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Former Secretary of State dies

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With a gaggle of Welsh Secretaries: Nicholas Edwards (l) pictured in 2014

FORMER Secretary of State for Wales Nicholas Edwards, latterly Lord Crickhowell, has died at the age of 84.

Nicholas Edwards was born on February 25, 1934, was educated at Westminster School.

After completing his National Service in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, he read History at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1957.

After leaving University, he worked in finance in the City of London, becoming a director of both an insurance brokerage and the ‘bankers to army and empire’ National & Grindlays.

In 1970, he contested the old County Seat of Pembrokeshire.

The sitting MP, the former Bevanite left-winger Desmond Donnelly, had shifted across the political spectrum to adopt positions even farther to the right than the Conservative Party of the day. Donnelly had resigned the Labour whip in the Commons in 1968 before founding the Democratic Party, whose candidate he was in the 1970 election.

Ranged against Donnelly were both Nicholas Edwards – widely regarded as being foisted onto a constituency with which he had few – if any – links and Labour’s candidate, schoolteacher and Neyland resident Gordon Parry.

In the Conservative’s surprise victory in the General Election, the split in the Labour vote between Donnelly and Parry let the unfancied Edwards through the middle and he won the seat with a majority of just over 1,200.

Edwards was to face Parry as his main opponent in the elections of February and October 1974; on each occasion beating his opponent by fewer than 1,500 votes.

In the Conservative election victory of 1979, Nicholas Edwards was elected with a majority of over 7,700 votes and, in the 1983 landslide, won by just under 9,500 votes.

After the 1979 election, he was appointed to be Secretary of State for Wales, in which role he piloted through the Commons both the formation of S4C as Wales’ national Welsh language broadcaster and began outlining the case for the regeneration of Cardiff Bay, opposed – ironically – at the time by Rhodri Morgan.

He was a noticeable early opponent of the Poll Tax.

He stepped down from the Commons at the 1987 election and was appointed Baron Crickhowell of Pont Esgob in the Black Mountains and County of Powys.

He was, at that time still in his early fifties and, while resuming his business interests, Nicholas Edwards rapidly became active as a major booster for the Cardiff Bay Barrage Scheme and the construction of an Opera House in Cardiff Bay. The Opera House project dissolved in acrimony after the winning entry by the late Zaha Hadid was rejected as too costly to build. However, the regeneration of Cardiff Bay has brought a new centre of prosperity and public life to the Welsh capital.

In 1989, he was appointed Chair of the National Rivers Authority, a post he held until that body’s abolition in 1996 and replacement by the Environment Agency. He was subsequently President of Cardiff University and remained an active member of the House of Lords until last autumn.

Nicholas Edwards’ father had been employed at the Victoria and Albert Museum and later as an adviser to Historic England, it is therefore of no surprise that he was engaged widely within the arts, lobbying successfully for the Welsh National Opera to have a permanent base in Cardiff and became President of the Contemporary Arts Society for Wales.

He married Ankaret Healing in 1963. They had a son, Rupert, and two daughters, Sophie and Olivia.

Tributes have been paid to Lord Crickhowell by fellow Conservative politicians.

Stephen Crabb, former Welsh Secretary said: “I am deeply saddened that Nick has passed away. He was a good friend and offered encouragement to me when I was starting out in politics. Nick was a brilliant MP for Pembrokeshire and left a strong legacy including the building of Withybush Hospital. He will be missed by a great many people across our County.

“My sincerest condolences go to his family.”

Andrew RT Davies said: “Lord Crickhowell was an inspiration to a generation of Welsh Conservatives, and his passing is desperately sad news for his family and friends.

“As a constituency MP he represented Pembrokeshire with huge dedication, and he advanced the cause of Wales around the cabinet table during eight years in government.

“He was a politician of real vision and tenacity, and his most enduring legacy to Wales will be the transformation of Cardiff Bay – which to this day remains one of the most successful regeneration projects the country has seen.”

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UK Budget must take crucial steps to help recovery

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LLANELLI Labour representatives are urging the UK Government to take the necessary steps to begin recovery and secure prosperity across all parts of the UK.

Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters set out Wales’ priorities ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday March 3 2021.

They are urging the UK Government to make a series of commitments to Wales, including:

• sustaining UK-wide business support
• delivering welfare and taxation measures to support the most vulnerable
• redressing the historical under investment in Wales on research and development and rail infrastructure
• providing an injection of funding to support the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions
• providing guarantees for Wales’ specific funding pressures

Speaking ahead of the UK Budget announcement, Nia Griffith MP reiterated her calls for continued business support for those on the lowest of incomes. She said:  

“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are retained – not threatened with being removed at the eleventh hour and putting livelihoods at risk. A delay to repayments should also be introduced for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with recognition given to the self-employed who are facing deferred bills.”

“It is also vital that the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit is maintained and put on a permanent basis, making it available to people in receipt of legacy means-tested benefits. More than 300,000 families in Wales have benefitted from an extra £1,000 a year as a result of the uplift and removing this now would have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on thousands of households across Wales.”

Lee Waters MS said:

“The UK Government should continue to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest in Wales’ infrastructure and public services. Particularly on rail, where we have been underfunded to the tune of billions since the start of devolution, this is the moment where Rishi Sunak can demonstrate his commitment to ‘levelling up’ all four nations of the UK.”

