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  1. Nick Powell

Vote Labour to stop UKIP in police election says former Plaid leader

Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas. Credit: ITV News

Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas has called on voters in North Wales to make Labour either their first or second preference for police commissioner. Lord Elis-Thomas is standing as a Plaid Cymru Assembly candidate but says that in the police commissioner election on the same day, voters "need to think and act tactically".

I’m calling on all supporters of Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats right across North Wales to cast either their first or second preference vote for Labour’s David Taylor on Polling Day, to stop UKIP from inadvertently benefiting.

– Dafydd Elis-Thomas

At the last police commissioner election, Dafydd Elis Thomas backed Labour's Tal Michael in North Wales. But unlike now, there was no Plaid Cymru candidate although many in the party backed the independent Winston Roddick, who went on to win.

In police commissioner elections, voters are asked to express two preferences on a single ballot paper, so Lord Elis-Thomas has left open the possibility of voting Plaid Cymru as a first preference and putting Labour second. That would only help Labour in a run-off against a third party, which the former Plaid leader says he fears could be UKIP. But he went on to say that it was Labour that had the candidate "who can unite our region".

I know he would make an outstanding commissioner, bringing a much-needed new energy and enthusiasm to the role.

– Dafydd Elis-Thomas

Two years ago, Plaid's leader, Leanne Wood, sacked Lord Elis-Thomas a chair of an Assembly committee. He had criticised her for describing a vote for UKIP as "a vote against Wales". Last year he survived moves to deselect him as a candidate. He was backed by his constituency party members after he agreed not to criticise Plaid Cymru policy without discussing it with them first.

Five candidates are standing for election as Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales:

  • Arfon Jones -Plaid Cymru
  • Julian Sandham -Independent
  • David Taylor -Labour
  • Simon Wall -UKIP
  • Matt Wright -Conservative

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  1. Nick Powell

Public Health Bill defeated

The Public Health Bill has been defeated in the Senedd after the final vote on the proposed law was tied with 26 votes for and 26 against.

The Presiding Officer was then required to use her casting vote to halt the legislation.

E-cigarette ban fails after Plaid Cymru withdraw support. Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government, which has no majority in the Assembly, had been relying on the support of Plaid Cymru AMs to pass its proposals, which included restrictions on the smoking of e-cigarettes.

Relations between the two parties broke down this afternoon following a row over earlier legislation.

The defeat was the final act before the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler, announced the end of the 2011-2016 Assembly.

It won't meet again before it's dissolved next month, prior to the election in May.

  1. Nick Powell

Plaid say Labour were offered way out of defeat

Plaid Cymru have said that the party offered to support the recall of the Assembly before it's dissolved next month if Labour would agree to dropping restrictions on e-cigarettes from the Public Health Bill. The move followed the breakdown of co-operation between the two parties after the Public Services minister, Leighton Andrews claimed that Plaid had been a "cheap date" when he needed support for his Local Government Bill.

On the very last day of the Assembly, Leighton Andrews has shown a disrespect for parties and individual AMs seeking to create a consensus across political divides. He chose to belittle cooperation and put his own Government’s legislation in jeopardy. This afternoon, Plaid Cymru proposed to Welsh Government that the Bill should be withdrawn before the vote and that the Assembly should be reconvened immediately after Easter to vote on a Bill with all sections on e-cigarettes removed. Plaid Cymru would have supported that legislation.

– Plaid Cymru Spokesperson

Until today, the Government had thought it would get its legislation passed although all the opposition parties were against the e-cigarette restrictions. That's because Plaid had allowed two of its AMs, including its Health Spokesperson, Elin Jones, to vote in line with their personal wish to see the use of e-cigarettes discouraged. Ms Jones and the other AM -Llyr Gruffydd- have now been instructed to vote against.

The expected defeat of the Government tonight will be almost the final event in the Senedd before the Mace is removed later this evening, marking the end of the 2011-2016 Assembly. The Labour Government has survived for five years despite not having an overall majority and only faces losing a major piece of legislation on the very last day that the Assembly will sit before the election. There's expected to be a tied vote, with the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler required to then use her casting vote to stop the Bill proceeding.

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  1. Adrian Masters

Plaid 'stitch-up' claim over devolution talks

Jonathan Edwards MP requested minutes of the devolution talks

A refusal to publish the minutes of cross-party talks on Welsh devolution is a 'Westminster stitch-up' according to a Plaid Cymru MP.

Jonathan Edwards made his comments after being refused access to the record of discussions held at the beginning of the year by the Welsh Secretary which are often referred to as the 'St. David's Day Agreement.'

However his attack has been criticised by the UK Government which says that Plaid Cymru had signed up to the consensus reached during the process.

The talks and the subsequent blueprint published by David Cameron and Nick Clegg have formed the basis of the UK Government's draft Wales Bill which will change the powers of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly.

Jonathan Edwards tabled a written question asking to see the minutes and has criticised the refusal of the Welsh Secretary to publish them:

There are gaping holes in the draft Wales Bill, ranging from the devolution of Network Rail functions and funding; devolution of policing; the appointment of a Welsh Crown Estates Commissioner; devolution of S4C; review of devolution of criminal justice.

