News in brief: Simon Hart urged to condemn PM’s ‘deeply disrespectful coal mines remarks
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has written to the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, urging him to condemn the Prime Minister’s “deeply disrespectful” remarks on Margaret Thatcher’s closure of coal mines.
On a visit to Scotland yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Margaret Thatcher gave “a big early start” to green energy by closing coal mines.
Ms Saville Roberts says that Thatcher’s closure of the pits “had nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with a ploy to destroy what she termed ‘the enemy within” – the miners and their communities’.
She also criticised the UK Government for continuing to “pick the pockets of Welsh miners, now pensioners, through the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme”. Ms Saville Roberts says that a “real apology” from the Government would be to “reform the Government’s role [in the Scheme] and to improve members’ benefits.”
“Former Welsh mining communities – just like those in Scotland and the north of England – are still suffering the devastation wrought by Margaret Thatcher’s callous economic policies and obsession with destroying workers’ representation, Ms Saville Roberts’ wrote in her letter to Mr Hart.
“For the Prime Minister to use those communities as a joke punchline is deeply disrespectful, as is his fatuous attempt at rewriting history.
“Thatcher’s closure of the pits had nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with a ploy to destroy what she termed ‘the enemy within’ – the miners and their communities. Rather than reskilling workers for the industries of the future, Thatcher bulldozed whole communities in the name of right-wing economic ideology.”
“To make matters worse, the UK Government continues to pick the pockets of Welsh and UK miners, now pensioners, through the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme. The UK Government has received approximately £4.4 billion from the scheme, with the expectation of a further £1.9 billion as well as 50 per cent of any future surplus in due course, even though the Government is yet to contribute a single penny into the scheme itself, she added.
“A real apology for the Prime Minister’s crass remarks would be to review the Government’s rejection of the Business, Energy and Industrial Select Committee to reform the Government’s role and for improved members’ benefits.
“As the UK Government’s representative in Wales, you must condemn Boris Johnson’s mocking remarks. A failure to do so will confirm that the Conservatives care nothing about the human consequences of the destruction they imposed on Wales in the past.
“If that is the case, we can only conclude that vulnerable communities seeking support to make the necessary shift away from fossil fuel employment today will be as dispensable to Boris Johnson as mining communities were to Margaret Thatcher.”
Covid infections in Wales fall by over 30%
The number of people In Wales with Covid-19 has fallen by over 30%, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
In the week ending 31 July, the ONS estimates 13,000 had the virus, down 30.9% from 18,800 the previous week.
Wales continues to have the lowest estimated percentage of the UK population infected at 0.43% for the most recent week surveyed, down from 0.62 for the week ending 24 July.
Northern Ireland was the only nation to record an increase in cases in the new study, with infections rising from 27,200 to 34,400, 1.87% of the population, while England recorded the second highest rate at 1.23%, recording 722,300 cases, down from 856,200 the previous week.
Scotland was estimated to have 43,000 Covid cases, down from 49,500 last week, for a rate of 0.82%.
Meanwhile today’s update from Public Health Wales has confirmed 803 new cases of coronavirus and no further deaths in the last day.
Cardiff (66) posted the highest number of new cases since Thursday’s report, followed by Flintshire (53) and Wrexham and Swansea both with 46.
The weekly case rate has fallen from 133.4 per 100,000 people to 133.2 since yesterday, and for the seven days up to 1 August, four of 22 local authorities have posted case numbers in double figures, Blaenau Gwent (64) Ceredigion (68) Anglesey (73) and Merthyr (80).
Cardiff has reported 441 new cases, the most in Wales, but the weekly case rate in Denbighshire remains the highest in the country at 335.4, down from 356.3 yesterday.
Teenagers could be offered Covid jabs before schools and colleges reopen in September
Sixteen and 17-year-olds in Wales could be offered Covid jabs before they return to school following the end of the summer break.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed invitations could start going out within the next few days following a change in the guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation, which earlier this week expanded eligibility for the vaccine.
“We are hoping that we will be able to get this done, ideally, before they go back to their sixth forms, their colleges at the beginning of September,” the minister said.
In July the JCVI ruled out widening the vaccination programme to include younger teenagers, pointing out that up to the end of March this year, fewer than 30 children had died because of the virus in the UK.
It also described jabs as having minimal health benefits as coronavirus rarely causes severe disease in children without underlying health conditions.
“Until more safety data is available and has been evaluated, a precautionary approach is preferred,” it added in a statement issued at the time.
Resort’s ‘ludicrous’ sea defences slammed
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A councillor said it’s “ludicrous” a North Wales holiday destination has “such a poor promenade sea defence” and called new plans to be a “corporate risk” to the tourism industry.
Cllr Nigel Smith (Kinmel Bay) told a meeting of Conwy county council’s finance and resources scrutiny committee that some sections of sea defences in Towyn and Kinmel Bay were so narrow emergency vehicles couldn’t access the beach.
Cllr Smith claimed a woman recently injured her ankle on rock revetments and Rhyl lifeboat station had to send a crew to collect her and take her to Kinmel Bay to get access to medical help.
He also said putting rocks on the beach at Llandudno, to mitigate rising tides, had damaged the town’s tourism business.
Former cabinet member for economic development Cllr Goronwy Edwards rebuffed the claim, saying Llandudno and Towyn and Kinmel Bay had seen “more tourists than ever”.
Cllr Smith said: “Looking at my own area, Kinmel Bay and Towyn, we have the narrowest promenade in Conwy, if not the whole of Wales.
“It just seems ludicrous to me an area like Towyn and Kinmel Bay, which houses the most densely populated area in Western Europe for holiday accommodation, with 55,000 visitors during peak season, has such a poor promenade sea defence.
“Yet officers are not offering us an alternative, just dumping more rocks and stones on that beach, which has a detrimental effect to the economy of Conwy, because tourism is our biggest earner.
“I really feel there ought to be something on this risk register where when officers submit plans for poorly designed sea defences, not taking consideration of the (tourism) economy of the county – that should be classed as a risk in my mind.”
Cllr Greg Robbins , cabinet member for environment, said consultancy work was about to be commissioned on devising new sea defences for Towyn and Kinmel Bay.
He said: “As Cllr Nigel was aware they are going to look at the options for potentially widening the promenade, if possible. Bear in mind Welsh Government strategy is you don’t move into the sea, you hold the line or withdraw the line, you don’t advance the line. But this is something the consultants have been asked to look into once they’ve been commissioned into this work.”
Cllr Smith said he would like to see the risk of building sea defences which don’t “enhance” the area highlighted “more prominently” in the register.
He was advised to take up issue of their design with the authority’s environment, roads and facilities chief Geraint Edwards.
“We could be making the wrong decisions where people are not feeling safe,” added Cllr Smith. “And the flood defences may have an effect on the prosperity of our tourist economy.”
Cllr Goronwy Edwards said: “The tourist economy in Llandudno and Kinmel Bay are very buoyant and we’ve seen more tourists than ever.
“So to say it is a risk you’d need to quantify that – there’s no quantifying it’s actually a risk at all. It’s getting the balance right between sea defence and economic development and it certainly didn’t come up in my time as cabinet member for economic development the type of sea defences we have was a risk.”
Conwy county council’s corporate risk register includes “an event that should it occur, would impact (its) ability to successfully achieve (its) outcomes”.