Work Experience Blog – Iwan Kellett

My name is Iwan Kellett and I’m a sixth form student at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones. From the 17th to 21st of June I had the opportunity to go on work experience at Rhun ap Iorwerth’s office, the National Assembly for Wales Member for Ynys Môn. I spent three days working in the constituency office in Llangefni and the other two days in Tŷ Hywel, Cardiff at the Assembly office.

On my first day I was at the Constituency Office in Llangefni and immediately I was surprised to see the variety of work that was going on. In the morning, we visited a great exhibition at the MENCAP Hub showing portraits of Hub users. Then back in the office I learned how the office provides support and helps constituents. In the afternoon we went to Llanbedrgoch to learn more about the work the North Wales Wildlife Trust carries out there. It was amazing to know that I live so close to such an important area that I’d never actually visited before!

I flew down to Cardiff from Valley to work in the office in Tŷ Hywel on Tuesday and Wednesday. There was another person on work experience there called Mo, so when we arrived we went for a tour of the site and found out more about how the Senedd and Tŷ Hywel work. When I got back to the office I translated a document for release to the press and immediately afterwards we visited the BBC which was running an event to discuss broadcasting issues in Wales. Then after lunch I sat down and listened to FMQ’s. It must be said, I was a little star-struck walking around seeing the different Assembly Members. I even got my book signed by Adam Price! Down in Cardiff I also helped write a speech and went to a meeting to take notes.

For the rest of the week I was back in Llangefni responding to constituents’ worries and trying to help them by writing e-mails on their behalf on a wide variety of issues.

The week was amazing! I learned so many things and the experience was fantastic! It was an eye-opener to see all the work the office does and of course the Assembly Member. From listening to national issues in the chamber to hearing local problems in the office. For anyone thinking of going to Rhun ap Iorwerth’s office for work experience, please do! It’s been an amazing experience, thanks to the team for a great week.

Work Experience Blog – Ifan Jones

Monday, July 8th 2019
I had a great first day on work experience with the Assembly Member for Ynys Môn – Rhun ap Iorwerth. I wrote letters and answered various emails. It was really interesting to find out more about the life of an Assembly Member and the team around him. I went to an afternoon surgery in Benllech and saw how those sessions worked, getting a taste of the issues that Assembly Members and their staff have to deal with on a day to day basis. It was a really good day, and I learned a lot about the role.

Tuesday, July 9th 2019
Working at Ty Hywel was a very unique experience. I spent the morning organising surgeries for September, and doing various other tasks such as answering emails. It was a wonderful experience sharing an office with other Assembly Members, and then hearing them debate in the afternoon during First Minister’s Questions with Mark Drakeford.

Wednesday, July 10th 2019
In my final day at Ty Hywel I listened to an interesting Cross-Party Group session about international Wales at the Pierhead. I also researched the topic of extending Parliament to more Assembly Members, and researched Tecwyn Roberts, the Welshman who worked for NASA on the first successful moon landing mission in 1969.

Thursday, July 11th 2019
Back at the office in Llangefni I was able to complete an application form for the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, which was really interesting to find out more about the further steps an Assembly Member can take to help their constituents.

Friday, July 12th 2019
On my last day I visited the food technology centre in Llangefni, seeing the great conditions for new companies, and in the afternoon I helped draft a letter to Welsh Government’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething, which was another learning experience about how an Assembly Member can help their constituents. Looking back on the week, I had a really good time and learned a lot of new things. I want to thank everyone for a great week.

Ynys Môn AM welcomes new research collaboration for Prince Madog Vessel

News of a partnership between Welsh Government and Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences to utilise the Prince Madog Research Vessel has been welcomed by Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth, who has led the campaign to secure the vessel’s future.

Bangor University’s research vessel, the Prince Madog will be used to gather data from the seas around Wales which will assist Welsh Government to fulfil its marine and fisheries evidence requirements.

An agreement is in place between Bangor University and P&O regarding the future of the vessel until 2021, but what future the Prince Madog has beyond that time is unclear at present, which led to Mr ap Iorwerth proposing last year that the vessel be adopted as Wales’ National Research Vessel following the conclusion of the current agreement.

With the announcement of this collaboration between Welsh Government, P&O and the University, the Assembly Member is hopeful that this news can lead to a more long-term collaboration going forward that would further secure the vessel’s future use.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“This news is the result of a long-running campaign to secure the future of the Prince Madog, which is an iconic sight on the Menai Strait and a symbol of excellence of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences.

