JONATHAN EDWARDS has requested a meeting with the UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May in an effort to safeguard the Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter. The returning Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr had written to Ms May before Parliament was dissolved to discuss the issue. At the time, he told the Herald that he had asked the Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb to raise the matter, but it was’ clear that he had not done so.’ Mr Edwards has written again to the Home Secretary to press the need for a review to protect the police helicopter and its base. A similar call for action by Stockton South MP James Wharton led to Mrs May requesting a review of the decision to relocate the Durham Tees valley helicopter to Newcastle.
The Dyfed-Powys police force covers the second largest land area of any UK constabulary, and is responsible for patrolling half the Welsh landmass. Scrapping the Pembrey base would mean that the nearest helicopter bases would be in Flintshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. Dyfed Powys is the largest police force in England and Wales in geographical terms, and is responsible for policing almost half of the Welsh landmass. Speaking to the Herald, Mr Edwards said: “I started this campaign before the General Election and I am determined to see it to a successful conclusion. It is a matter of common sense in terms of policing: there is no good argument to close the base or lose the helicopter.
All the facts point to the helicopter being an essential, effective and effi cient tool for our police force. As it stands we have a blatant example of cuts before effective policing. The alternative proposals have been proven beyond doubt to be unequal to the tasks that our police helicopter faces. The Dyfed Powys Police Force, which was the fi rst force in the UK to operate a Police helicopter, deserves to continue its work with their helicopter unit. I have requested a meeting with the Home Secretary so that I can put forward in the strongest possible terms the need to keep our helicopter here in Pembrey, and to protect our police services and communities.” The fate of the Pembrey base has been under discussion for some time. Dyfed-Powys and South Wales Police forces were both due to join the NPAS system in the summer of 2013, but had renegotiated over concerns regarding the amount of support they would receive.
Last November it was announced that the Dyfed-Powys helicopter would remain at Pembrey until it was replaced with like-for-like NPAS coverage. The decision made in February to close the Pembrey base was described by Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon as ‘deeply disappointing,’ and stated that the decision to join the NPAS had ‘included the retention of Pembrey as an operating base.’ Helicopters are used as a cost- effective way of searching large areas. According to Dyfed-Powys Police, a helicopter can search an area of one square mile in 12 minutes at a cost of £160. The same operation would take 12 offi cers 454 man-hours and cost £4,500. Other than search operations, the Dyfed-Powys helicopter plays a major role in transporting casualties to hospitals, which given the rural nature of the region is often essential.
The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister
THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.
The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.
Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.
Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.
He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.
Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.
“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.
“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.
“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”
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
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