Showing posts from May, 2008

Helping the planet and the poor?

Posted on Bevan Foundation Blog on 26 May 2008: Why shouldn't an OAP living on an estate in Ammanford will be able to sell off their share of unused carbon to a businessman from Pontcanna who wants to fly from Cardiff to Ynys Mon? That would be one of the outcomes of a personal carbon trading scheme backed by MPs on the Commons Environmnetal Audit Select Committee today A system of carbon rationing could have economic benefits for the poorest. After all it is not those on the lowest incomes who cause the greatest envionmental harm. The cross-party report acknowledges that unless we act now to cap our emissions there will be an economic slump equivalent to both World Wars and the Great Depression all rolled into one. As the Stern report pointed out it would cost much less to prevent runaway climate change than to seek to live with it. But such long-term concerns threaten to be put aside as panic spreads about short-term economic worries. As the editorial in today's Guardian

Will there be life after 60 for the NHS?

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on 11 May 2008 In a couple of months time the NHS will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The memory of Nye Bevan will evoked again and again as as the crowning achievement of the 1945 Government is celebrated. But as I've found out over the last few months, the Health Service is in turmoil. Like most people who consider themselves to be on the centre left I strongly believe in the founding principles of the NHS. When presented with anecdotal evidence of failings by the Health Service and its staff I have been amongst the first to make an excuse. But my grim experience of the NHS maternity service in the last few months has left me pondering some very uncomfortable questions. Perhaps I have been naive in not realising the depth of the difficulties facing the NHS (after all there have been no shortage of warnings), but I was deeply shocked by the resignation of the staff towards the sub-standard nature of the care that is all too often administered. Whe

What is the point of the All-Wales convention?

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on April 21 2008 I heard Sir Emyr Jones Parry sketch out his ideas about the role of the Convention he’s been asked to Chair last week. There’s no doubting he’s a distinguished man and he’s been given a difficult task, but I found the plan he mapped out a little disingenuous. In essence he said he intends to take his committee around Wales to take the pulse of the nation, hear the arguments, take evidence, and then form a view about the way ahead. But isn’t that exactly what the Richard Commission did? He plans to fill his committee (not quite sure what makes his model a Convention?) with representatives from all the parties and some independent people. Again, I’m sure I’ve seen that approach adopted somewhere before? Of course, we can’t expect people to support more powers for the Assembly until it has been proved that the existing powers have been fully used, he said. And – he added – in the timeframe available it isn’t realistic to expect the Conventi

…Go on, say something!

Published on Bevan Foundation blog on 13 April 2008 Within 18 months, at the most, Wales will get a new First Minister; and Labour a new leader. At the risk of repeating myself , there should be no assumption that the person who fills these offices will be the same. But for the Party that assumes they will remain in control, shouldn’t it be a cause of concern that there is no debate about what the future holds? Of course there is lots of speculation and gossip within the Cardiff Bay bubble about personalities: Will Leighton get enough nominations to take on Carwyn; Has Andrew lost his appetite; Will Edwina take the advice of those around her and stand etc. But on the question of what any of these (potential) candidates will do with power there is silence. “Too early to start campaigning yet”, I am told by those who have the ear of one of the contenders. But with Labour facing certain losses in the next month’s Council elections, am I the only one who thinks we should be hearing more ab

Passive driving

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on 8 April 2008 We all understand what is meant by passive smoking. Well, just as non-smokers suffer the effects of other people's actions, so pedestrians and non-drivers suffer the consequences of other people’s travel behaviour. People who make relatively little use of a car (and therefore cause less pollution, noise and congestion within communities as a result of their travel) are still exposed to the pollution, noise and damage to communities caused by other people’s car use. As a report out today by Sustrans shows, a quarter of all households are car-less, in Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent the figure is as high as 36%. And yet the availability of jobs, goods and services are planned on the assumption that we can all hop in the car. Many families on low incomes feel forced to 'invest' in a car to prevent social exclusion. The poorest spend a quarter of their incomes on the cost of motoring and Citizen's Advice report that buying and runn

Bugger balance

Posted on the Bevan Foundation blog on 24 March 2008 As ever there's an interesting debate taking place on the Normal Mouth blog about how Wales should respond to the threat of climate change. He argues that more developed parts of the UK should bear a greater burden for delivering carbon reductions than Wales, and because of our relative poverty we should be given "greater latitude to balance environmental, social and political objectives". Further, he advocates allowing Wales some intensive development to 'catch-up', while still meeting "overall reduction targets". It is an attractive argument and one I have heard time and again: we need 'a balanced approach' which, in effect, means 'business as usual'. Yes of course climate change is a terrible thing, and we all agree something must be done. But it is not for us to do it first - lets get the by-pass built, sort out poverty and then we can be Green. No doubt I am simplifying an altogeth

