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Energy group's 'spin' criticised

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.

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary

Shadow Welsh Secretary slams 'gross profiteering' energy price hike

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.


Owen Smith 'delighted' to continue in post

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.

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary

Call for more Assembly powers if court blocks bill

Plaid Cymru has said that if the Supreme Court strikes down the Assembly's new law on farm workers's wages, Westminster must pass a new Government of Wales Act to devolve the necessary powers.

Given that the purpose of the Bill was to protect Welsh agricultural workers after the UK Government scrapped that protection, it is disappointing that the Attorney General has referred the Bill to the Supreme Court. This comes on the same day as the Silk Commission poll findings that once again show that the people of Wales trust the National Assembly more than they trust Westminster and want to see significantly more powers transferred to Wales.

Plaid Cymru hopes that these important safeguards for agricultural workers are found to be within the National Assembly’s powers.

– Plaid Cymru Agriculture spokesperson Llyr Gruffydd AM

Meanwhile the UK Government has defended the Attorney General's decision to refer the legislation to the Court, arguing that it is a necessary procedure under the devolution settlement.

All legislation passed by the National Assembly for Wales is examined to ensure it is within their competence. Upon examination of the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill, the Attorney General considers that it raises important questions about the breadth of the National Assembly for Wales’ legislative competence and that the Supreme Court is the right forum for resolving those questions. The UK Government is committed to continuing to do all it can to ensure that the current devolution arrangements work effectively.

– UK Government Spokesperson

But the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, has claimed that today's action is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Welsh Secretary, David Jones. He added that a previous challenge to the Assembly's Byelaws Bill cost £150,000 before the judges ruled last year in the Welsh Government's favour.

After the last attempt, David Jones said he’d learnt lessons about the boundaries of devolution but once again he is questioning the Assembly’s authority.

David Jones and Dominic Grieve voted to scrap the Agricultural Wages Board in England and now they’re trying to block a Bill that will protect the wages and conditions of 13,000 farm workers in Wales. But what’s really at stake is Tory acceptance of the devolution settlement and respect for the Welsh Assembly.

The Tories are revealing their antipathy to devolution and their determination to block Labour measures to make Wales a fairer place.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Shadow Welsh Secretary criticises 'another empty promise' on M4

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the further cuts set out by the Chancellor represent 'an admission of failure to tackle the deficit.' And he criticised the lack of specific news on an M4 relief road.

He blamed the Welsh Secretary David Jones for that delay, saying his 'determination to block' borrowing powers for the Welsh Government was 'holding back Wales.'

Wales has already taken more pain than other parts of the country, with real wages falling £1600 since 2010, and the further cut announced today will mean that the Welsh Government’s budget is down by more than 10 per cent since the coalition came to power. Families and businesses in Wales need action now to get growth back into the economy, generate jobs and protect living standards. Instead, we heard yet another empty promise on the M4 relief road but still no detail on when work might start.

What we should have heard from the Chancellor is that the Welsh Government will get the borrowing powers that were agreed last October, so that it can bring forward investment and get people back to work. The Welsh Secretary’s determination to block these extra powers is holding back investment, and holding back Wales.

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary


Minister's resignation is 'matter of great regret' says Shadow Welsh Secretary

Leighton Andrews has been one of the most effective and committed Ministers in the Welsh Labour Government and it’s a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to resign due to a conflict between his role as Education Minister in the Assembly Government and as a constituency AM. However, I know Leighton will continue to represent his Rhondda constituents robustly and passionately and will remain an excellent advocate for Welsh Labour values in the National Assembly.**

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary

Borrowing powers delay slammed

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has criticised a delay in the UK Government's response to a call for the Welsh Government to be given the power to borrow money. He says it means 'the gaping hole in Wales' capital budget still isn't being addressed.'

It is hard to know if this is simply incompetence or whether our Secretary of State’s antipathy toward devolution is blocking the borrowing powers. Either way, it is Wales and the Welsh people that are losing out as David Jones continues to deny the Welsh Government the tools they need to kick-start the Welsh economy that is being failed by the Tory-led coalition.

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary

Shadow Welsh Secretary hits back at PM

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has hit back at the Prime Minister's criticism of the Labour Welsh Government's handling of the NHS. He used twitter to say:

Another disgraceful attempt by the PM to divert attention from Tory failure to sustain the NHS in England by misrepresenting NHS Wales...

The reality is that Labour has maintained the NHS Wales budget at 6.4Bn - despite Tory cuts to the overall Welsh budget of 1.4Bn

A further reality of NHS Wales is that we're not selling off the NHS in Wales, or cutting nurses or closing any A+E

One last reality check on the Welsh NHS: 86% of doctors say they'd rather work in Labour Wales than under the Tories in England

– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary

Budget wrong overall and wrong for Wales says Shadow Minister

The Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, has attacked the Chancellor both for his overall economic strategy and for the specific consequences for Wales of today's Budget.

The Chancellor could have introduced a package of measures to stimulate our economy: cuts to VAT and National Insurance, for example, and increased spending on house building and other infrastructural projects that would increase economic activity and boost tax receipts. And today’s Budget, in which the Chancellor said he was going to ‘level with’ Britain, acknowledges as much by adopting a version of Labour’s plan on National Insurance and by increasing the spending on infrastructure too.

But look at the fine print and what do you see: none of these things come in this year and most, like the elusive extra £3 billion on infrastructure, only due to appear in 2015 – when the Tories may well be out on their ear. And the same Osborne hallmarks of ‘jam tomorrow’ and sleight of hand are apparent in the treatment of the budget for of National Assembly.

David Jones announced that Wales would get an extra £161 million to spend on infrastructure – but we all remember that this is just putting back some of the £500 million cut in capital spending that was made in 2010 budget and even in the terms of this Budget it’s not quite as simple as the Welsh Secretary would have us believe, because a further £59m is cut out of the Welsh Government’s revenue funding, forcing hard decisions about cuts to services on which we all rely.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP
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