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.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has sounded a note of caution about the transfer of control over part of income tax to Wales. He told our Political Editor Adrian Masters that politicians need to be certain Wales would be better off under the change.
Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, has accused Swalec owner SSE of 'spin' by claiming to have reported a £150m loss. He criticised the energy group for 'selling its own product to itself,' a reference to its wholesale and retail divisions.
No matter how hard SSE spin by highlighting a £150m loss in its retail arm, the reality is the company’s overall profit came in at around £350m. The attempt to plead poverty will fall on deaf ears in Wales, where we already have the highest energy bills of anywhere in the UK.
SSE’s profits of £350m have allowed it to give shareholders inflation-busting pay-outs while customers face inflation-busting price hikes. It can only do this because it operates in a flawed market. The group sells its own product to itself and hasn’t got enough serious competition.
A long-term solution is to reform the energy market, which a Labour Government will tackle head on. But we also need a short-term answer to sky-high prices. That’s why Labour is calling on David Cameron to freeze energy prices and address the cost of living crisis facing families across the country.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has sharply criticised the decision by SSE to increase energy prices.
Families in Wales are being particularly hard hit by this increase.
Wales – where there are more than one million SSE customers - already suffers from the highest energy bills and lowest levels of disposable income of anywhere in Britain.
This is nothing more than an act of gross profiteering. People in Wales are clearly being ripped off by this energy company and it needs to stop.
People are already suffering under David Cameron's cost of living crisis and now, thanks to his failure to stand up to the big energy companies, consumers will be hit by ever high bills, with SSE increasing prices by nearly 10%. This is a sign that David Cameron only stands up for the privileged few.
If ever there was proof that Ed Miliband was right and we need a freeze on energy prices, this is it.
Pontypridd MP Owen Smith has just issued his reaction to Ed Miliband's reshuffle. Mr Smith remains in the rôle of Shadow Welsh Secretary.
I’m delighted to be continuing as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet, and will be continuing to hold David Jones to account for his failure to stand up for Wales around the Cabinet table. People in Wales have been hit even harder than those in the rest of the UK by this Tory-led Government’s failed economic strategy, with wages down £1700 on average, energy bills up £300 and 40,000 families hit by the hated bedroom tax.
In Ed Miliband we have a strong and determined leader who is taking the fight to David Cameron and his out-of-touch Government. Ed has put together a formidable team and in the remaining 20 months before the General Election we’ll be relentless in our efforts to expose the failure of the Tory-led Government to tackle the cost of living crisis and to offer hope to the British people that there is an alternative.