After Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb attacked Labour over standards in Welsh schools, the Conservatives are being accused by the Liberal Democrats of threatening education in Wales. Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott, who has stepped down as a Lib Dem minister in the Westminster coalition, claims that the Tories are planning to "slash education spending in England", which would lead to an equivalent cut in the Welsh Government's funding.
The Tories' plans to slash funding for schools, nurseries and colleges in England in the next parliament would have dire consequences for Wales. The Tories want to run schools for profit and bring back grammar schools: that is their priority. It’s all very well David Cameron talking a good game on education, but we all know that without the Liberal Democrats holding him back in coalition, he would have cut school spending.
The Westminster Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has said that she is "absolutely fighting" for the schools budget in England to be protected if the Conservatives form the next government. First Minister Carwyn Jones has committed Labour to increasing Welsh school budgets by an extra 1% every year until the funding gap with schools in England is closed.
The Lib Dems are arguing for the education budget in both countries to be protected "from cradle to college". The Welsh Secretary's claim that Labour's record on education in Wales is "a much bigger scandal" than its running of the NHS was dismissed by a spokesman for Education Minister Huw Lewis as "the latest salvo in the war on Wales .... putting Welsh teachers and pupils in the firing line".
I welcome today’s Smith Commission report which I believe is another giant step towards the long held Liberal Democrat vision of a Federal United Kingdom and Home Rule.
While Scotland’s future devolution settlement is clear, the same can not be said for Wales – that needs to change as Wales must not be left behind.
First and foremost, Wales must speak with one voice if we are to be heard. All parties had representatives on the Silk Commission, therefore all parties should at the very least subscribe to the main thrust of the Commission’s proposals. So far, only the Liberal Democrats have done so in Westminster.
The Smith Commission’s report is wide-ranging and many of the proposals would also be appropriate for Wales. Momentum for devolution is moving faster now than it has for years. We must take this opportunity to ensure Wales gets the powers it needs to help build a stronger economy and fairer society.
The public should be able to hold Assembly Members to account by making them face by-elections in their constituencies, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will say in a speech later.
Under her plan, voters in a constituency would sign a recall petition if they were angered by their AM's actions. If enough voters -20%- signed the petition, a by-election would be held and the AM would have to seek re-election if he or she wanted to stay in office.
There is a debate raging about the right to recall in Westminster. In Wales, it hasn’t been on the agenda at all. Today I will put it on the agenda and state clearly that I believe the people of Wales should have the right to recall their Assembly Members.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that once elected, a politician can do as he or she pleases and their constituents can do nothing about it for five years.
Currently, an Assembly Member would only lose their seat outside of an election if they were imprisoned for more than 12 months. That’s a pretty high bar and I believe it must change.
Under Kirsty Willlams' plan, regional list AMs could also be removed from office but the signatures of a fifth of the voters in every constituency in their region would be required. There would be no by-election, the regional AM would simply be replaced by the next person on the party list.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will tell her party's UK conference in Glasgow that proposals to give the Welsh Assembly significant new powers should receive all party backing. The Silk Commission said important tax raising powers should be devolved to Wales, together with new areas of responsibility, including policing.
Energy, justice, tax varying powers, the list goes on - all will be delivered by the Liberal Democrats. Now is the time for the other parties to step up to the plate. I challenge them to do as Nick Clegg has done and sign up to the Silk Commission's recommendations - so that Wales can speak as one voice Wales must have a proper parliament. One that reflects the will of the people. One that has the powers to make a difference. One that shows that devolution really can work
She added that it was important to offer people hope after the divisions caused by the Scottish independence referendum. It was important that the right lesson was learnt from the result in Scotland.
The referendum must be a lesson that people across the UK want more of a say over their future. We must show that change is coming. Independence can't be their only option. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP - we can't let them divide us. Devolving power is in our DNA - it's what we do. The Liberal Democrats must now take back the devolution agenda.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood explains why her party has pulled out of budget negotiations with the Welsh Government in protest at its announcement of plans for a new stretch of M4 motorway.
The Welsh Lib Dems are now the only party talking to the Welsh Government about a deal to support the budget. Their leader, Kirsty Willaims, says that following Plaid Cymru's decision to quit the negotiations over the £1 billion Newport motorway announcement says she'll keep negotiating but the plan for the M4 makes it "difficult".
