Westminster

Disability News Service: Ministers ‘failing to uphold a UN disability convention they do not understand’

The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

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Government ministers are failing to uphold the rights of disabled people, ignoring the need to engage with disabled people’s organisations, and do not understand the UN’s disability convention, according to a new report.

The highly-critical report has been compiled by disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the UK and submitted to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

It analyses how the UK and devolved governments have responded to key parts of last year’s highly-critical report by the committee on the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The new report includes some criticism of the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales – and raises concerns about the impact of the continuing political impasse over the Northern Ireland Executive – but most of its concerns are directed at the UK government in Westminster.

The UK government, the report says, is responsible for “continuing retrogression and re-institutionalisation” of disabled people and continues to disagree with the UN committee’s findings and recommendations.

It adds: “We have concerns that the UNCRPD is not embedded within government and is poorly understood at all levels, including ministerial.”

It provides the example of international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, who appeared to try to redefine the meaning of inclusive education at the government’s Global Disability Summit in July, telling the international audience that inclusive education meant “that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential”.

The report says that many of the concerns raised by DPOs last year in their evidence to the UN committee remained a “significant problem”, with disabled people still subject to “tightening eligibility” for support, the removal and sanctioning of benefits and the bedroom tax.

It also raises concerns about the continuing rollout of universal credit (UC) and says DPOs are “gravely concerned” at the failure to assess the access needs of disabled people due to be moved onto UC and the lack of the necessary data to monitor its impact.

It warns that the social care funding crisis has led to the removal of further essential independent living support for disabled people and the closure of community services for people with mental distress, while increasing social care charges are leaving thousands of disabled people in debt or choosing to pull out of receiving support completely.

The DPOs also point to the chronic shortage of accessible housing in England, with new housing for disabled people often limited to segregated supported housing complexes.

And the report says that the number of disabled children being forced into special schools is rising, while budget cuts are reducing the quality of inclusive education, and the number of disabled pupils left without any educational placement at all has risen, as has the number of disabled pupils excluded from school.

Among the DPOs that contributed to the report are the Alliance for Inclusive EducationDisability Action (Northern Ireland)Disabled People Against CutsDisability WalesInclusion LondonInclusion Scotland, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance and Sisters of Frida.

They make 22 recommendations of their own that are aimed at the UK government, including calling for: a new legal right to independent living; the abolition of charging for social care; an end to the practice of placing disabled children and young people in long-stay hospitals; and a new social security system that is based on “an accurate analysis of need” and is “consistent with a human rights approach to disability”.

There are also four recommendations for the Welsh government – including a call to incorporate the UNCRPD into Welsh law – and six for the Scottish government, including the need for a national strategy on the provision of accessible housing.

The DPOs conclude that examples of “progressive” policy-making have been restricted to the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, although the two executives are “not without room for improvement” themselves.

There is also repeated criticism in the report of the UK government’s “inadequate engagement” with DPOs and its failure to recognise the importance of consulting disabled people.

The report says that “engagement with non-user-led charities is continuously prioritised over engagement with DPOs”, while requests by DPOs to meet ministers “are frequently turned down”.

It also says that engagement with the UK government is “undermined by an increasing lack of trust”, and warns that “without trust, consultation and engagement cannot take place in ‘good faith’”.

The report does welcome one measure taken by the UK government, the increased funding for disabled facilities grants, although it warns that “delays in processing applications can still be a problem for under-resourced local authorities”.

This week’s report follows the publication of the government’s own progress report last month.

The DPO report is highly critical of the government’s progress report, accusing it of effectively ignoring many of the UN committee’s recommendations.

One of the recommendations ignored, it says, was to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of its cuts and reforms on disabled people, with the UK government continuing to insist that this is not possible.

It points out that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a CIA earlier this year, while the Greater London Assembly is conducting its own CIA for London “using the same methodology as the EHRC”, and both the Scottish and Welsh governments are “exploring carrying out their own”.

There is also frustration at the government’s failure to follow up the UN committee’s recommendation that it should devise a “comprehensive” plan aimed at the “deinstitutionalisation” of disabled people, in “close collaboration” with DPOs.

Trip to the Capital #SaveWILG

It was a scorching hot day in London and my comrades Delyth Lloyd-Williams and Greg Ogden reckon I was on fire too as we continue our fight to #SaveWILG.

I would love to write more but time is at a premium and I must keep on campaigning. I  just have time to say that we spoke with Chris Ruane MP and John McDonnell MP as we aim to #SaveWILG.

