Wales needs change to stop having the worst economic performance of any UK country

The economic policies of both Welsh and Westminster governments have failed the people of Wales

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today show that Wales continues to have the poorest economic productivity in the UK.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Finance Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said that the “unarguable statistics show the economic policies of both Welsh and Westminster Governments have failed the people of Wales.”

In 2017 Wales had the lowest Gross Value Added (GVA) per head in the UK at just £19,899 compared with £25,485 in Scotland and £28,086 in England. The economy of London in 2017 was more than twice as productive as the Welsh economy, with London economic activity bringing in £48,857 per person.

Of the four nations of the UK, Wales also had the lowest economic growth between 2016 and 2017 at 1.4%, while the Scottish, Northern Irish and English economies grew by 1.6%, 1.9% and 2.0% respectively.

Mr ap Iorwerth also highlighted that the current approach to Wales’s exit from the EU risks making things worse.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Finance Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“These new ONS figures demonstrate once again that the economic policies of both the Welsh and Westminster Governments are failing the people of Wales.

“We know Westminster has never had Wales’s interests at heart, but the Labour Welsh Government lack the ideas and ambition to turn things around.

“And now we are on the brink of a Brexit that is set to make Wales’s economy poorer. That is not my analysis, but the analysis of the Westminster Government committed to carrying this out.

“If we are going to see an improvement in people’s living standards in Wales we need change. That change is embodied in the ideas and policies that Plaid Cymru are putting forward.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth urges First Minister to intervene in Grid’s pylon plans

Plaid Cymru’s Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has called on First Minister Carwyn Jones in one of the final acts of his premiership to act and speak out to the Planning Inspectorate and Ofgem to insist National Grid reconsider their pylons plans for the island.

Grid’s plans would involve building 100 new pylons spanning Anglesey, as well as a tunnel to take electricity cables under the Menai Strait. Mr ap Iorwerth has been a vocal campaigner against both a new row of pylons and the costly tunnel option.

He supports an undergrounding or under-sea option, and argues that £200-£300m for the tunnel would be better spent on placing cables on a new Menai crossing, subsidising the dualling of the Britannia Bridge.

In First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday afternoon, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“A constituent from Star, Gaerwen, was in tears on the phone with my office yesterday, very distressed because of National Grid’s plans for a second row of pylons – that’s the prevailing feeling on Anglesey.

“Grid, of course, are still going against the wishes of the island’s people, the island’s elected representatives and this National Assembly by insisting on going ahead with developing another row of pylons across Anglesey.

“I called on the First Minister, in his final days in office, to contact the Planning Inspectorate and encourage them to reject permission for these pylons, and also write to Ofgem – as I have done recently – to insist that Grid give serious consideration to putting cables on the new bridge across the Menai instead of spending £200m on a new tunnel under the Menai.

“It would save money for Welsh Government in securing co-investment for the bridge, and save money for Grid, which could then be invested in undergrounding any new connection on Anglesey.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth questions Welsh Government in light of university job loss concerns.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth has asked Welsh Government what support it is going to give Wales’ Higher Education Sector as threats of job losses at universities in Wales continue to circulate.

Staff at Bangor University have recently received communications from the university outlining how up to 60 jobs across the university could be cut in order to make ends meet.

Elsewhere in the country Cardiff University have recently also expressed concerns that they may have to cut jobs to plug a £21m deficit and today in the Assembly chamber Mr ap Iorwerth asked Welsh Government for a statement regarding the matter.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Today in the Assembly I asked for a statement regarding the financial crisis that I fear is deepening in our Higher Education Sector in Wales and I asked for an explanation regarding what plans Welsh Government may have to review the present financial situation.

“This week Bangor University staff, who have a strong presence in my constituency, have said that they’ve received communications from the university, outlining business cases regarding further cuts, including redundancies, with fears that up to 60 jobs could be lost in the university.

“This present situation is not sustainable, and the standard of education and research which is offered across the university sector in the long run if a resolution is not found, and I look forward to hearing from the Cabinet Secretary for Education how she is going to respond.”

