Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My 'Politically Speaking' Column for County Times - 14th Aug

I used the 'Politically Speaking' column in the County Times last week to share my thoughts on the foreign affairs issues causing distress to many of my constituents. In particular I repeated the call I first made two weeks before in my column in the Oswestry and Borders Chronicle that Parliament should be recalled. I accept the case for recall is now lessened because it's only a few days until MPs are back in Westminster anyway. Now I call for House of Commons business to be changed to allow a foreign affairs debate during our first week back. My article follows;

One year ago Parliament was recalled from summer recess to consider what Britain should do in response to the gassing of innocent civilians in Syria by their President, Bashar al-Assad. It was thought that Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama were seriously contemplating military action to punish Assad. It was the most difficult issue I have faced since being elected MP for Montgomeryshire in 2010. After much discussion with, and advice from many constituents, I decided that the case had not been made for a military strike against Damascus. I could not see how it would improve the situation, or what clear purpose dropping bombs and firing missiles would have. But I did agree with David Cameron that we should not completely 'close the door' on intervention if circumstances in Syria changed.


After a long impassioned debate, I was on the losing side of the vote. The House of Commons decided to completely rule out military intervention no matter what. I thought that was the wrong course, and a very bad day for world peace. I felt that forces of evil would have been watching, and realising that the NATO powers were no longer willing to even consider acting to prevent the worst atrocities of evil regimes against innocents. And sadly, that is where we are today.


In Syria, around 200,000 people have been killed, with perhaps another 8million made refugees. It's likely that many of these will have been gassed. Because Western media is banned, this reign of terror hardly features on our news channels - a shocking and disgraceful failure of our free press. On the border of Eastern Ukraine, a Russian war making machine is gathering, almost certainly to invade the free country of Ukraine, no doubt on some trumped up pretext of a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission. Its likely thousands of innocents will die. In Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, whole populations of minorities are being slaughtered simply because they are who they are. Christians are being given the choice of converting to Islam, fleeing the country or being killed. Yazidis are being treated even worse, reported to be being buried alive in their hundreds. The barbaric cruelty of the Islamic State (Isis) knows no limits.


In Britain and the United States, our Governments are waking up to the reality that we cannot turn our backs on the world. For evil to prosper all it needs is for good people to do nothing. President Obama has been forced to act to save the lives of innocents being crushed before the Islamic State. The UK is also sending humanitarian aid to save Christians trapped on Mount Sinjar. The UK is also sending Tornados to help with surveillance work. I fully support all this, but it does seem very little, very late. We must always retain the hope that it turns out not to be too late.


Two weeks ago I called for Parliament to be recalled to debate these issues, alongside the Gaza crisis, which has featured prominently in the British media. Thankfully, as I write this column for the County Times the ceasefire in Gaza is holding. We can only hope the worst of the violence is over. Over the last few days, several news channels have contacted me, asking me to go to London to share my views on recall on national television. But I've left that to other MPs who live nearer, and who now share my opinion. I am desperately keen to return to Westminster though, not for TV interviews, but to take part in a recalled House of Commons debate. We are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, with innocents being killed on a massive scale. It seems now to be accepted that Parliament would indeed be recalled if Government decided to embark on military action. Personally, I believe MPs should be given the opportunity to represent the views and concerns of their constituents, even without any decision to put "boots on the ground". Because doing nothing could be an even worse option, we should be recalled to Westminster immediately.

Great letter written by John Day, local Chair of Parkinsons UK

For many years now, I've been President of the Montgomeryshire Branch of Parkinson's UK. Although I've not had any direct personal or family brush with this cruel disease, I have known people who have. Invariably I find sufferers to be determined to make the best of life. There was some publicity about Parlinson's last week, following the death of Robin Williams. Our Chair, John Day was inspired to write a letter which I think deserves a wider readership. Here it is;


Parkinson's  - It’s difficult to always look on the bright side of life


“I was very saddened by the news that Robin Williams had died last week, he was a very talented actor and comedian who had the ability put a smile on the faces of people of all ages.  He had been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s.


