Nick Bourne (right), who leads the Conservatives in the Assembly, received a rather tepid response from First Minister Rhodri Morgan about business:
"Will the First Minister outline his policies to support Welsh businesses? OAQ(3)1593(FM)
The First Minister: Flexible Support for Business is the key policy for delivering support for businesses as part of our 'One Wales’ commitment. It transforms the way in which we help and support businesses by providing a single access point, enhanced relationship management and a single investment fund."
The multi-tasking William Graham is European Affairs spokesman, chief whip and group chairman. He asked about public services:
"Will the Minister make a statement on the delivery of public services in South Wales East? OAQ(3)0541(FPS)
Andrew Davies: As I said in reply to Mick Bates, in every part of Wales we are working to ensure that we have public services that are high-performing, efficient, ambitious and innovative, which put the citizen at the centre of all that they do, represent excellent value for money and work together well."
(Andrew Davies is Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery).
Mark Isherwood is Shadow Minister for Social Justice, Equality and Housing.
"What consideration does the Minister give to small business rate relief when allocating funding to the social justice and local government portfolio budget? OAQ(3)0531(FPS)
Andrew Davies: The Assembly Government’s budget for 2009-10 provides for the small business rate relief scheme, as announced previously by the Minister for Social Justice and Local Government."
These answers aren't exactly verbose, are they?
English-born Darren Millar is Shadow Minister for Environment and Planning. He asked about special needs education:
"Will the Minister make a statement on resources for pupils with special educational needs? OAQ(3)0714(CEL)
Jane Hutt: The Welsh Assembly Government provides support within the revenue support grant to local authorities to meet the needs of all pupils with SEN. Total expenditure on SEN by LEAs is budgeted to be £321 million for 2008-09, with further specific funding of £13.7 million having been allocated."
Jane Hutt is Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills. The vogue for immensely long job titles is unappealing, and the Conservatives would do well to quash it.
Nick Bourne also asked a question about rural education:
"Will the Minister make a statement on the provision of education in rural Wales? OAQ(3)0708(CEL)
Jane Hutt: The Welsh Assembly Government believes that pupils in rural areas deserve access to as wide a range of educational opportunities as that provided for other children. The distribution of funding for education takes account of the extra costs of delivery in rural areas."
There is a compelling case for arguing that 2007 has seen a significant shift in British politics. Just as the Party Leadership seized the initiative at our Blackpool Conference offering enterprising policies on issues such as inheritance tax, in the Welsh Assembly under Nick Bourne’s leadership we are capitalising on our new platform as the Official Opposition – putting ideas before ideology, people before party politics. In future this column will offer a fortnightly bulletin on the key issues and debates occurring in Wales but may I first sketch a quick picture of the Welsh political landscape.
With the Assembly Elections in May representing Labour’s worst performance at the polls in Wales since the First World War there was a realistic opportunity for the Welsh Conservatives to consider entering a coalition Government. The Liberal Democrats’ dithering ended the prospect of the of the All Wales Alliance becoming a reality, with the end result being a fragile alliance between Labour and Plaid Cymru predicated more on keeping the Conservatives out of power than delivering the change and good governance Wales requires. With this uneasy coalition’s objectives, stated in their One Wales agreement document, of moving towards independence and the implementation of a socialist agenda, the need for a strong Conservative opposition has never been so great in Wales.
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