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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ten years on

Driving over the Severn Bridge this afternoon on the way back to the first Assembly session of the new term, I came over all nostalgic listening to Ron Davies, Dafydd Wigley, Nick Bourne and Richard Livsey talking on Radio Wales about devolution.

It is of course ten years to the day since that nail-biting ballot result and a great deal has changed, including increasing public support for the devolution project. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have played an important role in that process, not least in providing the stability the Assembly so needed in its first term, when we went into coalition with Labour.

As a result of our involvement in Government measures such as reducing class sizes, bringing back school milk, and making museum entry free amongst many others were brought in. We fully expect to make an equally important contribution in the future.

In his statement on the anniversary today the Welsh Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Mike German, made it clear that there is still a long road to be travelled:

"Devolution is not yet stable, and unfortunately, the road seems endless to reach a settled position. It's a great shame that the Richard Commission - established by the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Government - was then ignored by the Labour Party. That cross-party report offered a way forward which all parties could have united around and settled the constitutional question for a generation or more. Unfortunately, to preserve their own stability, Labour failed to make the bold steps needed."

The person who has undertaken the longest journey however, has to be Conservative leader, Nick Bourne. In the Daily Post this morning he is quoted as saying:

"With reflection I think the argument the ‘No’ campaign set out about the threat to the Union was, at very least, over done, possibly wrong.

Indeed I believe that we now have, in the United Kingdom, a system which can only work if we have proper powers for a Parliament in Wales."

If his words are in any way representative of the present mood of the Welsh Conservatives then the next referendum campaign may well be less problematic.
reducing class sizes

What were class sizes in Wales prior to 1999 and what are they now?
I agree with Nick and its the stance that I will be taking during the General Election campaign. I also believe that an increasing number of Conservatives are now accepting this position - though not all of course.
Does anybody seriously believe that the Welsh Conservatives mean what they say?
I know you've been away at the conference Peter, but any chance of an answer on my question regarding class sizes and the Lib Dems' success in reducing them?
I dont have that information to hand.
So why trumpet this as a success if you don't know if you achieved it?

By the way, did you know Liberal Democrats in Wrexham are backing demands for Remploy to close?
I do know that I achieved it, I just do not have the figures to hand. I do not believe that the Liberal Democrats in Wrexham are supporting the closure of Remploy there. It sounds like mischief making to me. Eleanor Burnham, who is based in Wrexham, is very strongly opposed to the closure.
Gwilym Roberts, a Liberal Democrat community councillor in Wrexham, has written to the local Evening Leader newspaper to argue for the closure of Remploy factories. He even resorts to quoting "liberally" from the Remploy company website to back up his arguments.
So it's not just Labour sending out mixed messages on this one.
As I understand it the purpose of this letter was to highlight double standards on the part of local Labour campaigners in fighting to keep the Wrexham factory open when it is a Labour Government that is closing it. I understand that the letter could have been better phrased but the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Wrexham are united in wanting to save this factory.
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