Sunday, 30 March 2014

War on Wales!

The following is a letter to the Daily Post in response to an article quoting Carwyn Jones accusing Westminster politicians of a 'War on Wales' following Cameron and other's recent attacks on the performance of the Welsh Government:

Dear Editor,

Your article "War on Wales" (Post, March 28th) is another perfect example of Welsh Labour spin and hypocrisy. They have spent the last four years blaming all and sundry for the austerity measures, forgetting of course a certain Gordon Brown who got us in this mess in the first place.

Now that Westminster politicians are fighting back, Welsh Labour who have just woken up from their complacent comatose state cry foul and go on the attack against all those who decry their woeful management of Welsh public services, and that includes of course one of their own.

We must remember it is not just the government in Westminster who are critical of the Welsh Government's performance but also the respected Labour backbench MP, Ann Clwyd who has personal experience of failings in the Welsh NHS and who has been 'gagged' by her own colleagues in the Assembly from giving evidence to the Health Committee.

The Welsh Government should seek to put their own house in order before they seek to stifle debate.
Arfon Jones,

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The objectivity of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Following a recent meeting of Wrexham CBC, I made a complaint against another Councillor from the authority that he/she had breached the Councillors Code of Conduct. I cannot elaborate as the Ombudsman imposes gagging orders on making complaints public. A decision was rapidly made not to investigate my complaint and reasons were laid out, which I accept. However contained within the letter was the following paragraph:
I would however like to take this opportunity to remind you of your obligations under the Code of Conduct, specifically paragraph 6(1)(d) "You must not make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other members or anyone who works for, or on behalf of, your authority."
So you ask yourself, where did that come from? The answer seems obvious, it came from the Councillor complained of initially in his/her response or an officer acting for him/her.

Frankly, I would argue that my complaint was made in 'good faith' and having chosen to investigate and dismiss the original complaint by me, the Ombudsman then seems to uphold a 'counter complaint' which I have not seen or have commented on,  that I have breached the Code of Conduct for making the complaint in the first place.

This is a perverse way of conducting investigations and will do nothing to encourage Councillors from reporting 'perceived breaches' of the Code of Conduct to the Ombudsman in future.

Unfortunately it seems that I will have no recourse to see the response to the initial complaint as the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to big chunks of the law governing how the Ombudsman operates.

In the interests of fairness and impartiality this is something that legislators need to rectify.

Why you should vote Plaid Cymru in the European Elections.

This is a letter I have sent to the Daily Post and Western Mail today regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. I have tried to make it as succinct and as understandable as I can, I don't know whether I've succeeded!

Dear Editor,

I recently wrote to all four Welsh MEP's to ascertain their position on a little known and secretive trade treaty currently being negotiated between the EU and the US called the TTIP or the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership.

The negotiations around this so called trade treaty is shrouded in secrecy for a reason and that reason is its negative implications for the public good of the people of the European Union including Wales. The only beneficiaries of this treaty are the profit margins of transatlantic corporations.

The top priority of the treaty negotiations is to reduce 'regulatory barriers' in Europe to the levels in the US, which would mean LESS employment protection, social welfare, food safety standards, use of toxic chemicals and other environmental protections.

The European Commission have actually admitted that implementation will bring, "prolonged and substantial dislocation to European workers as companies will be encouraged to source goods and services from US states where Labour standards are lower and trade union rights are non-existent." 

Three replies to my letter were received, the Labour and Tory MEP expressed support for the treaty, albeit with differing degrees of enthusiasm. The UKIP MEP unsurprisingly failed to respond whilst Plaid Cymru's Jill Evans was the only one to identify the concerns and dangers that implementing of this treaty would have on the Welsh national interest.

This is further evidence that Plaid Cymru along with their partners in the European Free Alliance are the only Welsh party to stand up to protect Welsh workers and small businesses. 

Arfon Jones, 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Fracking protest camp set up

A protest camp has been just been set up at Kingsmarsh, Farndon (near Wrexham but just in England) where exploratory drilling for coal bed methane is happening right now.
What's wrong with coal bed methane? Just about everything. 

The same company, Dart Energy, is currently applying for planning permission for a similar operation in Wrexham.
If allowed to go ahead, we face drilling and fracking operations all over the country, with all the associated problems these will bring. In the words of one placard yesterday, "Once you frack, you can never go back."

Here's more information about resistance to fracking and other extreme energy extraction methods in Britain:

The camp address:
Kingsmarsh, Farndon, Chester, CH3 6NF.
The drilling rig can clearly be seen from the A534 Wrexham to Broxton road.
The lane is marked by a Kingsmarsh B&B sign at the end and the camp is near the site gate, a few hundred yards up the lane.

The Kingsmarsh camp is calling for urgent donations of:
camping equipment, bedding, cooking equipment, firewood, pallets, tarps, hammer, nails, hand saw, screwdriver, screws, vegetarian meals, food supplies, tea, coffee, tobacco... or just call down there and see what they need.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Tories and Europe.

I really struggle to follow British Conservatives's rationale for leaving Europe or even wanting an in out referendum on the one hand; and refusing to cut the European budget on the other. 

George Monbiot sums up the contradiction in their stance nicely in his weekly Guardian column:
In July 2013 the British government imposed a £26,000 cap on the total benefits a household can receive. In the same month it was pursuing a different policy in urgent discussions in Brussels: fighting tooth and nail to prevent the imposition of a proposed cap precisely 10 times that size (€300,000, or £260,000). The European commission wanted this to be as much money as a single farmer could receive in subsidies. The British government was having none of it.It won, with the result that this measure is now discretionary – member states can decide whether or not to cap farmers' benefits. Unsurprisingly, the British government has decided not to. The biggest 174 landowners in England take £120m between them. A €300,000 cap would have saved about £70m.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fracking plan under Wrecsam put on hold

Wrecsam's planning authority has tonight deferred plans to allow an Australian multinational firm to test underground seams beneath the town for methane gas.

 Councillors may have decided not to press ahead in light of the weight of public opinion and concerns that the drilling would disturb the Gresford colliery seams, where the bodies of 266 men and boys still lie after the 1934 mining disaster. There are other, broader environmental concerns about polluting the water table and nearby rivers both during the testing operation and the consequences of the testing leading to full-scale exploration for coal bed methane.