“Whilst this initial collaboration between Welsh Government, Bangor University and P&O is for two years, I hope that it can be the start of a long-term partnership which can go some way to unlocking the potential of Wales’ incredible marine environment.

“The Wales marine area includes valuable and varied natural resources that can provide significant economic and social opportunities and contribute to the well-being of the nation and of future generations. But, in reality, we know virtually nothing about those resources.

“We have the resource that we need to change that: the Prince Madog. I’m delighted to see Welsh Government realising and securing the potential of this vessel for the future in carrying out this vital research, working in collaboration with the excellent team at Bangor University.”

Rural Payments Wales delays deeply concerning, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

A crisis surrounding significant delays from Welsh Government in making hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of payments to farmers on Anglesey is deeply concerning, according to the island’s Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth AM on the eve of the Anglesey Agricultural Show.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance has met with farmers, union members and agents regularly over recent months and raised concerns with Welsh Government on their behalf regarding delays of up to five months in processing payments, with a total of over £200,000 believed to be owed to the island’s farmers.

Mr ap Iorwerth called the situation a crisis, adding his belief that Welsh Government has been far too slow in dealing with this issue, with the prospect of a devastating No-Deal Brexit also causing concern to the island’s farmers.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I am deeply concerned regarding the significant delay in making payments to Welsh Farmers. A number of famers, union members, and their agents have been in contact with me over the last few months regarding the unacceptable delays they are facing in receiving these essential payments.

“I have written to Welsh Government and I am concerned that they are far too slow to respond to what is a crisis for the farmers involved. One agent representing farmers on Ynys Môn has told me that over £200,000 is owed.

“Cash flow is important to any business and where payments are delayed it can have a very real impact on day-to-day operations and business planning for Anglesey farmers.

“The crisis is compounded by the fact that a No-Deal Brexit appears to be ever more likely, which would have a devastating impact on farms and rural Wales in general, and farm businesses need to be on as firm a footing as possible as they head into this Brexit unknown.”

“Serious” problem facing dentistry needs addressing urgently, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The shortfall in dentists across Ynys Môn and the wider region has very real implications for dental health in the area and must be addressed urgently, according to Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Over recent months following news of dental practices closing across the region, the Ynys Môn AM has been in regular discussions with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board about their plans to go to task on finding a resolution to ensure that patients across Ynys Môn have access to regular dental treatment via a local practice.

In April 2019, correspondence from the Health Board to Mr ap Iorwerth noted that patients who had been affected by the closure of the Cathedral Walk Practice in Bangor should ‘contact a practice convenient to them’ to enquire whether or not they have capacity, implying that finding another dental service provider is somewhat straightforward in the current climate.

Following announcements of further planned closures since then, the Plaid Cymru AM has been in further correspondence with the Health Board who have since admitted that all of their ‘modest’ additional capacity has been ‘rapidly filled’, admitting that this has not offset the full impact of recent closures, leaving some patients without access to regular dental care outside urgent need.

The Health Board also admits that it anticipates ‘the current position regarding access to dental services will persist for a while yet.’

In response to this, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“There’s no point in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board implying that all a patient has to do is phone around to get access to services when we know how limited that access is. It is a serious problem that has very real implications for dental health across the region.

“Following a series of letters on this matter, the Health Board now admits the scale of the problem and says it’ll be some time before it’s resolved, but this highlights the urgency with which we need to address the shortfall in services locally.

“One of the problems highlighted regularly is a lack of dentists being trained and recruited locally. Plaid Cymru succeeded in its campaign to see full Medical Education offered at Bangor University and we have also called for a debate on dentistry with the hope of seeing that education now being offered in Bangor extended to training new dentists too. We need them to solve this current crisis.

New PM cannot afford to be blasé about No-Deal Brexit impact on Holyhead, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM.

With a new UK Prime Minister being announced on Tuesday morning, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth has wasted no time outlining the potentially devastating impact a No-Deal Brexit could have on Holyhead Port, as the new PM-elect threatens to take the UK out of Europe on October 31st with or without a deal.

Mr Johnson’s refusal to rule out a no-deal Brexit has caused alarm in Westminster, with a string of senior UK Government cabinet ministers saying they cannot serve under his leadership.