Question Time in Caernarfon #SaveWILG

I am requesting help on Twitter to spread awareness of our #SaveWILG campaign during Thursday evening’s Question Time, which is taking place in Caernarfon. We have fellow campaigners in the audience to ask questions, though we recognise that it is very unlikely that any question on the future of WILG will be aired on the BBC.

If you are busy on Thursday evening, don’t worry. You can also get the message across to Assembly Members throughout Wales at any time. We must make it clear that there is still time to reverse the awful decision to close WILG and transfer all responsibilities for Independent Living to local authorities.

A list of AM Twitter handles can be found below along with a suggested Tweet and electronic postcards and memes that can be attached to Tweets for greater impact. Even if you only manage to Tweet a handful of AMs, this could make a real difference to disabled people across Wales.

You should also look out for some BRAND NEW MEMES that will be coming your way very soon.

Thanks for your support.

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SUGGESTED TWEETS:

Please be advised that these Tweets should be modified and adapted slightly to prevent Twitter from assuming they are spam messages. To help prevent this, the Tweets can also be individualised by using some of the many postcard photographs, electronic postcards and memes. 

Key addresses to include for tonight’s programme and over the coming months are as follows:

First Minister Carwyn Jones – @fmwales 

Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies  -@huw4ogmore

Disabled ppl with high care and support needs are in search of your support to maintain Independent Living for all. Are Welsh Labour planning on listening to the democratic wishes of their members #bbcqt

Disabled ppl with high care and support needs are in search of your support to maintain Independent Living for all. #SaveWILG #bbcqt

Wales voted Labour. Don’t copy Tory policy and damage independent living 4 disabled ppl. WHAT USE IS A TRANSITION PERIOD IF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AND A DEMOCRATIC VOTE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR A GOVERNMENTAL RE-THINK? #bbcqt

Wales voted Labour. Don’t copy Tory policy and damage independent living 4 disabled ppl #SaveWILG #bbcqt

This is the impact of closing the ILF in England  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-living-fund-post-closure-review #SaveWILG #bbcqt

Welsh Labour: Don’t copy Tories in Westminster. Protect independent living 4 disabled ppl #SaveWILG #bbcqt

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David Melding @DavidMeldingAM

