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  1. Nick Powell

Minister confirms departure from Cardiff Bay

Economy Minister Edwina Hart has now issued a statement confirming that she's stepping down as an AM at next year's Assembly election.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Gower, the constituency in which I was born, for the last 16 years. Since I was first elected to the Assembly in 1999, I am pleased that I have been able to champion the cause of so many local organisations, and work with so many constituents. I am very grateful for the support they have given me during this time, and I will continue to represent their views vigorously until the end of the Assembly term next year.

– Economy minister Edwina Hart AM

Together with Finance Minister Jane Hutt, Edwina Hart is one of just two AMs to have been in the Welsh Cabinet since it was first formed under Alun Michael in 1999. She contested the Welsh Labour leadership when Rhodri Morgan stood down as First Minister but was defeated by Carwyn Jones.

Edwina has brought a wealth of experience to Government. Under her guidance the Economy, Transport and Science portfolio has just presented the best ever inward investment figures for Wales – a tribute to her determination and energy in going out to sell Wales around the world. The fact that Edwina was able to command respect in portfolios as diverse as health, EST, Social Justice and Finance demonstrates her political abilities and attention to detail.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Two of Edwina Hart's constituency neighbours have also announced today that they're standing down. Gwenda Thomas also confirmed her decision to her local party in Neath this evening, with Keith Davies earlier making his announcement in Llanelli.

  1. Nick Powell

Minister to leave Assembly as three Labour AMs decide not to stand again in 2016

Edwina Hart, Keith Davies and Gwenda Thomas are all leaving Cardiff Bay Credit: ITV News Cymru Wales

One of the two Assembly members to have served in every Welsh cabinet since the first election in 1999 is expected to announce tonight that she won't stand again next year. Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart is understood to be making the announcement to her Gower constituency party this evening.

The former Deputy Health Minister Gwenda Thomas is also due to tell her local party in Neath tonight that she too won't be seeking re-election. They join Keith Davies who announced earlier today that he will be quitting Llanelli after just one term as an AM.

So three Labour AMs in neighbouring seats are all leaving the Assembly next year. But it's Edwina Hart's decision that will command the most attention. One of the most powerful figures in the Welsh Government, responsible over the years for finance, health and now the economy, she'd been tipped as a possible successor to Dame Rosemary Butler as the Assembly's Presiding Officer.

The Labour party encourages its AMs and MPs not to leave it so late to declare their intentions and another five have already done so. Last minute announcements are by no means unusual but by delaying her decision Edwina Hart has left herself open to suggestions that she fears the loss of Gower to the Conservatives, who won the Westminster seat for the first time at the General Election last month.


"Every route explored" to save refinery, AMs told

Economy minister Edwina Hart has told AMs that every route was explored to save the Merco refinery in Milford Haven, where a sale expected to save the 400 hundred jobs there has now fallen through.

Right up to the line we were trying to explore if there was any more we could do. I haven't given up hope about potential buyers, I have asked my officials to pursue that vigourously. I won't give any false hopes but I know that I have the support of the UK government as well.

This is a sad day for Pembrokeshire and for the Welsh economy.

– Economy Minister Edwina Hart AM

The minister added that she was really worried about the effect on businesses in the refinery's supply chain. She promised additional support with a physical presence in Milford Haven by Welsh Government officials offering help.

Minister promises new M4 by autumn 2021

Economy Minister Edwina Hart has told AMs that there was no realistic alternative to building a complete new motorway south of Newport. In particular she rejected the idea that upgrading the existing Southern Distributor Road would do the job.

The Minister set out a timetable for the construction of the new road.

  • Public Inquiry in winter 2016
  • Start work in spring 2018
  • Open new motorway autumn 2021

The Souther Distributor Road would not provide a long term solution, even in combination with public transport measures. I'd have to look at closing existing junctions on the SDR and the work would be more disruptive than a new motorway.

– Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart AM
  1. Rob Shelley

Welsh tourism sector 'one of strongest in UK' in 2013

Wales enjoyed a bumper year for tourism in 2013, a survey has revealed.

Half a million more visitors from Britain alone crossed the border compared to 2012, with an eight per cent rise in overnight stays.

Visitors spent £1.4 billion, with Wales' tourism sector seeing some of the strongest increases in Britain.

Figures reveal a bumper year for Wales tourism

Wales saw a boom in tourism over 2013 compared to Britain as a whole Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Wales saw a marked increase in tourism in 2013, according to figures released today.

The Great Britain Tourism Survey has revealed British residents made more than eight million visits to Wales in the first nine months of 2013 - up 7.8% compared to the same period in 2012.

Last year's tourism figures are also 5.4% higher than in 2011, which was considered an excellent season for tourism in Wales.


Results from tourism survey to be announced today

Towns such as Tenby rely on trade from tourism. Credit: PA

The Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, will announce the results for Wales in the Great Britain Tourism Survey later today. It's expected to show the sector is performing well.

In 2011 over 800,000 people from overseas visited Wales, spending more than £300m here.

Innovation strategy aims to encourage flexibility

A new innovation strategy aimed at promoting more flexibility in business and the public sector has been unveiled by the Welsh Government.

Innovation Wales says the public sector needs to be "less prescriptive and more open to fresh solutions."

It adopts a focused approach with a single overriding principle - that while we can promote, encourage and enable innovation across the economy, our key investments should be made on the basis of clear strategic priorities, building on Wales' strengths

We need to recognise these strengths and exploit them more. This means developing distinct and genuine areas of excellence identified in Science for Wales as: Life Sciences and Health, Low Carbon Energy and Environment, Advanced Engineering and Materials, ICT and the Digital Economy.

The public sector can help create the right conditions for innovation to flourish but it is our people, our academics and our businesses that will be the agents for real change.

– Edwina Hart, Economy Minister

The strategy recommends that businesses in Wales concentrate efforts on five main themes:

  • improving collaboration
  • promoting a culture of innovation
  • providing flexible support and finance for innovation
  • innovation in government
  • prioritising and creating critical mass.

Work on completing Cardiff ring road 'to start by 2016'

Work on the completing the ring road round Cardiff -the A4232- will start before the next Assembly election in 2016, the Economy and Transport Minister has pledged. The western half of the road was built in the 1980s and 1990s but there's been no further progress since devolution in 1999.

That's despite the road currently stopping in Cardiff Bay, less than a mile from the Senedd. Edwina Hart says she will now 'progress' the missing Eastern Bay Link. She says the project is connected to the promised deal with the UK Government on a new M4 south of Newport.

Progress in discussions with the UK Government on financing options is also opening up opportunities that we have not been able to consider up to now. I intend to progress the Eastern Bay Link in Cardiff and an upgrade to Junction 28 on the M4. These projects are an important element in improving access to the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone. To improve access to the St Athan - Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone, I will fund improvements to Five Mile Lane.

– Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart AM

The Five Mile Lane improvements -between Barry and the A48- raise the prospect of another half built route for M4 traffic. The Minister also stressed that work on dualling the Heads of the Valleys Road will continue. Work will also start on several smaller road schemes during the next two years.

  • M4 Port Talbot junction 40 to junction 41
  • M4 slip road improvements at junctions 32 and 33
  • A483 Newtown town centre congestion relief
  • A55 emergency refuges

Rowecord: Economy Minister's statement

We have offered assistance to the maximum level allowable within state aid rules to the company. However, this offer was not taken up by the company, because of their worsening financial and competitive position.

The company’s senior management have thanked the Welsh Government for our offer of support and for the speed and flexibility with which we responded, however, they have reluctantly decided that it is in the best interests of its employees and partners to file for administration, when a buyer for the business may be identified.

We will now work with the Administrators, Grant Thornton, to explore all options for securing the future of the company and we will of course discuss packages of support with any potential buyers.

– Edwina Hart AM, Economy Minister
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