Grid and PINS should respect democratic views of Wales when it comes to pylons, says AM

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth this week asked the First Minister to make sure that those looking at National Grid’s plans for new pylons across Anglesey were aware of the Assembly vote in favour of undergrounding cables.

During this week’s FMQs, the Anglesey AM called on Welsh Government to push as much as possible to ensure that the UK Planning Inspectorate respects the democratic views of the Assembly in favour of undergrounding.

He also said it would be a scandal if money Grid have suggested would go towards a tunnel to carry cables wasn’t spent on a new bridge instead, with the rest being invested in undergrounding.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“The DCO application has been submitted, but the grid, since the beginning of this process, haven’t given an inch in response to the pressure from me, the Member of Parliament, the council or, more importantly, the unanimity of the people of Anglesey that we need to underground these cables.

“And let’s recall that this Chamber favoured undergrounding rather than pylons and voted for that. You said in January that you’d remind the grid of that. So, what was their response? But, more importantly, will you give a commitment to push as much as possible as Welsh Government to ensure that the UK Planning Inspectorate realises that the democratic views of this Parliament have been expressed, and that they must respect that?

“And, with a further suggestion that a tunnel that could put cables under the Menai could cost £300 million, isn’t it clear that it would be a scandal if the money, or part of that money, weren’t spent on a new bridge to carry cables and vehicles, with the rest being invested in undergrounding?”

The First Minister replied that they have told the grid that it’s extremely important to consider a third bridge over the Menai Strait in order to ensure that the cables can go on that bridge and also that grid knows the views of the Assembly and the views of local people. However, Rhun ap Iorwerth said that we need a clear statement to this effect.

Councils need more Government support to protect rural schools: Plaid Leadership Contender

Ynys Môn AM and candidate for the Leadership of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has unveiled proposals to help keep schools at the heart of our communities.

Mr ap Iorwerth says he has sympathy with councils that are working to ever tighter spending limits, whilst coming under pressure from Welsh Government from a number of conflicting directions.

He said: “Welsh Government wants to give the impression that it is protecting rural schools by devising a new ‘code’ that councils will have to follow before closing schools. I welcome any genuine attempts to help smaller schools, but at the same time as this code is being developed, Government policy is urging moves towards larger schools, and crucially a code not backed by additional resource is a smokescreen.”

He added: “As First Minister I would want to support Councils in trying to find new and innovative ways of keeping schools open within their communities, and I particularly favour the creation of multi-site ‘Area Schools’, with one Head and one Governing body sharing costs and setting common goals and standards across the different sites, but crucially allowing more communities to keep their primary schools.

“This ‘new deal’ for rural school clusters won’t stop all school closures, but it will empower Councils to look for innovative answers, will help deliver standards in a small-school setting, and properly resourced will mean that rurality is embraced and not seen as a burden.”

Mr ap Iorwerth said he’s not opposed entirely to the principle of merging schools where there are no other options, and that there are instances where some schools become unsustainable educationally and financially due to low pupil numbers. However, he wants councils helped to ensure closures become a last resort.

Wales and Europe: The Economic Case for a New Referendum


I have always believed that leaving the European Union would have massive implications for the Welsh economy. However, like a good democrat I had to accept that Wales, like the rest of the UK voted to leave.

In the meantime, I have followed the withdrawal negotiations conducted by the UK Government with trepidation. Theresa May’s negotiating stance is determined by what she can get through her party rather than the interests of Wales and the Welsh economy. Her latest position-the Chequers deal-seems to be such a poor compromise that it is rejected by both pro-Europeans and Brexiteers. It is also likely to be rejected by the European Commission. We are therefore left with the prospect of a no-deal option which would be disastrous for us.

The implications of a no-deal option are now being laid bare for all to see. The first batch of technical papers issued by the UK government predicated a nightmare scenario of increased red tape, patients being denied access to medicines, and holiday makers being hit with hikes in bank charges. The implications for Northern Ireland are so bad that the Brexit Minister refused to say what the consequences of a no deal were! No doubt further papers will be released explaining the need for customs posts, the introduction of trade tariffs and the full implications of non-preferential WTO terms.

Even without these latest revelations the implications of leaving the EU for Wales were bad enough. The Treasury has only guaranteed access to EU funds until the end of the current round, with no guarantees beyond that date. Welsh researchers are already finding it difficult to secure partners for accessing Horizon 2020 research funds.
What we need to remember however is that even if we were to receive the full shortfall following the loss of CAP and Structural Funds, the lack of access to the single market poses an even more significant threat to the health of the Welsh economy. Access to the single market and the attempt to standardise conditions of access across the member states has provided Welsh businesses and companies which employ a significant number of people in Wales with opportunities to export without massive distortions and barriers to competition.

Being outside the single market means that Wales and its exporters are denied full access to our most important trading block and we will be disadvantaged by not being able to influence the rules by which we trade.

Leave campaigners deliberately confused voters with the idea that a country could have a free trade agreement which would give all the advantages of access to the single market but without the need for the free movement of people. But the free movement of goods and services cannot be secured without the free movement of people and acceptance of the other rules of the club. The European country with the closest relations with Europe outside the Union is Norway. The price it pays is making a financial contribution to the EU and being bound by the rules without any direct voice in shaping those regulations forming part of the single market.

The latest export figures show that 37% of Welsh exports by value (£1.124b) went to the EU. This is significantly higher than exports to other parts of the world, with 23% going to the USA and Canada and 15% to Asia. For Wales’ food and drink sector the EU is a vitally important market with 90% of our exports valued at £274m going to EU countries (2014 figures Business Wales).