Lynne Neagle @lynne_neagle

Gareth Bennett AC/AM @GarethBennettAM

David Rowlands AC/AMVerified account @DavidRowlandsAM

Hefin David AC/AM @hef4caerphilly

Caroline Jones AC/AM @carolineUKIP

Dr Dai Lloyd AC/AM @DaiLloydAM

Carl Sargeant AM @Carl4AandD Michelle Brown AM @MishBrownAM

Carwyn Jones AM/ACVerified account @AMCarwyn

Joyce Watson AM @JoyceWatsonam

Nathan GillVerified account @NathanGillMEP

Neil Hamilton AC/AMVerified account @NeilUKIP

John Griffiths AM @JGriffithsLab

Vikki Howells AM @VikkiHowells

Ann Jones AM @ann_jonesam

David Rees @DavidReesAM

Neil McEvoy AM @neiljmcevoy

Ken Skates AMVerified account @KenSkatesAM

Dafydd Elis-Thomas @ElisThomasD

MickAntoniw AM @MickAntoniw1

Jayne Bryant AM @JBryantWales

Mike Hedges @MikeHedgesAM

Julie James AMVerified account @JulieJamesAM

Rebecca Evans AMVerified account @RebeccaEvansAM

Eluned Morgan @Eluned_Morgan

JaneHutt AMVerified account @JaneHutt

Rhianon Passmore @rhi4islwyn

Elin Jones @ElinCeredigion

Vaughan Gething AMVerified account @vaughangething

Mark Drakeford AMVerified account @MarkDrakeford

Mark Isherwood AMVerified account @MarkIsherwoodAM

Angela Burns @AngelaBurnsAM

Mohammad Asghar AMVerified account @MohammadAsghar

Lesley GriffithsVerified account @lesley4wrexham

Nick RamsayVerified account @NickRamsayAM

Andrew RT DaviesVerified account @AndrewRTDavies

Simon ThomasVerified account @SimonThomasAC

Huw Irranca-DaviesAMVerified account @huw4ogmore

Russell George AMVerified account @russ_george

Rhun ap IorwerthVerified account @RhunapIorwerth

Julie MorganVerified account @JulieMorganLAB

Sian Gwenllian AC/AM @siangwenfelin

Janet Finch-SaundersVerified account @JFinchSaunders

Lee Waters AMVerified account @Amanwy

Alun DaviesVerified account @AlunDaviesAM

Jeremy Miles AC/AMVerified account @Jeremy_Miles

Jenny Rathbone AMVerified account @JennyRathbone

Mark Reckless AMVerified account @MarkReckless

Dawn Bowden AM @Dawn_Bowden

Llyr Gruffydd AC/AM @LlyrGruffydd

suzy daviesVerified account @suzydaviesam

Darren Millar AMVerified account @DarrenMillarAM

Steffan LewisVerified account @steffanlewis

Adam PriceVerified account @Adamprice

Hannah Blythyn AM @hannahblythyn

Kirsty WilliamsVerified account @Kirsty_Williams

LeanneWoodVerified account @LeanneWood

Bethan Maeve AM/ACVerified account @bethanjenkins

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Letter from Rebecca Evans AM

Yesterday I received an email from Ian Lucas MP who shared the response to his letter to Rebecca Evans AM about my WILG campaign.  His letter can be read here.  The response he received can be read below and it is most disappointing.

Instead of being disheartened by this response, it has given me and my comrades extra impetus for the fight ahead.  There are so many points that Evans has made here that are just quite simply unfair and discriminatory.  It is time to ramp up the pressure on Evans and her cronies in Cardiff.  We can not stand by and let this happen in 21st century Britain.

I am overwhelmed with the support I am getting from the north Wales public and this is really appreciated as it gives me the strength to carry on with the fight for all WILG recipients – the majority of who I are not even aware that this fight is going on.

I could write pages in response to this letter, but I do not have the time at the moment.  My time is better spent on the struggle to achieve liberty and justice for the disabled community.

Here is the letter from Rebecca Evans AM:

25 August 2017

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your letter on behalf of your constituent, Nathan Lee Davies regarding the decision to provide support in future to former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) through local authorities’ social care.

Following the closure of the ILF in 2015 by the UK Government, we put in place interim arrangements with local authorities to ensure continuity of support for former recipients in Wales through our Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). This has worked well and I understand Mr Davies has been receiving payments from Wrexham County Borough Council under this to continue to help him meet the costs of living independently.

These arrangements were put in place while we considered how support in the longer term should be provided. To assist with that consideration a stakeholder advisory group was established. This had representation from the organisations which represent and act for disabled people in Wales (such as Disability Wales and the Dewis Centre for Independent Living), representation from local authorities and some recipients themselves.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide future support. These ranged from perpetuating the WILG indefinitely or for a set period of time, to establishing similar arrangements in Wales to that of the ILF outside of local authorities’ provision. The advisory group considered the advantages and disadvantages of each option in terms of its effectiveness to support former recipients and its fit with supporting the larger group of disabled people in Wales who had been excluded by the UK Government from receiving support from the ILF following its closure to new entrants in 2010.

In light of these issues the advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. It did so because this option matched the future support former recipients would receive with that being provided generally to disabled and older people in Wales. This is in keeping with our person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. This is similar to the ethos behind the original establishment of the ILF.

The advisory group also saw this option as the way forward as it removed the inequitable two-tier approach which currently exists to supporting disabled people in Wales, with some receiving only support from their local authority while others can receive this as well as dedicated payments from the WILG.

I accepted the stakeholder advisory group’s advice in full. I appreciate that Mr Davies and others who wished to see a different option chosen will be disappointed with the decision taken and will be apprehensive about the future. However, to ensure a smooth transition in recipients’ support, all local authorities were issued with detailed guidance. This covered how authorities were to prepare and undertake the care assessments necessary to identify what recipients need to continue to live independently. It also covered the resultant agreement of the future care package a person required and provided clear advice that a person’s payments under the WILG should not cease until that care package was in place.

As part of our monitoring of local authorities’ preparations for this transition, all authorities have recently confirmed that they have plans in place to implement this change, with the majority having commenced their care assessments. In a small number of cases recipients have already had these, agreed a future care package and have transferred to receiving their support from their local authority. Most authorities are, therefore, confident of completing the care assessments they need to undertake in 2017-18.

In the case of Wrexham I understand it has a plan in place to implement this change and that care assessments have begun. I am aware, however, that completion of this to time is dependent on the authority creating additional social worker capacity. I understand the authority has secured funding but has yet to fill vacancies. In view of this, officials are maintaining a watching brief on the situation.

