Latest from the Senedd


By Llyr Huws Gruffydd

This is the week Labour really showed they’ve been rumbled.

The question is, what exactly has Labour done to help the jobs and businesses during this economic crisis? For the last fortnight in particular Ieuan Wyn Jones has been pummelling the First Minister for not announcing a single new capital project in his first six months in Government. Then on Monday, under pressure to show that they’re not as lazy as everyone thinks, and to a big fanfare, Labour rushed out a list of capital spending commitments to help stimulate the Welsh economy. But hang on. This was the very same list announced when Ieuan and Plaid were part of the One Wales Government. What’s worse, Labour had panicked so much in their mad scramble to try and announce something that they had even forgotten to take out those One Wales capital projects that have already been delivered! It might create jobs, but surely they don’t intend to build a second Porthmadog by-pass?

The Labour Transport Minister then confirmed this week he was still not in a position to announce any new capital projects, the Labour Education Minister is still trying to decide what to do with his capital budget, and the Labour Health Minister, having put all capital projects on hold whilst she gets her head around her new portfolio, is still dithering about what to do next.

So the answer to my question is nothing – Labour is doing absolutely nothing to help jobs and businesses at this time of crisis. They seem to prefer to sit back and let people suffer so that they can blame the Tories for what’s going wrong.

I mentioned Lesley Griffiths – and it wasn’t the best of weeks for the Health Minister. The much heralded Organ Donations Bill was launched with a whimper and an embarrassingly poor interview on the BBC’s Good Morning Wales. And in an answer to my question on Tuesday she admitted that she “wasn’t aware” of any mothers from north Wales going to Chester to give birth. This raises serious questions about her ability to do her job. Over 500 Welsh mothers (predominantly from Flintshire and the north east) give birth in hospitals over the border – and it costs the health Minister’s department £2m every year! That’s why the local health board is trying to attract them back to hospitals in Wales.

It was therefore no surprise that by Wednesday the BBC was reporting that Carwyn Jones was facing dissent from his own backbenches on health, and that he was having to appease AMs who were angry at Labour plans to downgrade hospitals and centralise services. Without a majority, Carwyn is going to have to keep every single one of his Labour AMs happy. Not an easy task when his AMs are under severe pressure locally about these plans after Labour explicitly said during the election campaign that they would not downgrade hospitals and centralise services. The lesson I guess is that you reap what you sew.

Some of the unkinder whispers doing their rounds in the Bay suggest that Lesley Griffiths is there to do a hatchet job and will be moved on in a year or so. At this rate one has to ask whether she’ll last that long?

Some of the other highlights in the chamber this week included an intervention by Labour AM Jenny Rathbone to the Plaid debate on the economy (for it is the economy stupid!). She asked Ieuan to ask Cardiff Council to bring forward capital spending plans to regenerate the local economy. In doing so she not only highlighted Plaid’s efforts on Cardiff Council to boost the Capital’s economy but made the best possible case as to why her leader should do exactly the same to stimulate the Welsh economy. Well done Jenny – and thanks!
This week also saw the latest episode in the developing chemistry between North Wales Tory Antoinette Sandbach and Education Minister Leighton Andrews. Last time it was her accusing him of snubbing Glyndwr University. This time it was her accusing him of talking down the Welsh higher education sector during the First Minister’s visit to China. It was just like watching those old Gold Blend adverts from the eighties! We can’t wait for the next episode. I’m told the Government might be selling tickets to raise money so that they can send some of their backbenchers on a one-way trip to China!

Finally, and for the first time since anyone could remember, Edwina Hart was compelled to stand up when she spoke in the chamber this week. She usually remains seated when she speaks. So when the Business Minister feels she has to get up and intervene in a Plaid Cymru debate that’s another sure sign that Labour are well and truly rattled!