Monday, August 11, 2014

Fair funding for Wales

After many years, Welsh Liberal Democrats have now convinced the federal party (currently in coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster) that the unfairness of the Barnett formula (named after a Labour Treasury minister), under which funding for Wales and Scotland is calculated, should be addressed.

Party leader Kirsty Williams writes:

I am pleased to announce today that we have secured our party’s commitment to overhaul the unfair funding system for Wales.  

Going into the General Election, we will pledge that Wales will have fairer funding for the next parliament, which could mean hundreds of millions of pounds extra coming into Wales. 

As we all know, under successive Labour and Tory Governments,  Wales has been underfunded for years.  The last major piece of work on this, the Holtham report, concluded that Wales was losing £300m a year.  That simply is not fair. 
Not only do we recognise that Wales is underfunded, but unlike the Tories, Labour and Plaid, we will actually do something about it. 

This announcement is about Wales getting a fairer deal and we believe this is the quickest and easiest way forward for that to happen.

In Government, we have a proud record of delivery for Wales and we are now the only party that has made a firm commitment to more funding for Wales. 

Once again, the Liberal Democrats are showing that we are the only party in Westminster that will make a positive difference for the people of Wales.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A firm but fair immigration system

Clegg: I’m a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration.

In a speech today, Nick Clegg set out the policy he expects the party to adopt at Federal Conference in Glasgow in October. A transcript of the speech is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FTSE100 CEO pay falls again as Vince Cable makes an impact

The Manifest–MM&K Annual Survey of Executive Pay shows that the Shareholder Spring has clearly had an effect on remuneration committee thinking. This has been galvanized by regulatory intervention to reinforce investors actions…

The latest survey hows that top pay awards [for FTSE100 CEOs] have reduced for two consecutive years: by -7% in 2013 and -5% in 2012. The findings are from research and analysis of the latest annual reports of FTSE100 companies…

Regulatory intervention has had a galvanising effect. Vince Cable’s efforts and threats of further legislation have helped in the reduction in CEO pay.

We are grateful to Mark Pack for this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Briefing on the new EU Commission President

The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission has been surrounded in controversy and conflicting stories in the UK.

What the European Commission is:
The European Commission is the EU’s civil service. It drafts proposals aimed at delivering the policy priorities set by EU member states like Britain, Germany, Spain or Poland. It’s independent and represents the interests of the European Union as a whole. It is small in size (smaller than Birmingham City Council) and it provides the policy expertise necessary to make a reality the political wishes of Prime Ministers and Ministers from around the EU. As well as working with member states it also works with the European Parliament, whose directly elected members (MEPs) are responsible for scrutinising and improving the Commission’s proposals. There are 28 Commissioners, responsible for different policy portfolios in areas where common action at the EU level is deemed to be more effective and efficient than individual member state actions at the national level. The Commission also represents the EU in international negotiations, like trade deals. It acts on the basis of a mandate given to it by national leaders in cases where speaking with one voice is better than speaking with 28 different voices.

What the European Commission is not:
A European Government, which imposes its wishes on member states.

What the European Commission President does:
The President gives political guidance to the Commission and leads the Commission's work in implementing EU policies. He or she represents the Commission in dealings with heads of member states and the European Parliament. The Commission President is also one of the EU’s voices in certain policy areas when dealing with other countries.

What the Commission President does not do:
The Commission President is not the President of the EU, he or she does not have executive powers nor is he or she the one who solely decides the direction the EU goes.

Who is Mr Juncker?
Jean-Claude Juncker is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, one of the most prosperous EU member states. For about 20 years he was a member of the European Council, the group that brings together Prime Ministers and Presidents from all member states. He was also head of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers and he presided over efforts to reform the way the currency union works after the financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that engulfed some eurozone countries. He is experienced in consensus-building and seeking compromise, a necessary skill if he is to find a way to accommodate the interests of the member states and the European Parliament when drafting EU policies.

Mr Juncker is not:
An ultra-federalist, out to get the UK. He does advocate closer European integration but does not believe that all member states need to go at the same speed. He was in fact the only candidate for Commission President who listed as one of his objectives finding a way to accommodate British interests and sensitivities.

 Based on a briefing  put together by the European Movement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

M4 plans a “huge mistake”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott has slammed today’s announcement that the ‘black route’ will be followed for the new M4 development.
The statement today by Economy Minister claims that no reasons were provided during the consultation process objecting to the ‘black route’. This ignores environmental concerns raised during the consultation process by Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Sustrans, and economic concerns raised by the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as the submission by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats prefer the ‘blue route’, which is the redevelopment of the A48 Southern Distributor Road and A4810 Steelworks Access Road. This route was not consulted upon by the Welsh Government in this latest consultation.
Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister, said:
“This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.
“The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham. The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence provided to her by the RSPB, Sustrans and the Federation of Small Businesses.
“There are still huge questions surrounding the economic benefit of this development. Investing the Welsh Government’s entire borrowing powers into one single road leaves no money left for other transport projects like the South Wales Metro, which can provide much greater economic benefit for the whole area.
“Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and are academically recommended. It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Minister is remaining blinkered, ignoring these credible proposals and ploughing ahead regardless.”

Mid and West Wales MEP William Powell has also described the procedure as "misguided".

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ministerial accountability

In the wake of the sacking of Alun Davies, Welsh LibDem leader Kirsty Williams writes:

This week has been one of the most extraordinary since the Welsh Assembly first opened its doors fifteen years ago.

The revelations surrounding Alun Davies as Minister for Natural Resources had begun to die down on Tuesday, following his breaking of the Ministerial Code announced last week. That was until a statement landed in my inbox from the First Minister telling me he’d been sacked.

Reading on, it became clear what had caused his dismissal. After finding out he’d broken the Ministerial Code, Alun Davies immediately went to try and uncover private details of agricultural payments made to myself, our own William Powell and three other Assembly Members. I’m under no doubt that this was an attempt to start a smear campaign against all five of us – all people who had dared to question his behaviour in the Circuit of Wales scandal.

I’m proud to be part of a family that’s been farming in Breconshire for over 100 years – I’ve never hidden that. It’s completely abhorrent that anyone would try and use that background against me or any of my fellow AMs. It was clear that Alun Davies could not keep his job, and I’m glad that he hasn’t.

I’m under no doubt that it isn’t just the credibility of Alun Davies, Carwyn Jones and his Welsh Labour Party that’s been harmed by this episode. The reputation of Welsh politics as a whole has taken a huge knock in the past few weeks, which will affect politicians of all parties.

There is, however, one positive that has come out of this mess. This week, the Assembly’s opposition parties united behind our long-standing call for independent policing of the Ministerial Code in Wales. It’s simply not right that the First Minister plays the role of judge, jury and executioner over issues relating to Welsh Ministers and even himself. The debate we held in the Siambr on Wednesday showed that this scandal has truly hit home with the First Minister, and his opposition to such moves was much more muted this time round.

This scandal was certainly unprecedented in Welsh politics. I just hope that we don’t see anything like it again.

Note: First Minister Carwyn Jones's powers are extensive. In 2007, he appointed himself Counsel General for Wales, a post which hitherto had been assumed to be at arms-length from government.