In view of Mr Davies’ and your concerns I am happy to meet with both of you, and one or two other recipients, to discuss the implementation of this change further, although I do not intend to revisit the decision for the reasons outlined above. Would you please arrange for your office to contact my Diary Secretary, to agree a mutually convenient date for this. His contact details are:

Tel No. 03000 259461

E-mail: DS.MinSSandPH@gov.wales

Rebecca Evans AC/AM

Gweinidog Iechyd y Cyhoedd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Minister for Social Services and Public Health

 

Disabled people and their concerns can no longer be ignored

Reblogged from the Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-761f-Disabled-people-and-their-concerns-can-no-longer-be-ignored#.WZ9EjD595dg

Thursday 24th Aug 2017

ELLEN CLIFFORD and ANITA BELLOWS report on how disability rights activists brought evidence of the Tories’ savage policies to the United Nations

DEAF and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain have come together this week to give evidence about Westminster’s continuing violations of disabled people’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of Disabled people (UNCRPD), with a delegation that includes representatives from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, as well as Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland.

There are two parallel processes. The UNCRPD committee will simultaneously hear about British progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review of all nations that are signed up to the convention, as well as a presentation following up on the initial complaint made by DPAC under the optional protocol of the CRPD, which triggered the first inquiry against a state under this process.

The periodic review is wide-ranging and covers detentions under mental health legislation, employment, education, transport, housing, social care and independent living, specific discrimination against women, black people, intersex people, people with learning difficulties and so on.

On Monday August 21, deaf and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain gave a presentation in front of the committee in a closed session.

We highlighted the gaps in state provisions which undermine the government’s claim that the Westminster government’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.

The issue is complicated by devolution and the different laws and arrangements which exist in the four nations.

What came out of the meeting was that not only has the Westminster government failed to progress CRPD implementation, but that rights hard fought for by disabled people have been dramatically eroded since 2010 by cuts. This has led us to today’s state of crisis where high numbers of people with learning difficulties and autism are trapped in institutions, there has been a rise in disabled children educated in special schools and the destruction of community support is leading to greater marginalisation and isolation of disabled people.

Following the closed session, deaf and disabled people’s organisations will have the chance to arrange meetings with individual committee members on specific matters such as access to justice, before the committee quizzes the Westminster government representatives on August 23-24. These examination sessions will be open to the public and livestreamed.

Also this week, the CRPD committee heard a follow-up presentation on the specific issues which triggered its inquiry in 2015 which found evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the Westminster government due to welfare reform.

These violations were closely related to welfare reform and the devastating and disproportionate impact on disabled people. The investigation carried out by the committee was indepth, involving reading thousands of pages of evidence and reports and a visit to Britain where disability committee members spoke to over 200 disabled people and organisations.

However, the government rejected the findings and dismissed the inquiry report as “patronising and offensive,” questioning the competence of the committee members.

The CRPD committee’s report was leaked to the Daily Mail the day before the US election. The response from the government was dismissive and totally ignored the committee’s conclusions.

One specific demand was for the government to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of the cuts, something that it has consistently refused to do.

This week disabled people had the chance to give a presentation on the worsening of the situation since that inquiry took place and the new cuts and measures that have been introduced withouBrit consultation or by bypassing Parliament and scrutiny — including the cut to personal independence payments brought in at the start of the year that will affect 164,000 people, predominantly those who experience psychological distress.

One major concern that disabled people have is around proposals outlined in the government green paper Work, Health and Disability: Improving Lives.

Its purported aim is to reduce the disability employment gap, but key measures it introduces will extend conditionalities and sanctions to more disabled people, ignoring calls from the National Audit Office to follow up on its initial examination of the impact of sanctions on disabled people, which suggests they actually lower chances for disabled people of finding employment.

For the government, the default position is that all disabled people are able to work, or able to do some work, if given the right incentives and motivation to do.

Using the flawed argument that work is the best way out of poverty, when more and more people in work are getting poorer, the government has devised a regime even more coercive than the previous one, for which impairments are something temporary which can be overcome with willpower and the right mindset. This government is a step away from denying the existence of disability.

Reflecting on the long journey, which has taken disability activists to the United Nations, there is some grounds for optimism.

The inquiry and its outcome mean that disabled people and disability issues can no longer be ignored. Their experiences have been validated by the inquiry’s findings, and the CRPD provides a framework for expressing our grievances and holding the government to account that is missing from domestic legislation. The fight is far from being over, but disabled people have become a vocal and powerful force in Britain.

