KEITH DAVIES, Labour Assembly Member for Llanelli, has confirmed that he will not be standing for the party at the next Assembly Election in May 2016.
Mr Davies was elected in 2011, when he beat Helen Mary Jones by 80 votes.
The Herald caught up with Keith at his constituency office in Queen Victoria Road, Llanelli where we asked him a number of questions based around his life in politics.
With regard to Assembly Members, we asked Keith whether he thought that with fewer AM’s than there are members of Carmarthenshire County Council, there was a risk that AM’s time was spread too thinly. Responding, he told us: “I would like to see the number of AM’s increase because the workload has increased. The Assembly is now passing laws, which do not have to be approved by Parliament. But looking at your question another way, there are two different aspects to consider. There are committees of the Assembly, and you can only be on two or three of those, and there are cross-party groups which focus on single issues and draw together members from all sides of the political debate. I am off to Brussels on Wednesday and Luxembourg on Thursday. We are going to have discussions on European funding and we are going to have discussions with the European investment bank. Wales could gain if we have more involvement with the European Investment Bank.”
He continued: “Meanwhile, I represent the assembly in meetings on items like sex trafficking. I was amazed at the amount of trafficking that takes place right across Wales. It is a complex issue and the proceeds of organised crime also contribute to sex trafficking.”
We asked Keith about the impact of Labour’s General Election defeat in May on Wales, particularly whether the people of Wales are doomed to suffer at the hands of a Conservative government. Answering, he offered a trenchant view: “People are suffering now. You will have seen the anti-austerity marches over the weekend. We will have £12billion in cuts and that is unacceptable and I think the electorate have been shocked.”
However, Keith was more upbeat about Labour’s chances of recovering from its shattering defeat: “The Labour party is increasing its membership in every constituency since the general election. We have had 2,000 people join the Labour party in Wales following the election.”
He was particularly keen to draw a distinction between London and Welsh Labour in Cardiff Bay: “Whatever happens in Westminster the Welsh Labour government is trying to help people in poverty. You’ve got things like the independent living fund, which Westminster got rid of. We kept that in Wales. We have Flying Start and Communities First and we are trying to help get people out of poverty and back into education and work.”
On education, Keith told The Herald that he was optimistic about Wales’ education system. A former teacher, inspector and Head of Education for a local authority, he told us: “I am slightly suspicious of the Pisa results. GCSE results are improving in Wales. One of the problems we have had over the years is that academic subjects have been pushed and vocational subjects have been ignored. The Donaldson report will look at the complete curriculum. We are all different and children who have different strengths and weaknesses must have a choice. The curriculum should not tie them into a particular course of action.”
As a proud Welsh speaker who made his career before politics in education, Keith Davies was particularly passionate about the advances he had seen in Welsh-medium education: “I can go back a few years within Welsh medium education. I remember Lord Haycock telling us that trying to stop Welsh education is like trying to stop a steamroller. We opened a new Welsh medium school in Glamorgan every seven years. We have Welsh speaking schools in Llanelli and we may have another Welshmediumcomprehensive in Llanelli. Ever since I worked in Glamorgan I have supported the Welsh language. We now have our own language and our own education system in some areas where the Welsh language had almost disappeared. I have been able to give as much support to the Welsh language as possible.”
On the future of Llanelli in any reorganisation of local government, Keith favoured a merger to the east with Swansea, over reintegration within Dyfed Mark Two: “I have already said this to Leighton Andrews. I believe that the Gwendraeth Valley, the Amman Valley and Llanelli should be in with Swansea. The majority of people in this area would prefer if we moved in with Swansea and Port Talbot. We are in such close proximity to hospitals like Morriston and Singleton and that is somewhere we could be treated.”
Closing on a personal note, Keith told us that he was proud to have worked with SOSSPAN to retain a doctor led accident and emergency department at Prince Philip Hospital and his part in the fight to retain two local care homes within his constituency.
“It has been a privilege to represent my home constituency since 2011, championing Llanelli town and speaking up for everyone from Cross Hands to Kidwelly, Bancffosfelen to Burry Port. Throughout my working life, I have encouraged young people to work hard and reach their full potential. I believe now is the right time for the next generation to have the opportunity to represent the Llanelli Constituency.”
Trade deal won’t benefit Wales
EVERY week, the Herald carries political opinion pieces from across Wales’ principal political parties.
This week, Jonathan Edwards MP casts an eye over the trade deal between the UK and Japan announced this week and wonders ‘What’s in it for Wales?’
Jonathan Edwards writes: THE BUNTING was on full display in Westminster this week as the British Government announced that it had reached the holy grail of signing its first post-Brexit international trade deal.
The agreement with Japan was described by Secretary of State Liz Truss as a ‘major moment in our national history’. As major moments go, a casual look at the detail leaves a lot to be desired. Effectively all the British Government has achieved is to replicate a deal UK business already benefited from as part of the EU-Japan trade deal signed in 2019.
The British Government admit that over a 15-year period the deal will only increase UK economic wealth by 0.07%. However, under the rules of Brexit political discourse never let the facts get in the way for an excuse to sing Rule Britannia and wave the Union Jack.
During the debate in the Commons, I highlighted that the British Government’s own figures indicate in a best-case scenario it would take 71 deals of this nature to make up for the British Governments strategy for the second phase of Brexit of leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. If we no deal at the end of the year the situation would be considerably worse.
