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Discarding the Tidal Lagoon is “utter madness” from Cameron

The Conservative UK Government must give its full backing to the £1 billion Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and allay fears about its future.

Prime Minister David Cameron told a committee of MPs recently that his “enthusiasm” towards the scheme had been “reduced” by concerns over the electricity strike price. Farron will say that the project is a key test for the government’s commitment to the green energy sector.

The building of a £1bn tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay has been delayed by around a year as negotiations over the level of UK government funding for the project continue.

Former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey gave the initial go-ahead to the scheme. Since the Conservatives gained majority control in Westminster, enthusiasm has cooled towards the project, with new Energy Secretary Amber Rudd completely omitting the scheme from a recent key speech on energy infrastructure.

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon must go ahead. It will provide hundreds of jobs and supply energy for 120 years – over three times as long as a nuclear plant.

It would be utter madness for the Government to pull further investment from the renewable sector which generates economic growth and jobs. We have been a world leader in this field and maintaining that status is now in jeopardy. The Tidal Lagoon is a litmus test for the Government. Do you care about this agenda? Or was it all for show?

For five years we fought sceptical Tories to ensure the Coalition was the greenest Government ever. In the last six months this progress has been unravelled at an alarming pace.

The huskies, shot by Cameron ages ago when their usefulness to him had run its course, will be turning in their graves. I also feel sorry for Amber Rudd who was told by the Prime Minister that they‘d gone to live on a farm in Devon.

It is shameful that the work we began in Coalition to deliver this is being unpicked. Britain should be leading the world in the green economy and setting an example to other nations after the UN talks in Paris.

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We’ll be relentlessly focussed on getting public services right

This Labour Government is tired and bankrupt of ideas. It’s lost touch with what people need and want.

People don’t expect much from a government, yet Labour has failed to even get the basics right and is failing to provide decent public services.

In the forthcoming election, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will show that we have listened to people’s concerns. Our vision for a future Welsh parliament is one that finally gives people what they want – good schools, good hospitals and a vibrant economy. We will be relentlessly focussed on getting public services right.

People want NHS staff to have the time to properly support their loved ones, which is why we will deliver safe staffing levels, ensuring more nurses on hospital wards.

People want teachers to have the time to properly teach their children, which is why we will deliver smaller class sizes.

People want a vibrant Welsh economy with good job opportunities, which is why we’ll tear down the barriers that stop businesses from expanding.

Our priorities are the same as those of people across Wales. A vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be a vote that puts people first.

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Minister agrees to investigate ‘fundamental barrier’ to accessing books in north Wales libraries

This week I secured a commitment from the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty to investigate why booklists of libraries previously under local authority control are not being passed on to community groups when libraries are being considered for transfer under the community asset transfer scheme.

The whole point of the community asset transfer scheme is that services such as libraries which have been under the control of local authorities and are threatened with closure can be offered to local community groups as a going concern.

At the moment some north Wales councils are reluctant to share their library booklists with interested community groups, and in other instances councils want to charge significant sums for sharing their booklists with community groups.

This obviously makes it very difficult for those community groups to make informed decisions as to the viability of their proposals.

The Minister has today agreed with me that this situation is unacceptable and is a fundamental barrier to the accessing of books and other resources. She has given her commitment to discuss the matter with the Deputy Minister for Culture and write to me with his response.

I await the Minister’s response and will continue to press for guidance to be issued at a national level if the Welsh Labour Government fails to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

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More Nurses Bill passes penultimate stage

My ‘More Nurses’ bill came a step closer to reality yesterday as it passed stage 3 in the National Assembly.

The More Nurse bill, also known as Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill, will now go to its fourth and final stage on Wednesday next week. This proposal would see Wales become the first country in the UK with a legal duty to have safe nurse staffing levels on hospital wards.

My name was drawn out of a ballot for the chance to introduce her own law in December 2013. In the history of the Assembly, only one other Private Members Bill has made it all the way into law. Welsh Liberal Democrat AM, Peter Black, secured the passage of the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

Over 4,500 members of the public have signed petitions in support of the bill which, if it passes stage 4 next week, could receive royal assent in March.

It is over two years since my name came out of the hat, so I am absolutely delighted it has gotten this far.

The aim of my bill is incredibly straight forward, to ensure that nurses are deployed in the Welsh NHS in sufficient numbers to enable safe nursing care to patients at all times and to improve working conditions for nursing and other staff. The evidence shows that when legislation like this is introduced, outcomes for patients improves and lives are saved.

We have seen in England that guidance on nursing levels following the Mid Staffs scandal is being quietly dropped to make savings, that is why it is so important we have nurse staffing written into. Patient safety should be paramount and should not be at the whim of NHS finance directors.

I have received a huge amount of support from organisations like the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) but I could not have gotten this far without the support of members of the public. I am convinced it was that public support that changed the Labour Government’s mind to support it.

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Environment Bill is a missed opportunity

Labour’s Environment Bill represents a huge missed opportunity and lacks ambition.

While supporting the purposes behind the bill, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are highly critical that it is not ambitious enough. The Welsh Liberal Democrats would introduce a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050, with a 50% reduction below a 1990 baseline by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2030.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ amendments on targets to halt the loss of nature in Wales have already gained the government’s support and are now included in the bill.

Climate change is the biggest threat facing our planet. The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that Wales should play its part in fighting it.

December saw Labour Ministers talking themselves up on the climate world stage in Paris, yet at home they remain unambitious on tackling climate change. This bill will simply put Wales in line with the rest of the UK, I think we should aim for higher than that.

It’s completely unacceptable that between 2012 and 2013 greenhouse gas emissions in Wales rose by 10%, which was significantly higher than other UK nations. The fact is that Labour’s record on climate change does not match its rhetoric.

Tackling climate change shouldn’t just be seen as an obligation, but more as an opportunity to build a stronger, greener economy here in Wales. With the right ambition, we could lead the way in renewable technologies and in creating a circular economy.

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School categorisation system could do better

Whilst the results of the National Categorisation System show that a healthy percentage (79.5%) of primary schools are in the two higher categories, the situation for secondary schools is less positive with only just over half (57%) being placed in the top two green and yellow categories.

The new system is certainly an improvement on banding but it still does not take into account variations within a specific school; a green grade overall can mask any number of shortcomings in individual departments in the same way as a red grade can mask examples of excellence in a school.

It is clear that primary schools are responding well to the support they are receiving but the Labour Government and the regional consortia still have a great deal of work to do with secondary schools.

The basis for calculating the eventual category of a secondary school has been changed in the last year and so we are unable to make direct comparisons with last year’s figures, but the fact remains that many secondary schools in Wales are in need of additional support if they are to be seen to be improving.

I am still of the opinion that any system which uses an aggregate of performance in schools can never be as rigorous or beneficial as one which monitors individual pupil performance.

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