Showing posts from October, 2017

We should pass a law to prevent fracking in Wales

Speech in National Assembly on 25th October 2017 For me this isn’t an issue about fire coming out of my taps or earthquakes These are clearly issues that would need to be sorted out before fracking could be permitted. But I want to make the broader point on what this debate is about Our whole way of life, since the second industrial revolution has been built upon access to energy derived from fossil fuels. We have built a materially-prosperous society on that However, as a matter of logic, if it is based on a finite natural resource, there is surely going to come a time when that reaches it limit. I’m not anti technology, far from it, I’m very open to the idea that through innovation we can find ways of improving our life that is consistent with respecting the planet's boundaries. However, I do worry that most of us are in denial about the impact that human behaviour has had on the environment and impacted its ability to sustain us in the way of life we have come to assume is

Out of hours GPs

Llanelli Star column published on October 18th 2017 I was very impressed by my visit to the chemists in Burry Port last week where Rachel Davies is pioneering new services in the community. There are now eight different services - including flu-jabs and warfarin tests - being delivered in Burry Port that elsewhere are only available from a doctor. Very many services can be delivered more conveniently and efficiently in a local setting. We need to be doing more things like this to take pressure off GPs and hospitals.  From the number of Doctor’s surgeries in this area that are closed to new patients, we know that GPs are under great pressure, and it is set to get worse. Health board managers are gearing up for further difficulties in Llanelli as Doctors get closer to retirement and they struggle to attract new GPs into the area. We are training more Doctors and are having successes in creating new types of surgeries, like in Kidwelly, where GPs and pharmacists work along

Holding people to account

Column in the Llanelli Herald on October 13th As a member of the Assembly’s powerful Public Accounts Committee I get to put Wales’ leading decision-makers on the spot. This week I got a chance to scrutinise the Chief Executive of Sports Wales. Wales being a small country, I know her a little from my last job and I hold her in high regard. But she was before me to account for her organisation’s performance over the last year and this wasn’t personal In the last 12 months Sports Wales has seen its Chair and Vice-Chair sacked after a boardroom revolt, and a critical internal audit report warning the Chief Executive that she risked damaging the reputation of the organisation over the handling of contracts. There were tough questions to be asked. You can watch the encounter online the Senedd TV website. But as well as the obvious questions one issue that has had a direct consequence here in Llanelli occupied my mind. Over the last couple of years the future of our local f

The old roadbuilding approach isn’t working

Column in Llanelli Star on 27th September 2017 People say that the definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. So it must be madness to spend £1.1 billion on 15 miles of new motorway just south of Newport when we already know the outcome: traffic will go up, the motorway will clog up, and the same voices will be calling for yet more money to build yet more road. The Road Haulage Lobby are already saying it needs another lane - before it is even built! We can’t keep building our way out of the problem of congestion when we know that roads simply fill up again before too long. Our society is dominated by the car and I think it’s time we changed that. Instead, we need to spend the small amount of money we have, doing things that will enable and encourage us to make journeys using other means. Our public transport system is in dire need of an overhaul and our local roads are jammed with people driving very short distances.  

Austerity hits home

Column in Llanelli Herald on October 6th 2017 After 7 years of austerity the Welsh Government has a very tough job deciding how to share the pot of money being passed down from Westminster - a pot that is £1.2 billion smaller than it was. Meanwhile the amount of money the NHS needs to cope with a population living longer is going to need to go up significantly. I do feel sorry for the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister Mark Drakeford. He is a decent man with a very tough job. When he presented the first details of next year’s budget to the Assembly this week he made clear that he has had to prioritise to reflect the manifesto commitments we have made. But there’s much that we want to do that we simply cannot because of Tory austerity. The Welsh Labour Government has managed to find an extra £230 million for the NHS next year, and to protect funding for social care and education. Crucially - in an agreement with Plaid - we have agreed to protect the Supporting People

An M4 fit for future generations

Speech in the National Assembly on October 4th 2017 Let me just start by saying that the M4 can be horrendous. At rush hour I have regularly been sat in endless queuing traffic. This isn’t just a problem at the Brynglas tunnels but at several points along the motorway. And if there’s ever an accident, the whole thing can grind to a halt. People are rightly fed up with the situation - in particular the fact that we have been talking about taking action for 15 years, and yet nothing ever seems to get done. And I agree with them. But we need to fashion a solution that will last, an M4 fit for future generations. And I don’t believe the proposed M4 relief road will be anything more than an expensive stop-gap. In fact as a policy approach it manages to do something quite remarkable - it succeeds in being both outdated and premature at the same time. Outdated, because the evidence of the last 50 years of transport policy is that building new roads - increasing cap