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From the Senedd: Alun Ffred Jones

24/02/2022

By Alun Ffred Jones AM

Left Caernarfon on Monday afternoon, and so missed the Leadership hustings. I was told Theatr Seilo was packed, and that it was an exciting event. Many had changed their opinions after hearing the three candidates.

Early start on Tuesday: interview on Radio Cymru regarding the Westminster committee report on inward investment in Wales. Much mention of resurrecting the WDA – or the brand. It’s funny to think of the Tories looking back nostalgically to the WDA period, when they opposed its establishment so fiercely in the 70s. The WDA was, of course, one of the brainchildren of Dafydd Wigley (and Phil Williams and Eurfyl ap Gwilym). It’s worth remembering also that I had a farewell dinner with Sir David Rowe Beddoe at the end of his tenure as Chair of the WDA. He too was proud of the thousands of jobs which it attracted to Wales, but questioned why Gross Domestic Product - GDP – remained so low.

First Minister’s Questions as usual full of complaints about the Westminster government and attacks on the opposition parties. But Ieuan Wyn nailed the FM when he asked why the government had to bail out the Hywel Dda LHB this year to the tune of an additional £30 million, and what was the government going to get for its money? He had no answer, although he did raise his voice a bit. The long faces of the Labour members suggested that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Carwyn’s response was rather like that of Germany’s Derek Chisora: full of energy but lacking in substance.

The lack of substance theme continued for the rest of the afternoon. We had a statement from Jane Hutt as to how superb the government’s procurement policy is for Welsh businesses. Unfortunately, at lunchtime, a group of us had been listening to construction businesses complaining how unfair these policies were to indigenous companies. We then had an announcement that JH was to hold a ‘review’ (yes, another one) into this extremely successful policy.

In another statement on regeneration, we heard from Huw Lewis that he too would be holding a ‘review’ into government policy. This will take a full year to complete!! The words ‘ball’ and ‘long grass’ do come to mind.

Interspersed between these we had a faultless reading by the Environment Minister of a very uninteresting speech. Labour should adopt a new slogan - ’Boring for Wales.’

Wednesday. An opportunity to deputise for Llyr at the Environment Committee, to hear about the situation regarding maritime energy developments. The government has a target of generating 4GW of electricity from wave and tidal power by 2025. The general opinion was that this is totally unrealistic. There is at present not a single experimental device in Welsh waters……. although some maintain that we are leading the world in this respect. God help the rest.

In the afternoon, there was a really important debate on the mess surrounding AWEMA which has lately lost both its income and its Chief Executive. There is obviously more to be revealed about this, since there have been constant complaints for almost a decade regarding the leadership of this body. The question is why did the Welsh Government not respond to the critical reports and the constant complaints over the years? Labour played their usual trick of hiding behind ‘volunteers’ who are doing their best for deprived communities. No-one denies this. At one point, Jane Hutt tried to suggest that it is the responsibility of the Chief Civil Servant to scrutinise issues of accountability. Seeking to throw the blame on civil servants is a very dangerous tactic indeed, if this is the case, and the credibility of the entire Government will be in danger if they go down this slippery slope. Watch this space.

One more committee tomorrow morning, and I shall be rushing back to Arfon to see the Theatr Cymru production, ‘Sgint’, at Galeri. Well worth seeing. The theme – lack of money. Same theme as the government’s, really.