Welsh Questions: "An extraordinary thing has happened"

 

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness appears to have arrived at Westminster, and with it a first chance in three months for MPs to question the secretary of state for Wales.

The subjects were familiar. Both the Conservatives and Labour wanted to talk about the economy; Labour also wanted to highlight the impact of cuts in housing benefit. Plaid Cymru focused on constitutional change and the Barnett formula and the three Welsh Liberal Democrats, er, stayed silent. (Jenny Willott was there but as a whip stayed silent, Roger Williams and Mark Williams were in their constituencies).

The vocabulary was equally familiar and if your Welsh questions bingo card contained "savage cuts" (Peter Hain), "(Barnett) consequentials" (Elfyn Llwyd) and "in due course" (David Jones, inevitably) you may have had a full house before noon.

Mr Llwyd wanted to know why Wales won't get a share of the £42bn HS2 rail project spending in England. The answer was the same as before the summer recess - it's deemed to be of UK importance and will benefit Wales.

"In due course" was the latest guidance offered by David Jones on the timing of the UK government's response to that Silk commission report suggesting Wales should get the power to vary some taxes.

Welsh political anoraks will recognise this phrase as the same one offered by Mr Jones when asked the same question in July or indeed in November last year. Mr Jones put the delay down to the consultation on the devolution of stamp duty land tax, consultation on which ended one month ago tomorrow.

The liveliest exchanges came over changes to housing benefit, what the UK government calls the abolition of the "spare room subsidy" and its opponents call "the bedroom tax".

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith asked Wales Office Minister (and Whip) Stephen Crabb:

"Will he confirm for the record whether, according to the government's own figures, Wales is hit harder than anywhere else in the UK? As he mentioned the disabled, will he tell us how many disabled households in Wales are hit by the bedroom tax?"

Stephen Crabb: "We have had this question before. Wales is not hit harder—to use the hon. Gentleman's terminology—than other parts of the United Kingdom. What is remarkable is that he still clings to the mythical economics of plan B. More than anybody else in the opposition, he argues for more spending, more borrowing and more debt, all of which is a road to poverty for people in Wales."

Owen Smith: "The government's own impact assessment states that 46% of households in social housing in Wales have been hit by the bedroom tax, which is a higher proportion than anywhere else in Britain. Those are the government's own numbers. The bedroom tax will also hit 25,000 disabled families. "

Mr Crabb said the UK government was making more than £7m extra to Wales for discretionary housing benefits: "We recognise that it is a challenge and a difficult period for people going through our changes to housing benefit, but we are supporting local authorities in Wales to help Welsh people through that transition."

That didn't satisfy Mr Smith, who later rushed out a press release accusing the minister of getting his facts wrong. He said the DWP's own impact assessment (see page 10) suggested a higher proportion of households in social housing in Wales would lose out than in Britain (31%).

I put Mr Smith's argument to the Wales Office, which declined to comment.

A few minutes later, question time ended with Speaker John Bercow's summing up: "An extraordinary thing has happened. The appetite for interrogation of hon. and right hon. Members seems to have dried up. We have completed all the questions and we have had the answers."

Messrs Jones, Crabb, Smith and Llwyd will be back next month, or in due course, as the Wales Office calendar might put it.

 
David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

They think it's all over. It is now.

Welsh Secretary David Jones and his deputy Stephen Crabb have been answering MPs' questions for the last time before the summer recess.

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 116.

    110.Chris London

    Being English and a Unionist why would you support anything Welsh

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 115.

    110.Chris London
    YOU NEED TO GET A LIFE!!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 114.

    110.Chris London
    Having listened to the speech, I can only say that I am utterly amazed at how much sugarary, fizzy drinks the Welsh must be consuming
    As an English blogger I'm amazed you are even interested in Welsh politics or perhaps it effects your holiday home or perhaps you are a unionist( right wing) who hates any thing WELSH.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 113.

    If Wales such a poor place to live in then you can go back to your native Country. Most of the people who are disillusioned are upset because like most English people they can't understand other cultures. There is more to the UK than 'only way is Essex'

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 112.

    why is it that virtually all investment by the WAG goes to South Wales in including that " White Elephant" Cardiff Airport.
    In the last few years the only major investment in North Wales has come from Westminster i.e. The Super Prison in Wrexham and the go ahead for the replacement of Wyfra. large numbers of people up here are disillusioned, perhaps we should join North-West England.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 111.