It has prompted me to pass on some of my thoughts and experiences of Parkinson’s to enable others to gain a better understanding.  Both I and my wife Sue have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for over 10 years.  In some cases diagnosis can be a confusing and uncertain time. Much of the information at that time of our diagnosis came from the internet.  We have always had good support from our fantastic family, great circle of friends and from medical professionals in Powys and Shropshire. 

 

Many people think that it affects only the elderly; unfortunately this is not true it affects people of all ages. Most of the people who are diagnosed are over 50; however one in 20 is under the age of 40. Roughly 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s, with over 300 people in Powys.

Actor Michael J Fox, who was himself diagnosed with the condition in 1991, spoke of his shock at learning that his friend Robin Williams had also been suffering from Parkinson’s. In the year 2000 he established the Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in America.  It is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s and ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson's. 

 

In the UK we get outstanding support from Parkinson’s UK, a registered charity, which has a well established support network throughout the country, together with a central help line and online access to a wealth of information on all aspects of Parkinson’s.  They have a number of trainers who run a range of specialist courses for health care professionals in hospitals, care homes and health centres.


I feel honoured to be the Chairman of Montgomeryshire Branch of Parkinson’s UK and always look forward to our monthly meetings with a great bunch of people.  We have guest speakers come along and talk to the group on a variety of interesting topics and have coach trips and a range of other activities. We have many fund raising events throughout the year and much of the money raised goes towards research and making life a little easier for people with Parkinson’s and their families and carers.


We enjoy the support of our Welsh Assembly Members, especially Russell George who supports many of our events.  We have met on several occasions to lobby and create awareness of the needs of Parkinson’s sufferers.  I must express my gratitude to Glyn Davies, MP who is President of our Branch and frequently attends our events, as long as they do not clash with his Westminster duties, he has a good understanding of health related matters and understands the needs of people with Parkinson’s and the various ways it affects patients and their families.


The support we have received from our Medical Practice in Welshpool has been excellent, together with a Parkinson’s Specialist Nurse and a host of other local health care professionals.  Last year I was admitted to Welshpool Hospital, I had never stayed in hospital before and was quite concerned and anxious.  I am so grateful to all the staff for their help and encouragement and getting me on the road back to recovery, they are a very dedicated professional and caring team. 


Parkinson's can be a very difficult condition to diagnose, as no two people with Parkinson's are the same, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms and the order in which they appear and their severity also differs from person to person. The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease relate to movement.  Rigidity can cause cramps and stiffness of muscles.  There are other functions that are also affected, including dizziness, pain, fatigue, in addition to a number of health problems like depression and anxiety. 


A tremor, or the involuntary shaking of a body part, is sometimes the first sign of Parkinson’s and it can spread from a finger in one hand into the arm or even into the foot on the same side of the body, not all people have tremor.  In my case it started with a small twitching of my left side little finger, followed months later by my toes, some days I have a very visible tremor especially when tired or under stress.   


It can limit facial expressions, make the task of walking extremely difficult, and can make repetitive movements such as brushing teeth also hard.  It means that simple activities such as eating or getting dressed become increasingly difficult.  It can be very frustrating when simple tasks like doing up shirt buttons and belts take so long.  It can take quite some time to get out of bed in the morning.  When I take my medication it takes a while to get “switched on” and get those rigid muscles going again. 

For all Parkinson’s patients it is very important that they take the medication on time.  Where suitable, most hospitals will allow patients to administer their own medication.


Parkinson’s itself does not cause people to die, but symptoms do deteriorate over time.  Though there is no known cure for the condition, treatments to help control the symptoms of Parkinson’s include medications and physical therapies.