  • Ellen Clifford is campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London and Anita Bellows is a Disabled People Against Cuts activist.

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Background:

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced by Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM to help people with high care and support needs who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in June 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales.

The grant was only ever meant to be a short-term measure as Mark Drakeford wanted to give further thought to three longer-term options to identify which one might best deliver effective support, despite the difficult financial position.”

These options included the possible extension of current arrangements, a potential arrangement with the body set up in Scotland to provide payments to former ILF recipients there to do the same for Welsh recipients and, as in England, to transfer the funding to local authorities in Wales to bring ILF recipients within the arrangements for providing care and support set out under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 for disabled people more generally.

Substantial time and money was spent on a consultation that overwhelmingly showed support for either a partnership with the Scottish ILF or a continuation of WILG – anything rather than distribute the funds solely to local authorities and end the reliability of three-way funding between government, local authority and personal contribution…

 

November 2016:

The new Minister for Health and Social Services, Rebecca Evans AM, decided that the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales will be passed directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap since the fund closed in June 2015.

Instead, Evans said that funding for WILG would continue in its current form through 2017-18, but would transfer to local authorities during 2018-19. All former ILF-recipients will have their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

In addition, the Welsh government has not yet made it clear whether the funding it will transfer to local authorities during 2018-19 will be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for social care spending.

 

Why we oppose this decision: 

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. Disabled people, their families and support workers didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.​

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable, as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities.

This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision.

In a written statement in February 2016, Mark Drakeford AM said: “The level of recurrent funding being transferred to the Welsh Government from the UK Government to meet this responsibility is flat-lined at £27 million per year. This is sufficient to be able to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as when the ILF was closed. There is, however, no scope to fund a change in a person’s needs or for any changes in the cost of the support they require. Neither does this transfer include any element for the administration or set-up costs associated with the arrangements to provide support we operate in Wales. Such costs would have to be top-sliced from the £27 million per year thereby reducing the level of the payments we were able to afford. As a result, this level of transfer greatly restricts the options we are able to consider for providing support to recipients in the longer term.”

To an extent, we sympathise with this situation and recognise that funding difficulties have their roots in Westminster. However, a strong government should provide for and protect those they represent, instead of washing their hands of responsibility of those in need while passing the buck to over-stretched local authorities and frittering millions on harebrained schemes such as north Wales metro. People should be prioritised over profit.

Welsh Labour will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success. At the moment, there is no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.​

 

Some Party leaders come to Wrexham for Election Debate

On Wednesday 30 March I attended the FSB Welsh Leaders’ Debate at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University. I have a rather exciting story to share from the evening, but I don’t want to share it at the moment because I do not want to give away my political allegiances before the hustings that I have arranged with Sheila Meadows OBE at the end of the month.

Until then, here is the story of the evening as taken from Wrexham.com

 

With the Federation of Small Business hosting the event at Wrexham Glyndwr University the debate itself was a businesslike affair.

First Minster Carwyn Jones was subbed by Edwina Hart AM, with Mr Jones having understandable business regarding Tata Steel. Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood fame stood in for UKIP’s Nathan Gill, with the other parties having their leadership lining up as promised – Andrew Davies from the Conservatives, Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham.com did offer to film and live stream the event, however organisers have said BBC Radio Wales will be ‘carrying the event’ in some form, so we will provide a link if/when we spot it, for now there is a summary of some of the points made and a few observations of the evening.

( UPDATE there is a 30 minute edit that you can listen to online, or download an MP3 of on the BBC website here )

The debate was fast paced crammed into an hour with topics focused on Welsh business and related subjects.

The initial question that dominated the first quarter of the discussions centred around the news over Tata Steel looking to dispose of their assets in the UK (More coverage on this can be found on Deeside.com, with the obvious Shotton interest).

The responses from the panel were along party lines nationally through today, with Labour stating it was not just a Welsh Government issue but global due to ‘dumping’ from China with a wish that the issue will ‘rise above politics’. Edwina Hart said she wanted to see a ‘fit for purpose’ steel industry in the UK as regardless of Tata or state owner it is making £1m per day claimed losses.

In a conciliatory tone the Conservative leader stated it was ‘vital’ that both the Welsh and UK Governments worked together, and that they were not against a ‘stake’ being taking in the business for a short while if it was so required. A ‘tit for tat tariff war’ was warned against, with a refusal of Chinese steel being linked to possible knock on effects to other demand such as Airbus planes.

