Friday, 31 August 2012


Quietly and almost unnoticed a grim anniversary (the 23rd August) was commemorated last week in some parts of Europe. Some 73 years ago on the 23rd August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed between Nazi Germany (under Hitler) and the Soviet Union (under Stalin) something that changed Europe forever. The pact concluded between these brutal totalitarian regimes was a key trigger moment for the European part of the most brutal war yet known. Millions were killed during World War II and many more suffered under totalitarian regimes for decades after the war ended and our continent was brutal divvied between the West and the East.

The 23rd August is now a Europe wide day of remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Back in 2009 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a fifty-six-nation body, which includes the United States and Russia, passed a resolution naming the 23rd August as commemoration day. This date was not chosen by chance: it just happened to be the seventieth anniversary (in 2009) of a Non-Aggression Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. Stalin and Hitler divided Poland and carved Europe into spheres of influence, the Second World War (in Europe) began a few days later.

At the time the Russian representatives went predictably ballistic, their delegation called the resolution "a public insult against all Russians." It was insensitively placed Nazism and Stalinism on a par and “forgot that it was the Stalin-era Soviet Union that made the biggest sacrifices and the biggest contribution to liberating Europe from fascism." Back home in Moscow the rhetoric was even hotter as the Russian Duma's international affairs committee in Moscow, stated that the OSCE motion was little more than an attempt to “rewrite the history of World War II by placing responsibility for its causes, course and results equally on Hitler's Germany and the former Soviet Union."

Raoul Wallenberg
Prior to the establishment of the commemoration day all the sins of the Soviet Union and its many victims have been largely and effectively attributed to Stalin. The fascist atrocities were partially judged at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, but, in the East, after the demise of the Soviet Union there was no Soviet Nuremberg and many of those who committed atrocities entirely escaped punishment.

At some point there is a need to face up to the grim truth about Communist rule in Russia? And neither should we forget that post 1945 Communists Satellite regimes in Eastern Europe regularly trampled civil and human rights under foot.

Back in 2009 the Russians rapidly objected to the OSCE's resolution, as the Russian Government was not ready to mention the Kremlin's crimes committed over generations against their own people. There were plenty of Soviet victims of the "Stalinist terror" - between 1930 and 1941 some 20 million Soviets were "convicted" and suffered arrest, execution, or detention. The old USSR census for 1939 counted 37,500,000 families, and four million single adults. In the 1930s the terror affected around one or more members of every other family. The terror killed more than two million Soviet citizens in that decade, above and beyond the several millions who died in the man-made famine in Ukraine. Pre 1941 something like between 90 and 95 percent of all Stalin's victims lived in the former Soviet Union and post 1945 the terror was exported to Eastern Europe.

As yet there has still been no official Russian State commemoration of Stalin’s victims and no single trial of any of the perpetrators has ever been held. The only significant museum of the vast Gulag concentration camp system is Perm-31 which is located in the distant Urals (out of sight and out of mind). The Russian government plays down Stalin's crimes and talks up his "positive accomplishments." Yet The Russian state may well be a long way away from recognising the victims of official state policy between 1917 and 1991, but it continues to find that it is not be so easy to bury the past.

Russia, regularly notes that we in the West, tend not to recognise the important if not crucial role the Soviet Union played in stopping Hitler. Some 25.5 million Soviet citizens, over ten percent of the population in 1939, died in the Second World War. Over half of those were civilians. While Stalin signed the pact that began the Second World War in Europe, the peoples of the Soviet Union had no part in the decision. The peoples of the Soviet Union, faced by a murderous Nazi onslaught in 1941 had little choice but to rally around the Soviet State to survive regardless of Stalin and his murderous minions.