The Welsh Liberal Democrat priority for the next budget continues to be extra support for Wales’ poorest school children through our Pupil Premium. However, it’s very difficult to see how we can support a budget that prioritises the current M4 proposals and that is what we will explain to the Welsh Government in future negotiations.
The M4 announcement yesterday was a huge mistake. It completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues. Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive and less likely to damage vast swathes of the environment. A responsible Government wouldn’t spend its entire borrowing powers on one single road, leaving no money left for other transport projects.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has pulled her party out of budget talks with the Welsh Government in protest at the decision to spend £1 billion on a new motorway around Newport. She claimed it was a reckless and undemocratic decision, arguing that cheaper and more effective solutions to the traffic jams on the existing M4 would have left more money to be spent in other parts of Wales.
The Welsh Government does not have a majority in the Senedd and needs the support of at least one other party to get its budget passed. In the past, it has reached a deal with Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats or both. Plaid and the Welsh Lib Dems has reached an agreement to negotiate jointly in future.
This is a stand that Plaid Cymru has been compelled to make. The Welsh Government acted with complete disregard for the democratic institution when it took this decision without proper scrutiny and with no business case.
Plaid Cymru wants the M4 congestion problem resolved now and resolved properly. There is an option to do this at a more reasonable cost giving us the same answer and that is why Plaid Cymru in government turned down this more expensive and environmentally damaging option.
In budget negotiations, we would have worked hard to ensure the best value for money for the Welsh taxpayer, and yet the Welsh Government has blown a billion pounds on this extravagant project when there are more efficient and more cost-effective alternatives.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats say today's go ahead for a new motorway around Newport by 2021 is a "huge mistake" by Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart. They say it ignores environmental concerns raised during the consultation on alternative proposals.
The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham. The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence provided to her by the RSPB, Sustrans and the Federation of Small Businesses. There are still huge questions surrounding the economic benefit of this development. Investing the Welsh Government’s entire borrowing powers into one single road leaves no money left for other transport projects like the South Wales Metro, which can provide much greater economic benefit for the whole area. Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and are academically recommended. It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Minister is remaining blinkered, ignoring these credible proposals and ploughing ahead regardless.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the announcement that the secondary banding system will be "revised" from this autumn, and run alongside a new National Categorisation System, will create "more confusion" in schools, as they are being assessed in too many different ways.
There is already a great deal of confusion, with many schools placed in a position where assessment and monitoring can be undertaken in a number of ways: banding, the National Categorisation System, Schools Challenge Cymru, and schools inspection body Estyn.
The result is a complex and unnecessary series of data collection methods which does nothing to give schools the promised “clear way forward” to improvement.
We said in January that if a new system of categorisation was introduced then banding should go and we stand by that statement.
The Welsh Government said in January that "a single national categorisation model will ensure that the regional consortia are assessing schools in a consistent way", and that the system already works alongside banding.
There is little detail on how the categorisation model works.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have launched their European election campaign, claiming that they are the only unequivocally pro-European Union party. They described themselves as "the party of IN", in contrast to UKIP, which they say is the only other party with a clear position.
The message is clear: are you ‘IN or OUT’? For the Welsh Liberal Democrats the answer is clear: Britain and Wales are better in Europe. We are Britain’s only party of ‘IN’. More than one in ten Welsh jobs depend on trade with EU. Why on earth would we want to risk people’s livelihoods? If you don’t support UKIP’s anti-EU and anti-jobs agenda, then there is only one party for you: the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The launch took place in Llandrindod Wells at a company that supplies components for carmakers and other firms across Europe.
Leaving the EU would be catastrophic. It’s the surest way to jeopardise jobs, risk our fragile economic recovery and it will leave Wales and Britain alone and diminished in the world. Other than UKIP, no-one knows what the other parties stand for. For those that want to protect Welsh jobs, then they must vote Welsh Liberal Democrat.
We can only tackle the word’s big issues by remaining in Europe. As members of the European Union our police can work with their counterparts abroad to crack down on the criminals who cross our borders. Collectively, our governments can also be much bolder in the fight against climate change too. Together we can and must make a difference.
Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and UKIP Wales have also launched their campaigns this week. Election day is May 22 and there are a total of 11 parties contesting the four Welsh seats in the European Parliament.
- Britain First
- Liberal Democrat
- Plaid Cymru
- Socialist Labour