand in hand with the electrification programme newer and more modern electric trains will allow our railways to carry more passengers. As well as this commitment to the electrification of the Valleys lines, Plaid remains committed to electrification of the Great Western mainline.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


Radio 4 this morning was running with the news that UK Government Ministers (in England) are preparing to ditch controversial plans to sell thousands of acres of state-owned woodland in England, and that said Ministers will announce this Friday that the current consultation be halted. Apparently a new panel of experts will be set up to look at public access and biodiversity within the publicly owned woodland. Cameron asked during prime minister's questions whether he was happy with the plans, paused and clearly said NO. Smells like a U-Turn to me...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


News that the MOD has apologised after sacking 38 senior NCOs (some of whom were on front-line service in Afghanistan at the time) by email will provide scant comfort to those involved. No doubt the fantastic Dr Fox was incandescent with righteous indignation at the shoddy treatment of 22 warrant officers, all of whom had completed 22 years of service. having completed 22 years of service, senior personnel go onto what is known as VEngLC (or Versatile Engagement Long Career), which means that they go onto what's called the Long Service List (which is basically a rolling contract). This disgraceful incident is sadly not unique, I can remember the MOD getting into trouble a few years ago by harassing younger soldiers who had signed on for the 22 year enlistment. Basically the MOD has a problem with service personnel who sign on for long service - they cost money, build up years of service and pension commitments - so rather than honouring these service personnel, who pass on their skills and experience to younger soldiers and junior officers, the MOD pushes them out of the door. Military housing for service personnel and their families still leaves a great deal to be desired. The bottom line is that live heroes, as a predecessor Conservative - Liberal Coalition Government found out cost far more than dead ones.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Proposals put forward by the UK Westminster government mean that large areas of the Welsh coastline will be given little or no local emergency cover at night. If nothing else this is the Con Dem's recklessly putting money above lives and potentially putting lives at risk.

The UK Government plans mean that there will be no Welsh cover at night, as incidents will be dealt with from Southampton. Over centralisation of the coastguard means that there will be problems with identifying where incidents are taking place, already the over centralised ambulance service has had problems telling Newport (Pembs) from Newport (Gwent) and that is within Wales, heaven help any mariners in distress once its all run from Southampton, where first-hand familiarity with local Welsh coastal geography will be pretty thin on the ground.

This is madness and is completely inadequate, reckless and dangerous and a foolish cost cutting exercise. Only fifteen years ago there was the Sea Empress disaster, when 72,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea, and polluted more than 200k of our beautiful coastline. Milford Haven waterway is one of the largest concentrations of petro-chemical installations in the UK, and the third largest Port in the UK, despite this the Tory Government is considering shutting the local coast guard station (amongst others).

The Tories and and their willing Lib Dem partners are putting Welsh lives in danger, not to mention the lives of potential mariners. This much needed public service can be best run in Wales, so Plaid is calling rightly for a consultation on the idea of devolving the responsibility and money for maintaining this service, for the benefit of the people of Wales.

Plaid Cymru wants to see a consultation to seek the views of the people affected by these Westminster cuts. If the Tories and Lib Dems have no interest in the future of the coastguard services, and it is clear from their plans that they do not, perhaps it would be better to place it under the responsibility of the Welsh government with a fair funding deal to make sure people are safe along Welsh shorelines.

Monday, 14 February 2011


Elfyn Llwyd MP
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd MP has challenged the UK Government over its commitment to the military covenant, arguing that veterans have been completely left off the Armed Forces Bill currently passing through the Commons.

Mr Llwyd has also slammed the UK Government for excluding him from the key Standing Committee Stage of the Bill in which amendments are argued and considered.

This is the first Bill this Parliament that a member of the minority parties has been excluded from such a crucial point. This was done by cutting the size of the Bill Committee to 14 members. At all other times, Bill Committees have ranged from 16 plus one minority member to 21 and one minority member.

Mr Llwyd will be tabling a series of amendments to the Armed Forces Bill, to ensure the military covenant is implemented, and to place a legal duty on the Secretary of State to act to provide progress - and not simply place a report before Parliament which would not enforce a duty on the Secretary to do anything.

The foremost campaigner on veterans’ affairs in the UK Parliament, Mr Llwyd is Chair of the Justice Unions’ Parliamentary Group and a member of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s inquiry into Veterans in Prison. The inquiry team recently travelled to the States to learn more about their groundbreaking work in veterans’ aftercare.

In December 2010, Mr Llwyd also scooped the Welsh Campaigner of the Year award for his work on veterans’ welfare.

