Securing the future of the Prince Madog: The case for having a national maritime research ship for Wales

My Short Debate in the Senedd this week: Securing the future of the Prince Madog: The case for having a national maritime research ship for Wales

The Wales marine area includes valuable and varied natural resources that can provide significant economic and social opportunities and which contribute to the well-being of the nation and of future generations. But, in reality, we know virtually nothing about those resources. It’s staggering how little of our sea bed has been mapped, given the detailed onshore mapping. Mapping of this kind is a priority on an EU level and has been for some time, but there has been no co-ordinated plan for the UK—no plan for Wales. The process of gathering data has been ad hoc. It hasn’t been properly co-ordinated, and that must change. Of course, we have the resource that we need to do that work: the Prince Madog.

Rhun uses Assembly statement to wish happy birthday to Holyhead Centre that has put Anglesey on global sporting map

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth used a 90 second statement in the National Assembly this week to praise the work of Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre.

Rhun had attended the Centre’s 50th Birthday celebrations at the Trearddur Bay Hotel over the weekend, which was also a chance to celebrate the success of star lifters Gareth Evans, Hannah Powell and a host of others, and pay tribute to the club founder and Commonwealth medalist Bob Wrench (who was unfortunately not able to be there, but sent a message read out by Ray Williams).

This week, Rhun made a statement at the Senedd praising the work of the Centre in the local community as well as on a global stage. He said:

“Thank you for the opportunity to wish a happy birthday to an institution that’s made a huge contribution to health and fitness on Anglesey, and which also happens to be a centre of sporting excellence of worldwide renown.

“One of the highlights of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans’s stunning gold medal-winning performance. His lifting was immense, but just as impressive was the passion he showed in running over to his coach, Ray Williams, to celebrate. Ray himself had realised a dream as a coach, but before coaching, he himself had won gold for Wales at the 1986 games in Edinburgh. Ray had been introduced to lifting by Bob Wrench, a bronze winner in the Christchurch games in 1974, and it was Bob who had the vision to establish the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre 50 years ago.

“A high-school sports teacher, not only was he hugely talented at weightlifting, he could see what lifting could offer to the area’s young people, many of whom would otherwise not have such opportunities. Ray and Gareth were among thousands to benefit. To give you an idea of HAWFC’s success, Ray himself has coached lifters to 97 gold medals of youth and senior at Welsh and international levels. But it’s the community aspect of the club that’s just as important. This is a centre with its doors open to ALL.

“So, happy birthday Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre, and a long life to an institution that’s done so much for its community and, through its excellence, has done so much to put Holyhead and Anglesey on the global sporting map.”

Video: Prioritise those who’ve missed out on broadband, says Anglesey AM

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth yesterday questioned Welsh Government about the Superfast Cymru Successor scheme on behalf of communities on Anglesey who are still waiting for a fast broadband connection.

In April of this year, the Anglesey AM made a plea to constituents on facebook and in the local papers to let him know about their experience of broadband, and specifically where problems still existed after the end of the Superfast Cymru scheme.

The response he received showed that although the problem in some areas was that people were able to get access to fast broadband but were unaware of that, in other areas, broadband problems still exist with some work having been done, but with some properties just missing out.

Rhun therefore used a questions session in the Assembly to the relevant Cabinet Secretary to ask her to make sure that these areas would be a priority under the successor scheme to Superfast Cymru.

Speaking at the Senedd, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I’ve contacted you, as a Minister, in the past, reporting problems with broadband in Ynys Môn. I made an appeal back in April for the latest information. It’s evident that there are a number of areas that have missed out by a hair’s breadth, perhaps, on Superfast Cymru — Llanddona, Llansadwrn, Brynsiencyn, Cefniwrch and Rhydwyn are some of those that have come to prominence.

“In those areas, work had started on preparing for connection. Evidently, there was great disappointment in seeing the programme coming to an end without the work being completed. Are you in a situation to give assurance to these constituents that they will be a priority—that is, that finishing the work that was started previously will be a priority under the new programme, when that comes to pass?”

In her response, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that that was a matter of negotiation between Welsh Government and BT, but that they were still in the middle of the procurement process at the moment for the new programme.

Anglesey says No to Pylons campaign comes to Senedd

Fideo ddwyieithog / Bilingual Video

Thank you to all the campaigners who travelled down from Anglesey to Cardiff and to all the AMs who supported us in sending a message to National Grid that pylons would be a blight on our island and they should instead put cables underground. The Assembly have spoken with one voice on this, the people of Anglesey and all its elected representatives have spoken with one voice on this. It’s time for Grid to listen.

AM asks for support for Holyhead Marina and for lessons to be learnt after storm Emma response

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth today asked Welsh Government for an update on the clean up work at Holyhead following storm Emma at the beginning of the month.

However, he was disappointed with the response, considering the environmental and economic impact of the damage, and the concerns still being expressed by the marina and local people about the clean up effort.

In his question to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs at the Assembly today, Rhun ap Iorwerth asked:

“Looking back, I think there are some serious questions about the speed of the response to what happened in Holyhead. I think it’s quite clear that there was, and remains, a grave environmental issue. So, perhaps you could update us on whether, on reflection, there was a missed opportunity to get in early, to deal with the environmental impacts of what’s happened. And what lessons have been learned, in terms of making sure that, if there’s disagreement about who exactly should take over, Welsh Government can step in, or your relevant bodies?