Without Soviet resistance to the Nazi’s as Winston Churchill recognised then Hitler could have won the war. We should remember the Red Army and the peoples of the Soviet Union’s sacrifices, as they saved all of us from a particularly grim fate. Russia should be proud of what was done in the Second World War and we should heap praise upon them for it. Yet the Russian Government is entirely wrong to defend Stalin and ignore his crimes inside (and outside) the old Soviet Union. It’s time to face up to the past and not wish for it to go away, and part of that process is a recognition of the Nazi-Soviet pact, its grim consequences and the harsh realities of Stalin’s rule.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


The news that the Welsh Government has been warned that it is not harnessing the full potential of its natural environment should come as no real surprise. A report produced by the Green Alliance (an environmental think tank) shows that the UK's green economy has remained relatively healthy since the banking crisis but Wales could do much better when it comes to developing sustainable energy and sustainable energy related jobs.

Some 41,500 people work in what are classed as low-carbon or environmental jobs in Wales. While that is more than the work in financial services or the motor trade it is well short of the biggest employers such as the health sector where more than 190,000 people work or the retail sector which employs 140,000. The report reveals that £ 443 million was invested in renewable energy sector in Wales last year, yet only around 6.29% of the electricity used in Wales is produced from renewable sources.

This depressing figure is actually lower than the UK average of 7.45% and significantly behind Scotland's 22.45%. This might be interpreted to suggest that the Welsh (Labour) Government in Cardiff is fairly indifferent to developing sustainable energy resources in Wales. The situation is very different in Scotland where the Scottish Government views things very differently and is acting with a sense of urgency.

Perhaps, aside form having their hands tied by planning restrictions and powers, more to the point they have (so far) utterly failed to grasp a real opportunity to think differently and generate energy jobs. Perhaps simply lacking the imagination or the political will to think for themselves, preferring to rely on costly inefficient ‘British’ solutions to our energy needs. The later may be closer to the mark considering New and Old Labours historic indifference towards the concept of Wales.

Friday, 24 August 2012


Bluemull Sound (
A maritime tidal turbine, which Scottish Government Ministers claim will be the world's first community-owned device of its kind, is going to be built in Scotland. The Nova-30 turbine will be used by the North Yell community to power an industrial estate and ice plant in Shetland. The Nova-30 (30kW) tidal turbine employs a horizontal axis, three-bladed rotor to extract reliable and predictable energy from the tides. The turbine, which will be deployed in the Bluemull Sound between the islands of Yell and Unst (in Shetland), will be owned by the North Yell community, which received a grant of £150,000 from the Scottish Government to help its development. The tidal turbine will sit in the Bluemull Sound between the islands of Yell and Unst. It will be built by Scottish firms Steel Engineering and Nova Innovation. While there are plans to deploy tidal turbines off our coast - the key bit here is the community beneficial aspect, now there’s an idea...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


While we are enjoying the occasional (if fleeting) summer days, many of us are wondering about what our winter fuel bills will be like, especially if we have a bad winter. Some of us may face the stark choice of heating or eating this winter. Energy supply wise, we are now in the situation where we are now even more dependent upon imported gas from either unstable regions or dubious suppliers than ever before, and we the customers are facing increasingly expensive domestic energy bills.

News that research by Consumer Focus Wales now shows that a third of those asked described their energy bills as more of a worry than it was a few years ago will surprise few of us. The research shows that people on lower incomes, are unsurprisingly those most likely to be struggling to afford their energy bills. As has been previously noted the elderly and people in rural areas are also affected by increased energy bills. Almost 25% of people said energy bills needed only to go up by another £120 (a 10% increase) and they would also be struggling to afford the payments.

The stats make grim reading, the regulator Ofgem, has said that household energy bills have effectively doubled since 2002 and are now £1,250 per year. Back in 2008 the industry’s average dual fuel bill for both electricity and gas was £885. The ‘Big Six’ energy supplier’s cartel announced cuts of 5% in either their electricity or gas prices, but, this failed to reverse the years of price increases.

Consumer Focus Wales research shows that the proportion of people in Wales falling in to debt with suppliers is actually rising. Some 8% of energy consumers say they have fallen behind with energy bill payments in the last year – this figure rises to one in seven among young people and lower income households. Back in 2010 Consumer Focus Wales found that 5% of people were in arrears on their gas and electricity payments.