Drug treatments can help control some of the problems associated with the condition.  One of the main drugs is Levodopa which is effective at improving mobility and motor function. There is a great deal of ongoing research into a cure and improving medications that will help to replace the reduced dopamine levels.


Neurosurgery is sometimes used to treat those who have had Parkinson’s for a long time and whose condition is not responsive to medication.


We have been referred to the National Exercise Referral Scheme which is funded by Welsh Assembly Government and has been developed over the last few years to target clients who have a chronic disease or are at risk of developing chronic disease.  We attend the one at Maldwyn Sports centre in Newtown, these exercise sessions are available throughout the county.

With the right medication and exercise, many people continue to live a full and active life with Parkinson's.


The Montgomery Branch meet at 2pm on the last Thursday of each month in the Welsh Chapel, Mount Street, Welshpool.


John Day

Chairman Parkinson’s UK, Montgomeryshire Branch

Tynwtra, Bwlchyffridd, Newtown, Powys, SY16 3HX

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Wales Bill

Glyn Davies: I am grateful to be called to speak on an issue that is of great personal interest. As well as being the Member of Parliament for the Welsh seat of Montgomeryshire, I served for eight years representing Mid and West Wales as a regional Member of the National Assembly for Wales. My dominant interests since becoming a Member of Parliament have been Welsh politics, the Welsh economy, Welsh public services and, indeed, the relationship between Cardiff Bay and Westminster as they deal with the devolution process, which will continue for many more years to come. The nature of constitutional process is that one does not reach an end stage.


Unlike the Shadow Secretary of State, I do not think this a dry debate at all. Debates about the constitution tend not to jokey or light hearted. But as someone who is deeply embedded in Welsh politics, I find a debate about a Bill concerning the future governance of my nation hugely interesting.


I declare my enthusiastic support for the Wales Bill. It is a significant step forward in the devolution process, even if there are aspects with which I do not agree. In this disagreements I may be in a small minority, but I should refer to them alongside my general support for the Bill, putting my opinions on the record for the benefit of anyone in my constituency and indeed the rest of Wales who might want to know what they are.

I have listened to most of the debate; I missed some of it owing to other meetings. My general impression is that Labour’s position in particular is thoroughly confused. Clearly, Members on this side of the House are pleased that Labour will be supporting the Wales Bill—that is a positive move—but the contributions of many Labour Members suggest that they just do not accept the principle of financial accountability underlying the devolution of income tax raising to the National Assembly for Wales. Some of their language has sounded more as though they oppose the Bill than being in support of it.


The Plaid Cymru contributions have been ‘churlish’—that is the word that I will use. During this Parliament it was a Conservative Secretary of State who introduced, with very great determination, the Bill that created law-making powers in Wales. I do not believe that it would have been introduced if it had not been a Conservative Secretary of State; I think that a Labour Secretary of State would probably have chickened out. It was a Conservative Secretary of State who established the Silk commission, which has done very good work. Like several other Members, I commend it for its work. It is a Conservative Secretary of State who has introduced this Bill. I perfectly accept that it does not go as far as Plaid Cymru Members may want—one would not expect that—and, indeed, there are differing views on the detail of the Bill across all parties, but nobody can disagree that granting tax-raising powers to the National Assembly for Wales, and the borrowing powers that go with them, is anything but a huge constitutional step forward. On that basis, it might have been at least fair of Plaid Cymru to congratulate the Conservative party on taking us down the road, not as far as it would want, but certainly in a positive direction.


Mr Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman said that he had been in and out of the debate, and I accept that—so have I. My colleagues were generous about various parts of the Bill, but nevertheless there are parts about which we are concerned, and that is the nature of politics. Do not call us churlish because we find fault in some way with the Bill. That is just politics, is it not?


Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He has been a friend for a long time. It is reassuring that he has decided to intervene and say how supportive he is of what the Conservative Government have delivered in the past few years. I shall read today’s debate in Hansard to pick out all those individual bits that he speaks so enthusiastically about.

