Boris Johnson has named former Justice Secretary and MP for South Swindon Robert Buckland as the new Welsh Secretary.
The Llanelli-born MP was named in a major cabinet reshuffle after dozens of Conservative MPs quit Government roles forcing Boris Johnson to resign as leader of the party.
Boris has indicated he will continue as Prime Minister until the Autumn, where new Prime Minister will be appointed in time for October’s Conservative Party Conference.
Robert Buckland follows Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart’s resignation as Welsh Secretary earlier this morning (7 July).
Mr Buckland was previously Justice Secretary from July 2019 to September 2021.
Minister visits Llanelli’s Pentre Awel site before autumn start date
Council leaders in Carmarthenshire have welcomed the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies MP to the site of Llanelli’s landmark Pentre Awel development.
Mr Davies visited the 83-acre site at Delta Lakes to find out more about the innovative Carmarthenshire County Council-led project which has received £40million funding as part of the Swansea Bay City Deal.
The first development of its scope and size in Wales, Pentre Awel will bring together life science innovation, community healthcare and modern leisure facilities at one prime location.
It will provide world-class medical research and health care delivery and support and encourage people to lead active and healthy lives creating over 1,800 jobs and boosting the local economy by £467million over the next 15 years.
Pentre Awel is one of nine major projects under the Swansea Bay City Deal which is being funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector.
The business case was approved by UK and Welsh Government earlier this year and building work on Zone One of the project will start this autumn with an estimated completion date of summer 2024.
It includes a new state-of-the-art leisure centre and hydrotherapy pool together with education, research and business development space; a clinical research and delivery centre; and a well-being skills centre. Externally, Pentre Awel will enjoy landscaped outdoor public spaces for recreation, walking and cycling.
Wales Office Minister David TC Davies said: “I was delighted to see the start of this exciting project and congratulate some of the people who’ve worked so hard on it.
“The UK Government is proud of our financial contribution which, along with our partners, will help deliver this hugely ambitious plan. It has the potential to transform lives by creating innovations in health and wellbeing, as well as providing an economic boost to the area. This is levelling up in action.”
Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges including Cardiff University, Coleg Sir Gȃr, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism Cllr Gareth John said: “Pentre Awel is one of the largest regeneration schemes of its kind in Wales and will deliver a significant programme of community benefits and economic regeneration across the county.
“Not only will it bring major employment and training opportunities for the area, but it will also provide state-of-the-art leisure and health facilities for local people. It is a truly transformational project, and it will make a huge difference to people’s lives.”
Bouygues UK have been appointed to design and build Zone One following an extensive tendering process via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework. The contract has a key focus on social value to ensure significant employment and training opportunities for local people during the construction phase.
Peter Sharpe, Bouygues UK’s Project Director at Pentre Awel said: “It was great to welcome Mr Davies to the site at Pentre Awel and talk through our plans for the building of the development and how we will be working closely with the local community, as well as Carmarthenshire County Council, to create as many employment and training opportunities for people in the region.
“Our first meet the buyer event was a marvellous success and we have already spoken to many local suppliers and sub-contractors about how they could work with us at Pentre Awel. We are now looking forward to beginning the ground works and then pushing ahead with the build, working in partnership with as many local businesses as possible.”
Later phases of the scheme include a hotel, a range of social and affordable housing, assisted living accommodation and a nursing home.
(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Review finds ’cause for concern’ in some parts of road fuel market
A review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of competition in the road fuel market has found “cause for concern” in the growing gap between the price of crude oil when it enters refineries, and the wholesale price when it leaves refineries as petrol or diesel.
The urgent review, requested by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last month and sent to the UK government yesterday (7 July), has today been published in full.
The report finds that the main drivers of increased road fuel prices are: the rising cost of crude oil; and a growing gap between the crude oil price and the wholesale price of petrol and diesel – the so-called ‘refining spread’.
The ‘refining spread’ tripled in the last year, growing from 10p to nearly 35p per litre.
The CMA say that over the same period, the so-called ‘retailer spread’ (the difference between the wholesale price and the price charged to motorists) fluctuated but remained about 10p per litre on average.
On the whole the fuel duty cut appears to have been implemented, with the largest fuel retailers doing so immediately and others more gradually.
The CMA added that the report showed significant differences in price between many rural and urban areas.
In light of some of the concerns found and the urgency of the situation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a market study that will examine the road fuel market in more depth, making full use of its compulsory information gathering powers. An interim update will be published in the autumn.
The CMA was also asked by the UK government to advise on possible measures “to increase the transparency that consumers have over retail prices”. The review sets out how an open data scheme could help consumers more easily access and compare local pump price information, and create new commercial opportunities for tech developers.
The CMA added that there may also be merit in providing more information about pump prices on motorways.
Sarah Cardell, CMA General Counsel, said: “The recent rises in pump prices are a major worry for millions of drivers. While there is no escaping the global pressures pushing up fuel prices, the growing gap between the oil price, and the wholesale price of petrol and diesel, is a cause for concern. We now need to get to the bottom of whether there are legitimate reasons for this and, if not, what action can be taken to address it.
“On the whole the retail market does seem to be competitive, but there are some areas that warrant further investigation. These include finding out whether the disparities in price between urban and rural areas are justified.
“This area of work is a major priority for the CMA and if we can help, we will. That’s why we are immediately launching a market study that will use our formal legal powers to investigate this in more depth. If evidence emerges of collusion or similar wrongdoing, we won’t hesitate to take action.”
What is driving high pump prices?
The CMA say the principal drivers of rising pump prices over the last 12 months have been:
Crude oil prices, which reached record levels in sterling terms in March 2022, and have continued to rise since then. The dollar-terms increase in oil prices over the last year accounts for around a third of the rise in road fuel prices (20p per litre), with the fall in the value of sterling in that period adding a further 12% (7p per litre).
A growing gap between the price of crude oil entering refineries and the wholesale price of petrol and diesel leaving them (the ‘refining spread’). This accounts for just over 40% of the growth in road fuel prices (24p per litre). Both increased demand post-COVID-19 recovery and reductions in supply (in particular due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the mothballing of refining capacity during COVID-19) appear to have played a role in driving up the refining spread.
Although there are concerns from some about fuel retailers profiting from the current situation, the CMA say their review finds that over the course of a year, the gap between wholesale prices and retail prices (the ‘retailer spread’) has not been a significant contributor to the overall rise in pump prices.
The retailer spread is volatile, and the CMA say they are aware that in recent weeks it has grown larger. The CMA say they will be monitoring this closely as it takes forward the market study.
Further analysis of the relationship between wholesale and retail prices – including how rises and falls in wholesale prices are reflected at the pump – will be carried out as part of the CMA’s market study.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign as leader of Conservatives
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will resign as leader of the Conservative Party, but will stay on until the Autumn as Prime Minister it has been reported.
A leadership contest will now follow with a new Prime Minister likely to be in place ahead of the Conservative’s October party conference.
The Prime Minister had come under intense pressure to resign after a number of resignations, including Welsh Secretary Simon Hart earlier this morning (7 July).
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies recognised his “friend” Boris Johnson’s achievements, including “getting Brexit done”, but said he no longer had the confidence of the party and was now unable to deliver on the party’s manifesto commitments.
(Lead image: Creative Commons 2.0)
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