Friday, 26 November 2010

Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau Is Not Dear To Cheryl

Says it all

Keir watched from the gallery yesterday as Welsh MPs Huw Irranca-Davies and Chris Bryant became noticeably agitated by the statement made to the House by Transport Secretary Phil Hammond.

Further to Keir's last post about the issue of rail electrification, it seems the Government is indeed intent on leaving Wales with a 20th century rail infrastructure as the rest of the UK moves into the 21st. Despite gleefully confirming a wad of investment for England's rail lines, Hammond stalled on committing to electrification from London through to Swansea, all but affirming rumours that the improvements will stop before the border.

Hammond tried to fob the issue off onto the Welsh Assembly Government but, as the First Minister pointed out, this is not a devolved issue.

Now, Hammond is just doing his job. But one person who isn't is Cheryl Gillan. The Welsh Secretary, surely the first Minister who will lose their job in some way or another, has evidently been putting no pressure on her Government on this issue. Gillan is facing increased pressure to resign from her constituents who, as if to highlight the difference between Wales and the place where she resides and represents, are outraged at plans to run the new HS2 rail line through the affluent English constituency. According to Irranca-Davies, Mrs. Gillan has now said she will resign should the HS2 development go ahead; surely she should be making such principled stands on behalf of Wales as well? She isn't. Instead she is making non-committal remarks about how she remains "fully supportive of electrification" and that she "hoped to work with WAG" on the issue.

And the Government's suggestion that there needed to be a stronger business case for electrification to extend to Wales was shown to be nonsense by Rhondda MP Bryant. South Wales and the Valleys needs this development to increase its ability to grow. But it seems the Government is playing stick and stick with Wales; forcing thousands of redundancies from the public sector whilst killing plans like this that would have stimulated private sector growth.

Keir's got a suggestion for a carrot the Government could use though: sack this useless Welsh Secretary and appoint someone to the role who can effectively represent the interests of Wales in this Cabinet of millionaires.


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