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MP appalled by fracking decision

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Nia Griffith: “I am strongly opposed to the government’s proposed weakening of fracking regulations”

Nia Griffith: “I am strongly opposed to the government’s proposed
weakening of fracking regulations”

NIA GRIFFITH, Llanelli Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, spoke with us at The Herald about her opposition to the plans to begin fracking under national parks and protected areas this week. Both Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart were amongst the 298 Members of Parliament who voted in favour of allowing fracking under national parks and protected areas on Wednesday (Dec 16). Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to releases their natural gases. In Parliament, MPs voted to allow fracking for shale gas 1,200m below national parks and other protected sites.

Although fracking could give us access to more gas and oil, while decreasing our dependency on foreign oil, the fracking process is incredibly controversial. The main concerns are that the fracking process is highly water intensive, increasing the risk of drought, and that a huge amount of chemicals are used in the process. Up to 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins, which contaminate nearby groundwater. Hydraulic fracking does produce approximately 300,000 barrels of natural gas a day, but there are a number of environmental and health hazards involved in the process. The plans to allow fracking in protected areas reverse the promise, made in January under the Coalition Government, that fracking would be banned from such places. At the time, the then undersecretary of state for climate change, Amber Rudd, told Parliament it had been agreed that there would be “an outright ban on fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest.” Lisa Nandy, the current shadow energy and climate secretary, said that the government were using “a parliamentary back door to put through these weak regulations without a proper debate” and said that they were going against their word that there would be “tougher safeguards” on fracking until it was proven safe.

While 298 MPs voted in favour of the regulations, 261 MPS voted against them, including Nia Griffith and Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards. We at The Herald spoke to Ms Griffith about her vote against fracking under protected areas and she said: “I am strongly opposed to the government’s proposed weakening of fracking regulations and l voted against it yesterday (Dec 16). “The hypocrisy of David Cameron mouthing fine words at the Climate Change summit and then coming back to push the fracking regulations through, whilst slashing subsidies to renewables is appalling. “I look forward to decisions on fracking being devolved to the Welsh Government in the forthcoming Wales Bill, which should give us the opportunity to protect our National Parks and other areas of beauty here in Wales.” Explaining in more detail, she added: “Earlier this year, although we do not have the numbers to defeat the Government, Labour did manage to secure a series of amendments to the Infrastructure Bill that put in place a series of environmental safeguards which had to be met before shale gas drilling could go ahead. This included a ban of fracking in areas where drinking water is collected and protected sensitive areas such as our national parks or important wildlife sites.

“However, just weeks after agreeing to these amendments, the government did a complete U-turn in the Lords sneaking through a weakened version of Labour’s protections. In the Commons we tried to reinstate our more stringent safeguards. However the Tories used parliamentary procedures to ensure that the debate overran so MPs were denied the opportunity to reverse those changes. “On Tuesday, October 26 the government once again pushed through these weakened fracking regulations through a parliamentary backdoor (ie. a legislative committee) with no opportunity for the majority of MPs to debate them – just the vote yesterday (Dec 16). “Now these weakened fracking regulations have been passed, shale gas drilling will be allowed in drinking water protection zones, important wildlife sites, as well as under the ground below protected areas such as national parks, areas of outstanding national beauty and world heritage sites. “We as Labour MPs believe Britain must pursue a socially-just energy policy that considers the impact on the environment and climate change, as well the need for a secure, affordable energy. The Government must listen to people’s worries and not railroad through changes to the legislation which may have damaging and long lasting effects on our natural environment.” We contacted both Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart regarding their vote in favour of fracking under protected areas, but neither of them replied before the Herald went to print.

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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Business

Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre

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LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.

In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.

This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”

“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”

“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”

“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”

“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”

“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”

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