Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Conflict of Interest, Electoral, Agricultural & Education Policies Critiqued

A Political Diary

Things That Were Said , Senedd & Westminster , March 1, 2024
A Political Diary by Things That Were Said 16th February. “A UK Cabinet Office inquiry is under way into a complaint that Wales’ most senior civil servant failed to carry out a proper investigation into concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving a lobbyist who is also a member of the Welsh Government body which advises on major infrastructure schemes.

“Dr Andrew Goodall rejected the suggestion there was anything wrong with Stephen Brooks sitting as a commissioner on the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW), which advises the government on renewable energy projects. while also being a senior adviser for Cardiff lobbying firm Deryn Consulting, which represents clients in the renewable energy industry.

"Deryn’s most recent list of clients, as declared to the professional body PRCA, includes renewable energy developers RWE and Wind2. A recent former client is Statkraft, another renewable energy firm.

“In September 2023 Mr Brooks, together with the chair of NICW, Dr David Clubb, gave evidence to the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at a meeting about the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill, which is intended to introduce a simplified process for granting consent to major infrastructure projects in Wales.

“It was an opportunity to influence lawmakers. In several instances as he gave evidence, Mr Brooks urged that the interests of developers should be taken into account. In total, Mr Brooks mentioned developers during his evidence four times. Before giving evidence, he did not declare to the committee that he worked as a lobbyist for Deryn.

“….The Cabinet Office has confirmed that an investigation is under way.

“The Welsh Government declined to comment.”

Source: https://nation.cymru/news/wales-top-civil-servant-under-investigation-by-cabinet-office-in-conflict-of-interest-row/

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28th February: It is not usual for a London magazine to take an interest in Wales. Will Lloyd made his article personal and headed it “Mark Drakeford Doesn't Understand Wales”.

“But in truth, browsing the 90-page consultation document behind it, the SFS is a classic Drakeford policy. Its proposals include the surreal suggestion that farmers take online personal development courses. There are stipulations regarding the height and width of hedgerows.

"Every farmer must build two large ponds on their property. The SFS is like a manual for piano playing written by somebody who cannot read music. It is profoundly, hermetically numb.

“That chilly remoteness is the hallmark of Drakeford’s six years in office. He assumed power in 2018, promising to follow the “radical socialist traditions” of flashier Labour Welshmen such as Aneurin Bevan. Drakeford is the only Corbynite to ever hold significant power in Britain.

"As such, his six years as First Minister stand as both a hallucinatory alternate universe where Corbyn actually governed the country and a possible future blueprint for what Drakeford calls “21st-century socialism”.

“It is a puzzling kind of ideology. Drakeford strangles the speed limit for cars. He bans the building of crucial infrastructure. He brings in punitive levies on tourists and 300 per cent taxes on holiday homes. Proposals to ban the sale of coffee to under-16s were agonisingly mulled over in the Senedd.

"Yes, Drakeford has overseen a shift towards state intervention and ownership. But the Welsh economy has barely noticed and droops behind almost every other part of the country, ranking 11th out of the 12 UK nations and regions.

“There will be many demands on Keir Starmer to indulge in Drakeford-style socialism in the years ahead: to prioritise the fantasies of urban policymakers over the realities of rural people, to be guided by abstract dogmas rather than the needs of workers and their families. The chaotic evidence of Drakeford’s Wales suggests these are demands he should ignore.”

Source: https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2024/02/mark-drakeford-doesnt-understand-wales

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29th February: The electoral reform in Wales was debated in Westminster. Stephen Crabb:

“My big concern is about how they intend to elect those Members. I have questioned the First Minister about the fact that there will be multiple Members for the same constituency.

"The First Minister did not think it presented such a problem, and suggested that one of the strengths of the new system will be that someone who might want to take an issue to a Conservative Member of the Senedd could do that, or they could take it to Plaid Cymru Member, because that might reflect their political preference.

"That is a fundamental shift from how we go about our business as Members of Parliament in our constituencies. I do not care whether someone voted, how they voted, or whether they put up a sign for me or did everything they could to get me out of office. I will represent that person to the very best of my ability.

“I fear that with a “plurality of representation”—to use the First Minister’s words—in these new supersized constituencies, we will end up with a fuzzier, more diluted sense of democracy in Wales at a time when both in Westminster and in Cardiff we need Welsh politicians to be much more effective and show value to all our constituents and get the change that we want in Wales, as it desperately needs."

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4th March: The reforms of agricultural support were debated in the House of Commons. Fay Jones:

“Farmers will be forced into an atrocious set of data-gathering and reporting on a yearly basis. They will be forced to submit data on the amount of medicines they give their animals and the rates of lamb loss in their flock. They will have to submit soil samples and even data on worm numbers and seed receipts.

"The scheme will require every farmer to do six online training courses each and every year, and most controversially of all, it will force farmers to take 10% of their land out of production to plant trees, harming our ability to feed ourselves. Last week a number of farmers travelled to Cardiff Bay to protest against these changes.

"These protesters were not extremists or conspiracy theorists, as Labour MPs labelled them last week. They were raising legitimate grievances about the viability of their businesses under the Welsh Government’s plans.”

Ben Lake: “The hon. Gentleman is right to state the fears of his farmers, which are very much aligned with those expressed to me by farmers in Ceredigion, that the potential change in this policy is, frankly, a matter of life and death for their businesses.

“...It is important, given the gravity of the situation facing the Welsh agricultural industry, that the sustainable farming scheme should be changed. I would suggest that it should be paused to begin with, so that we have time to devise a proper policy that is fit for the 21st century.

“If my colleagues decide that they need to use every possible lever, I will say all power to their elbow, and if that means the demise of the co-operation agreement, I will certainly not be mourning its passing.”

Source: Hansard

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13th March: The Welsh Government puts out publicity online every day.

“Being kind and caring is what makes us uniquely Welsh”.

Source: ersdpntoSo100g01t435t0c8226541449im85983lfh5706h19t3f7flaf86 

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21st March: The IFS issued a report on education. Luke Sibieta, IFS research fellow and author of the report, said: "Faced with this gloomy picture policymakers should have the courage to make reforms based on solid evidence such as increasing the emphasis on specific knowledge in the curriculum and making better use of data to shine a spotlight on inequalities throughout the system. Without reform the picture may worsen."

“Responding to the report Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “Our belief is that the huge raft of reforms occurring at such pace across many different areas of the Welsh education system is making it increasingly challenging for the workforce to focus on their core purpose of helping young people to learn.

"Rather than this scattergun approach to reform, which does not appear to be improving outcomes, policymakers need to focus their attention on key areas that will help aid learning, particularly for disadvantaged pupils."

“Shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones said: "The state of education in Wales is incredibly concerning and this report highlights how badly Labour have got it wrong. Not only does Wales have the lowest Pisa results in the UK, across the board there are poor educational outcomes in Wales.”

Source: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/wales-education-reforms-not-working-28853980

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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