Johnson was announced as the choice of the Conservative party to be the next Prime Minister on Tuesday morning after running a campaign against Jeremy Hunt that promised to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October “do or die”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance, and Assembly Member for Ynys Môn – home of the second busiest roll-on, roll-off ferry port in the UK – has urged UK Government not to be so haphazard about the damage a No-Deal Brexit would do for Holyhead Port and the island’s wider economy.

“It baffles me how some people can be relaxed about the possibility of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal. This is the second busiest roll-on, roll-off ferry port in the United Kingdom after Dover. Any barriers to the free flow of trade through Holyhead – it is bad for the Port, it is bad for jobs here, and it is bad for the economy in general.

“We already know that if you turn Holyhead from the easiest passage between the UK and Ireland into somewhere that is a bit more challenging then trade will find other routes. We already know from the Irish Government that they are already looking at developing, and have succeeded in developing new routes directly through to continental Europe.

“Even at this eleventh hour, my appeal is to UK Government, to Prime-Minister-elect Boris Johnson, to those decisions-makers, is to realise and recognise the seriousness of what it is they’re talking about. We cannot afford to be blasé about the potentially devastating impact a No-Deal Brexit would have on Holyhead Port and the great people of this town.”

No deal plan to bypass Welsh ports ‘devastating’ – Plaid Cymru

Any kind of Brexit risks trade flowing directly between the Republic of Ireland and the European continent, bypassing Welsh ports including Holyhead.

Brexit contingency plans published recently by the Irish Government show that any Brexit would be ‘devastating’ for Welsh ports, according to Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM.

The Republic of Ireland has been making substantial plans for its ports in the event of Brexit, with hundreds of millions of Euros invested in a number of companies, including Irish Ferries, to help increase capacity on direct routes to France, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Mr ap Iorwerth says that the Irish contingency plans necessitated by Brexit will mean that Welsh ports, and as a result Wales, will be bypassed.

According to Mr ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru had warned that any kind of Brexit, but particularly a no deal scenario, would be ‘very damaging’ to Welsh ports and ‘disastrous’ for Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister, and Ynys Môn Assembly Member, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“A Brexit of any kind would be very damaging to Holyhead port. It is in the interest of all concerned to continue seamless flow of trade between Holyhead and Dublin, regardless of which Brexit – if any – we end up with. It is vitally important we avoid a No Deal Brexit, which would be devastating.

“What this document by the Government of Ireland shows is that the Republic of Ireland has invested heavily to prepare for the possibility of bypassing Welsh ports in the event of a no deal Brexit, putting infrastructure in place to service direct routes to continental ports. This would be severely damaging to our ports here in Wales, which rely heavily on trade flowing seamlessly between Wales and the Republic.

“A no deal Brexit would be disastrous for Wales, and the best deal we can get is the one we already have. The future of our relationship with the European Union should be put to a People’s Vote now that we have a clear picture of what Brexit really means.”

Devolving Air Passenger Duty is long overdue, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

On Tuesday night the Welsh Assembly backed a motion that would call on UK Government to devolve Air Passenger Duty to Wales by 2021 – a move that Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance Rhun ap Iorwerth said would help find ways to optimise the Welsh Economy.

Air Passenger Duty was introduced in 1994 and is a tax charged by airlines on all economy flights that leave the UK – APD is part of your ticket price and airlines pass the tax onto the Government.

A report published last month by the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee recommended that the UK Government fully devolve control over APD to Cardiff Bay by 2021 and yesterday Plaid Cymru, the Labour Welsh Government and the Conservatives jointly tabled a motion to call on Westminster to make sure these powers are devolved in line with the Committee’s recommendations.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“In a situation where Scotland already has seen APD devolved, when Northern Ireland has APD devolved, it seems to me that the barriers are there to stop Wales in some way gaining that kind of advantage that could come from the devolution of something that is very much in the spirit of devolution and a proposal that has been made now in a number of highly respected reports.

“There is no strong evidence to suggest that Bristol would be at a disadvantage—but it would be advantageous to Cardiff … and not just Cardiff Airport, but Anglesey Airport in my constituency. We should be looking at this in the round.

“So, let us today make that statement that we believe the time is not just right, but is overdue for us to take this step. It is in our interests as we look for ways of optimising the Welsh economy. It is not about trying to disadvantage others.”