Mr Llwyd said: “There is a mandatory duty on the government to implement the military covenant. The last Labour government failed pitifully in this respect and we are still seeing increasing numbers of veterans in prison – maybe as high as at one in nine of the prison population.

This was an opportunity to put veterans’ welfare at the heart of the Bill – one that has been badly missed. Last year, figures showed there were twice as many veterans in prison than British troops are in Afghanistan.

I fear that this government is about to continue in this failure to our troops.

It is disgusting that I have been excluded from the Committee stage of the Bill. It is evident in Westminster that I have a long standing interested in the field of veterans and this smacks of ‘stitch-up’ – in the same way as this toothless Clause is stitching up veterans.

The amendments that I will be proposing already have cross party support.

I will be ensuring that veterans are put at the heart of the Bill – and through voting with or against these, the UK Government will have to show whether they are serious about implementing the military covenant.

I recently travelled to the States to learn about their experiences of veterans support and I believe they are already streets ahead of us in this field. The inquiry will be reporting back on its overall findings in the coming months and I dearly hope the UK Government takes them on board.

Although I was against the military incursion into Iraq and Afghanistan and voted against them it is politicians who place these brave troops in harm's way. We owe them a duty to ensure their wellbeing upon their return home.

Anything else is a breach of the military covenant.”

Sunday, 13 February 2011


There is a need for a Welsh equivalent to Green belt, to fringe our urban areas, to help focus out of town and fringe of town developments, not to mention helping to protect rural green spaces between and within some of our urban areas. It's worth noting that 'Green belt' is a useful planning tool, which was introduced for London in 1938 but then ended up being rolled out to England as a whole by a government circular in 1955. The original idea was that the opportunity to develop green belt which would allow local councils to designate green belts when they wanted to restrict urban growth.

Now this idea worked and worked well, as of 2007, Green belt covered something like 13% of England (around one-and-a-half million hectares) which despite the best efforts of previous Conservative and New Labour Governments it is still relatively well protected both by normal planning controls and against "inappropriate development" within its boundaries. Wales only has one notional green belt, and that lies between Cardiff and Newport, Scotland has seven and Northern Ireland has 30 - each has its own policy guidance. it is important to note that once the Green belt or Green wedge is gone it is gone for ever, we cannot restore it.

In the south east, along the coastal belt around Newport and in and around Torfaen, the last twenty years has seen a significant if not spectacular growth in the amount of housing, a significant percentage of which was never aimed to fulfil local housing needs. As a result the infrastructure along the coastal belt between Chepstow, Caldicot, Rogiet and Magor is struggling to cope with existing developments and this is well before the projected expansion of housing on and around the former Llanwern site. The north of Newport has now been linked effectively to the south Cwmbran - something that has brought little material benefit to either urban area.

In Torfaen, there are on going plans to literally fill in the gap between Pontnewydd and Sebastopol - this development was vigorously (and rightly in my opinion) opposed in the 1990's by the "Fight the Plan" campaign group . The original development proposals, aim to include 1,200 new homes, shops, playing
fields, and a school, and a community centre, these were effectively rubber stamped by Torfaen council (in 2005), but developers were unable complete a legal agreement in time so it never took place.

However, these things never quite go away and now there is a new development consortium (which now includes the Welsh Development Agency, Crest Strategic Projects Ltd and Barratt South Wales) which has decided to revisit the old development plans, with a view to submitting them in the spring. So much for sustainability, while it would be too much, on past experience to expect Torfaen County Council to do anything other than rubber stamp the proposals, they have been hell bent on maximising as much housing development as possible over recent years. One question we need to ask about many of these proposed housing developments is just exactly for what pressing need do they fill locally, or are we merely engaged in attempting to grow housing for its own stake or to maximise construction company profit?

The National Assembly should know better and act accordingly, the institution is supposed to have sustainability enshrined in its actions, but, at times you really have to wonder, especially when it comes to the impact of some of the proposed developments on our communities. We need to protect the green wedges around and within our urban communities. The problem caused by a lack of protection to our Green wedges, etc is aggravated by the fact that what one generation of elected officials (and council officers) envisages as a green wedge, green lane, etc is often seen by later generations of elected officials (and council officers) as either prime land for development or a nice little earner to help balance out the books - this means that there is a lack of stability and a long term vision for many of our urban areas.