Back in February and March one by one of the 'Big Six' quietly announced a raise in profits at a time when many people were trying to avoid or to live with fuel poverty, something that was never going to go down well with hard presser domestic energy customers. Centrica (who own British Gas) revealed a group operating profit of £2.5 billion pounds, up four percent on 2010.

This unfortunately timed announcement came against a backdrop of growing fuel poverty, which affected (at the time) around 5.5 million households in the UK. The definition of Fuel poverty is when a household spends more than ten percent of their disposable income on gas and electricity. Fuel poverty is one of those things that the previous (and former) New Labour Government and the current Con Dem Government have done nothing about and no doubt quietly hope will go away or that the rest of us will continue to suffer it in relative silence.

Nothing has been done or will be done to curb or regulate excessive profits from the energy companies via windfall tax. The talk about customers benefiting from dual fuel bills, etc, is little more than a distraction. We have had a dual political failure, something that speaks volumes as to how far both the former New Labour Government and the Conservatives (and their Lib Dem coat holders) have gone to drop even the pretence of standing up for the interests of ordinary people in favour of courting the City.

It looks like we are going to get hit by another rise in domestic energy bills, kicked off this time by SSE, (Scottish Hydro, Swalec and Southern Electric) who have announced that they will increase its domestic gas and electricity prices by an average of 9% from October 15th. I'll bet the City and the shareholders will be happy, unlike the rest of us.

For growing numbers of ordinary people this winter it may come down to a choice of heat or eat, literally choosing between putting food on the table and heating their home. The only real winners here are HM Government (with extra tax) and the big six energy companies (with fat profits) all of us as customers are losing out hand over fist as the energy cartel continues to ramp up its profits.

Monday, 20 August 2012


Fantasy Barrage
The potentially fatal combination of Peter Hain’s desperate search for gainful employment (with no doubt much emphasis on the gain) and David Cameron’s attempts to save face by finding a Plan B to restore economic growth, offers us (again) yet another version of the all singing and all dancing Severn Barrage. That aside, we do need to seriously discuss making best use of the renewable energy potential of the Severn estuary and to seriously consider a wide range of options to develop as much energy as possible.

As I have said before, when I was young there Fantasy Island (on TV), now we will have Fantasy Barrage, which promises all things to all people all the time – but at a price - financially for starters we are now talking about up to £30 - 34 billion pounds. The resurrection of the Severn Barrage scheme (yet again) should make us wonder about the sanity (financial or otherwise) or the sincerity of some of the usual suspects.

I have no doubt that the usual glib fatuous statements about the project being the solution to all of South Wales’s economic and transport woes will continue to be trotted out. If it sounds too good because it simply is - it's a fantasy, yes we need to develop the renewable energy resources of the Severn estuary, and we would be certifiable not too.

A combination of tidal lagoons, tidal fences, and turbines based in tidal current rich areas and wave energy generation technology (currently being tested off Scotland) and some carefully situated off-shore wind farms could generate a significant amount of sustainable energy with significantly less environmental damage, and generate sustainable jobs and exportable technology to boot.

New Labour and the Conservatives failure to honour their Welsh general election manifesto promise in 2011 to increase the 1 MW limit for off-shore and 50 MW for on-shore threshold for planning for energy projects does not help us here in Wales. This failure effectively prevents the development of potential energy schemes above that threshold as they have to be decided in Westminster rather than in Wales.

Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards (in January 2012) called for energy powers to be transferred to the Welsh Government, his bill would have given the Welsh Government powers over energy generation in Wales. The bill (blocked by Labour and Conservative MPs, defeated by 239 votes to 44) would have ensured equality with Scotland and Northern Ireland and would have meant that Wales would have been better placed to fight fuel poverty with responsibility for our own resources.

I have some serious concerns about any Severn Barrage, it does not generate enough energy over a long enough period to justify the cost and it would be environmentally damaging. A more logical solution would be to build tidal lagoons, one in Swansea Bay would be ideal to test out the technology but has been repeatedly stalled and delayed by a hostile Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and then powerless (but now vision-less and clueless) Welsh Government.