Welsh Government has lacked willingness to lead, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

In a debate on Welsh Government’s performance under outgoing First Minister Carwyn Jones this afternoon, Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth has argued that the biggest problem Government has had under the First Minister’s leadership has been its “unwillingness to lead”.

In a debate evaluating Welsh Government’s performance under the First Minister’s leadership, Mr ap Iorwerth noted his frustration at just how regularly Welsh Government missed opportunities to make real differences to people’s lives.

A new First Minister will be confirmed in a week’s time as Carwyn Jones steps down, and Mr ap Iorwerth noted in the debate how Welsh Government in recent time has been a follower rather than a leader far too often.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“One of the basic problems of this Government is their unwillingness to lead. This Government is a follower far too often!

“I heard one Cabinet Secretary speaking earlier about his eagerness to see policing and justice devolved to Wales, which is great, I’m so glad that Welsh Government finally supports that, because it they’re behind the curve once again, with us in Plaid Cymru having called for this for a long time.

“We are proud in one way to see Welsh Government following our lead and supporting our stance on this, on a sugar tax for fizzy drinks and so on, but it is so frustrating to see a Government missing opportunities to make a real difference to people’s lives time and time again.”

Government should listen to Future Generations Commissioner on M4 plans, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru Shadow Spokesperson for Economy and Finance Rhun ap Iorwerth has urged Welsh Government not to ignore the views of Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner as it considers plans regarding the proposed M4 black route.

Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Sophie Howe has bemoaned “Welsh Government’s obsession at addressing 21st century transport issues with 20th century solutions” and argued that “the Black Route fails to consider future trends and does not reflect the ambition or intention of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.”

In questions to the Finance Minister Mark Drakeford today, Mr ap Iorwerth urged the Welsh Labour leadership candidate not to undermine the Commissioner in this “first major test case of the influence that the Commissioner has” and asked the Minister to commit to undertaking an investigation into every possibility of how best to spend the proposed £2bn earmarked for the M4.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“The Future Generations Commissioner has expressed strong opinions for some time now regarding the proposed M4 Black Route and discussed how pushing ahead with the plans could set a dangerous precedent for the future.

“More recently the Commissioner has made her views clearer still, stating that she doesn’t believe that this plan is in line with the needs of future generations. Surely views as strong as those from someone whom Welsh Government has put such trust in previously should be enough to put a stop this proposal.

“There is quite rightly a weight of expectation on what the Commissioner can do for Wales and surely in this first major test case of the influence that the Commissioner has, Welsh Government should be showing that they are taking this and her role extremely seriously.

“The Commissioner raises some serious and fundamental questions about value for money and what that means for finances available for future generations.

“As the holder of the public purse in Wales, somebody who is charged with ensuring we get maximum value for money, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance should give an undertaking that he will investigate every possibility of spending that substantial amount of money in a more sensible way.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth congratulates Ynys Mon’s first Welsh Youth Parliament representative

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth has congratulated Ifan Wyn Erfyl Jones on being confirmed as the island’s representative in the first ever Welsh Youth Parliament.

With Y Llywydd Elin Jones AM confirming the results of the inaugural Welsh Youth Parliament Elections before plenary in the Assembly this afternoon, Ifan Wyn Erfyl Jones was confirmed as Ynys Mon’s first ever representative in the Welsh Youth Parliament.

Mr ap Iorwerth personally chaired a hustings session for Ynys Mon’s seven Welsh Youth Parliament candidates at Menai Science Park in Gaerwen in November and thoroughly enjoyed meeting each of the candidates.

Offering his congratulations to Ifan, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Huge congratulations to Ifan Wyn Erfyl Jones on being confirmed as Ynys Mon’s representative in the first Welsh Youth Parliament, this is a hugely exciting time for politics in Wales and I’m sure Ifan will be a strong voice for Ynys Mon’s many passionate young communities.

“I personally chaired a hustings for Ynys Mon’s Youth Parliament candidates in November, and I told them all then, you have to be brave to stand an election, but the privilege of being able to stand is something I hope all seven candidates have enjoyed.