We need to take the long view and create Welsh Green belt land with the legal and planning protections then, we might go some way to calming things down when it comes to development planning and also manage to introduce a more long term element into the process by which our elected officials (and council officers) plan and view development and redevelopment within and around our urban and not so urban communities. This is something that could be accomplished by creating Welsh Green belt land, as part of the process we also need an urgent and open debate into the planning process in Wales - something that has been long overdue.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


It's interesting that David Cameron, has said that Egypt has had a "precious moment of opportunity" to move towards "civilian and democratic rule". Obviously trying to make the best out of the situation, Mr Cameron makes these comments following the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as Egypt's president after 18 days of continuous and largely peaceful (at least on the part of the anti-Mubarak demonstrators) protest. Mr Cameron goes on to say that the UK was a friend of Egypt and stood ready to "help in any way that we can". I wonder how that squares with thirty years of warm support for Mubarak when it comes to repressing the Egyptian people? Mubarak was as much a favoured son of the West as much as Saddam Hussein, oh how the time change. Former New Labour PM, Tony Blair, described Mubarak as "immensely courageous and a force for good" (2nd February 2011), previous British Prime Ministers and other Western Leaders have been equally gushing over the years, quietly brushing the Human Rights violations under the carpet, so to speak, when it comes to supporting Mubark. Lets hope that the Egyptian people have short memories...and don't ask awkward questions about the UK's relationship with Mubarak, especially if Cameron goes to visit.

Friday, 11 February 2011


There is an old rule that you pay for what you get, and it looks like the Conservative half of the Com Dem Government is working hard to make sure that it's paymasters are kept sweet and get plenty of VFM (Value For Money). The Daily Telegraph, has revealed that William Hague (the Foreign Secretary) has actively lobbied for oil companies that make donations / payments to the Conservative Party. Documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph suggest that William Hague personally intervened in a dispute involving two oil companies headed by Conservative Party donors who were refusing to pay tax to one of the world's poorest countries.

These fresh disclosures will continue to shine an unwelcome light come on just how the Conservatives are backed financially. On Wednesday, it was revealed that alleged that Mr Cameron now receives more than half of his donations from City financiers and follows revelations earlier in the year that that ministers had intervened in other disputes involving Party donors. Once political parties start selling their virtues and principles for financial favours, they do tend to lose all credibility with the voters...

Thursday, 10 February 2011


News that Network Rail managers are exploring whether the Valley Lines should be electrified by the end of this decade, regardless of whether the UK Government abandons main line electrification in South Wales, is good news. The initial Network Rail Valley Lines study could be completed by the summer and this fresh research could help ministers in Cardiff and Westminster decide on future investment.

The Western Mail, notes that so far no funding has been identified yet for the scheme, but the investment could more than pay for itself because electric trains would bring so many advantages over the diesel-powered alternatives. The timing of the scheme's implementation, if adopted would be driven by the fact that the rapidly ageing Sprinter and Pacer trains, which are currently used for Valley Lines services, will have to be withdrawn from service at some point. So lets get it done!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


News that the government says it will increase the levy on banks to £2.5 billion this year which will bring in an extra £800 million in tax, may well be a case of too little, too late. Chancellor George Osborne made much of this yesterday stating that the tax was being brought forward before banks announced their bonus payments.

Very nice, save for the fact that for the big ‘5’ banks 800 million is about one weeks profits. Oddly enough, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, more than half of donations to the Conservative Party last year came from the City of London. The report noted that firms and individuals donated £11.4m in 2010; this brought the total of City based donations since David Cameron became leader to more than £42m.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is a not-for-profit organisation, examined records of donations held by the Electoral Commission and Companies House. It concluded that last year, City donations totalled 50.8% of all money given - up from around 25% in 2005, the year in which Mr Cameron became Tory leader.

The bureau said that 57 individuals from the finance sector gave more than £50,000 last year, entitling them to membership of the Conservative Leader's Club. Naturally the government has rejected suggestions that donors were influencing policy, unless of course you happen to be Lord Ashcroft.

Of course New (and Old) Labour leaders and Labour prime ministers have quite happily taken millions of pounds of funding on behalf of their party from trade unions, and they (the Trade Unionists) have also had any influence on Government policy (yet they keep on paying), just like the rest of us will keep on paying to bail out the banks.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


News that the process of privatising the UK's search and rescue helicopters has been suspended after "irregularities" emerged in the bidding process to find a supplier, should not be a surprise. New Labour have twice tried (and failed) to privatise this service, and the Tories and Lib Dems were following them until the news of this leaked information, compromised the privatisation process.