The last thing we need to do is limit the amount of sustainable energy we can develop, we need to maximise the period of generation well beyond the 3 hour energy pulse offered by all previous incarnations of the barrage. A combination of tidal lagoons and other energy schemes could offer release energy for a far longer period than 3 hours and minimise any damage to the environment. By using a variety of options we could generate sustainable jobs and make Wales a world leader in developing the energy generation technology.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Grain Traders are looking East at Russia where a commission on food security been set up in response to dry weather that has halved grain yields in some areas. The worlds food markets are awash with talk that Russia may respond to the developing crisis by limiting or stopping exports (as it did some two years ago). The United States is already facing one of the worst droughts for 50 years, and the prices of many grains and food crops have soared on world commodity markets.

The recent rise in food prices will have a major impact on food security, it will affect all of us as individuals and whole countries in the developed and the developing world. Many of the world’s poorest peoples spend over half their income on food. So the recent price rises for cereals and other staple food stuffs will force them to cut back on the quantity or quality of their primary foodstuffs. This will result in food insecurity and malnutrition, with potentially tragic implications in the short and long term.

Undernourishment increases disease and mortality, lowers productivity and can have severe lifelong effects, particularly for children. Price spikes also hit poorer households when it comes to meeting important non-food expenses, e.g. education and health care. Global food price hikes affect low-income, food importing countries, and put pressure on their limited financial resources. High food prices have a very negative impact on food security when prices spike suddenly or reach extremely high levels.

Yet food security issues can affect both food producers and food purchasers - high prices send an important message to food producers. Half the world’s undernourished people, are small farmers, livestock producers and fishermen. For them, high prices are an opportunity and a threat. They can act as an incentive to produce more for the market and make more food available while improving access to richer foodstuffs, as poor farmers’ incomes rise.

That said, higher prices are also a threat, as many poor farmers are net food buyers e.g. they spend more on food than they make by selling their produce, Also many of them face serious obstacles when it comes to producing more food and getting more of their produce to the marketplace.

The World Bank stated that the 2010 to 2011 food price spike pushed approximately 44 million people into poverty. Yet for some 24 million food producers, rising food process have actually been a ticket out of poverty – admittedly potentially a relatively short-term one, as their numbers were swamped by the 68 million that have fallen below the extreme poverty line.

Now food security or food insecurity is not new, back in 1996, the World Food Summit defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledge that the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. All very fine and dandy you may say, but, what does that have to do with us?

Well, a quite a lot , the UK produces 73% of ‘indigenous-type foods’, and is around 60% self-sufficient when exports and local consumption are set against production. UK consumers spend an average of £420 per household on food each year and then throw away some 4.1M tonnes of food nationally (2011). Each day we bin some 4.4 Million apples, 5.1 Million potatoes, 2.8 Million tomatoes and 1.6 Million bananas. Back in 2009 Wrap data suggested some £12 Billion pounds worth of food was binned every year in the UK, or around £680 for the average family when drinks and liquid food is included.

At the end of the day, rising food prices will bring little real benefit to our own or more distant food producers when they are being short changed by the Supermarkets (and some of their suppliers). Food producers are important and they need a fair deal and so do we (the food consumers) which is something to think about as we are confronted by the increased cost of our basic foodstuffs on the supermarket shelves.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Wales is littered with the remnants of failed models of economic development, most of them have failed to deliver any long term economic benefits and more than a few long term jobs to our people and our communities. We desperately need some fresh economic thinking, we need to think differently and to find economic models that can deliver sustainable long term jobs that can deliver real and lasting material benefits to our communities and our country.

The Mondragon co-operative which is a collective of around 250 companies and organisations based in the Basque Country may be one of those economic success stories in recession-hit Spain. Mondragon, which may be the world's largest worker co-operative, is helping the Basque economy try to resist the worst ravages of the recession in Spain. Mondragon which was established in 1956, in the province of Gipuzkoa; employs around 83,569 people with a business philosophy built around co-operation, participation, social responsibility and innovation.