“Secondly, looking forward, because that’s crucial now, we do need assurances about what is happening. I’ve heard reports this morning of people returning from sea to Holyhead for the first time since the events, and being shocked at what hasn’t happened up to now. We need assurances on rebuilding the marina, on help for individuals and businesses that have been affected, and of course on the need to step up in terms of the environmental clean up, of which there is a lot yet to do. Because this still is a desperate situation in Holyhead.”

He later added:

“This was another disappointing response from the Cabinet Secretary regarding how Welsh Government and its agencies reacted to storm Emma’s destruction in Holyhead. Those working in the marina, those who have lost boats, and those who have been to Anglesey’s north west beaches themselves to clear up polystyrene because of their concern about the environmental impact tell me that the response was not quick enough, that there was confusion over who should be doing what and that the problem still remains today.

“I appreciate the Cabinet Secretary’s consideration about possible financial support for public infrastructure repair, and environmental damage clean up, but I was really hoping for more leadership on Government on this, especially considering the impact on the environment and on the local economy in Anglesey.”

Rhun seeks government help to repair damage of storm Emma in Holyhead

Following the devastating effects of storm Emma on Holyhead marina last week, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM tabled an urgent question to the Welsh Government, which was answered in the Assembly today.

The Ynys Môn Assembly Member made a plea to Welsh Government for help for the businesses affected, for an assurance that all is being done in the short-term to limit the environmental damage of the polystyrene debris, and in the more long-term for research into the possible need for a sea defence for this part of the harbor in Holyhead.

Speaking at the Senedd today, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“I was at Holyhead marina on Friday, immediately after the storm. Many of you will have seen the pictures on television. It was truly heartbreaking, utter destruction. There were many pleasure boats, which were important to the area, but there were also commercial boats in the marina, and many of those had been destroyed or partially damaged. All of the businesses using the marina make up an important part of the marine economy of Anglesey, and I would like to know what kind of support package the Government can put together to support these businesses in their hour of need in the short term.

“Secondly, and looking beyond the short term, may I be given a commitment that the Government will assist to fund research into the possible need for a sea defence for this part of the harbour in Holyhead? And would you agree that there’s an important role for the oceanography department at Bangor University in this important work, including use of their research ship, the Prince Madog?

“Finally, and crucially, you have referred to this: in the short term we are facing a grave environmental problem as a result of the storm. Now, I understand that there wasn’t too much fuel in most of the boats, and most of it has been collected, but there is certainly a huge problem in terms of the polystyrene debris and the pontoons in the marina. Now, five days later, I would like an update on what is being done to deal with the pollution, and an assurance that whatever needs to be done will be done to ensure that we don’t face more environmental destruction that we’ve already seen.”

He later added:

“I was pleased to hear the Cabinet Secretary say that she was happy to give consideration to possible financial support for public infrastructure repair, and I look forward to being updated regarding the environmental issues after her visit to Anglesey tomorrow.”

Electricity Connection should respect Future Generations Act, says AM

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth yesterday quizzed Welsh Government about the role of the Well-being of Future Generations Act in developing electricity infrastructure in Anglesey.

Rhun said that an underwater or underground connection, rather than new overhead pylons, would safeguard the interest of the people of Ynys Môn now as well as future generations, and that this was what the people of Anglesey are asking for. He pointed out that we have a Future Generations Act in Wales and this connection plan should only happen in accordance with the principles of that Act.

Speaking in the Assembly chamber, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The National Grid intends to have a new electricity connection across Anglesey with the cost being the main, if not the only, factor in deciding what kind of connection that will be. What they intend to do, therefore, is to go for the cheapest possible option, which is pylons above ground rather than undergrounding, or placing cables underwater, which is what we on Anglesey would want to see.

“Going underwater or underground would safeguard the interests of Ynys Môn now and for future generations, and we do have a Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 here in Wales.

“You’re the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for the implementation of that Act. Are you willing to give a commitment that you will work with me and others such as campaigners against pylons to urge the National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government, who will ultimately make the decision, to ensure that this connection plan can only happen in accordance with the principles of this important piece of legislation passed in this place.”

In his response, the Cabinet Secretary responsible replied:

“I know of the work that you have done in the context of the island on this issue. We as a Government are working more closely with the local councils on the issues that he has alluded to.

“I was pleased to see a statement from the National Grid…on well-being where they state, in the context of the Act,

‘While these do not specifically place requirements on the National Grid or the development of new transmission lines, National Grid believes that the aims of the Act are important and deserve consideration.’

“So, there is some recognition there by the National Grid of the impact of the Act. The Act is binding as far as the local council is concerned. The Secretary of State will be influenced by it. I hear, of course, what the Member says about under grounding and over grounding and the Welsh Government’s starting position is that under grounding is the preferred option, but there will be discussions that will be needed and the local authority and Welsh Government will be involved in them as we seek to maximise the benefits for the island while mitigating the impacts of these developments.”

Speaking after the exchange in the Senedd, Rhun ap Iorwerth added:

“I will be meeting National Grid in the near future to discuss this matter further with them. Even though the Act is not binding on them, it is important that the principles of the Act are respected.”

Video: Bangor University Centre for Medical Education

An excellent meeting this morning! I want a centre to train doctors in Bangor University, as does Bangor University itself. I will continue to put pressure on Welsh Government regarding this issue – we need assurances now that there will be a significant increase in the number of doctors we want to train here in Wales, and the long-term investment needed to deliver that.

Plaid Cymru is leading on this and we’re getting there!