“This budget is a chance to hardwire a greener, fairer way of doing things into our recovery from Coronavirus. We are ambitious about our target of being Net Zero carbon by 2050, and averting the climate crisis which is increasingly affecting Wales through flooding. But to make that transition, we need a step change from the UK Government’s budget that allows us to invest in renewable energy and green jobs.”

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Politics

MS summoned to Court over tweet

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PLAID CYMRU’s Mid & West Wales Regional Senedd Member Helen Mary Jones has been summoned to appear at Swansea Crown Court.

HHJ Paul Thomas QC ordered Ms Jones to court after she retweeted a third-party’s post which expressed the hope a defendant in an ongoing murder trial would be convicted.

The tweet referred to the trial of 70-year-old Anthony Williams, who killed his wife shortly after the start of the first lockdown in March last year.

Mr Williams had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.

However, while the trial was ongoing, a domestic violence campaigner tweeted:: “Another perp using the ‘I just snapped’. It is complete b******t! As so many of us will know, there would have been history of domestic abuse.
“I hope this jury finds him guilty of murder. Rest in peace, Ruth.”
On Saturday, before the jury returned its verdict, Ms Jones shared the tweet.

There was no history of domestic abuse and no suggestion of it was raised during Mr Jones’ trial.

When the Jury returned to Court on Monday, HHJ Paul Thomas said: “It’s come to my attention that, over the weekend, there have been some highly inappropriate comments made on social media about this case.
“I should make it abundantly clear that those comments have not come from anybody connected with the case and, having been shown the contents of one such piece of social media, they clearly don’t have any idea about the evidence in this case or the issues in this case.”
None of the jurors saw the offending post and continued their deliberations.

On Monday afternoon, the jury acquitted Mr Williams of murder.

By retweeting the remarks made by a third party, the risk existed that the jury could have been influenced and their decision-making compromised.

On Thursday, Helen Mary Jones will have the chance to explain her actions to Judge Thomas in person.

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Welsh budget ‘very much a draft’

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THE SENEDD’s Finance Committee’s report on the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget for 2021-22, voices serious concerns for public services, inequality and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Committee is clear that the need to address and alleviate poverty is more critical than ever, with the pandemic deepening the problems already faced by low-income and disadvantaged households.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE

The Finance Committee is worried about the impact of the pandemic on non-COVID care, due to sustained pressure on the NHS and its healthcare workers. The Finance Committee also believes the impact of the pandemic on mental health will be considerable over the next year and beyond.

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee agrees that the public health emergency Wales is facing should not be underestimated, either in terms of responding to the immediate challenges of the pandemic, or the need to do what can be done to maintain the vital non-COVID services on which people rely.

The Committee believes the true scale of the implications for the health and wellbeing of people in Wales, may not become clear for years. The crisis has also exacerbated underlying issues, including the fragility of the social care sector, the ongoing health inequalities across Wales, and the need for a clear strategic vision to drive health and social care integration and service transformation.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND EDUCATION

The Finance Committee is concerned that increased funding in the local government settlement will not cover all cost pressures, such as social care, childcare, and education.

The Finance Committee is deeply concerned about the risks to children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those in early years, falling behind in their education as a result of the pandemic. The Finance Committee is calling for more information about how funding will support learners to ‘catch up’ while also delivering the current ways of learning.

ECONOMY, SKILLS  & REGENERATION

The Finance Committee heard evidence that the Draft Budget does not provide a coherent approach to supporting businesses through the pandemic. While recognising that it may be sensible to allow some degree of flexibility, the Committee is concerned that the implementation of the business support packages has been “patchy” with smaller businesses finding it harder to access funds. This has been further complicated by the different approaches to business support from different Governments within the UK.

The Committee believes the Draft Budget could have been clearer in outlining the Welsh Government’s long-term approach to potential shifts in consumer behaviour towards online retailers and the effect on local economies. The Welsh Government should rethink previous policies on revitalising town centres in light of the pandemic.

CHALLENGES NEED LONG-TERM APPROACH

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Chair of the Finance Committee said: “This is the final Draft Budget of the Fifth Senedd. This year the pandemic has delayed UK fiscal events, resulting in delays to publication of the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget. This has reduced our time for scrutiny which is particularly concerning given that COVID-19 will have an impact on public spending for years to come.

“This Draft Budget is very much a draft. A lack of forward-funding figures with only a one- year revenue funding settlement, and the timing of the UK Government’s Budget set later for 3 March has made budget-setting even more challenging for the Welsh Government.

“Much of our work is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst welcoming the extra money for health and social services, the Committee is concerned about the long-term impacts on non-COVID care. We also have serious concerns over workforce capacity and mental health.

“Our businesses need support more than ever, with many being forced to close. For them to have a future after this pandemic, we support calls for the simplification and consolidation of the financial assistance schemes available.

“COVID-19 has brought many serious challenges and the financial impact on health, the economy and public services will be felt by society for years to come. While there is a need to respond to the immediate situation we are hopeful that there is an opportunity for longer-term planning to ensure that Wales can recover strongly.”

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