Jobs with Mondragon
The Cooperative competes on international markets using democratic methods within its business organisation, helps to create jobs, and is committed to the human and professional development of its workers and pledges to development with its social environment. The unemployment rate in the Basque Country is 15%, and lower in the province of Gipuzkoa, (where Mondragon is based), the unemployment rate in Spain as a whole is now 25%. We in Wales could learn a great deals from the example Mondragon and its methods when it comes generating and retaining sustainable jobs.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Our country participates in the world of international sport in the FIFA World Cup, the European Football Championship, the Rugby World Cup, the Commonwealth Games. However, when it comes to the Olympic Games, our athletes compete have no choice but to participate as part of a Great Britain team. Yet over the last couple of weeks we have seen athletes from across the globe competing in the Olympics competing for states, nations, territories and unrecognised peoples and nations. 

Amongst the multitude have been athletes from Guam (population 159,358 in 2010) and São Tomé and Príncipe (Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe) with a population of 163,784 (in 2010), incidentally Swansea has a population of 232,500 (ONS) and Nauru (population 9,378 (in 2011) and Palau with a population 21,000 (Penarth has a population 20,396 in 2011 census) and Greneda (population 110,000) have been competing.

Now Olympic membership is not about population or political independence as non independent parts of other countries (notably Hong Kong) are able to compete - so why not Wales? Perhaps we need an Olympic Committee to actively press the case?

This would be start, aside from having to deal with hostility from the Westminster Government, a combination of inertia and indifference from the Labour in Wales in Cardiff, and also there would be the issue of self interest from the athletic associations who would no doubt object (perhaps motivated by the prospect of various gongs, trinkets and baubles and other inducements disappearing).

Aside from better sports funding there should be extra funding for education (in England) as an improvement in the educational system in England is necessary as some people (particularly commentators and media pundits) seem to be unable to tell the difference between Team GB (football) and England. Not to mention being unable to tell the difference between a national anthem and the anthem of a state.

At present Olympic Committees (admittedly as yet unrecognised) exist for Catalonia, Gibraltar, French Polynesia, Niue, Kosovo, Somaliland, New Caledonia, Kurdistan, Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, the Native Americans, the Northern Mariana Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands. If they can do it so can we, so why not Cymru / Wales?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


The rumbles of discontent within the Con Dem Coalition have been decidedly detectable for quite awhile. So the news that the largely Lib Dem Plans to reform the House of Lords (awaited since 1910) have been dropped after Conservatives "broke the coalition contract" should not surprise many disinterested observers. It has all been reminiscent of being a distant observer to a slow car crash, in that you can see that is happening but there is nothing you can do about preventing it.

While I have no problem with either sweeping the anachronism that is the House of Lords into oblivion or making it entirely democratic, in the current economic climate the prospect of Lords reform keeps few aside, from political anoraks, awake at night, there are literally more important things to worry about. The fact that, Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg announced that agreement on an elected Lords could not be reached with fellow Conservative coalition members must surely add a little extra sting.

Nick Clegg stated that plans would be shelved rather than face a "slow death". Getting his retribution in quickly, the Lib Dem leader said Lib Dem MPs could not now support Conservative-driven changes to Commons boundaries in 2015. Even David Cameron has admitted that things are not going to well with the Lib Dems.

Aside from deep (almost vindictive Tory driven) public sector cuts and enforced public sector job losses, the coalition has failed to really deliver anything for the Lib Dems. Yet the coalition may last for a while longer as some Conservative and Lib Dem MPs may be reluctant to face the prospect of electoral oblivion at the of the electorate (for both the Tories and the Lib Dems) may concentrate the mind.

Monday, 6 August 2012


News that the Conservative MP for Monmouth constituency, David Davies has come around to the idea that the Westminster Government should take control of the two Severn bridges should be warmly welcomed. Currently the original Severn Bridge and the Second Severn Crossing are maintained and operated by Severn River Crossing plc (SRC), in approximately five years SRC’s contract will come to an end. While the Westminster Government is quite content for the concession to remain in private hands, the MP for Monmouth is not.