There are several elements to the Wales Bill, the most important one by a long way being the tax raising powers and the commensurate borrowing powers that go with them. There will be continuing debate about this matter. It may well feature in the manifestos of the various parties leading up to the next general election, and I believe it will be revisited in the next Parliament. That is naturally the way of things with constitutional issues when. There will be a next step in this process, and I look forward to being a part of it after the next general election.


Another issue that is causing a lot of excitement is the removal of the ban on dual candidacy. Labour today is describing this change as political gerrymandering. If there has been any political intent to gerrymander, it was on the part of the Labour party when it introduced the ban. No independent body in Wales, including the Electoral Commission, thinks that it is any way partisan to scrap the ban on dual candidacy. It was brought in by the Labour Government in this place with the support of Labour in Cardiff, with the view that it would benefit the Labour party in Wales, and it is truly ironic that it did not. The Opposition should welcome what is a right and proper constitutional change being brought in by this Government.


Personally, I am not in favour of a referendum. In general, I do not like them. Political parties should tell the people what they intend to do and if the people vote for them at a general election they can carry it out without a referendum. I accept that I am in a minority in relation to a referendum on tax-raising powers in Wales. The Silk commission recommended one and there was a referendum in Scotland before tax raising powers were introducing. On this specific issue, I will have to sneak back into my box rather quietly.

I am also not in favour of introducing a five-year term between Assembly elections. Again I might be in a minority. I generally think that four-year terms are right for Parliaments. We have a five-year term here at Westminster, and I realise that there is a lot of support for a five-year term for the National Assembly. Again, that involves another little box that I will have to crawl into.


But let us not forget what the Bill will do if, as I hope it will, it receives its Third Reading today. This Westminster Parliament is granting to the National Assembly for Wales the power to raise taxes, including a significant proportion of income tax — delivering financial accountability. In future a Welsh Government will be accountable to the people whom they represent. There is further to go, but this is an important principle. A Bill put forward by a Conservative Secretary of State is making a significant contribution to the process of devolution in Wales.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Debate - Westminster : Organ Donation

Glyn Davies:

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak in this important debate on an issue that has long been a strong interest of mine. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) on securing the debate, and on the reasoned and comprehensive way in which he presented his case. I apologise to him and to you, Mr Hollobone; I did not notice that this debate was taking place until about five minutes before it started, so I must apologise if my comments are in any way disjointed.

Donating an organ is just about the greatest gift that anybody can make. It is wonderful to do so on death, but it is perhaps even more so in life, such as when people donate kidneys altruistically. I know several people who have done so, and it is one of the greatest things that anyone can do. Today is a particularly good day to discuss organ donation; the night before last, we watched Erik Compton, who has had two heart transplants, come second in the US Open golf championship. It demonstrates how a transplant can not only give life but can allow the recipient to live a life that is completely full and to do the most amazing things. Coming second in the US Open is a pretty amazing thing to have done.

My own interest started with a woman I knew, Trudy, who was a constituent, although I was not her MP at the time. She had one of the first heart and lung transplants at Papworth. She was a most amazing person. Together, we worked to deliver kidney dialysis in Montgomeryshire, where there was none. A dialysis unit has now been delivered by the Welsh a Government, and is delivering a terrific service. Trudy died a couple of years ago, but the dialysis unit stands as a monument to the fantastic woman that she was.

I am a trustee of the Kidney Wales Foundation. One of the disappointments in my public life is that I am in disagreement with the foundation about changing the organ donation system to one based on presumed consent. I am the only trustee who takes this view. I disagree completely with what the Welsh Government has done in changing the law to introduce presumed consent. I have always been a bit disappointed by this disagreement. The aim of every trustee—me and all the others, despite the disagreement-is to increase the number of organ donations and the number of organs available. I have always been driven by the evidence. I have never been influenced by the ethical aspects of this debatede. I am influenced only by where the evidence takes me in terms of how to deliver the most organs. I firmly believe that what the Welsh Government have done will absolutely not deliver more organs, despite what Welsh Ministers say, and which the media repeats, parrot fashion, without looking at the evidence.

