By Joseph Willits
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Under proposals by the Welsh Boundary Commission, three Conservative seats will be abolished, one will be lost, and two would be gained from Labour. Those being abolished are:
The new seat of Caerphilly & Cardiff North (currently held by Tory MP Jonathan Evans) would have had a Labour winner under the new proposals.
However, two new seats would mean a Tory MP would be elected judging on 2010's results:
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly Andrew RT Davies AM, has issued a statement on the death of Wales football manager Gary Speed:
“My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of Gary Speed at what must be an incredibly difficult time.
Today’s news is extremely upsetting and comes as a great shock. It is almost inconceivable to think that we have lost such a great talent at such an early age.
Gary Speed was tremendously gifted and I – along with millions of others - will always remember him as a legend in the game of football.”
David Cameron has also offered his condolences to Gary Speed's family. A statement from Downing Street said:
"The Prime Minister's thoughts are with Gary Speed’s family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales."
Yesterday the House of Commons staged Welsh questions.
Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons Shailesh Vara and Wellingborough both asked about the treatment of Welsh and English residents in the other country's hospitals:
"The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and the Welsh Assembly Government on such matters. The discussions include the new cross-border protocol for health care services of Wales, which, I am pleased to say, has been agreed between the Welsh Assembly Government and the UK Government.
Mr. Vara: I am grateful to the Minister for those comments. He will be aware of the recent Welsh Affairs Committee report on cross-border health policy, to which he referred in his preliminary comments. He will also be aware that there should be clinical excellence for all those who wish to have medical treatment, as close as possible to their homes. Does he acknowledge that that would mean Welsh patients ending up having medical treatment in English hospitals? Will he do all that he can to urge the Welsh Health Minister to abandon her so-called in-country policy, which is causing so much distress to neurosurgery patients in Wales?
Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman is correct in referring to the Welsh Affairs Committee interim report on the provision of cross-border health services in Wales. We have considered that important report, and the Department of Health will respond to all its points in due course. It is important to recognise, however, that devolution is about addressing particular needs. The Welsh Assembly Government have clearly defined and articulated their policy, and we are seeing consistent and radical improvements in the health care of the people of Wales. Obviously, given the unique situation with regard to the Welsh-English border, a close working relationship is needed. I am absolutely confident that the protocol that is now in place and is being implemented will ensure effective co-operation and cross-border flow to the benefit of English and Welsh patients.
Clwyd West MP and Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones (right) has condemned Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly. Lord Elis-Thomas is a Plaid Cymru politician.
As we reported recently, David Cameron has said that if the Tories win power, he and his Welsh ministers would submit to questions from the Welsh Assembly. Mr Jones quotes Lord Elis-Thomas as saying:
"It’s our own First Minister who answers questions here and the relationship is between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. It isn’t between the Prime Minister and the Assembly.
That’s demeaning to our National Assembly and turns it into some kind of Grand Committee (of the House of Commons) equivalent…
The idea that the Prime Minister of the UK can breeze in for a Q&A isn’t allowed under our standing orders and I have no intention of changing it.
He is the first minister of another Government in terms of our constitution. I would think if those people were serious they would have looked at the constitution. It smacks a bit of paternal unionism.”
Mr Jones has responded:
"I say it with sadness, but it is now very clear that Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, is deliberately acting as a roadblock to the development of a more mature relationship between the Assembly and Westminster.
No statement could make it clearer that Lord Elis-Thomas, notwithstanding his position as presiding officer of the Assembly, is egregiously seeking to advance his personal political goal of an independent Wales and to distance the Assembly from Westminster. It is not, with respect, up to him to decide whether the Standing Orders should be changed; it is up to the Assembly as a whole.
Section 32 of the Government of Wales Act clearly contemplates the participation of ministers other than the Secretary of State in Assembly proceedings:
(3) The standing orders may make provision for-
(a) the participation of the Secretary of State for Wales in proceedings of any committee of the Assembly, or any sub-committee of any such committee, and
(b) the participation in any Assembly proceedings of other Ministers of the Crown and of persons serving in the department of the Secretary of State for Wales or of any other Minister of the Crown.
So all that is required for David Cameron to make his annual visit to the Assembly is a simple change in standing orders. Given that the majority of Assembly members represent unionist parties, which are supported by the majority of the Welsh people, it is inconceivable that they would display the sort of political immaturity that Lord Elis-Thomas has shown by his ill-tempered outburst.
I have no doubt that they would welcome David Cameron’s annual visit as a visible, tangible token of the maturing relationship between Westminster and Cardiff Bay.
And if Dafydd Elis-Thomas, as presiding officer, wants to stand in the way of that process, it is a very sad state of affairs indeed."
Surely Mr Jones is right. It is a strange thing indeed to call for less Prime Ministerial accountability.