As noted by the Western Mail (06.08.2012), a briefing paper provided to Mr Davies from the House of Commons Library reveals how a European court judgement in 2000 determined when VAT is payable on bridge tolls, when they are operated by private concessions. According to the briefing paper states, local government authorities and other bodies which are governed by public law’ may not charge VAT on ‘transactions in which they engage as public authorities, even where they collect dues, fees, contributions or payments in connection with these activities or transactions’. What this means is that if the Severn bridges were run by a state body, then long suffering motorists and businesses would not have to pay VAT at 20% to drive across them.

Back in October 2010, a study for the Welsh Affairs Select Committee at Westminster, which is looking at the impact the tolls on Wales amongst other things. Professor Peter Midmore's study found that Welsh businesses were unfairly penalised by the tolls and concluded that the money should be shared with the Assembly Government and used to improve Wales’ roads and public transport. Under the current stitch up (sorry set-up), once the cost of the Second Severn Crossing is paid off (by 2014 or 2016) the revenue stream will revert straight to Treasury coffers in Westminster.

The study of 122 businesses commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses found that the tolls had a negative impact on 30% of firms in South Wales, compared with 18% in the Greater Bristol area. While noting that the economic impact was not substantial for most, the study found that transport; construction and tourism-related companies reliant on regular crossings suffered increased costs and reduced competitiveness.

As long as the operation of the bridge tolls remain in the hands of a private company (Severn River Crossing PLC) then commuters, businesses and visitors will continue to get regularly fleeced. The bridge tolls have become in an effective a tax on jobs, a tax on commuters, a tax on growth and tax on business in the south of Wales. When the concession comes to end in 2018 the bridges could revert to the Department for Transport in London.

Plaid has long called for control, or shared control, over the bridge to be devolved to the Welsh government and those negotiations to this end should start immediately to ensure that the transfer is in place by 2018. Plaid is committed to reducing the tolls on the Severn Bridges to under £2 per car and recognises that the high cost of the tolls is a serious matter of concern for the Welsh people because of the impact on businesses, especially freight and logistics, and on people visiting Wales. The bridges are of such importance that it is only fair that control, or at least shared control, over them is in the hands of the Welsh people.

Friday, 3 August 2012


The UK Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to decide whether parts of the Local Government Bill (2012) (which is about byelaws) are within assembly powers, provoking a degree of indignation from Cardiff Bay. The Bill was waiting for Royal Assent to become law having been passed by AMs before the summer recess this month.

The legislation would have been the first Bill to become law since the referendum in March last year. The Attorney General’s decision to obstruct the first bill to be passed in the Assembly since the successful referendum last year decision to block a new Welsh law should not really surprise anyone.

Traditionally both Westminster and Whitehall have always been fairly hostile or indifferent to devolution in Wales. The Attorney General’s decision indicates that the UK government has still not recognised the historic referendum result. This is simply the UK government interfering in our affairs something that is both unacceptable and fundamentally undemocratic.

The sooner the devolution settlement is amended so that, as in Scotland, we use a Reserved Powers model where everything is presumed to be devolved save for a handful of exceptions, the better. Aside from clearly defining the Assembly's current responsibilities, this would eliminate any future pointless time wasting spats between London and Cardiff.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


I have lost track, if you will pardon the expression, of how many key dates have come and gone in relation to the Ebbw Vale to Newport project. Enough is enough this rail link is important and needs to be completed and fully opened as soon as possible! Which bit don’t they (the Labour in Wales Government in of Cardiff Bay) get?

Let’s be honest eleven years is a very long time to wait for a train, that’s how long the good citizens of Ebbw Vale and Newport have been waiting for the final stage of rail link to be completed. Now I have heard previously said by smug (and ample) Labourites in Newport ‘That Labour’s hands were tied when they were in coalition with Plaid’, well now you are running the shop so pull your finger out.