UKIP cited the lack of protection from the EU over ‘dumping’, with Mr Reckless wanting the UK to stand alone to enable ‘anti dumping tariffs’. EU rules over clean energy were noted with new coal power plants being on UKIP’s agenda if the referendum votes ‘out’.

The Liberal Democrats echoed other views of steel being an ‘industry of national strategic importance’, explaining that Shotton appears to be the only profitable part of the Tata UK operation and concern over the lack of clarity to its future. Referring to the banking bail outs, Kirsty Williams said “We need to put our money where our mouth is” to similarly bail out the steel industry, saying governments spend money on things ‘a lot worse’ than saving jobs.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru introduced a political fight, challenging Labour’s record saying manufacturing had ‘not been a priority for years’, pointing out that the Conservatives had been lobbying for China to be granted market economy status – a move that would it is claimed have severe impact on the competitiveness of the UK steel industry. UKIP also had their nose tweaked as their EU argument was skewered with it pointed out regardless if the UK was in or out, there is still a Conservative Government in Westminster so the policy on China would not change.

Another question was asked over divides in spending, with the implication the M4 corridor in South Wales and Deeside get a bigger bite at the proverbial cherry than other areas. The M4 is currently due to get a £1 billion upgrade, with a controversial relief road being much debated. The various black and blue versions of routes were mentioned several times leaving a debate in North Wales with a question over a southern focus bruised.

All parties noted issues with the A55, with electrification of the North Wales mainline or associated transport link improvements also being seen as important by all. The dividing lines were drawn over the implementation of spending, with UKIP looking to develop links with the so called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a geographically imprecise area.

Edwina Hart challenged the view on the south getting a better deal than the north, saying that us here in the north get more per head spent on transport than the south. Looking at Andrew Davies, she also pointed out that the limits to cash available are due to the Conservative party in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams said there ‘was life outside of Cardiff and Newport’ and favoured a balanced regional approach, explaining how she was from mid-wales and therefore knows how it feels to be ‘not listened to’ by Cardiff. Leanne Wood went a step further saying Plaid Cymru would entrench fairness in spending into law to ensure there could be no geographical bias.

Wrexham.com has covered the mystery over the ‘deal’ for North Wales, and with the Chancellor George Osbourne putting it on par with a £1 billion city deal for Cardiff (signed and sealed) it did seem odd there was no mention of it. Andrew Davies reiterated that a strong economy was required for growth, and echoed UKIP’s view to ‘plug in’ to the Northern Powerhouse, explaining how he sees more east-west connections rather north-south.

With only twenty minutes remaining the last two questions about inward investment, tax reform, business rates and business support were answered in an often tangential manner.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru explained plans for Welsh Government to take equity stakes in new startups rather than straight grants, a system that would share the risk and reward.

Mark Reckless from UKIP said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Severn Bridge tolls were to be kept under Conservative plans, with Andrew Davies from the Conservatives responding to abolish them would cost £15-20m and increase road use by 25%.

Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats made the only mention of tourism, saying she welcomed more visitors and encouraged more to be done to promote Wales.

Edwina Hart from Labour spoke of her positive experiences of visiting classrooms and seeing entrepreneurial spirit from children however pondered when it was ‘knocked out of them’.

No large scale reforms of the business rates systems were proposed, with various tapers and reliefs being put forward by all to help business. Kirsty Williams did give a warning that any wholesale changes would need to be ‘very careful’ as her locality does not collect much in rates but gets much more benefit, and devolving collection and control to local authorities could exacerbate any finance gaps.

In what was quite a tranquil debate the only audience applause (and a whoop) occurred when Edwina Hart suggested that Andrew Davies’ Conservative Party could make large global corporates pay tax, presumably referring to the likes of Facebook and similar who paid £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014 despite making $2.9bn profit globally.

Mr Davies replied that more had been collected under the Conservatives recently than under the whole of the previous Labour Government, a similar applause then took place.

The event went well, with the BBC Wales host Brian Meechan conducting his work with a subtle touch, however after the meeting there was mutterings on the small scale of the event and inability to get tickets. One told us they had many interested friends who were unable to attend, with them disappointed the audience appeared ‘packed’ with ‘political types’ – we did spot a couple of candidates for various positions and members of their entourages sitting in.

There was a video link in place to Swansea, with one question posed via the connection, one wag after the meeting said: “We have a meeting about North Wales in North Wales and still South Wales gets focus”, although for those unaware of the M4 routes it would have been an educational experience.