Sharp End title

Sharp End

This week's Sharp End looks at the fallout from the Welsh Conservative conference and issues raised by the clearing of Nigel Evans MP.

Illegal tobacco in Wales

An undercover investigation by ITV Cymru Wales has found that illegal tobacco in some parts of the country is widespread, and easy to find.

Sharp End title

Sharp End

The Deputy Prime Minister is this week's interviewee in a programme which also looks at the experience of Welsh soldiers in Afghanistan

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Could income tax power be imposed on Wales?

by Adrian Masters

I understand that some MPs in the government parties are considering the possibility of pushing through plans to transfer tax-varying powers to Wales without a referendum because of what they see as Labour 'intransigence' on the issue. The current plans require a referendum before any such move.

If you want to catch up on the row, and see why Labour thinks the proposal is a politically-motivated 'trap,' click here, here and here. The other parties believe Labour is angry that devolution has been taking out of its hands for the first time.

One Conservative source said that 'intransigence' raises 'serious questions about the way in which fiscal responsibility can be imposed on the Welsh Government' and used the word 'imposed' deliberately. It's controversial even to suggest and is a sign of exasperation on the government benches.

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Labour's 'more bull than beef' jibe at Tory stamp duty pledge

by Adrian Masters

Not surprisingly, Welsh Labour has seized on the Treasury's refusal to cut stamp duty to attack the Welsh Conservatives. You can read what the Treasury said by clicking here.

It's important to note that what the Treasury rejected was the idea of a UK-wide cut to the tax before 2015 whereas the Welsh Tories' pledge is to abolish it for houses up to the value of £250,000 in Wales once control is transferred to the Welsh Government. Read more about their proposals here.

But this is politics and if the original pledge is all about sending a low-tax, aspirational message to voters, the response is equally about portraying the Welsh Conservatives negatively. Here's what Labour AM Ann Jones says:

The one day wonders of Welsh politics have been caught out again. First it was a return to 1950s grammar schools, then massive tax cuts for the rich, and now an uncosted proposal for cutting stamp duty. This latest wheeze has immediately been rejected by the Tory controlled Treasury in London. The average life expectancy of a Welsh Conservative policy proposal has now dipped below 24hrs.

Rather than offer serious policies to take Wales forward the Welsh Tories have been caught out chasing empty headlines. Andrew RT Davies may describe himself as ’19 stone of prime Welsh beef’ but we're seeing a lot more bull than beef at the moment.

– Ann Jones AM, Labour

Stamp duty call is message to 'strivers'

by Adrian Masters

A lot will have to change before the Welsh Conservatives' latest pledge to cut a tax could become a reality. The Welsh Government doesn't yet have control over stamp duty but it is expected to get that power as a result of the UK Government's draft Wales bill which is being considered by MPs.

It also won't be news to the Tories that they're unlikely to form a Welsh Government after 2016 so why make this promise? It's all about sending a message to voters: that they have ideas about how to use expected new powers to deliver lower taxes and to encourage aspiration and entrepreneurship.

They'll be accused of favouring wealthier voters but they believe the message will resonate with 'strivers' who don't count themselves as well-off. That was the reason for previous pledge to cut the 40% tax rate. However, they'll hope this call won't lead to the sort of internal row that one has.

Opposition's voting warning to ministers

by Adrian Masters

Opposition sources in the Assembly say the three parties have had to join forces in the Senedd chamber to send the Welsh Government a warning that it can't ignore them. Welsh Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem AMs became frustrated during Tuesday's marathon session on the Social Services Bill.

That frustration, they say, sprang from Labour repeatedly voting down opposition amendments. I'm told they decided to unite to defeat some of the Welsh Government's own alterations (having assured themselves that doing so wouldn't cause major problems) to remind ministers they don't have a majority.

A source says the government front bench eventually got the message and has arranged talks with the opposition parties to try to avoid a repeat performance when the session continues next Tuesday.

Ministers try to meet concerns of smacking ban supporters

by Adrian Masters

It seems the Welsh Government is trying to meet the concerns of supporters of a smacking ban but it may not be enough to stop them voting for one later. Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams says she thinks ministers will offer 'another opportunity' to vote on the issue as part of another bill.

She thought that would mean the matter was unlikely to pushed to a vote. But other sources suggest the offer of 'another opportunity' isn't definite enough to win over Plaid and Lib Dem members who are backing an amendment to the Social Services and Well Being Bill.

If it does come to a vote, the amendment is unlikely to win because I understand Labour AMs will be obliged by the Chief Whip to vote against. It's still unclear whether or not at least two Labour AMs will rebel, but the majority will still be enough to defeat it.

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Welsh MP sees plight of Syrian refugees first hand

Wrexham MP and Shadow Middle East Minister Ian Lucas has just returned from Lebanon where he's witnessed first hand the plight of people fleeing the civil war in Syria. He'll be speaking about his experiences in this week's Sharp End.

You can hear more about the situation in Lebanon and what Ian Lucas experienced at 1035pm on ITV Cymru Wales. Below are some of the photos he took during his visit.

Snow at Syrian refugee camp, Lebanon
Snow at Syrian refugee camp, Lebanon Credit: Ian Lucas MP

The MPs were surprised to see snow around the camps. Wintry weather is adding to the difficulties faced by people fleeing the fighting in Syria.

Makeshift conditions at one camp, Lebanon
Makeshift conditions at one camp, Lebanon Credit: Ian Lucas MP

The refugee camps aren't official and lack basic amenities.

Syrian children, Lebanon
Syrian children, Lebanon Credit: Ian Lucas MP
A Syrian family in a refugee camp, Lebanon
A Syrian family in a refugee camp, Lebanon Credit: Ian Lucas MP
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