“Certainly I very much enjoyed meeting the candidates, and from my discussions with Ifan at the hustings, I’m sure he will be a strong representative for Anglesey.

“All of these candidates are winners in the eyes of Ynys Mon as their ambition and enthusiasm to represent their fellow young people is commendable and they should be applauded for that. I look forward to working with Ifan in the future and wish him well in representing the island’s fantastic young people.”

Welsh Assembly has spoken, time for UK Government to listen, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

The National Assembly for Wales has today voted to reject Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration in a dramatic vote in the Senedd – becoming the first parliament in the UK to do so – and it is time for Theresa May to listen to the voice of Wales, says Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth.

The Labour Welsh Government had originally tabled its own motion but decided to support the Plaid Cymru amendment which calls to reject the UK Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, calls for the UK to stay in the European Single Market and Customs Union, and to extend Article 50.

The amended motion passed 34 to 16 with no abstentions.

Plaid Cymru’s amendment calling for a People’s Vote was not agreed, but another amendment did pass outlining the desire to see a general election of a People’s Vote – with an option to remain on the ballot paper – should UK Government not act in line with the agreed amendments.

Following the vote in the Assembly chamber, Mr ap Iorwerth discussed the outcome of the vote, and how Plaid Cymru will continue to campaign for a People’s Vote as it is in the best interests of the people of Wales.

“The Withdrawal Agreement that the UK Government has put together does not act in Wales’ interests, and we will now be making that message clear as a National Assembly for Wales, thanks to amendments table by Plaid Cymru in today’s Brexit debate.

“We in Plaid Cymru are in favour of a People’s Vote, and if we believe in real democracy we should base our decision on whether to leave the European Union on what evidence we have in front of us today.

“Let us ask what the opinion of the people truly is, now that they’re facing this new evidence of what Brexit will look like that has been put in front of them.

“There is nothing wrong with making sure that our understanding of people’s views is as current as possible. Plaid Cymru will continue to press the case for a People’s Vote because that’s what we think is in the best interests of the people of Wales, whether people voted to leave or remain.

“A very important day in the National Assembly for Wales today, but what is important now of course is that UK Government listens.”

Rhun backs campaign for faster treatment for people with quickest killing cancer

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM has pledged his support to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s campaign demanding faster treatment for people with pancreatic cancer – three in four patients with the disease die within a year of diagnosis making it the quickest killing cancer. The charity is calling for the Welsh Government to set a new ambition to begin treatment for all pancreatic cancer patients across the UK within 20 days of diagnosis by 2024.

At an event to highlight Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Demand Faster Treatment campaign held at the Welsh Assembly, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM heard that if avoidable delays to treatment were removed many more pancreatic cancer patients could be eligible for surgery – the only current cure for the disease. To help achieve this ambition the charity is recommending the roll-out of a new treatment programme which in a recent trial successfully reduced patients’ time to surgery from two months to just over two weeks.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “142 people within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and tragically less than seven per cent will survive beyond five years. This is unacceptable and much more needs to be done to improve the outcomes for people with this deadly disease.
“I hope everyone in Ynys Môn will join me in backing this campaign to transform the future for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and help them receive treatment before it is too late.”

The charity released a report to coincide with the campaign which revealed that pancreatic cancer patients who have surgery are ten times more likely to live for five years or more than patients who do not (1). New analysis by Pancreatic Cancer UK shows that if even a modest increase in the proportion of patients receiving surgery (from the current rate of less than ten per cent, to just 15 per cent) was sustained over five years, it could give 2,100 more patients across the UK at least a year of precious time with their loved ones and potentially be lifesaving (*).

To help achieve the increase, the charity is calling for the introduction of accelerated treatment models for pancreatic cancer within the NHS similar to those which are already in place for more well-known cancers such as breast and prostate. This would include establishing one-stop clinics where patients can have all tests to determine their suitability for surgery in one place.

