News in brief: Plaid Cymru joins calls for vote on PM’s ‘consistent failure to be honest’
Plaid Cymru have joined with five other Westminster parties in seeking a vote on the Prime Minister’s “consistent failure to be honest”.
The opposition MPs are calling for the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to allow an early motion to challenge Boris Johnson’s persistent failure to give accurate information to the House of Commons.
They say the standing and reputation of Parliament is being put at risk by the lack of truthfulness in statements by the Prime Minister and his consistent failure to live up to the standards of the Ministerial Code and Nolan Principles, in particular the requirement for honesty and truthfulness in public life.
The letter to the Speaker was organised by the Green MP Caroline Lucas and it has been signed by five other parliamentary party leaders: Ian Blackford (Scottish National party), Sir Ed Davey (Liberal Democrats), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru), Colum Eastwood (SDLP) and Stephen Farry (Alliance).
“It’s hard to recall any prime minister who has treated parliament with the contempt that this one does,” Ms Lucas said.
“There is a normalisation of lying to the house, which is deeply dangerous, especially coming from an increasingly authoritarian government which is looking at every means to avoid accountability.”
The inaccuracies highlighted in the letter include:
- Claiming in January 2020 that “The economy under this Conservative Government has grown by 73%”. That is the growth figure since 1990, a period which also covers 13 years of Labour governments.
- Claiming in March 2020 that “we have restored the nurses’ bursary”. Although student nurses have been awarded a maintenance grant, this is not equivalent to the nurses’ bursary
- A statement in June 2020 that “There are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000, fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010”. This was denied by both the Children’s Commissioner and the Office for Statistics Regulation.
- A claim in February that “Bridgend would be one of the great centres of battery manufacturing in Britain”, which the Government later admitted was wrong but the Prime Minister has never formally retracted.
- Also in February, the Prime Minister said about Covid-related contracts that “all the details are on the record”, in direct contradiction to a High Court ruling which had found the Government to be in breach of the law for not putting everything on the record.
In a statement to MPs on 11 March, the Speaker said: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”
“Lies, corruption scandals and a lack of accountability have defined Westminster’s broken politics for years. But never before has trust in politics been so miserably undermined than by Boris Johnson’s catalogue of lies, Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid’s group leader in the House of Commons, said.
“It is time for the Prime Minister to be held to account. If current structures prove incapable of doing so, there clearly need to be a change in the law to stop a further decline in the quality of public debate.”
Last week, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams, challenged Boris Johnson about a lack of honesty in the House of Commons.
Mr Williams said that “lies, corruption scandals and a lack of accountability have defined Westminster’s rotten politics for years” and said that Plaid Cymry will be proposing a new law to be introduced to make lying by politicians illegal.
Mr Johnson was asked if he supported the “principle” behind the proposed Bill and said he would “concur with the basic principle”.
Speaking after the session, Mr Williams said: “The Prime Minister’s response to my question was quite literally unbelievable.
“The public’s trust in politics has been trashed by a string of bare faced lies by Boris Johnson and others in his Tory Cabinet.
“His jocular response will do nothing to restore that trust. It just confirms the obvious fact that he does not take lying to the public to be a serious concern.”
Two new Covid deaths reported in Wales
Today’s update from Public Health Wales has confirmed two further deaths due to coronavirus and 102 new cases of the virus.
Due to changes to the way PHW reports statistics on the pandemic, introduced on Saturday, today’s report includes data reported for the 48-hour period up to 9am on Sunday.
The newly reported deaths were in the Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda health board areas.
Cardiff recorded new 19 new cases over the weekend, the highest in the country but Swansea continues to report the highest weekly case rate at 31.2 per 100,000 people, up from 30.4 in yesterday’s report. It also has the highest positive test percentage at 3.3% up from 3.2% per 100,000 tests yesterday.
Since the start of the mass vaccination programme in Wales last December, 1,692,463 people have had a first dose of vaccine and 602,807 have had both doses.
Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said:
“On Friday the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that pregnant women should be offered the Cvid-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group. JCVI advice is followed in Wales.
“As there is more experience of the use of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in pregnancy those vaccines are therefore the preferred vaccines to offer to pregnant women.”
Hospices call for ‘fair’ funding from Betsi Cadwaladr health board.
Three hospices in north Wales say they have been “chronically underfunded” for too long and are calling for an increase in the financial support they receive from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
St David’s Hospice in Llandudno, St Kentigern Hospice, St Asaph, and Wrexham-based Nightingale House Hospice are only given 16% towards the cost of running their services every year. The other 84% – which equates to millions of pounds – is raised through public donations and fundraising.
In comparison, hospices in South Wales collect between 30-40% annually from their relevant health boards, as do those in England.
The three North Wales hospices have requested a contribution of 30% towards their clinical costs from the health board to ensure they can continue to operate.
“We have been trying to enter into discussions with BCUHB for years, but nothing has ever been done, nothing has changed, and the issue has not been resolved,” St David’s Hospice Chief Executive Trystan Pritchard said.
“We don’t want more than anyone else and are not asking for special treatment, we just want a level playing field for hospices in this region – that should not be too much to ask.
“Our standards of care are as good as anywhere else in the UK; we provide a first-class service and the patients and families in North Wales deserve better.
“Given that a hospice bed costs £600 a night, and just £100 of that is paid for by the health board, a 30% contribution is a fair compromise.”
“We are constantly told that we are an essential service and part of the NHS family, but the reality is that we are always the poor relation,” he added.
The hospices’ campaign for equal funding follows a drive last summer to access emergency cash following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and a subsequent decline in revenue, as charity shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled.
Football and rugby clubs unite to clear rubbish dumped in a Torfaen valley
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Rubbish which was left dumped in a Torfaen valley for years has been cleared up thanks to the efforts of a rugby club and football team.
Players from Fairfield United football club and Talywain RFC teamed up with other volunteers to clear fly-tipping from the Cwmnantddu Valley on the British mountain.
Old fridges, tyres and a microwave were among items to be cleared up from the valley at the clear-up on Saturday.
Abersychan councillor Chris Tew helped organise the clear-up after being contacted by the Flytipping and Litter Action Group who were clearing up litter in the area.
“We are trying to highlight the issue to stop fly-tipping in the area because we are having a nightmare with it,” he said.
“This fly-tipping had been in the valley for years.
“People drive up to the top and throw their rubbish down and they are ruining the countryside.
“It’s a beautiful valley and we want to keep it clear of litter for people to enjoy.”
Cllr Tew said there are also parts of old rusted cars down in the valley which they plan to clear up in the future.