ON THURSDAY (Feb 11) BBC’s Question Time came to Y Ffwrnes. Facing the questions was a panel consisting of the Leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood, Conservative MP Stephen Crabb, First Minister Carwyn Jones, Leader of UKIP Nigel Farage and comedian Romesh Ranganathan.
If Hughie Green had been at Theatre Fwrnes with his ‘clapometer’ he would have declared Nigel Farage the winner of Opportunity Knocks for having the loudest applause on introduction by David Dimbleby and on answers to a number of the questions. The panel were asked four questions from the audience, the first being from Alice Lee who asked: “Who is wrong 53,000 junior doctors or Jeremy Hunt?”
Nigel Farage said: “The object of the Government was to address a problem. The problem was that more people were dying on the Saturdays and Sundays. The government’s objective to try and get the NHS to be as safe and brilliant as it is seven days a week is the right one. They have gone about it in an insensitive matter.”
Leanne Wood answered emphatically: “I agree with junior doctors. Doctors work seven days a week now. They take it as an insult when your government says they are being lazy on the weekends. There are protesters outside Welsh hospitals because of Welsh Labour’s centralisation plans. The First Minister is in denial that we don’t have enough staff in our hospitals. We have fewer doctors per head of the population than many other countries. I welcome his plan to say he plans to recruit more doctors.”
Stephen Crabb said: “The government and doctors want the same thing. How do we address the weekend effect. The current contract everyone agrees is not fit for purpose.”
Carwyn Jones turned the focus to the NHS in England addressing the Secretary of State for Wales saying: “When you have junior doctors on strike it is a sign of abject failure. We have never had a time when doctors have had to stand outside hospitals with placards saying save the NHS. We want to make sure our people get the right access to health services. Come to Wales you will be treated with respect.”
There was plenty of heated debate between the panelists on the issue of the NHS leading David Dimbleby to instruct Carwyn Jones and Nigel Farage to stop talking over each other so that the audience could actually hear what each was saying.
The First Minister Carwyn Jones was out maneuvered by Leanne Wood and Nigel Farage, while the Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb struggled to answer a simple question on NHS statistics put to him by both Leanne Wood and David Dimbleby. The next question came from Sally MacDonald who asked why the bankers were bailed out and whether the steel industry should be bailed out.
Leanne Wood responded: “I think that the steel industry is as important to Wales as the banking industry was to the whole of the UK I think that both Governments on both ends of the M4 should be doing everything possible to look at finding a solution to protect jobs and the industry. It is hugely important to Wales. 18,000 jobs are in steel in this country. It is 3.2 billion pounds of value to our economy. Plaid Cymru has put forward a proposal for the welsh government to continue to consider taking a public stake in the steel industry to get over this temporary situation and make sure those jobs are secure.”
Stephen Crabb rejected Leanne Wood’s call for nationalisation of the industry and said: “It is hugely concerning for workers and family. That true for every country on Earth where steel is being produced. The idea of Nationalisation sounds appealing. Is tax payers’ money being used right now to support the steel industry. Yes it is.”
Leanne Wood reminded Stephen Crabb that he was opposed to tariffs on Chinese steel. She said: “You cannot say on the one hand that you want to protect Welsh steel from Chinese dumping while at the same time there are people from your government trying to make sure that tariffs are not imposed on Chinese steel.”
On the issue of whether the government could nationalise the steel industry Nigel Farage said: “You asked the question why the government is not supporting or bailing out the steel industry. The answer is it can’t. It is impotent and it has given away the power. Carwyn Jones interrupted and asked if he had spoken to TATA.
Nigel Farage dodged the question and responded with an attack on the First Minister’s position on the value of sterling: “You thought the pound was going up when it is going through the floor, so for goodness sake give me a break please.”
Carwyn Jones kept repeating himself at least 8 times asking: “Have you spoken to TATA?”