Welsh GDP already low in proportion to the EU average is also likely to be adversely affected by the loss of EU membership. East Wales is at 93.7% and West Wales and the Valleys at 67.4%. This compares say to the Basque country at 116.1% and Catalunia at 110.7%. The loss of export markets will clearly affect Wales’ performance in terms of competitiveness and productivity leading to an impact on wage levels and unemployment. Multi-national companies such as Airbus, Ford, Toyota and others are likely at the very least to delay investment decisions and at worst transfer future investments to the European mainland. New inward investment opportunities are likely to be lost as companies will no longer see Wales as a platform for exporting to other EU countries.

Since I no longer have confidence in Theresa May’s ability to deliver a ‘good Brexit’ for Wales because of the massive divisions in her own party and given that the likelihood of a no-deal scenario is more likely by the day, I have come to the conclusion that we should be demanding a fresh referendum. It should be a binary choice, either to back a deal struck by Theresa May (or no deal if that happens) or to stay in the EU. The people of Wales stand a better chance of making an informed choice this time round, given that the full implications of Brexit have been laid bare.

A Nation for our Youth

As students in Wales receive their GCSE results today, Rhun ap Iorwerth has outlined some of his plans to support young people

On exam results day, Plaid Cymru Leadership Candidate Rhun ap Iorwerth has congratulated Welsh students on their success and has outlined his ‘Young Wales Plan’ that would put youth welfare at the heart of Government decision-making.

Speaking on results day for GCSE and other exams, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“Congratulations to those who received their GCSE and other exam results today after all their perseverance and thank you to the teachers and school staff for their support and hard work with the students. I wish them all the best as they make decisions about their future.

“Giving young people the opportunity to reach their potential is something that’s very important to me. I strongly believe in the ability to give educators freedom to raise and realise the aspirations of Wales’ young citizens.

“And I want to put youth welfare at the heart of everything in Government. That is why, as part of my leadership campaign, I have published my intention to create a new comprehensive ‘Young Wales Plan’ to support young people.

“The Plan will include steps to promote and look after physical and mental health through education and leisure, and will give our young people a real chance to set the agenda, including through our new Youth Parliament in Wales. I would establish a new ‘Young Wales’ information and citizenship service, learning from the ‘Young Scot’ scheme in Scotland.

“I want our young people to be excited about growing up in Wales, and feel that they have the best possible support to reach their potential, academically, at work, in health and socially.

“And the intention of my ‘Bring your Skills Home’ strategy would be to try and give every opportunity to those who have left for education and training to come back home and contribute to Wales’ future.”

Plaid Cymru’s youngest MP, Ben Lake, has given his support to Rhun in the Leadership race. He said:

“Rhun has outlined an exciting vision, and of particular importance is the prominence he gives to the future of younger generations. I am in no doubt that Rhun has the passion and ability to inspire the widespread support necessary to realise such a future. I am pleased to support his candidature for leader of Plaid Cymru.”

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.”

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.”

National Assembly backs preference for underground cables rather than pylons

The National Assembly for Wales has called on National Grid to favour undergrounding when developing new transmission programmes in Wales, such as the one proposed for Anglesey as a result of a motion tabled by Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth.
During the Plaid Cymru-led debate, Rhun spoke of the opposition on Anglesey to National Grid’s plans to build a new lines of pylons across the island and the preference towards alternative solutions which would have less of a visual impact.

Following the debate, Assembly Members voted unanimously in favour of a preference for underground cables or alternatives to pylons.
Speaking during the debate in the Senedd today, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:
“It is cost which is at the root of the National Grid’s plans on Anglesey.  Pylons are the cheapest option, or at least the short-term cost for the Grid is lower than other options.  But what about the cost of pylons to the people of Anglesey? – on the value of their homes, to businesses, to tourism, not to mention the effect on living standards?
“Rather than putting financial pressure on the people of Anglesey, the cost should be shared between all energy users.  The grid has agreed to do that in other areas of the UK.”
Speaking after the debate, Mr ap Iorwerth added:
“Today we asked the National Assembly for Wales to say that we believe that undergrounding should be the norm here in Wales – in the north Wales connection project, across Anglesey and the mainland, and every other project. 
“I am pleased to have received the backing of the majority of Assembly Members, and of Welsh Government, for a preference for undergrounding. 

“Even though I was disappointed that the Welsh Government tabled an amendment that weakened the original motion somewhat – and that a
north Wales Ukip AM give a passionate speech in favour of pylons! – the message is still a strong one. The Grid must now take into consideration that Wales’ democratic representatives have said that they should stop just looking for the cheapest option.
“Today’s vote will send a clear message to National Grid that more consideration needs to be given to alternatives to pylons, as well as a clear message to the people of Anglesey that the Assembly is behind them on this subject.”

Llangefni RFC to take on National Assembly of Wales Team

Ynys Môn AM and Llangefni RFC juniors coach Rhun ap Iorwerth has invited the Welsh Assembly Rugby team to Llangefni to raise money for the Ynys Môn National Eisteddfod 2017.

This will be Welsh Assembly Rugby’s first match in north Wales, and even though Rhun is a member of the team, he’ll be putting on the Llangefni shirt to play against his Assembly teammates.

Looking forward to the match, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“It’s great to be able to bring the National Assembly rugby team up to Anglesey. I look forward to a friendly but tough encounter – and to raising funds for the 2017 Eisteddfod and Bowel Cancer UK.  Being a Llangefni RFC Juniors coach and an Assembly Rugby team member, I’ll have a choice of which team to play for… so I can’t lose!”

Kick off is 2pm on Saturday, 12th November (just a few hours before the Wales v Argentina game). Please come along to support both teams.