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  1. Nick Powell

St David's Day deal won't trigger tax vote says FM

First Minister Carwyn Jones has categorically ruled out holding a referendum on Welsh income tax powers "unless and until the the long term funding of Wales has been addressed satisfactorily". In a letter to Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, he says the St David's Day agreement on more powers for the Assembly does not meet that test.

Mr Crabb wrote to the First Minister yesterday, saying that the momentum for more devolution may now be lost without "strong and positive engagement" from the Welsh Government. In his reply, Carwyn Jones adds to his initial response that the cross-party agreement had been "rushed and unsatisfactory".

I make no apologies for not supporting an announcement that falls far short of Wales' needs. I have no intention of seeking a referendum on partial devolution of income tax to Wales unless and until the long term funding of Wales has been addressed satisfactorily. You will recognise that neither the announcement by the Prime Minister, nor the Command Paper published by the UK Government, provides any such assurance. I am bound to say that the whole process leading to your announcement and Command Paper was deeply disappointing and frustrating. It was slow to start, ad hoc and poorly prepared. The first hint of financial proposals was given to me by the Prime Minister -not you- in a phone call a mere three days before your announcement. I was very clear to the Prime Minister that the proposals he described were unacceptable.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones will be questioned in the Senedd on his attitude to the Saint David's Day agreement, after he makes a statement to AMs later this afternoon.

  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Tory leader sees case for more AMs

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has signalled that his party is no longer totally opposed to an increase in the number of Assembly Members, so long as the "total cost of democracy" does not go up. Mr Davies says the Welsh Government's growing powers and responsibilities make it difficult for an Assembly with so few backbenchers to hold it to account.

Are we really going to have another five years with just 60 AMs? It's already evident that there are huge pressures on the Assembly's ability to scrutinise the government.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

It's possible that an increase in AMs could be linked to a cut in the number of local councillors as part of the local authority mergers expected in the next few years. Also the Conservatives are likely to revive plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 if they're still in power at Westminster after May's election.

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New plan to tackle rare diseases in Wales

Wales’ first ever plan to tackle rare diseases is launched today.

A rare disease is defined as a life-threatening or chronically debilitating disease, which affects five people or less per 10,000. Credit: Angelika Warmuth/DPA/PAImages

It sets out the Welsh Government’s expectations of the NHS in Wales to treat rare diseases for people of all ages.

A rare disease is defined as a life-threatening or chronically debilitating disease, which affects five people or less per 10,000. They can range from life-limiting illnesses to manageable conditions, which do not affect daily living. There are around 150,000 people affected by such diseases in Wales.

Examples include Sickle Cell, which is a disease arising out of genetic problems, and Spina Bifida - a disease arising out of deficiencies or exposures to substances during pregnancy.

"This is the first time Wales has developed a plan to improve the experiences of people living with rare diseases and it brings together a number of recommendations designed to improve coordination of care and lead to better outcomes for people.

To this end, we are keen to see real partnership across services, agencies, and above all between individuals living with rare diseases, their carers, patient organisations and the NHS.

Patients with these conditions can suffer greatly and we are determined to provide the best care we can for them. I expect this plan to make a real difference."

– Vaughan Gething, Deputy Health Minister

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St David's Day deal: Crabb 'disappointed' by FM response

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has written to the First Minister, saying he is disappointed by his response to the St David’s Day agreement and fears momentum will now be lost.

It comes after Carwyn Jones said he felt Wales was not being treated with the same degree of respect as Scotland, adding that the process had been "rushed and unsatisfactory".

I was disappointed to read your reported comments in response to the announcement over the weekend. The package represents a significant movement in Welsh devolution, paving the way for a clearer, stronger and fairer devolution settlement for Wales.

My officials are pressing ahead to ensure a new Wales Bill will be introduced early in the next Parliament. However, I am concerned that momentum may now be lost unless there is strong and positive engagement from the Welsh Government.

– Stephen Crabb MP in letter to First Minister
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