The Welsh Conservatives Conference took place at the weekend. A number of announcements were made, including a promise from David Cameron to submit to questions and answers every year at the Welsh Assembly, if he becomes Prime Minister.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said that under a Tory government Welsh Office ministers would attend three question and answer sessions annually in Cardiff Bay. This would be additional to the statutory obligation to attend Assembly plenary sessions after the Queen's Speech.
Mrs Gillan added that more meetings of the House of Commons' Welsh Grand Committee should be held in Wales, and commented:
"To deliver the best for Wales there needs to be an open and continuing dialogue, not an annual arrangement."
One of her colleagues, Shadow Welsh Minister David Jones, announced that a Conservative government would set up a new committee of Welsh and English MPs (the latter being from constituencies close to or on the border) to monitor the impact of devolution in Wales and England. The committee would report to the Secretary of State for Wales.
Nick Bourne, Conservative leader in the Welsh Assembly, called for businesses with a rateable value of £10,000 or less to be taken out of business rates altogether, and tapered relief for businesses worth up to £15,000. Shadow Assembly Local Government Minister Darren Millar said that every pensioner household in Wales should receive a 30 per cent reduction in their council tax bills.
It was Welsh questions yesterday.
Congleton's Ann Winterton asked about manufacturing:
"Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the state of the manufacturing sector in Wales. 
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): The manufacturing industry is, of course, very important to Wales. According to the latest available figures, the sector employs about 13.5 per cent. of the Welsh work force.
Ann Winterton: The manufacturing industry in the UK has taken a very hard hit in the recession, and that is perhaps even more true of Wales. Is the Secretary of State aware of the concerns of many in the manufacturing work force in Wales who work for foreign companies that there may be plans to offshore employment? Examples of such companies include Toyota in north Wales and Corus in south Wales; Corus has a plant in the Netherlands. What discussion has he had with other Ministers, and with the Welsh Assembly, to ensure that that does not happen?
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Lady makes a valid point. I have of course had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, and with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Wales. I have also discussed the issue of Corus with the chief executive of Corus. The point that the hon. Lady makes about foreign-owned companies in Wales is well taken, but I have no reason to believe that that will be a disadvantage to us in Wales in the months to come. In my constituency, for example, thousands of people work for car component manufacturers that are American-owned, and so far, so good. Obviously, they are feeling the pinch, like all manufacturing companies, and particularly those in the automotive industry, but I very much take her point on board."
Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones had a follow-up question:
"The Secretary of State will know that Toyota announced today that it is putting its factory on Deeside on short-time working and its staff on reduced pay. He has already mentioned the importance of the automotive industry to the Welsh economy. Given that importance, does he know precisely when the automotive assistance programme, which was announced with so much fanfare in January, will be implemented? Is it another case not of real help now, but of jam tomorrow?
Mr. Murphy: No; the hon. Gentleman is aware that some of the schemes are to operate at different times. For example, in April at least six schemes are due to go live, including help for the automotive industry. There are other schemes that have already started. I cited to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) the excellent ProAct scheme that works in Wales. The schemes are staggered in time scale, but they are about real help for people. The hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) is right that the delivery of such schemes must be a main priority of Government, whether here in London or in Cardiff. Help is available, and it is up to the industry to apply for that help."
It was time for Welsh questions in the Commons yesterday.
Monmouth MP David Davies was concerned about onerous rules on the use of Welsh:
"Does the Minister agree that enacting legislation that will require all companies, or at least private companies, to use the Welsh language in all forms of business could prove very detrimental not just to the rural economy but to the rest of the economy in Wales, at a time when, tragically, we are seeing hundreds of jobs lost?
Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman should choose his words carefully. I am sure that the last thing any Member would want to do is be seen to be against the Welsh language. It has developed over the past few years, and we want to ensure that it continues to develop with the consent of all the people of Wales.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the draft Welsh language legislative competence order is due to be published next week. I hope that, as a result, there will be full discussion among all the people of Wales about what is the best way forward."
Mr Davies might appreciate people knowing that he is himself a Welsh speaker.
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP (and Opposition MP) Stephen Crabb is eager to see a new power station in Wales:
"Does the Minister agree that one significant boost to the rural economy of west Wales at this time would come from the construction of the new gas-fired power station at Pembroke, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire (Nick Ainger)? The project has taken four years to reach this point. It has passed its environmental consents, and merely awaits a decision from the Minister’s colleague the Energy Minister. Will he speak to the Energy Minister and unlock this important project? The United Kingdom needs the generating capacity, and my constituents need the jobs.
Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right: this is an important project. We are mindful of that; discussions have taken place with my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire (Nick Ainger), who represents the constituency where the new installation will be based, and I am sure that, across all Departments, we are absolutely committed to ensuring matters are expedited as quickly as possible, but also in a proper manner."
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan asked about job losses: