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UK health minister's wrong -Welsh Lib Dem leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, who's often one of the fiercest critics of Welsh Labour's running of the health service, has condemned the UK Health Secretary's claims about the NHS in Wales.

Jeremy Hunt claimed that Welsh patients seeking treatment in England are causing "huge pressure" on hospitals there. He also said that the Welsh NHS is not prepared to pay for their treatment, a claim described as "nonsense" by the Welsh Government.

Kirsty Williams is AM for Brecon and Radnor, where many people have hospital treatment across the border. She has now written to Jeremy Hunt, stating that he is wrong on three counts.

Firstly, a good number of my constituents receive excellent care at The County Hospital in Hereford, and have done for many years because The County is their nearest District General Hospital. Whilst I know that there are problems in the Health service in Wales, I am alarmed that the current rhetoric might give my constituents the incorrect impression that they are not welcome or able to access treatment in Hereford, thereby putting them at risk of harm. Secondly, in terms of payment, you will well be aware that all treatment received by Powys patients in Hereford is then paid for by Powys Teaching Local Health Board. There should be no inference whatsoever that any of my constituents are receiving or expecting to receive treatment that is not then paid for. Finally, I take issue with you claiming that my constituents being treated in Hereford causes ‘great pressure’ on the system in England. Actually, having Welsh patients treated at The County Hospital helps maintain the services there by contributing significantly to the critical mass of patients needed to sustain a hospital of The County’s size.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
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All parties should back "proper parliament" for Wales says Welsh Lib Dem leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will tell her party's UK conference in Glasgow that proposals to give the Welsh Assembly significant new powers should receive all party backing. The Silk Commission said important tax raising powers should be devolved to Wales, together with new areas of responsibility, including policing.

Energy, justice, tax varying powers, the list goes on - all will be delivered by the Liberal Democrats. Now is the time for the other parties to step up to the plate. I challenge them to do as Nick Clegg has done and sign up to the Silk Commission's recommendations - so that Wales can speak as one voice Wales must have a proper parliament. One that reflects the will of the people. One that has the powers to make a difference. One that shows that devolution really can work

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

She added that it was important to offer people hope after the divisions caused by the Scottish independence referendum. It was important that the right lesson was learnt from the result in Scotland.

The referendum must be a lesson that people across the UK want more of a say over their future. We must show that change is coming. Independence can't be their only option. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP - we can't let them divide us. Devolving power is in our DNA - it's what we do. The Liberal Democrats must now take back the devolution agenda.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

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Lib Dems say M4 plan makes budget talks difficult

The Welsh Lib Dems are now the only party talking to the Welsh Government about a deal to support the budget. Their leader, Kirsty Willaims, says that following Plaid Cymru's decision to quit the negotiations over the £1 billion Newport motorway announcement says she'll keep negotiating but the plan for the M4 makes it "difficult".

The Welsh Liberal Democrat priority for the next budget continues to be extra support for Wales’ poorest school children through our Pupil Premium. However, it’s very difficult to see how we can support a budget that prioritises the current M4 proposals and that is what we will explain to the Welsh Government in future negotiations.

The M4 announcement yesterday was a huge mistake. It completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues. Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive and less likely to damage vast swathes of the environment. A responsible Government wouldn’t spend its entire borrowing powers on one single road, leaving no money left for other transport projects.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

Minister must be sacked says Lib Dem leader

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Kirsty Williams, says the First Minister must sack the Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies following his breach of the ministerial code. Mr Davies apologised to the Assembly yesterday but continues in his cabinet rôle.

Opposition parties have joined together to force a debate both on the minister's conduct and on the First Minister's handling of the affair. For more details click here. The parties are also calling for the creation of an independent adjudicator of the ministerial code.

The Welsh Lib Dem leader, Kirsty Williams, says it's now a matter of trust:

Alun Davies should have done the honourable thing and resigned. As that hasn’t happened, the First Minister must take swift action to remove him from his position.

It is simply not right that the First Minister is judge, jury and executioner of his own and his Ministers’ behaviour. How can people have trust in the Welsh Government when Ministers have been found to have broken Government rules but allowed to continue in their job?

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have led the calls for years now for there to be an independent adjudicator of the Ministerial Code. The debate put forward by the opposition parties is the next step in our long running campaign to get the Welsh Government to finally do the right thing. The current system is simply not fit for purpose.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

Lib Dems slam 'indefensible' decision not to sack minister

The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, has described the First Minister's decision not to sack the Natural Resources minister Alun Davies as 'indefensible.' She's also demanded that the inquiry into the minister be made public.

The First Minister’s decision is indefensible. How can you admit that someone has broken the rules but then refuse to punish them? This begs the question of what even is the point of the Ministerial Code?

