Thursday, January 30, 2014

LibDem leader keeps up attack on Labour's education record

Kirsty Williams used the recent depressing Estyn report to probe the First Minister in the week's first question time in the Assembly.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader that after four years of "disappointing Estyn reports" pupils in Wales had still not seen the improvements that Welsh ministers "continually promise but don't deliver".

She said ministers had argued that getting local education authorities to work together as regional consortia was key to driving up standards. "Yet, if you read the Estyn report today, they say that in more than half of local authorities that have been inspected that regional consortia are failing to deliver an improvement in standards."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Assembly must not be steamrollered into accepting council mergers

First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on his Labour Party to reach a conclusion on the Williams Commission proposals by the end of this March and has urged other parties to fall into line.

Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, South Wales West AM Peter Black indicated the party would be unwilling to support it without concessions to his party, particularly around the voting system. “For me the biggest surprise very quickly the First Minister and other members of the Labour frontbench were moving to try and get a cross-party consensus on this,” he said. “What we have in front of us is, in my view, a Labour government Commission, a Labour government report and one which is owned exclusively by Labour Ministers.

“I think if he needs to talk to other parties there needs to be some concessions to our views as to how this should be taken forward. I very much regret the implication, I think, that this report needs to be accepted wholesale and has to be swallowed by us as it is written.”

Lobbying Bill improved by Liberal Democrat peers

Frank Little writes: The Lobbying Bill easily passed on its return to the House of Lords yesterday, bar one small amendment which was accepted by the narrowest possible margin. Changes to the Bill that were previously made after pressure by the Lords, Liberal Democrat peers being prominent, mean that there will be no serious effect on campaigning groups and charities before the next General Election. There will then be a review so that if there are problems they can be sorted out for the future. The major drawback of the Bill, that it does not expose more than a small segment of commercial lobbying activity, has not been touched, but at least charities and campaign groups can breathe more easily now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kirsty: Wales needs tax and borrowing powers now

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has urged Secretary of State for Wales David Jones to bring forward a Bill in the Westminster parliament as soon as possible in order to give the people of Wales a chance to raise additional finance.

She told the Western Mail: “Liberal Democrats in Government worked tirelessly to ensure that the Silk Commission was established and that their key recommendations were to be implemented. That momentum must continue. 

“There is only a year and half until the end of the parliament; we need to make sure the Wales Bill becomes law before then. I believe the Bill must be brought forward in the current legislative programme, preferably before the next Queen’s Speech.

“Otherwise there is a concern that the Bill could be forgotten about. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have long argued that the Welsh Government should be given tax-varying and borrowing powers.

“Wales must have a proper functioning parliament with additional fiscal responsibilities to create a stronger economy and a fairer society.”