The only time I ever feel resentful in this sensitive debate is when, as has so often happened on the numerous times I have been invited to speak about this issue in the media, somebody in desperate need of a new organ is interviewed and I am then asked why I want to prevent them from having an organ. I am utterly appalled by the media’s lack of objectivity and the lack of reference to evidence when dealing with the issue.

We need to move forward as best we can and I want to focus on policy for the future. I will make some specific points. We must look at what happened in Spain. Spain has been referred to in this debate on several occasions and it is a huge success story. However, it is often incorrectly referred to as a country that operates an opt-out system. That claim is absolutely false, even if the Welsh Government used it as part of the basis for their argument. Despite experts writing to them to tell them that their claim is false, it is still what they based their consultation on. It was a disgrace to conduct a consultation on those misleading terms.

What happened in Spain was that opt-out legislation was introduced in 1979. Twelve months later, it was pretty well abandoned. It remains on the statute book, but as sometimes happens to laws, it has never been implemented. Ten years later the Spanish Government realised that the legislation was not working and introduced a series of other changes. It was these changes that we should replicate and concentrate on if we are to make a difference.

We should also learn lessons from the organ donation taskforce, which my hon. Friend referred to several times. It did a terrific job under its great chair, Elizabeth Buggins, who is one of the most expert people on this issue. The taskforce considered the issue for two or three years. Everyone assumed that the taskforce would recommend a change to presumed consent. However, when it produced a report, all its members had changed their minds because they had looked at the evidence. The person who has taken over from me in Montgomeryshire as the driving force locally behind promoting renal dialysis believed that changing to presumed consent was a right way forward. I said, “Look at the evidence.” As soon as she studied that evidence, she changed her mind.

Andrew Griffiths: I thank my hon. Friend not only for attending the debate, but for making such an important and heartfelt contribution; I think that we all value that. I understand what he is saying about the opt-in system versus the opt-out system and the need to follow the evidence. However, does he agree that ultimately organ donation should be my choice? It should be the individual’s choice as to whether their organs are used for donation after they die, and nobody else’s choice.

Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. It is a perfectly reasonable position to take. I do not know what the figures are—I do not know how often this situation happens. them. I am interested to know because it seems wrong.

I accept the point that has been made, but one counterpoint is that sometimes people can change their minds even though they are carrying an organ donor card. However, if people have joined a campaign, we should assume that that is their view. I would be surprised if there are many instances where a family would overrule an individual’s decision; it would be interesting if the Minister could give us the figures to show how often that happens. If it is a major issue, we should address it.

The first issue that we need to address is the number of specialist nurses for organ donation. That is what made a huge difference in Spain, and it is the area where we really need to concentrate. That is what has made a big difference here already Since the organ donation taskforce reported in 2007, the number of donations has increased by 50%, which was the target. That is good news. It is the specialist nurses who have made the difference.

I spent some time talking to a SNOD (specialist nurse) in Shropshire. He has agreed to visit local schools and to organise discussions and debates. We can use specialist nurses to help people to understand this debate, which for most people only becomes an issue when they are faced with what is often a personal tragedy and is such a difficult time to talk to people. Talking to people when the person who perhaps they love most looks as if they are alive, because their bodies are still breathing, even though they are brain-dead, and saying that that person’s support system should be switched off and their organs taken is a hugely traumatic experience. We need trained nurses who have the skills to communicate with people in those difficult circumstances. It is the specialist nurses for organ donation who can do that.

Andrew Griffiths: Four out of 10 families refuse consent when they are asked to give it.

Glyn Davies: I think that that is a repetition of the previous intervention. However, the point is interesting and I would like the Minister to give us the figures to show to what extent that situation actually happens, and whether a specialist nurse in organ donation was involved in individual cases.