Time and time again this Minister has failed to conduct his duties properly. A committee found him ‘evasive’ and not on top of his brief, he undermined the democratic process by desperately using an Emergency Bill and now he has been found to have broken the Ministerial Code.

It seems the competence of a Labour Minister is completely irrelevant to whether they can continue in their position.The First Minister dithered on his decision and has now completely failed in his duty to hold his Minister to account. This is a bad day for the National Assembly.

This shows precisely the problems with the current system. Because there is no official system in place, the Welsh Labour Government can do as it chooses and protect one of its own even whilst admitting its Minister has broken the rules.

It is inconceivable for the First Minister not to make the Permanent Secretary’s report public and he must do so today.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been calling for reform of the Ministerial Code for many years now. This sorry episode once again shows why an independent advisor is needed on the Ministerial code.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

Report into minister must be published say Lib Dems

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has joined calls for the publication of a report into claims that a Welsh cabinet member broke the ministerial code. A spokesperson for the First Minister has said he's considering the Permanent Secretary's report into allegations against Alun Davies.

But Kirsty Williams says that report must be published in full and the way such allegations are investigated should be changed in future.

The events surrounding the actions of the Minister clearly show the need to change the way that the conduct of Welsh Ministers is monitored. It’s completely inappropriate for the First Minister to be in charge of investigating his own Cabinet.

An independent body needs to be set up to oversee the Ministerial Code, and to investigate any breaches of it. The First Minister has had plenty of chances to act, but yet another Welsh Labour Ministerial scandal is passing by without a change to the system.

It has been two weeks since the First Minister ordered an investigation, but we are still waiting to hear the outcome. The First Minister doesn’t seem to understand just how serious this matter is.

This report must be published immediately, and the First Minister must make himself accountable to Assembly Members without delay. If the First Minister insists on being judge, jury and executioner over the conduct of his Ministers then he should be dealing with this in an open and transparent way.

Nothing less than a full publication of the report and a statement in the Chamber will do.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

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Lib Dem leader calls for Welsh anti-extremism strategy

In the Senedd, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has called for a specific anti-extremism strategy for Wales following the revelations that two Cardiff men appeared in an Iraqi Islamist recruitment video. Kirsty Williams said:

Last year, the UK Government set up the Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force to look into the issue. While this is welcome, this should be backed by a specific Welsh anti-extremism strategy to ensure that our communities remains safe.

People will of course be very worried and upset that men who have grown up here in Wales have resorted to joining extreme and dangerous groups. Not only do we need to remember that these men are very much in a minority, but we must also look at the potential causes that have led them to take these drastic measures.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

Decision to invite Ann Clwyd welcomed

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed today's decision to ask Ann Clwyd to give evidence to the Assembly health committee. Two previous attempts to invite her had been blocked by Labour AMs.

The Cynon Valley MP received hundreds of letters about poor treatment in Welsh hospitals during her review of conditions in the English NHS.

She was invited to carry out the review in England after she complained about how her late husband was treated before his death at the University Hospital in Cardiff.

It is absolutely right that Ann Clwyd MP is to be invited to give evidence to the Assembly’s Health Committee. While she may have conducted a review into the English NHS, she still received a large amount of information from Welsh patients.

It’s astonishing that Labour members continuously tried to block Ann Clwyd from giving evidence. The fact that she is an MP is completely irrelevant. The truth is they are afraid they won’t like what she has to say. Ann’s voice deserves to be heard

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
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Welsh Govt must ask why schools struggled say Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the Welsh Government must provide more information about why some schools had unexpectedly poor results in the new GCSE exam. They say more should have been done to prepare schools for a greater emphasis on basic English skills when the exam was marked.

The WJEC have said some schools might have struggled to cope with the changes to the exam and have not prepared well enough. Yet the First Minister seemed unwilling to accept this to be the case. Whilst poor GCSE results might only be a political hiccup and yet another bad headline for the Welsh Labour government, for the pupils these are results that will stay with them for life.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

Follow Silk's plan say Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats has called for the implementation of the Silk Commission's recommendations for devolving more power to Wales. They say the Commission's report is a blueprint that should be followed.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats helped ensure that the Silk Commission was established as we believe Wales must have a proper functioning parliament. Like the first report, we believe the recommendations published today set out an ideal blueprint for the future of devolution in Wales.

At every stage the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been pressing to bring more accountability and responsibility to the Welsh government. We also believe that the current devolution model is simply not fit for purpose; this has been shown by the increase in Supreme Court cases. It is time for a new model to be established that clearly defines what is devolved and what is not. Clarity is needed and we welcome that the commission has called for this to be the case.

In only a short space of time and against much resistance, Liberal Democrats in government have been the driving force in ensuring there is now real momentum behind the devolution process. We have a proud record of bringing decision-making closer to the people of Wales and we will continue to fight for that to be the case.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
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