Senedd Bites #28: Neil Hamilton Ousted

(Title Image: via Youtube)

Botched UKIP leadership challenge?

Twitter was “abuzz” with rumour and counter-rumour earlier this afternoon that three UKIP AMs – Caroline Jones (South Wales West), David Rowlands (South Wales East) and Michelle Brown (North Wales) – had discussed, attempted and subsequently backtracked on an attempt to split from the other two AMs and form a new group under the UKIP name, with Caroline apparently in line to be the leader of this new group.

AMs left committee sessions early, staffers didn’t know what was happening and there were reports of a “heated” meeting last night.

In the end, it appeared as if Neil Hamilton has won the day simply because of the administrative problems forming a new group in the Assembly would entail. Losing the confidence of more than half of his group is hardly a sign he’s going to win the war though.

Update: Neil Hamilton is gone, replaced by Caroline Jones – though the UKIP group will remain as is. It remains to be seen how Neil Hamilton will take this. Will there be another Independent?

Wales only UK nation to achieve faster cancer waiting times

A BBC Wales analysis revealed that 87.3% of Welsh cancer patients were seen by a specialist within two months of diagnosis in 2017-18, an increase of 1.5% on the previous year.

The target is for 95% of patients to be seen within two months – the highest in the UK – but the same target in England is just 85%, with just 82.4% of patients seen within two months. Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen 180% and 133% increases in the numbers waiting longer than two months also, with Wales seeing a rise of just 22%.

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) said, “We’re not satisfied with our position, we’re pleased to be ahead of the UK pack but there’s much more to do and – along with the rest of the UK – we’re at the wrong end of cancer outcomes across Europe.”

Term-time holiday fines “have no impact on attendance”

A review of the Welsh Government policy of finding parents who withdraw children from school during term time for holidays has found it’s made no material difference to attendance rates.

The fines are between £60-£120 depending on how quickly they’re paid, with the report suggesting that parents could, effectively, afford to absorb the fine due to the savings booking a holiday during term time achieve.

There were also inconsistencies, where some local authorities nearly always issued a fine for term-time holidays and others issued none at all. The review recommended a single national policy instead of letting individual councils decide.

First Minister welcomed Severn Crossing name change

A Freedom of Information request proved that the First Minister “welcomed” a controversial change of name of the Second Severn Crossing (to The Prince of Wales Bridge).

Correspondence between the First Minister and Welsh Secretary, dated December 2017, expressed the Welsh Government’s support for the proposal and a willingness to take part in any renaming ceremony. The idea was first proposed in March 2017.

A YouGov poll carried out by Nation.Cymru earlier this month revealed just 17% of people support the name change, with 34% opposed. The Welsh Secretary had previously claimed a “silent majority” supported his proposal.

Forced cheap land sales “not ruled out”

The Welsh Government have refused to entirely rule out forcing the sale of land at a price equivalent to before any planning permission was granted in order to build more social housing.

The policy has been proposed by the UK Labour Party for England as part of the creation of a “sovereign land trust” and would require a change in the law in Wales if it were to happen here – something the Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), has said would need further evaluation.

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) raised concerns that such a policy would lead to a loss of land for food production.