For Wales, the economic benefits are projected to be less than even the negligible UK figures with the deal only expected to benefit the Welsh economy by a measly 0.05%. The same goes for other trade deals currently being negotiated by the British Government.
Capitulating on chlorinated chicken in the US Trade deal could only benefit the Welsh economy by 0.05% over 15 years according to an excellent Senedd Research paper.
The New Zealand and Australia deals, according to the same paper, could have a 0% impact on the Welsh economy.
Never again can the Tories claim to be the party of business: what we are witnessing is economic madness.
The agricultural provisions in the Japan deal further fuels my fears that our farmers will be the proverbial sacrificial lambs in these trade negotiations. True there was progress on Geographical Indicators, but the British Government failed to secure any tariff rate quotas for food products. Instead, our farmers will only be able to utilise unused quotas by the European Union.
Let that sink in.
In the real world, effectively. EU export policy will determine what can be exported from the UK.
The Secretary of State emphasised that the Japan deal paved the way for entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A free trade area consisting of 11 countries (down from 12 after the US pulled out).
What the British Government are reluctant to reveal is that the TPP contains strict rules on State Aid and also includes an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism which would supersede UK domestic law. These are the same two areas, of course, that have led to the breakdown in the second phase Brexit negotiations currently ongoing.
At the end of the day, the two great Brexit era slogans of ‘take back control’ and ‘global Britain’ are completely incompatible and inherently contradictory.
As UK international trade policy develops these inconsistencies will become apparent to all.
Plans for Llanelli’s first ever virtual Christmas carnival
LLANELLI Christmas Carnival will not be held this year, for the first time in its 42-year history.
Partners have confirmed that the decision has been made in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings.
However, plans are afoot to celebrate Christmases past and present in the town’s first ever virtual carnival.
On what would have been ‘carnival night’ the town’s illuminations will be switched on and an online celebration will be hosted on Carmarthenshire County Council’s social media channels featuring music, opportunity to reminisce over past carnivals and a challenge to businesses and organisations to create a carnival scene for the town’s first ever virtual parade.
The town’s Christmas tree is also being relocated to a more visible location for passers-by, at the busy Gelli-Onn junction near West End.
The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table.
Partners have expressed their disappointment at the decision but have vowed to keep Christmas spirit alive.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We have made this decision with a very heavy heart as we know how much the carnival means to the people of Llanelli. This is the first time since it started over 40 years ago that we have had to take a decision like this and we are as disappointed as I’m sure everyone else will be.
“We are determined to do something special to keep the tradition alive and planning is now underway to hold a virtual carnival on what would have been the night of the traditional festivities.”
Cllr Shahana Najmi, Leader of Llanelli Town Council said: “The Llanelli Christmas Carnival is the highlight in the calendar for thousands of people and whilst we’re sorry we can’t hold the traditional carnival this year, we are pleased to be working with partners on an online celebration which we hope people will get involved with and enjoy.”
Cllr Tegwen Devichand, Leader of Llanelli Rural Council, said: “Generations of families have enjoyed Llanelli’s Christmas carnival over the years and we’re disappointed that for this first time in its history we are unable to put on the parade. We hope people will understand the decision and support the plans we’re developing for the town’s first virtual carnival.”
Roger Bowen, of Llanelli Round Table, added: “Llanelli’s carnival night is an important night as it raises a great amount of money for local charities and brings many communities together with such tremendous work on the floats, which really makes the evening such a special event. We hope that people will find other ways to give generously and support good causes in our communities.”
Further information will be released in the coming weeks about the virtual carnival and how people can get involved.
Keep an eye on Carmarthenshire County Council’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales
Neath Retreat And Llanelli Group Receive Cash
A NEATH retreat for people with cancer and a group looking to install a life-saving defibrillator machine in Llanelli have been handed cash donations from a leading housebuilder.
Ravens Retreat and Ffos Las Residents have both received financial backing from Persimmon Homes West Wales as part of the company’s long-running Community Champions scheme.
Ravens Retreat, which has a cottage on the banks of the Tennant Canal, provides completely free cottage breaks, soul midwife services and counselling for anyone with cancer diagnosis. The group has received £1,000 from Persimmon.
Ffos Las Residents, meanwhile, will use its £799 windfall to buy a defibrillator machine for Persimmon’s Ffos Las development, which could be used if someone suffers a cardiac problem.
Joolz Raven Stewart, of Ravens Retreat, said: “Our cottage and healing room have been wiped out twice in two years by storms.
“We lost everything on the ground floor of our retreat.
“We have had cancer patients raise £1,200 to replace some furniture but there is so much more to do around flood defences and this money will help.”
Shane Morrison, of Ffos Las Residents, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Persimmon for this generous donation.
“It means that we will be able to install the defib machine at the development. Who knows, it could prove life-saving one day.
“The site management team are very considerate and supportive of our community and our sincere thanks goes to Persimmon for the continued support from residents both old and new.”
Persimmon Homes gives away up to £744,000 a year through Community Champions.
Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “We’re delighted to support these two groups with this funding.
“Ravens Retreat offers invaluable support to people with cancer, while the Ffos Las Residents group is striving to make their area better and safer.
“Well done to both groups.”
Persimmon is currently selling stunning new-build homes at sites across South Wales, including at The Bridles in Ffos Las and at Allt Y Celyn in Rhos.
The on-site sales offices in Wales have now reopened and househunters can make consultation appointments by visit www.persimmonhomes.com or calling 01554 708248.
Visit www.persimmonhomes.com/charity to apply for Community Champions funding.
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