Now the interesting thing is that when they want to the franchise can run services via Newport to Ebbw Vale (and back again), as noted by Rail Future Wales (Issue 51 Autumn 2011 )“on the 27th August (2011) the 21.35 and 23.05 Cardiff to Ebbw Vale Parkway and 21.40 and 22.40 Ebbw Vale Parkway to Cardiff services were routed via Newport. Empty stock from Cardiff Canton to Ebbw Vale in the morning and from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff Canton in the evening always runs via Newport for staff route knowledge”.

We have had two feasibility studies, a business case and yet there was no autumn (2011) announcement. The final business case appraisal of Network Rail’s report, has long been completed but not yet released. With more than a few degrees of irony, it can be said that few railways will have (if we get the final go-a-head) been waiting approval through two centuries (the twentieth and the twenty first).

If this is not going to happen, and I for one, hope that the final bit of the line does reopen, could the Labour in Wales administered Government in Cardiff at least develop some backbone and come clean and say so, rather than carry on misleading the good people of the Ebbw Valley and Newport.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Westminster MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee may have hit the nail squarely on the head when they accused the Treasury of making the government's clean energy revolution unworkable and creating the risk of higher household bills. Rightly in my opinion they said Treasury changes to the draft Energy Bill will increase the risk of borrowing for investors.

MP’s noted that it would put up the cost of renewable and nuclear power, with customers bearing the extra cost. Somewhat naturally a Treasury spokesman said the aim was to achieve government goals while protecting businesses and consumers. The suggestion is that the Treasury has clearly intervened in the draft Energy Bill in a way that will put up bills to consumers and put off investors by increasing their risks, which just happens to be exactly opposite of what the Treasury officially says that it wants.

Chancellor George Osborne for, in his view, trying to undercut subsidies to onshore wind - potentially the cheapest option of expanding the UK's renewable energy portfolio. MPs wanted Treasury ministers to attend the Committee to answer questions about their influence on energy strategy, but they declined. On-shore wind is not the real issue, this is about Westminster and Whitehall trying to weaken the commitment to green renewable energy period - so that the nuclear option (their favourite option) becomes to only game in town.

A Treasury source stated that it would be inappropriate for ministers to be questioned at this stage in parliamentary proceedings. The committee has major worries about the finance department's impact on the draft bill, including the long-term contracts for developers who are being asked by the government to plough billions in the UK's low-carbon infrastructure.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) originally said the government would guarantee the contracts, thereby reducing the risk for investors and allowing them to borrow large amounts at a low rate of interest, but, the Treasury has since ruled that the government will not be the guarantor.

MPs are also concerned about the ongoing consumer subsidy to renewable and nuclear power generators, which are needed for the UK to meet its legally binding targets. The Treasury says the subsidy will be limited to hold down the cost to consumers - but it won't reveal the size of the future cap.

The UK Chancellor is under pressure from right wing backbench Tory MP’s to make major cuts to the support for onshore wind, which could seriously damage the renewable energy industry. I have real and significant concerns about the impact of, the ownership of on-shore wind developments and the flawed nature of the planning process – thanks to the 50 MW rule - here in Wales.

The Con Dems and the Treasury while being more than happy to allow massive land based windfarm developments in Wales appear to be wholeheartedly indifferent when it comes to encouraging community-owned and community beneficial energy schemes. This is where a local community builds a small solar, wind, hydro etc plant in their area, and members of the community have a stake (e.g. hold shares) in it.

Such installations would earn payments from the Government's Feed-in Tariff scheme for 20 years or more, and could pay for themselves in around 10 years. This means that potentially local community share holders could be in profit after 10 years, not to mention the added benefit of reduced energy bills.

Mind from a pro-Nuclear Treasury point of view the last thing they would want are ordinary citizens, community activists, councillors, local landlords, farmers, etc reaping their own rewards from small scale energy generation projects because over the medium to longer term the big boys profits would reduce along with post civil service and post Westminster jobs for the boys and girls in Westminster and Whitehall.