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Sunday, March 31, 2013

An occasional round-up of Welsh blogposts Part Eight

I have been away for a week so I thought I would get back into blogging with another of my occasional round-ups of Welsh blogposts over the last month.

My first choice is a Glyn Davies post on the West Lothian question. The question to which many are seeking the answer of course is "How long will English constituencies and English hon. members tolerate hon. members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important decisive effect on English politics, while they have no say on the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?" As far as Glyn is concerned we should not even attempt to answer it.

Glyn says that there is no doubt that the current position is a constitutional anomaly, but his opinion is that all the possible answers to the West Lothian Question create new constitutional anomalies, like flattening a bump in a water bed:

Lets consider some of the various answers. First up an 'English Parliament'. Now do we really need to create another 'parliament'? Is this what the people of Britain want? I have heard it suggested that current MPs sitting for English seats could meet as an 'English Parliament' each Friday at the House of Commons. Well, I would not want these English MPs deciding on health and transport policies in Shropshire without my being there, or air transport policy just because the actual airports are in England. Increasingly specialist services are going to be in England. Lots of mid Wales services are in Shropshire. Some form of an English Parliament is supported by those who want a 'federal' UK. Personally I do not thing a 'federal system is sustainable when one of the 'federal partners' is around 85% of the whole. Think Cyprus and the Eurozone!! Many sensible people like this idea. I don't.

So what about 'English votes for English laws'. Personally I think this is rather better, but would be horrendously complex and difficult to operate. Every bill would have aspects which affected England only. House of Commons would be like a non-stop Hokey Kokey. But this would be good for job creation - the million civil servants needed to make it work. This is not for me either - unless we unwisely decide 'Something must be done'

A Change of Personnel has identified a real story in the Welsh media and believes that we should be asking question about it when the Assembly reconvenes. He may not be disappointed.

The issue concerns the Discretionary Assistance Fund, which was formerly the Social fund and is now under the control of the Welsh Government. Those on low incomes and who are reliant on benefits can apply to this fund in emergencies. However, the Welsh Government has decided that it is now to be managed by a US hedge fund:

Concerns have been raised and some concessions have been won such as a free phone number rather than a 0845 no, but the 18 page application form remains and it raises questions about the Welsh Government’s procurement process and who exactly is making the decisions to award contracts to companies like Northgate Information Services who are in it to make a profit at the expense of the most vulnerable in Welsh society.

It also makes a mockery of the stated aim of the Welsh Government to use procurement to help the Welsh economy when the outlook remains difficult for families and business.

John Dixon has got a bee in his bonnet, it is nuisance callers. He also has a solution:

No – if Alun Cairns (or any other politician) wants to stop this widespread and persistent nuisance (I reckon to get 5 to 10 calls per week), they have to do better than a code of practice on withheld numbers. It surely can't be that difficult for the police and telecoms operators to trace the people behind these scams and mount a few more prosecutions. The Telecoms companies don’t help much either – they’re happy to sell the lines and the calls to what are little short of criminal gangs, effectively acting with the complicity of the regulatory authorities.

Criminalising calls which breach the TPS guidelines, prosecuting the perpetrators – that might be a good start, not just in preventing nuisance, but in protecting the vulnerable and the gullible. It would certainly be better than doing as some have done in the past, namely feting the people behind these calls as "successful entrepreneurs".

Plaid Wrecsam are quite scathing about Carwyn Jones' statement last week on neonatal care in North Wales suggesting that he is trying to have his cake and eat it/. More to the point they simply do not believe that once this service has gone to Arrowe Park Hospital, it will ever be restored within North Wales:

Last weekend, the First Minister had the bare-faced cheek to made reference to personally needing an incubator as a new-born baby. He was fortunate to have such a service locally as a child. It’s a disgrace that he is not allowing other vulnerable new-born babies the same opportunity.

He also condemned Tory privatisation plans in England and yet is happy to send our most vulnerable babies into the arms of George Osborne and David Cameron.

The mantra that "we need a change" only works if it's change for the better. Moving a service out of Wales that we currently deliver well is not change for the better, like many of Betsi Cadwaladr's plans. We need an urgent rethink on the health board's changes because they are putting lives at risk needlessly in an effort to save money.

Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave if he were to see what his party has become.

Labour's credentials as the "party of the NHS" are shot to pieces, with local AM Lesley Griffiths as guilty as anyone for failing to defend Wrecsam's Special Care Baby Unit, as she promised to do so when re-elected in 2011.

Jayne Lutwyche presents an interesting little piece on women bishops in the Church of England:

Just a few days before the Synod vote, Swaziland consecrated its first female Anglican bishop – the Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya.

Her appointment was seen as a significant move for women’s rights in a country which has often been accused of having a patriarchal philosophy.

“I am going to try to represent the mother attribute of God,” Bishop Wamukoya told reporters.

The 61-year-old added: “A mother is a caring person but at the same time, a mother can be firm in doing whatever she is doing.”

The first female bishop ordained in the Anglican Communion was Barbara Harris in 1989. Her ordination as Suffragan Bishop for Massachusetts, in the USA, caused outrage among conservative Episcopalians (another name for Anglicans) but since then over a dozen women have been elected to the episcopate in America.

Finally, David Cornock finds that one Welsh constituency has a strange attraction for Wales Office Ministers. He says that official figures released in a parliamentary written answer say more than half the official visits made by David Jones, Stephen Crabb and Baroness Randerson have been to the key marginal constituency of Cardiff Central:

A government source suggests the figures are skewed by the location of the Wales Office's Cardiff base in Caspian Point, and the statistics include ministerial visits there.

Except, Caspian Point isn't in Cardiff Central; it's in Cardiff South and Penarth.

Stephen Crabb has now given a fuller breakdown of the figures. If they do include visits to Caspian Point, then it appears the secretary of state for Wales has yet to visit on official business either his own office or the National Assembly for Wales.

Alternatively, it's just possible the Wales Office doesn't realise which constituency its own office is in. A spokesperson tells me: "We are reviewing the figures."

Maybe we should table the same question to Welsh Government Ministers.
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