Wales politics

Plaid Cymru conference: MEP calls for youth jobless EU cash

Jill Evans MEP
Image caption Jill Evans said there was 'nothing to fear' from a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has called for European Union cash to tackle long-term youth unemployment in Wales.

At the party's annual conference she said the EU had committed six billion Euros to areas with more than 25% youth unemployment but Wales is excluded because its figure is 22.2%.

She said Plaid would lobby in Europe and elsewhere to access the funding.

"Ending long-term youth unemployment is crucial in developing a better society for Wales," she said.

Speaking before her speech on the second day of the conference in Aberystwyth, she said: "The number of young people out of work for more than 12 months has quadrupled in Wales over the past two years - from around 1,400 people to 5,700.

"Access to funding from this European scheme could be the difference between a lifetime of work and a lifetime out of work for these young people, with all that this entails.

"Being out of work for a long period damages self-confidence and life chances for the future, meaning that the potential of these young people may never be realised.

Addressing party members on Saturday, Ms Evans said there was "nothing to fear" from a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

The poll has been promised by Prime Minister David Cameron if the Conservatives win the general election in 2015.

But Ms Evans said it was vital that the debate in Wales focused on Wales' interests, and that EU membership was clearly of benefit to its people.

And she said a number of structural changes were needed to make the EU function more effectively, including a second chamber for the European parliament representing nations and regions.

Mrs Evans also predicted Plaid would achieve its "best ever result" in next May's European elections.

After lunch the new assembly member for Ynys Mon, who retained the seat for Plaid Cymru emphatically over the summer in a by-election, said the party was aiming to form a majority Welsh government at the 2016 assembly election and "nothing less".

Rhun ap Iorwerth made the ambitious claim at his first speech from the conference stage.

He accused the other main political parties in Wales of being "UK-focused" while those at Westminster had "no understanding" and "seemingly no real desire" to understand the needs of Wales.

'Engender confidence'

Mr ap Iorwerth said the Welsh Labour government was unimaginative and merely following a UK agenda with a "Welsh twist".

Later Plaid Cymru parliamentary group leader Elfyn Llwyd called for a new law to protect crime victims from ill-treatment by the justice system.

He said robust action was needed to reduce online crimes, including cyber-crimes and trolling, and that anybody charged with serious violent or sexual offences should only be given bail in "very exceptional circumstances".

Mr Llwyd, a barrister on the Commons Justice Select Committee, said: "Too often victims are not taken seriously by those charged with investigating the crimes committed against them.

"This is a problem frequently cited by victims of abusive crimes, including rape and domestic violence.

"We should be doing all we can to engender confidence in our justice system, so people feel their situations will improve if they report their perpetrators' behaviour.

"That is why our conference has called on the UK government to introduce a bill of rights for victims, which would bring victims of crime back to the centre of the justice process.

"Courts should also be compelled to take risks to victims and their children into account when sentencing perpetrators," he argued.

On Friday Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood pledged to create an arms-length company to cut energy bills and promised to recruit 1,000 extra doctors, funded by sugary drinks tax, if she is first minister after the next assembly election in 2016.

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