The second thing that is crucial, particularly in Wales, is the number of intensive care beds. A lot of people assume that an organ can be donated when there is a road accident or when somebody is suddenly killed in another way, but there can only be a donation when the person is in an intensive care bed and there is the facility to carry out the donation. We have a shortage of intensive care beds. The number of such beds in Spain is higher than in the UK, and much higher than the number in Wales, where it is particularly low. That is the area where the investment needs to go to ensure that there are intensive care beds. I know that in the last year there have been cases in Wales of organs that were available for donation but they were simply not used because there was not an intensive care bed to allow the donation to happen.

The final point I want to make is, I think, the reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Burton secured this debate today. It is about the issue of awareness. We should put every effort we can into campaigns to have everybody tell their next of kin their view on donation. That is what I say to people in schools when I talk to them; I say to people, “Tell your family what your view is, so that they know clearly.” Carrying an organ donation card is helpful in that respect, because it very much gives an indication of someone’s view. That is why I was interested in the point that my hon. Friend has made in his interventions on me.


What we really need, and the Government really must invest in it, is a big advertising campaign based on the message, “Tell the family. Make sure your next of kin know your wishes.” If we had such a campaign, we would raise the number of consenting next of kin. If we can increase the number of people in Britain who consent to organ donation to the level it is in Spain, we will not have the thousands of people dying on a waiting list as happens in the UK at present.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Queen's Speech Debate.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak. This is the first time that I have been called in a debate on the Gracious Speech since being elected as an MP in 2010, and since we are debating the final Queen’s Speech in this Parliament before the next general election perhaps it is the last occasion that I will have a chance to be called! Whether I have a further opportunity is a matter for the voters in Montgomeryshire next May. Anyway, thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me today.


The Prime Minister began his speech at the beginning of this debate last Wednesday by telling the House that the most important task facing the coalition Government during the next year is continuing the work of restoring our economy. That is absolutely the right approach. There are 11 interesting and important Bills in the Queen’s Speech, but underpinning everything that the coalition Government should focus on in the next year is economic recovery.


While I emphasise the important aim in the Gracious Speech of continuing in a determined way with the task of economic recovery, we should acknowledge what has already been achieved. It is far more than many of us would have expected and it has certainly defied the consistently dire predictions that have been made by the Opposition during the past four years. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor today listed some of those predictions, which have all been shown to be completely false. In particular, the falling levels of unemployment and the rising levels of employment have been nothing short of miraculous. Only yesterday, the employment figures for May were published. Unemployment fell by 161,000 in May. Since 2010, more than 2 million jobs have been created.


In May the number of unemployed people in my constituency fell to 647—just 2.1% of the economically active—which is 270 fewer than a year ago, and 33 fewer than in April. Those are astonishingly good figures, and they are reflected in constituencies right across the UK.


Montgomeryshire is blessed with many dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises across the range of sectors. Over the past few weeks I have visited several of them, accompanied by Ministers from the Wales Office team. We visited Sidoli, Invertec and T. Alun Jones in Welshpool, Makefast, Stagecraft, Quartix and Trax in Newtown, and last Thursday I joined a celebration at Stadco in Llanfyllin as that outstanding company received the Jaguar Land Rover quality standard award. Those businesses, which are mainly in manufacturing, are growing solidly, providing new jobs, creating apprentices, and demonstrating their confidence in Britain and in the Government’s long-term economic plan. The last thing they need is a national insurance jobs tax, which the shadow Chancellor so studiously refused to rule out earlier today.


Over recent months the Opposition have made a lot of noise about the cost of living—they have done so again today—as if Labour’s management of the economy while they were in Government had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Experience teaches us that the only way to create sustainable increases in wages is through the marketplace, through the pressure created by competition for good, well-trained employees who are willing to work. Therefore, it is absolutely right that the coalition Government continue with their brilliantly successful economic plans all the way up to the general election.