Clinical nurse specialists would be recruited to coordinate with other NHS services addition to supporting patients. Implementing both of these measures would significantly speed-up treatment decisions. The number of tests required, the wait for results, and the need to consult doctors from multiple specialisms due to the complexity of pancreatic cancer are major causes of delays in treating the disease when there is no time to waste.

Diana Jupp, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK said: “We’re extremely grateful Rhun ap Iorwerth AM has shown his support for our Demand Faster Treatment campaign. Too many pancreatic cancer patients are being denied their only chance of survival because they are simply not being treated fast enough. Three in four people diagnosed with this devastating disease die within a year, making it the quickest killing cancer. It’s so ferocious that patients cannot afford to wait. In recent years we have seen outstanding progress in other cancers such as breast and prostate, and a shocking lack of progress for pancreatic. Together we can change that.

“We are urging people from Ynys Môn to take on this deadly cancer and sign our petition calling on the government to recognise pancreatic cancer as an emergency. We owe it to all those affected by pancreatic cancer to be more ambitious and make sure that everyone is treated within 20 days of diagnosis.”

Three in four people with pancreatic cancer die within a year of diagnosis, making it the quickest killing cancer. Survival for the incredibly tough disease has lagged behind other cancers since the 1970s, with less than seven per cent of people with pancreatic cancer patients living for five years (4). UK survival for pancreatic cancer is behind that of European counterparts: Belgium and Germany have a five-year survival of 12 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Pancreatic Cancer UK is calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to set a new ambition to treat all patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 20 days by 2024. To find out more about the Demand Faster Treatment campaign and sign the petition, visit: www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/demandfastertreatment

Rhun ap Iorwerth supporting Reverse Advent Foodbank collections

Plaid Cymru’s Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has once again launched a Reverse Advent initiative at his office in Llangefni, and has been working with the island’s schools as they set up their own collections in the run up to the busy festive period.

Over the summer months the Trussell Trust organisation handed out a staggering 48,000 three-day emergency food supply packages in Wales, and the need for assistance by the most vulnerable in our society is sure to increase as Christmas approaches.

Mr ap Iorwerth has run a reverse advent campaign in his office for a number of years, where instead of having something from your usual advent calendar, you bring an item to donate to foodbanks to your place of work or your school every day to donate to a local foodbank.

The Ynys Môn Assembly Member has also worked with Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni, Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones and Ysgol David Hughes, as well as primary schools in the Amlwch area, to help them establish their own reverse advent collections.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Please try to give generously to any foodbanks you come across this Christmas, people really do need the assistance. My office will be hosting a reverse advent calendar in the run-up to Christmas in order to gather a collection to donate to local foodbanks at a time when people need help more than ever.

“Over the last few weeks I have been working with schools on the island to launch reverse advent initiatives at their schools, too, where pupils and teachers will be able to bring food into school every day in the run up to Christmas.

“This really is a vital service, but sadly foodbanks are vital for far too many people.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth calls for better Government support for Small Businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday

Ahead of Small Business Saturday, Rhun ap Iorwerth has once again pledged to support small local businesses and encouraged others to do the same, whilst urging Welsh Government to prioritise support of small businesses going forward.

Saturday December 1st is Small Business Saturday, and figures outline that Wales’ 240,000 small to medium businesses turnover £46bn a year, showing how vital small and medium enterprises are to the country’s economy.

With Small Business Saturday this weekend, Mr ap Iorwerth is once again encouraging people to shop locally to celebrate the contribution smaller businesses make to the Welsh economy.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“It is Small Business Saturday this weekend, and once again I’m encouraging the people of Anglesey to support small businesses and the high street this weekend, but also to pledge to do so all year round.

“Small businesses on our high streets are so essential in terms of the strength of our economy, but they’re also very important to us socially, too, and I think finding better ways to support small businesses should be a priority for Welsh Government.

“So this Small Business Saturday why not make a pledge? Spend a tenner in a local small business. That money being spent locally will go a very long way indeed, so remember to support small businesses not just on Small Business Saturday, but every day where possible in the future.”