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MP champions helicopter in debate

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Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

JONATHAN EDWARDS has secured a meeting with Minister for Policing Mike Penning after a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (Jun 9) concerning the future of the Dyfed Powys Police helicopter.
Mr Edwards opened the debate with a speech stating that the Dyfed Powys Police Helicopter was essential in helping the constabulary deal with the ‘unique policing challenges’ faced by a force that covers half a million people and approximately half of Wales. He added that the helicopter was used for vehicle pursuits, gathering intelligence, and transporting specialist teams around the region, as well as casualty evacuation.
Pointing out that this was a Wales and England issue, Mr Edwards stated that had the police force in Wales been devolved, as it was in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and as his party has argued in favour of, ‘it is highly unlikely that we would be having this argument’.
The decision to downgrade from a 22 base model to a 15 base model also came under scrutiny, and Mr Edwards quoted an NPAS document stating that the 22 base model was ‘the right one to deliver the operational capability needed for the public in England and Wales, which was written three months before the 15 base model was imposed.
Highlighting the fact that ‘great swathes of the Dyfed Powys force area were only reachable after a minimum of 30 minutes travel time from St Athan and Bristol, he added: “You don’t have to be a detective to work out that this will significantly reduce the safety and service available to my constituents.” He also pointed out that this went against NPAS policy, which was to reach 97% of people within 20 minutes.
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP also claimed that the decision was ‘on shaky ground.’ He advised Mr Penning, and the Home Secretary to read the minutes of February’s NPAS meeting and ‘satisfy themselves that the NPAS operational model was not open to judicial review,’ following the changes to the 15 base model, which Mr Edwards pointed out had happened without Dyfed Powys PCC Christopher Salmon, who signed in favour of the original model, knowing about it.
In what was later described by Mr Penning as ‘personal attacks on the Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Edwards quoted Mr Salmon’s 2012 manifesto pledge to fight to keep the Dyfed Powys helicopter. “I want to put on record my deep sense of disappointment at Mr Salmon’s abject failure and apparent unwillingness to stand up for the best interests of the people of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys, he said. “If the commissioner feels powerless, perhaps it is time for him to leave his job.”
JonathanEdwardsalsoquestioned the information published by NPAS on fixed-wing aircraft coverage as an alternative aircraft in the area: “For the [fixed-wing aircraft] maps to be accurate the aircraft would have to be constantly encircling Llandeilo, refuelled in mid-air when required, before being dispatched, which is plainly ridiculous”, he said. “In other words, the arguments being put forward by NPAS to justify its new enhanced coverage is purely hypothetical and deeply misleading”, he added.
Mr Edwards was supported by Ceredigion MP Mark Williams, who pointed out that Dyfed Powys Police have ‘expressed real concerns about the diminished service.’
Concluding his speech, Mr Edwards said: “The residents of Dyfed Powys have been failed by their police commissioner and ill-served by NPAS.” He added “If the Home Secretary is not prepared to order a similar review as she has done in the north of England, then I believe it will be seen, quite rightly, as if the residents of mid and west Wales are ignored by the UK Government.”
Responding, Mr Penning claimed that Mr Salmon was ‘trying to do the best job that he possibly can for the people he represents’. He was supported in this by the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnor Christopher Davies. Mr Davies asked Mr Penning to point out how hard Mr Salmon had worked to get benefits from the NPAS model,’ without actually stating what these benefits were. He also pointed out that the Dyfed Powys helicopter had been grounded with gearbox problems for three weeks, and claimed that Dyfed Powys had no air cover at all during this period. He failed to mention that the South Wales Police Force helicopter was utilised during this period, and that this cover would in effect be what the NPAS model promises for the future.
He added that the coverage would be better because the new model offered 24 hour coverage rather than the twelve hours offered by the current model. He may have missed Mr Edwards’ earlier point, which was that in the last four years there have been a mere 13 calls for a helicopter outside of the twelve hour day.
“I think my honourable friend has been reading my speech – or perhaps he wrote it for me!” Mr Penning ‘joked.’
In terms of the cuts, he spoke in favour of moving away from traditional force boundaries to provide complete cover. Mr Penning referenced his work in moving the Coastguard service onto a national model, which he claimed had been a success.
He also said that it was not the role of the government to intervene in strategic decisions by NPAS. Mr Edwards intervened at this point, asking why, if this was the case, a review was being held concerning helicopter provision in the north of England. With refreshing candour, Mr Penning said that he didn’t know.
Mr Penning also championed fixed-wing aircraft, which have been tested in Dyfed-Powys with limited success, though the uses for them are open to interpretation. “I was counter-terrorism minister in Northern Ireland, and I have to be slightly careful what I say about how we used fixed-wing aircraft, but they are enormously useful,” he said. He also claimed that one of the more important uses for aircraft was tracking down cannabis growers.

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Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

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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.

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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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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.”

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Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler

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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

Police can be contacted either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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