In the 20 seconds of my 4 minutes remaining I want to make a brief comment about the livestock industry. My constituency is rural and depends largely on livestock farming. Currently, the economy of my constituency is being seriously affected by what is happening to the beef industry. Beef prices have crashed following inflow of large amounts of imported beef. I have no problem with imported beef from Eastern Europe being on supermarket shelves, but I do think shoppers should know it is imported beef from Eastern Europe. The Government need to act to ensure that supermarkets accurately label imported beef with country of origin so that shoppers can make an informed choice.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

My Tribute to Mid-Wales Pylons/Turbines Protestors

As I reactivate 'A View From Rural Wales', it's seems right that I should begin by revisiting the issues that have taken my attention over recent years - a sort of issues update. And over the last 9 yrs no issue has intruded on my thoughts more than the proposed development of onshore wind farms in Mid-Wales. Now I'm not expecting to say much more about this issue. I feel that, in general, I have done what I can. It's now in the hands of a planning inspector named Adrian Poulter, the UK Government and the voters in 2015. I want to use this blogpost for two purposes. Firstly to give a general picture of where we are on the Welsh Govt desire to industrialise the uplands of Mid-Wales, and why I now believe the project is now unlikely to go ahead. Secondly I will pay tribute to the amazing volunteers who have given up months/years of their lives to defend Mid Wales from such a fate.

I) The Conjoined Public Inquiry into 6 planning applications for wind farms/132kv line has just ended. The Inquiry took a year. We expect the Inspector to write up his report, including decision recommendations and send it to the Dept of Climate Change before the end of 2014. We have no idea when the Secretary of State will announce his decision. And we do not know whether judicial review of that decision will be sought or secured. At the same time, National Grid are ploughing on with preparations to seek consent to build a 400kv line from North Shropshire to Cefn Coch (around 40 miles) to serve these and many other wind farms just sitting in the planning system. At some stage, National Grid will announce it's proposals for statutory public consultation. We do not know when this will happen.

2) We expect the subsidy arrangements for onshore wind to change in April 2017. At present, any wind farm which secures planning permission, is built and starts producing electricity will receive a guaranteed level of subsidy. Any wind farm not producing by April 2017 will have no guarantee of receiving any subsidy at all, which would make them totally unviable. The new system of Govt subsidy will be based on 'Contracts for Difference'. This involves a whole range of renewable energy projects applying to a 'pot' of subsidy on a competitive basis. At that time the Govt will decide which projects to support. And when the 'pot' is used up, there will not be more subsidy available. Wind farm permissions will no longer be a licence to print money.

3) The Conservatives have stated unambiguously that if they form the Govt after May 2015, steps will be taken to end onshore wind subsidies, except in special cases. The target that was set for onshore wind by Govt in support of carbon reduction policy will have been met - several years early. It's expected that the moratorium will be in place by Nov 2015 (17 months time). The Conservatives have also stated unambiguously that local opinion, as expressed through the planning process will not be over-ruled on appeal. No will mean No as far as refusal of planning permission is concerned. We do not know what the stance of any coalition or alternative government would be post 2015.

It's after taking all the above into account that I have recently taken the view that I do not think the Mid Wales Connection Project, which National Grid are reported to have already spent £10million on, will go ahead. Until a few weeks ago, I've never said more that that I thought there was a chance of stopping this project. I also think that the case against agreeing all the proposals before the Public Inquiry is so strong, that there is a very strong probability that the decision will be subject to judicial review. So now we await developments.