I can see a rainbow over Wales

Posted on Our Kingdom on 11th March 2008 The Welsh political class is full of talk of who will replace Rhodri Morgan as First Minister when he stands down in September 2009. Supporters of Carwyn Jones confidently predict he'll slot nicely into the role. Detractors talk up the chances of Huw Lewis, Leighton Andrews and Edwina Hart. Though the names may be unfamiliar across the Severn, it will come as little surprise to learn that they are all Labour names. It reflects the party's complacency. But if I were a betting man I'd be putting my money on another name: Ieuan Wyn Jones. The Plaid Cymru leader, and deputy First Minister in the Coalition, is preparing his exit strategy from the ‘One Wales' Government. In a speech to the Party faithful in Pontypridd last night Mr Jones began laying the ground for withdrawal from the red / green pact when Rhodri Morgan stands down. Though he and his Ministers sit comfortably around the cabinet table in Cardiff Bay, the experience of

Wisdom of Welsh parking obscured by context of devolution

Posted on Our Kingdom on 4th March 2008 The decision of the Coalition Welsh Assembly Government to scrap car parking charges at some hospitals from April has provoked an intemperate debate. "New NHS apartheid as free hospital parking to be rolled out in Wales... but not England" the Daily Mail cried. No sense in "subsidising car parks" with NHS money, said English Health Minister Ben Bradshaw: We don't think it makes sense to spend money that's currently being spent on patient care - getting people treated faster and better - on subsidising car parks. If that's what Scotland and Wales want to do, that's one of the joys of devolution. We're spending the money on improving patient care. In Wales, you have to wait much longer for your operation; you have to wait much longer in A&E. You're not going to enjoy the extended GP opening hours that patients in England are soon going to be enjoying. Those are the priorities that we think the Englis

Will Morgan deliver on the promise which sunk the rainbow coalition?

Posted on Our Kingdom on 18th February 2008 Just when Gordon Brown concedes there's "a very strong case" for a review of Scottish devolution, the man he appointed to represent Wales around the Cabinet table has been downplaying expectations of refreshing the Assembly's powers. Paul Murphy told the Welsh Labour Party conference this weekend that the status of the Assembly should not be allowed to get in the way of public service delivery. A pledge to hold a fresh referendum to draw down Primary law-making powers by 2011 was a key part of the Red-Green Coalition agreement in Cardiff Bay. But Mr Murphy told party activists in Llandudno that it's public services that matter: "Those are the issues that people care most about and it's delivering those services that should be our priority," he said. "I have been called a 'devo-sceptic'", he added. "No, I am a devo-realist". Labour were always going to struggle to deliver on the

Murphy's new role to lead to devolution ministry?

Posted on Our Kingdom on 28th January 2008 The fall-out from Peter Hain's resignation may take some time to be fully felt. The impact on the progress of Welsh devolution is especially intriguing. But so too are the implications for territorial representation around the Cabinet table. Paul Murphy may have returned to Gwydr House, but since he last sat in the old home of the Welsh Office things have changed. The building looks much the same, but the Department has disappeared. The Wales Office has been subsumed into the Department of Constitutional Affairs (now Ministry of Justice). His return to the Cabinet was a surprise (not least for him) but the most unexpected aspect was the return of the role of Welsh Secretary as a full-time post (the Scottish job remains part-time). Mr Murphy has not demurred in interviews when asked if he is a 'stop-gap' appointment, nor has he revised his view that a UK Ministry is desirable - these issues will need to be looked at in the coming mo

What the papers don't say

Posted on Comment is Free on July 7th 2007 For generations politics in Wales has been predictable. Not any more. In the two months since voters went to the polls to elect a national assembly, old certainties have collapsed. Not only were the Conservatives on the brink of power in a country that has rejected them ever since the introduction of the secret ballot (a deliciously nerdy error by Liberal Democrats caused the seemingly unstoppable "rainbow coalition" to implode). But now the unthinkable is about to happen. Labour and Plaid Cymru members meet this weekend to endorse a formal coalition between bitter enemies. It is a truly historic development in Welsh politics - not that you'll have seen much of it reported. It's a tiresome truism that the metropolitan media brackets Welsh politics alongside provincial English local government. A point underlined by a recent piece in the Times about free prescriptions for the chronically ill in Scotland (which failed to menti

Back again

After flirting with blogging last year I have begun to post occasionally on other blogs. I contribute now and again to Our Kingdom, Comment is Free and the Bevan Foundation blog. The purpose of reincarnating Amanwy is to host a repository for my musings.