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Spectre of tourism tax raised by Labour-Plaid Cymru pact says Wales Tourism Alliance

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Plaid Cymru

Labour and Plaid Cymru confirm Welsh Government co-operation agreement

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Welsh Labour’s First Minister Mark Drakeford and Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price have unveiled their long-trailed co-operation agreement

The agreement is a joint policy programme covering 46 areas, ranging from the delivery of free school meals to all primary school pupils; a commitment to take immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis, to long-term reform of the Senedd.

They say that this is a new form of political working arrangement. The two partners – the ruling Labour party’s Welsh Government and the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group – will work together to jointly develop and oversee the delivery of the policies covered by the agreement over the coming three years.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The Welsh Government has an ambitious Programme for Government, which it will deliver over this Senedd term. But we do not have a monopoly on good ideas and we will work with progressive parties where we have shared and common interests to benefit people in Wales.

“This Co-operation Agreement brings the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru together to respond to some of the most pressing issues facing Wales today, such as climate change and the energy and cost-of-living crisis.

“We can achieve more for people in Wales by working together and the Co-operation Agreement is both a response to the external challenges we face and a chance to build on the opportunities in our future. It will also help us secure a stable Senedd over the next three years, capable of delivering radical change and reform.

“These commitments build on our shared values of social solidarity, a sustainable planet and a vibrant democracy.” 

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Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru said: “Almost a quarter of a century ago, people in Wales voted for self-government for Wales, with a promise of a new type of politics.

“They placed their trust in a new democracy with an instruction to work differently – inclusively and co-operatively. 

“The challenges we face require real ambition to deliver radical ideas. The fallout from leaving the European Union, the legacy of the pandemic, and the UK Government’s determination to erode the Senedd’s powers all increase the need for transformational change.

“Taken together, the bold policy pledges will unite Wales and benefit every generation, from all primary school pupils receiving free school meals to a national care service, free at the point of need.

“I am pleased this pioneering Co-operation Agreement is founded on common ground on a range of issues that will make a long-lasting difference to people’s lives.”

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As part of the agreement, a publicly-owned energy company for Wales could be created to encourage community-owned renewable energy generation; there will be further investment in flood defences and new measures to strengthen the Welsh language and support for young people’s mental health.

The groups are keen to stress that this is a bespoke agreement – it is not a coalition; Plaid Cymru Members will not be joining the Welsh Government as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Plaid Cymru will appoint a designated lead member for the agreement and committees made up of Welsh Ministers and Plaid Cymru designated members will be established to reach agreement on issues covered by the Co-operation Agreement.

Funding has been put in place as part of the Co-operation Agreement and will be reflected in the draft Budget, when it is published in December.

Both parties reiterated that all issues outside the Co-operation Agreement will be handled in the normal course of political engagement.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and the party’s sole Senedd member Jane Dodds MS responded to the deal saying: “Now more than ever it is important that parties are able to work together to confront the big issues affecting Wales. I look forward to seeing the detail but be assured that as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats I will continue to demand better people across Wales and hold both Labour and Plaid Cymru to account.

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“On the surface, there are a number of issues which have been covered in the announcement that were part of our manifesto, including work to tackle Wales’ high child poverty levels through the expansion of free school meals and greater childcare provision. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will work constructively with the Government on issues such as the above and in improving our democracy and fighting for increased powers for Wales.

“But, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will remain an independent opposition party ready to hold Labour and Plaid Cymru to account, particularly in how they intend to reach their goals of net-zero by 2035.

“I will continue to fight to make the Welsh Liberal Democrat’s budget priorities heard. This includes our desire to see a Children’s and Young People’s Budget, a ringfenced budget for mental health, more action on the cost of living crisis and support for small businesses.

“I am also concerned the agreement does include measures to tackle long NHS and ambulance waiting times. It is absolutely vital that all parties and stakeholders work together to tackle the crisis in healthcare provision in Wales as we continue to recover from COVID-19.

“Unlike the Welsh Conservatives who take their instructions from Westminster, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will remain an independent opposition voice for Wales.

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“Against a backdrop of job insecurity, the rising cost of living, and coronavirus, people across Wales need to see practical solutions to their problems and that is what I and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to work towards.”

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Arts and Entertainment

Senedd approves extension of NHS COVID pass to include cinemas, theatres and concert halls

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Members of the Senedd have approved the extension of the NHS COVID pass to cinemas, theatres and concert halls in Wales.

The first vote to introduce the scheme was tight, passing by only one vote after a member of the Welsh Conservatives had technical problems voting remotely.

The vote to extend the COVID pass scheme passed easily after Plaid Cymru supported the Welsh Labour motion, having previously voted against introducing the scheme.

Following the vote, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said: “I am pleased the extension has been agreed today following the vote. Covid has not gone away and cases remain high and we need to continue take steps to Keep Wales Safe.  The NHS COVID Pass is one measure among many to help to keep businesses open while also helping to control the spread of the virus. 

“The decision to introduce them has not been taken lightly and the venues that will be covered are indoors and see large numbers of people being closely together for prolonged periods of time.