    Apologies to BBC for including Bangor and Swansea University to the following:
    In order to:
    • Provide a better service for a bilingual Wales
    • Welcome tourists in their own language
    • Be equipped to export and sell overseas
    • Improve workplace skills
    • Increase company profits

    They’ll translate WL brochures into Chinese, Japanese, you name it for small businesses in Wales

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 110.

    Having listened to the speech, I can only say that I am utterly amazed at how much sugarary, fizzy drinks the Welsh must be consuming. For Plaid have promised 1,000 extra doctors paid for by a 20p tax on the aforesaid drinks. Well let’s do a little maths. The minimum "total cost" of an extra doctor in the NHS is £100k X 1,000 = £100,000,000. So that’s 500,000,000 fizzy drinks or 166 each.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 109.

    Never Ending, Never short of Money and Never short of dishonesty:
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 108.

    #107 "I have no doubt that the re-establishment of Welsh will play a vital role in the economic recovery of the country."
    Sure. The Chinese Goverment even now is setting up institutes to teach engineering in Welsh to trade with the new titan of world trade.
    These montagnards - if successful - will drive out the well-educated English minority and preside over a society like Saudi Arabia,

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 107.

    Re.99
    I have no doubt that the re-establishment of Welsh will play a vital role in the economic recovery of the country.

    Re.103
    I'm immune to superstition. The economic foundation of any nation are the thousands of SMEs scattered throughout the land in the communities. Cohesion, identity/language and economics go together. Large scale industries are prone to global forces, as you rightly imply!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 106.

    ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-24457978

    a discussion of NHS Wales, not very complimentary, so far, the end of term report would be "could do much better".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 105.

    #101 I don't know if WAG is consciously copying German usage, but it seems to be trying to move in that direction: local health centres with combined GP practices, radiography, simple pathology tests, physiotherapy = polyclinics.
    However, the Great Welsh Public doesn't seem impressed. Everyone with a teaching hospital at the bottom of the garden wants to keep it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    BBC should allow more space for comments and afford this privilege to all news items After all what Joe Public thinks should be important to a public body!? Wales is in the dumps because of Welsh language imposition and WAG + BBC must realise that the only way forward is FREEDOM of CHOICE for linguistic preference and NO COMPULSION

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 103.

    97.Cythraul
    Your superstition is totally without substance. There is no correlation between the economic history of Wales and the use of the Welsh language. There is however a direct link between heavy industry and the economy. Mining, Steel Etc brought employment and economic growth to wales. Unfortunatley there was not enough diversification out these industries.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 102.

    #100 Cont. Further, Denmark does not contain the large tracts of marginal agricultural land (however beautiful) that Wales has that support sparse populations. The problems of Powys etc are not found in Denmark, so it as futile to seek solutions there as it is to seek the Celestial Emperor in low-class tearooms. Does Connaught do better ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 101.

    Having strong links with Germany and better than average understanding of healthcare throughout Europe I do think Wales should look at German health service provisions and there should be no shame in copying good ideas as what Wales has now is a third world health provisions and getting worse

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 100.

    #98 LW is totally naive in her statement. "Plaid Cymru has said previously Wales can learn from how Norway, Germany and Denmark have offered modern hospital care without centralisation."
    Germany has a strong structure of polyclinics rather than GP practices, that replicate the smaller hospitals without trauma and maternity units that we are moving reluctantly towards. Centralisation ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 99.

    #97 There is much in your comment. However, the chicken&egg factor is important. From one view, a revival of Welsh use might well reverse economic decline. From the other, expenditure on increasing Welsh usage would be futile from the aspect of increasing economic growth.
    Your use of the world 'linked' is unfortunate. It implies causation rather than co-incidence. Surely, we just don't know.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 98.

    ... it's extraordinary that Plaid leader Wood is supporting Westminster's concern with non-domiciled people using our NHS resources

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-24457978

    "...Wales can learn from how ... Denmark ... care without centralisation."

    In Denmark everyone has to be registered and carry a card as documentary proof of your right to [health] services. Conservative ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    Say what you will, it doesn't require much reasoning (in short supply it would seem) to understand that Welsh economic and linguistic decline throughout most of the 20th Century are linked, both directly and indirectly (though not absolutes of course). There is also the 'chicken and egg' element to that correlation, but that in itself only serves to prove the co-dependant nature of both factors.

 

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