I want to end this post, and probably comments on onshore wind for a good while, by paying tribute to the amazing commitment by the protestors. Many of these volunteers have given up months, sometimes years, of their lives to organise a brilliantly professional campaign of opposition. I can never forget the astonishing public meeting at Welshpool Livestock Mart, and the 38 bus loads of people who travelled to protest on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. A picture which will remain in my mind forever was the scene when I gave my evidence to the Inquiry when there were just volunteers on one side and perhaps 15 barristers, etc., all paid for at electricity consumers expense on the other. We must be heartened that David did defeat Goliath. The protest movement has been brilliant. Without it I would have been able to achieve nothing at the Westminster level. They love Mid-Wales, and have shown a commitment and sacrifice which will ensure I, and others who really love this wonderful place, will forever be grateful.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Decriminalisation of Assisted Suicide.

Have decided to re-activate my blog, and run it up to the General Election. I wanted my first post to be about a current serious issue. There is none more serious that the Bill introduced into the House of Lords this week by Lord Falconer to legalise assisted suicide. I will be opposing this Bill, even though I accept that there may well be a majority of the public who take the opposing view. I can think of no better way of expressing my view that to share with you a speech I made on the issue in 2012. My view remains exactly the same today as it was then.
Thank you, Mr Speaker for calling me to speak in this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow Alun Michael in this debate. He and I do not always agree, but on this occasion I agreed with every word that he said. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Richard Ottaway on the tone that he adopted in opening the debate.  I thought it just right for the introduction of such an important debate.
I should declare an interest. I am a member of the board of Living and Dying Well, an organisation that commissions evidence-based research into end-of-life care. I have regular conversations with Lord Carlile who chairs it, and with Baroness Finlay, who has already been mentioned in this debate by other honourable members today.
I too have received several letters from members of the campaigning group, Dignity in Dying. I invariably write back disagreeing with them. However I always do so with a great deal of respect, because—like other Members who have spoken—I think that opinions on both sides of this debate are motivated by compassion. I do not think it right to be critical of those who take a different view from me when it is compassion that motivates them.
I have been concerned about some of the media coverage that has appeared before today’s debate. Much of it has seemed to suggest that we are contemplating, and perhaps moving towards, a change in the law. That is not the case. All that we are discussing today is a reaffirmation of the current position in law, which is why I am happy to support the motion before us.
I am probably unusual in the chamber today in having had an interest in assisted suicide for as long as it has been an offence. I was 17 in 1961, and an active member of my local young farmers club. As young farmers clubs do, we discussed the issues of the day in debating competitions. In one such debate I supported the decriminalisation of suicide, which was being considered at the time. Suicide was decriminalised. A key factor however, without which the law change would not have been passed was that an offence of assisting suicide was included in section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, it would simply not have been agreed without this clause introducing the offence of assisting a suicide. This clause was seen as an absolute protection, allowing the offence of suicide itself to be abolished.
My view remains exactly the same today. Over the last few days I have received many representations and briefings, as have many other Members. And over the months during which I have been a member of Living and Dying Well, we have commissioned several research papers. There so much information that it is almost impossible to engage one’s mind clearly with all of it. Because of the time limit on speeches today is so tight, I shall make just one fundamental point.
In 1961, I just knew that assisted suicide was wrong. I thought that it was extremely dangerous, and I still think that. If the Director of Public Prosecution's guidance became statutory we would, in effect, be legalising assisted suicide, and I believe that that would have a very negative impact on the frail elderly, the terminally ill, the incapacitated and the seriously depressed.
I have never believed that the malicious assister is the biggest problem, although that may well be a concern for many honourable members. What has always concerned me is the likelihood that the normalisation of assisted suicide would lead to uncertainty about their own worth among the groups whom I have listed. It would cause them to ask questions about their own value. They would see themselves as becoming a burden on society. When we talk to elderly people who are nearing the end of their lives, we often find that they are concerned about not being able to leave assets to their grandchildren. I believe that that concern would be much greater if assisted suicide were legalised and thus normalised. My view is that it was and is wrong, and that only in very special circumstances, decided as it now by the Director of Public Prosecution, should those guilty of assisted suicide not be prosecuted.