The UKIP leader evidently found answering a yes or no question too difficult and continued: “We are not in charge of the steel industry, the financial industry of the fishing industry, we have surrendered control of our nation and this referendum gives us a chance to take back control of those industries. The answer is to stop the Chinese dumping large amounts of steel onto the market at levels that are unacceptable and unfair.”
The next question came from Jennifer Rowland who asked: “Would Brexit be a way of controlling immigration?” Romesh Ranganathan said that his biggest issue with immigration was the scaremongering tactics with regards to immigration. He said that Mr Farage had said that we needed to get control of our borders and pointed out that some terrorists were home grown and that there was a sense of fear being created by politicians.
Nigel Farage said that we now have an NHS service which was available to 508 million people. He said: “If we look at hospitals or school, our public services cannot cope. Brexit is the only way we can control immigration. It is actually irresponsible to have a total open door. What I want to do is exit the political union, have a trade agreement and have an Australian points system.”
Stephen Crabb said: “He’s the man who said he feels uncomfortable hearing foreign accents on a train. He is a master of pressing the button on fear. Nigel tries to reduce everything to a secret formula called Brexit. The world is on the move and that is the truth of it. The vast majority of people who come into this country want to work and that is a boost for our economy. We want people to come and work.”
Leanne Wood said she was in no doubt that it was in Wales’ best interests to remain in the European Union. She said that we had to separate the types of immigration we were talking about. She continued: “The Immigration which is not related to membership of the EU is people coming from war torn countries coming here as refugees. We need to differentiate between the two.
“My concern about this debate is the way in which the scaremongering takes place and the way in which we are all encouraged to divide and rule. While we are all blaming immigrants for all of our ills, our eyes are not looking at those people who are very very wealthy avoiding tax. If they were paying the right tax there would be enough resources for everyone.”
Carwyn Jones said that every single person in the room and that every person watching was a descendant of an immigrant. He asked: “Where do we draw the line?”
He continued: “People are afraid of immigration and what it means for them and their jobs. People are coming having seen their families killed and butchered. To think that the European Union can bury its head in the sand and think that it is all going to go away is just not going to work. We have to think carefully about what this means and so for me, immigration is a European issue that needs a European solution.”
The final question came from Myra Arthurs who asked ‘Should MP’s pay rise faster than nurses a n d teachers?’ David Dimbleby reminded the panel that AM’s were getting a £10,000 pay rise.
Carwyn Jones answered first saying that it should not. He said there is an independent panel which decides AMs’ pay: “What I would like to do is have a system where our pay increases are pegged to teachers, nurses or doctors. He was asked what he was going to do with the £10,000. He said he would continue to do what he has always done and give a substantial amount to charity.”
Leanne Wood said that she would not take the £10,000 pay rise as she had not taken the £23,000 pay rise as leader. She said that people were losing public services and libraries and that people are reliant on food banks in 2016. She said: “People cannot accept that when politicians take a huge pay rise.”
After the programme, Leanne Wood spoke to The Herald and said: “It’s was great to be able to take part in the BBC Question Time programme from Llanelli. There were some fabulous contributions from a very well informed audience. It’s great for Llanelli and the new theatre Ffwrnes for such a prestigious programme to be shown from there. The audience did Llanelli proud.”
The Herald also caught up with Nigel Farage who told us he had hugely enjoyed his evening in Llanelli: “What it shows me that with this referendum coming in June people are beginning their minds up and really wanting a debate.”
He spoke about recent European measures to limit the number of fish Welsh fishermen could land saying: “I am an angler, my son’s an angler. I fish out of Swansea for bass. You’re telling me that on the odd good day we have we can’t take a fish home for tea. It is going to a huge amount of damage to Wales. Calling all anglers, vote to leave.”
Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd
PAUL DAIVES MS quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.
The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.
The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.
However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.
In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler
Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her.
As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts.
Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford.
She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.
Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too.
She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.
She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”
Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed!
Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.
“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”
If anyone witnessed the collision or may have been travelling on the M4 at the relevant time, please contact the Serious Collision Unit quoting police reference DPP-20210113-317
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