‘Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns is blocking devolution of air passenger duty – against will of Senedd’ – Plaid Cymru

Ahead of today’s (Tues 2 July) cross-party debate on the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru has said that the Secretary of State for Wales is blocking power over the tax being transferred to Wales.

Today’s debate, tabled by the Welsh Government with support from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives, calls on the UK Government to devolve APD to the Senedd by 2021.

But Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM has pointed to Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns’ poor voting record on devolving APD, and said that the Secretary of State himself is standing in the way of devolution.

In a September 2016 debate on the Wales Bill, Mr Cairns voted against devolving APD. During Welsh Questions earlier that year, he refused to commit to devolving APD, saying that it was a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Previously, he voted against devolving responsibility for setting the rate of APD in Finance Bill debates in April 2013 and April 2014.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate last year, former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said that he had failed to persuade former prime minister David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne of the case for devolving APD.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“Today’s cross-party motion is a demonstration that the devolution of air passenger duty is the will of the Senedd, and we are pleased to support the motion.

“No matter what our Senedd says, however, it appears to me that the Secretary of State for Wales is standing in the way of devolution here.

“On three occasions, Alun Cairns has voted against devolving APD, and when questioned, avoided committing to devolving it – hiding, instead, behind the Treasury.

“His predecessor as Welsh Secretary said that he had failed to persuade David Cameron and George Osborne of the case for devolving APD.

“I would say that the incumbent Welsh Secretary’s record on this issue indicates that he himself is unconvinced.

“Today’s Senedd vote should be a signal to Mr Cairns: get out the way of devolution, because the will of this Senedd is clear.

“It should also be a wake-up call for the Conservatives – they’re supporting today’s motion, so they need to have a word with their Welsh Secretary to get him to stop blocking it.”

‘The British state is failing Wales’ says Plaid Cymru, as new figures show £13.7 billion fiscal gap

Plaid Cymru has said that the ‘British state is failing Wales’, following the publication of new figures from the Wales Fiscal Analysis research team at the Wales Governance Centre today (Tues 2 July).

The figures, which will be discussed at a conference at Cardiff Bay’s Pierhead Building, show that Wales’ net fiscal balance – the difference between total public spending for Wales and estimated public revenue – amounted to a £13.7 billion deficit.

The deficit, known as the fiscal gap, amounts to 19.4% of estimated GDP. The comparable figure for the UK as a whole is just 2%.

The research also found that overall spending per head in Wales is significantly lower than in England, with spending on UK Government programmes in Wales other than social security significantly lower than comparable spending in England.

Startlingly, the report found that capital spending – such as on new public infrastructure – is lower in Wales, particularly in transport and science and technology (76% and 75% of the UK average respectively).

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM has said that ‘Wales is behind held back from reaching its potential’ under the current set-up of the UK, and has accused the UK Government of either forgetting about Wales or ‘wilfully under-investing’ in Wales as a ‘way of keeping us in our place’.

Mr ap Iorwerth warned that the situation would only get worse under either of the two candidates to be the next Tory prime minister, and would be particularly bad in the event that Wales leaves the European Union.

The findings released today come in advance of the publication of Government Expenditure and Revenue Wales 2019 later this month, and a further report in the autumn on how Wales’ fiscal gap may be narrowed.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“These figures paint a dim picture of Wales’ place in the United Kingdom. What the figures show is that the current set-up of the British state is failing Wales, and our nation is being held back from reaching its potential.

“As if we needed any further proof of how low down the Westminster pecking order Wales really is, this report shows that we receive just 76% of the UK Government’s average spending on transport.

“The report’s authors say that the main driver of Wales’ £13.7 gap between the amount of public spending in Wales and the amount of money that’s brought in is not higher spending, but lower revenues, such as from taxation.

“It is common sense that capital investment in public infrastructure creates jobs and prosperity – and thereby increases revenue. And yet the UK Government’s infrastructure spending in Wales is drastically lower than in England.

“At best, the British state, via the UK Government, has simply forgotten about Wales. At worst, it is wilfully under-investing in our nation as a way to keep us in our place. This will only get worse under either of the two candidates to be the next prime minister, and certainly if Wales is taken out of the European Union.

“As an independent nation at the heart of Europe, we would have a full complement of tools at our disposal to invest in infrastructure and grow our economy. We would also have full control over our own natural resources, such as electricity and water.”