“Since 11 October, people have been required to show an NHS COVID Pass or recent negative lateral flow test result to enter nightclubs, similar venues and events and the service is working well. We have received positive feedback from a range of businesses and organisers of major events, including following the recent rugby internationals.  We will continue to work with the sectors who are implementing the scheme to best support them.”

The Welsh Conservative constitutional spokesman Darren Millar said there were “many ethical and equality issues with Covid passes”, repeating concerns that results from lateral flow devices are self-declared.

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“You can swab your dog and put its result in that system and still get your vaccine passport to be able to attend any event, nightclub, cinema theatre or anywhere else, it is ridiculous.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats, whose sole AM, Jane Dodds MS also voted against the motion said the party was disappointed to see the COVID pass system extended.

Jane Dodds MS said: “Our view remains that the system is both illiberal and unworkable and we have not been provided with evidence to the contrary. The Welsh Government has broken trust by expanding a scheme it initially stated was for very limited circumstances.

“Despite requests to the Health Minister, we have not been provided with any evidence that shows the scheme has been effective in keeping down case numbers. There has also been no evidence provided to as why cinemas, theatres and concert halls have been singled out specifically.

“Both the Government’s own advisory unit and Chief Medical Officer have themselves admitted in the last week that the impact of the scheme is likely very small.

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“It is deeply concerning the impact this decision will have on small businesses across Wales, over the last few weeks a number of community cinemas and theatres have gotten in touch with to express their fear of how they are meant to hire new staff to enforce this scheme without any financial support from the Welsh Government.

“Beyond the practical implications of this scheme remains an example of poor law-making with no set review period. How long will the passes be in place? Where and when will they be expanded to next?

“There will be serious financial repercussions if the scheme is expanded to other forms of hospitality including restaurants and cafes. We could also end up in the same situation as Italy, which has now mandated COVID Passports for public transport.

“Finally, I find it utterly hypocritical for the Conservatives to pretend they are the ones defending civil liberties and evidence-based policy when their Party is currently trying to push through voter ID against all evidence showing that it is ineffective and unnecessary.

“The willingness for Plaid Cymru and the Conservative to only stand up for liberal values and civil liberties when it suits them best shows exactly why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are needed in the Senedd.”

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Commenting on the U-turn by Plaid Cymru Jane Dodds said: “In their U-turn Plaid Cymru have also shown us today that they will only stand up for liberal values when it suits them politically. 

“The facts on the ground have not changed at all since the last vote has been held. Unless Plaid Cymru knows something the rest of us don’t, there is no reason they should have changed their mind.”

Following the vote NHS COVID passes will now be needed in cinemas, theatres and concert halls from Monday 15 November.

(Lead image: Photo by Luis Quintero / Pexels.com)

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Carmarthen

Renewed calls to reopen Aberystwyth to Carmarthen rail link

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Plaid Cymru Senedd Member, Cefin Campbell is renewing calls for the former rail line between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen to be reopened.

The call comes after the Welsh Government announced their £1bn Welsh Metro plan for future rail and bus investment – but without a firm commitment to the Mid Wales rail link.

Announcing the metro plans last week, Welsh Labour Climate Change minister Lee Waters outlined the Welsh Government’s strategy to meet their target of undertaking 45 per cent of journeys by public transport or active travel by 2040.

The Welsh Government’s current proposals for south west Wales include a Swansea Bay Metro, preliminary work on a Hydrogen bus pilot in Pembrokeshire and a new railway station at St Clears delivered by Transport for Wales by 2024.

In response, Plaid Cymru MS Mr Campbell has renewed calls for the Carmarthen line to be reopened.

He said: “Whilst I welcome announcements by Welsh Government to encourage greater use of public transport, including a new station at St Clears, greater emphasis must be placed on the reopening of west Wales railways to get Welsh climate ambitions on track”.

“Wales’ currently disjointed railway infrastructure remains unfit for purpose, and in vast swathes of west Wales, residents are left with no choice but to rely on pollutive private transport to undertake their daily commutes.

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“With almost a fifth of Wales’ carbon emissions generated from transport, it’s vital that an integrated, accessible transport map is placed at the heart of the Welsh Government’s ambitions. I have no doubt that reopening the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line would radically change the Welsh public transport map – securing green transport and unprecedented benefits for the west Wales economy.

“Plaid Cymru have also long called for a metro in south west Wales, however it’s vital that such developments include rail and light rail services to our valley communities and cannot just be centred on Swansea and other major towns. As such, serious consideration must be given to re-introducing passenger services to both the Amman and Gwendraeth Valleys.”

Campaign group Traws Link Cymru was formed in 2013 with aim of reinstating the railway lines between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, and Afon Wen to Bangor, both of which were closed to passengers under the 1960s Beeching Cuts.

A feasibility study published by Welsh Government in 2018 confirmed that re-opening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth part of the route was technically feasible, although set the price tag at £775m.

Traws Link Cymru published their own subsequent review which claimed that the cost of re-opening the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway was around £620 million, 20% less than the Welsh Government’s costings. The report also found that 97% of the original track bed was clear and that re-opening was a realistic prospect.

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