As UKIP prepares for its Welsh conference, Labour's launched a campaign aimed at highlighting what it says are UKIP's 'right-wing, Thatcherite' policies. UKIP says it'll be the main challenger in traditionally Labour-voting areas such as the South Wales Valleys.
Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the campaign is aimed at setting the record straight.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the effects of Conservative policies are 'like a virus preying on Wales.' He was speaking ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on the impact of UK Government policies on Wales.
Most people in Wales are worse off - £1600 on average worse off. Wales is losing more in the social security cuts than any other part of Britain. More disabled people affected by the bedroom tax. We know in our community that the reality of a Tory government is that it is like a virus preying on Wales.
First Minister Carwyn Jones and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith are to address the Labour Party Conference in Manchester later.
In his speech, Carwyn Jones will welcome what he sees as the adoption of his call for a Constitutional Convention as Labour Party policy. The First Minister had wanted voices from all parts of the UK to be heard before the referendum in Scotland but he's pleased that his idea has now been taken up by Ed Miliband.
The Labour leader has acknowledged that Carwyn Jones was right and "ahead of the game". Mr Jones will use this speech to argue that it has been wrong all along to try to reform the UK through what he'll call a bilateral conversation between Westminster and Scotland.
After all, David Cameron tried that and was so badly out-witted by Alex Salmond that he almost lost the union. We must honour our promise to refound the UK in a way that ensures the strong identities of our nations are recognised within a common bond of solidarity. I don't want to see anymore panicky responses from David Cameron to placate the Ranting Right in his own party, and the narrow nationalism of Nigel Farage.
The Shadow Welsh Secretary will also attack David Cameron's wish to link more devolution for Scotland -and potentially for Wales- to a ban on Welsh and Scottish MPs voting on England-only matters at Westminster. Owen Smith will claim that the Prime Minister is making a "shabby attempt" to expolit English desires for less centralisation of power at Westminster.
Instead of some tawdry trick to buy off backbench critics with the Balkanisation of Parliament and the purge of Welsh, Scottish and Irish influence. David Cameron should heed the words of Carwyn Jones and Ed Miliband and call a Constitutional Convention to forge a new Union for Britain. Because we’re not going to stand by and let Cameron short-change the Scots or deny power to the people of this city [of Manchester] and others across England. And I’m certainly not going let this, or any other Tory Prime Minister, silence Welsh voices at Westminster
Mr Smith will also emphasise the importance for lower paid workers in Wales of Labour's proposal to increase the minimum wage. The Labour leadership are determined not to let constitutional questions, however important, stop them getting their economic messages to the electorate. But they know that they have to address both issues. Ed Miliband was particularly struck by meeting a Scottish voter on the minimum wage who couldn't decide whetherer or not to back independence
New Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has been welcomed to his post as "the third Secretary of State for Wales in the last 22 months" by his Labour shadow, Owen Smith, who says it time for the Conservatives to end what Labour call the Tories' "war on Wales".
He's called on Mr Crabb to "break free from the ceaseless negativity that has characterised his predecessors’ attitude to Wales and the achievements of the Welsh Government". Mr Smith has also drawn attention to the new Secretary of State's past doubts about devolution.
I have written to the new Secretary of State today to formally offer my congratulations, but also to call on him to go into the new job with the aim of standing up for our nation, rather than indulging in politicised attacks on Wales, with the aim of winning votes in England. The Wales Office can play a vital role in being the voice of Wales at Westminster, but it has recently been reduced to a crude propaganda machine attacking the very country it is supposed to represent, as a proxy for attacking the wider Labour Party.
Speaking from the steps of 10 Downing Street Mr Crabb has this morning pledged to ‘work hard for Wales’. I hope and trust that will be the case, and that the war on Wales might end on his watch. Mr Crabb shares with his predecessor a long stated scepticism about the value of devolution, calling it in the past a form of ‘constitutional vandalism’, and he will thus face legitimate questions about his commitment to the devolved settlement and his desire to take it forward.
He not long ago lamented that it was no longer saleable ‘to call for the abolition of the devolved institutions’. Let’s hope he takes a more enlightened view now he’s responsible for them. A key test for Mr Crabb in this regard will be whether he supports the Silk Commission and Labour’s view that our country should have the same, ‘reserved’ model of devolved powers as those applied in Scotland.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the Chancellor must do more to get young people back into work when he announces his budget on Wednesday. Mr Smith said,
"With nearly a million young people out of work across the UK, a Labour Budget would also include a jobs guarantee, based on the success of Jobs Growth Wales, which has created 11,000 opportunities for young people in Wales.
"If George Osborne doesn’t announce these measures, the next Labour Government will waste no time introducing them. They’re a vital part of our plan to create an economy that puts hard-working people first and that offers good jobs with decent wages"
- Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary
Shadow Welsh Secretary has hit back at claims that he and fellow Labour MPs have 'torpedoed' proposals to transfer control of some taxes including income tax (following a referendum) to the Welsh Government. Owen Smith said:
Labour is the party that campaigned for devolution and delivered it for Wales and Scotland, and we support additional powers where they will help grow the Welsh economy, such as borrowing powers to invest in infrastructure. But we will not risk undermining the solidarity of the union with other parts of the UK, nor the ability to redistribute between richer and poorer areas. It is only the nationalists with their desire to break up the UK, and the Tories who want to undermine public services, that would proceed to major new powers without a full analysis and very careful consideration.
Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, has described the PISA results for Wales as 'disappointing' but says that 'the Welsh Labour Government has already recognised the scale of the challenge we face and has put in place the measures required to turn things around.'
He added that
The response of the Welsh Government to today’s results has been honest, serious and long-sighted, in contrast to the short term, party-political points which Conservative UK Cabinet Ministers have sought to make today. Using the education of Welsh pupils, striving for attainment in some of the most challenged and deprived communities of Britain, as a means to score points off the Labour Party, is a cheap trick which will be seen for what it is by the Welsh people.
The Welsh Secretary has been accused of committing his party to a tax cut costing £200m. In the Commons, Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith seized on comments made by David Jones following the news that some control of income tax could be transferred to Wales.
Owen Smith said a cut of 1p in income tax would cost £200m and challenged the Welsh Secretary to say what services he'd cut to pay for it. In response David Jones said any future tax changes would be up to a future Welsh Government.
But he repeated his call for an early referendum on devolving income tax power to the Welsh Government and said Conservatives would campaign for lower taxes.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says that Swansea 'remains one of our great cultural centres' despite not being chosen as City of Culture.
The disappointing news that Swansea narrowly missed out on the City of Culture award does nothing to diminish the fact that the City remains one of our great cultural centres in Wales and beyond.
The brilliant bid put forward by the City will have served to remind people of that fact right across the World and I am sure that it will have played a part in increasing visitor numbers, especially next year, during the centenary celebrations for the City’s greatest literary son, Dylan Thomas.
His ugly, lovely town, crawling, sprawling by the side of a long and splendid curving shore will go from strength to strength, of that there is no doubt.