An admission by the preferred supplier, Soteria, admitted it had access to commercially sensitive information, has derailed the privatisation process for the moment. The Department for Transport and Ministry of Defence (MOD) have now stated the preferred supplier would not be used and MoD Police are now investigating how commercially sensitive information came to be in the possession of the bidder.

The real question is not whether to privatise SAR or not (and my answer would be NOT) but what questionable idiot ever considered this option in the first place. Most people view the Search and Rescue services as the fourth emergency service. I have seen them flying round Snowdonia enough times (in fair and foul weather), to recognise their skill, dedication and bravery. The seas around Wales can be treacherous enough at times and there is little doubt that the military-trained helicopter patrols have helped to save many lives and strive to maintain the highest possible rescue standards.

The Conservative (sorry Con Dem) Government's decision to try to sell off (cheaply no doubt) the the Search and Rescue Service now thankfully hangs in the balance. Many people are very concerned that this is a privatisation too far - I would go further, this reckless plan to sell off the Search and Rescue services was dangerous to begin with and should be scrapped.

Our search and rescue service needs the most modern equipment and effective helicopters to carry out operations safely – privatisation of this essential service could lead to corners will be cut in order to make a profit and cost lives. The UK Westminster Government must now abandon its plans to sell off this vital life-saving service or risk selling it off on the cheap in order to make a quick saving, one that may put the lives of our service personnel and civilians at risk, which would be absolutely unacceptable.

Monday, 7 February 2011


Plaid and the SNP have a debate at Westminster (this afternoon) which will help to pressurise the UK government into taking action on rising fuel prices (which is hitting all of us either directly or indirectly). Plaid and the SNP are calling for the Con Dem Government to consider a regulator to cut fuel duty when oil prices rise. Both parties will make their case during an opposition debate in the Commons.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Transport, Jonathan Edwards MP, said:

“Plaid Cymru and the SNP recognised this problem long ago – we pushed for it in Budgets in 2005 and 2008 with widespread support from real people outside parliament. Unfortunately, Labour stubbornly ignored the problems of rising fuel prices while the Conservatives scared of supporting our idea decided to steal it, water it down and re-brand it as their own. There has been a massive hike in the cost of fuel recently, not all of it down to the rising cost of oil. The Tory-led Government's VAT increase and fuel duty hike have pushed the price of a litre up by at least 3.5p in the last month alone.Businesses and especially families in rural areas, especially in many parts of Wales, where a car is a necessity not a luxury are those who are facing the pain because of these choices. For the short-term we need to have a fuel duty stabiliser and a special price for fuel in rural areas, but we also need to diversify and invest in renewable energy alternatives to reduce our reliance upon oil and other fossil fuels.”

SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said:

"This may be the only opportunity MPs will have to debate fuel prices ahead of the Budget in March and the fuel duty increase in April, and so it is crucial that we persuade the Tory-led government to honour its pre-election pledge and establish a fuel duty regulator.The country is crying out for action to bring down fuel prices, and this SNP / Plaid debate will be a focus for that. Westminster's inaction has made this an enormous issue for the Scottish Parliament elections in May. Its a huge issue on the doorstep and the forecourts because and a key illustration of why we need to build up Scotland’s Parliament, and equip it with the full powers of financial responsibility. A Fuel Duty Regulator – which the Tories supported before the election – would bring duty down when oil prices go up. Cutting fuel by 10p per litre in Scotland would only cost about half of the estimated £1 billion in extra revenue the Treasury is set to rake in as a result of rising oil prices. It's a national scandal that in Europe's oil-richest country, Scots are paying among the highest fuel prices.”

Plaid Cymru / SNP motion:

This House notes the oil price has reached $100 a barrel; that diesel in the UK is the most expensive in Europe; further notes that the combination of the 1 January 2011 duty rise and the VAT increase is estimated to have added 3.5p to the cost of a litre of fuel; acknowledges the sharp rises in fuel prices over the past year and the resulting impact on headline inflation figures; recognises the financial pressure this places on hard pressed families and businesses already struggling with high inflation and the impact of the recent VAT rise; condemns the government's continued dithering over the implementation of a fuel duty regulator (or stabiliser) as neither a sustainable or stable way to make tax policy; further recognises the specific additional fuel costs for those living in remote and rural parts of the UK; is concerned that diesel in such places is approaching £7 per gallon; condemns the Government for its failure to prioritise the implementation of a fuel duty derogation; and calls for the introduction of a fuel duty derogation to the most remote areas at the earliest opportunity.