The refusal of the Secretary of State to publish minutes of the meeting smacks of another back room Westminster stitch-up between the Tories and the Labour Party.

Plaid Cymru will be tabling amendments to the Bill to ensure that the people of Wales get the democracy and accountable government they deserve and we will continue to challenge the unionist parties to put their tribal politics to one side and act in the Welsh national interest in improving this crucial Bill.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

This is the response from the Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb to Jonathan Edwards' Written Parliamentary Question:

I held a large number of meetings as part of the St David’s Day process. These included meetings with the parliamentary representatives of the four main political parties in Wales to identify which Silk Commission recommendations had political consensus to be taken forward. It was agreed that discussions at these meetings would remain confidential, and the Government has no plans to publish minutes.

– Written Answer by Stephen Crabb MP, Welsh Secretary

But a Wales Office source points out that Plaid Cymru took part in the St. David's Day process.

Plaid Cymru played a full part in the St. David's Day Agreement and signed up to the political consensus that underpinned it. They cannot now pretend to have no idea how that consensus was reached.

– Wales Office source
  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Labour deserve to lose despite Corbyn says Wood

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has told her party's conference that Wales needs a change of government, replacing what she called a "tired, incompetent, Labour regime". She told delegates in Aberystwyth that Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader had changed nothing about the Welsh Government.

The Labour leadership may have changed. But one thing doesn’t change. And that is the undeniable need for a change of government in Wales. Be under no illusion – a change at the top in Westminster does not undo Labour’s poor record here.

The UK Labour leader will, we are told, be coming to campaign against the Party of Wales despite voting with us more often than his own party in Parliament.

Remember, he’ll be calling on people here to back a Welsh Labour Government, who not only defended Trident nuclear weapons but called for their relocation to Wales.

– Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

Plaid claim they can form a government on their own after the Welsh election next May, though they admit they probably can't achieve an overall majority in the Senedd. No party has ever managed that. The same was true in Scotland until the SNP went from minority government to total domination of Scottish politics. The SNP's leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was in Aberystwyth to urge Plaid Cymru to follow her party's example.

If the SNP can win in Scotland, there is no reason - none at all - that Plaid Cymru can't also win in Wales. Not at some distant point in the future. But now, next May, at this election.

You can win. Believe it. Work for it. And you will do it. And when Wales does turn from Labour to a party with ambition, vision and determination, people will realise just how different things can be.

– Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Tonight Labour hit back on the issue where Plaid Cymru think the Welsh Government is most vulnerable -the running of the NHS. Labour claim that Plaid has no idea how much its proposed reorganisation of the health service will cost -or any rate won’t tell the people of Wales.

  1. Nick Powell

Sturgeon to rally Plaid troops for Assembly election

Leanne Wood recently addressed the SNP Conference for the second year running. This time, Nicola Sturgeon is returning the favour. Credit: PA

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has given herself two hard a acts to follow at Plaid Cymru's conference. By the time she gets to her feet this afternoon, delegates will have already heard from Mark Serwotka, the leader of the PCS union, who's from Aberdare.

But top of the bill is the nationalists' heroine, the First Minister of Scotland Nicolas Sturgeon. The SNP leader, who looks set to increase her government's majority in next year's Scottish election, is making the trip to Aberystwyth this year.

Exchanges of speakers between the two parties are routine enough but it's become noticeable that although Leanne Wood has been happy enough to trek north, the SNP have generally left it to one of their more minor figures to return the compliment.

It's a sign of the close friendship between the two women, cemented when they both took part in the UK election debates earlier in the year. The kudos that Nicola Sturgeon gives to the conference outweighs any fears that Leanne Wood will be upstaged at her own party conference. The view at the top of Plaid Cymru is that they're resigned to constant comparisons between themselves and the SNP, so they might as well make the most of it.

Sure enough, any doubt that the Plaid can double its number of AMs and displace Labour as the biggest party in the Assembly is answered by pointing to the SNP's breakthrough in 2007, when it overtook Labour in the Scottish Parliament. It formed a minority government and went on to secure an overall majority four years later.

Plaid Cymru has identified the Welsh NHS as the key issue on which it will take on Labour.

Our Welsh NHS is being failed by Labour. We have fewer doctors per head than most countries in Europe, with Scotland having almost 50% more GPs than we do.

New drugs and treatments are often not available to patients simply because of the area they live in. We have the longest waiting times in Britain for people to be given tests that are crucial in diagnosing cancer.

We have the longest waiting times in Britain for people to start treatment, sometimes even when that treatment is lifesaving surgery.

The NHS can no longer be trusted in Labour’s hands. It can be trusted in Plaid Cymru’s."

– Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

Plaid Cymru is promising to spend on the Welsh NHS all extra money that comes to Wales as a result of in creased health spending in England. The party has ambitious plans to train a thousand extra doctors, set up specialist diagnostic centres for people suspected of having cancer and set up a new fund to pay for new medicines and treatments.

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