The Conservative Party had promised to look into a "fair fuel stabiliser" in their election manifesto, back in January, David Cameron was considering ways to help cash-strapped motorists. More recently, however,  Cameron has played down the possibility of a "fair fuel stabiliser" to limit fuel duty rises. The fact that UK Government benefits to the tune of 600 million a week in fuel duty may be a contributory factor in relation to the PM’s indecision, just as it was with former New Labour PM, Gordon Brown, perhaps Mr Cameron should declare an interest?

Sunday, 6 February 2011


We keep being told that we are all in it together, the revelation in The Guardian (05.02.2011) that the number of ministers setting up blind trusts so that they can continue to profit from financial interests that might present a conflict with their government responsibilities has increased threefold under the coalition (as revealed by official documents) may well suggest that many of us are significantly more in it, than some in the Con Dem Cabinet. The Guardian notes that 16 ministers, including the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and the cabinet office minister, Francis Maude, have blind trusts in place, as recorded by the official register of ministerial interests.

The Independent on Sunday (06.02.2011) notes that Britain's four biggest banks – Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Lloyds Bank – are expected to pay out a total bonus pool of about £5 billion over the next few weeks to their high-performing bankers and traders. RBS's chief executive, Stephen Hester, is due for a bonus of £2 million; the recently departed boss of Lloyds, Eric Daniels, will take home a £2 million bonus while Stuart Gulliver, the new chief executive of HSBC, is set to be paid a Diamond-style bonus of about £8 million.

Remember this...

"It is wholly untenable to have millions of people making sacrifices in their living standards only to see the banks getting away scot-free."

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, 17 December 2010


"Bankers have to realise that the British public helped to bail out the banks and it is very galling when they see bankers pay themselves unjustified bonuses."

David Cameron, Prime Minister, 17 December 2010

So much for curbing the bank's bonus culture...

Friday, 4 February 2011


The closure of Chepstow County and Magistrates Court (not to mention Abertillery Magistrates Court) in April and Pontypool County Court (in July) may not seem to have much impact on the surface, but these cuts make a complete mockery of the whole notion of local justice. This has nothing to do with making the delivery of justice more efficient, the Ministry of Justice's real motivation has always been to cut costs, make no bones about it this cost cutting agenda is being driven by the Con Dem Government in Westminster.

This is merely it part of the price that we are all paying (and are going to carry on paying) for the bailing out the banks. I have no doubt that there are real opportunities to cut costs, save money and make the system more efficient, but these closures will only make it more difficult for people to access justice. The UK Government should have (but did not) reconsider its decision, because the majority of the proposed closures in Wales will have a significant impact, not just on jobs and services but on the efficient functioning of the criminal justice system.

The closures will have a knock on effect as there will be increase in travelling expenses and also higher costs will be incurred by delays in hearing cases. Cut price justice indeed - one more sound argument in support the need
to devolve control of Criminal Justice to Wales.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


The Cardiff Business Partnership (CBP) call for an investment of £2.5 billion over 10 years to connect Cardiff, Newport and the valleys to promote economic growth is timely and the report, well thought out and would make a real and practical difference to many of our valley communities. The CPB report, A Metro For Wales’ Capital City Region, written by transport consultant Mark Barry, points out that the proposed £2.5bn plan may well seem to be expensive but almost entirely “pales into insignificance” when it is compared to the £40 billion of public money that has been committed to the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.

We are far too focused on the rail link to London, which has long needed electrification, it's far too easy to end up endlessly complaining about how Wales is left out of this, fails to get that, etc. Wales is unfairly funded - fact. Let's move on, and see what we can achieve with what we have. The Con Dem's are unlikely, no matter how well reasoned the case is and no matter how well explained the arguments are, to change their mind or their position in relation to fair funding for Wales.

So lets' get practical, let's give some real and serious consideration be given to electrifying the valley lines down to the coastal belt. Now if we use part of WAG's Annual Transport budget, which comes in at around £0.76 billion. If we make creative use of European matched funding then we could be talking about doing the business. Sion Barry (in the Western Mail 24th September 2010) estimated that some £200 million would pay for the electrification of the valley lines into Cardiff. Liverpool has long had an electrified rail link to London and has scarcely benefited from it.

In practical terms, what we are talking about is the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff (and eventually to Newport) line, the lines in Western Gwent, the lines down from Rhondda, Cynon and Taff Valleys to Cardiff and lines into Swansea and Bridgend. And we don't have to do it all in one go but in relatively affordable stages. This is a real opportunity to do something practical and lasting for our Valley communities and lets look doing it now.