By the time the country goes to the ballot box in the next Assembly election in 2021, Welsh Labour will have been in government in one guise or another for 23 years. Wales needs a change of government. Democracy and all its fruits cannot thrive without it.
So far we have seen 19 years of Labour Party rule, with the people and communities of Wales badly let down. Our educational attainment is behind countries like Vietnam and Slovakia, as evidenced best by the latest international PISA assessment and average earnings are almost 10% lower than the rest of the UK – with Welsh workers £41.80 worse off than Scottish workers every week and £49.90 worse off than English workers. And under Welsh Labour, one in seven people are currently languishing on waiting list for surgery compared to one in 14 in England. This is simply unacceptable and all on Labour's watch.
The Labour Party and Carwyn Jones have had plenty of time but sadly they've run out of ideas. It's time to Change Wales and we'll put the national interest first to ensure this is achieved. We need the best and brightest in Wales working together, not against each other. It’s time for a New Deal for Wales.
And #ChangeWales will set out an exciting new agenda for Wales with contributions from our Welsh Conservative Assembly Members.
First up is Preseli Pembrokeshire AM, Paul Davies, on why we need to deliver an Autism Bill in Wales to ensure the needs of the 34,000-strong autism community are protected.
An Autism Bill for Wales
This week marks World Autism Awareness Week. For many autism charities it’s a fantastic opportunity for schools, workplaces and individuals to take part in activities to raise money and awareness of autism.
There’s still a great deal of work to be done to help start addressing some of the many hurdles faced by Wales’ autism community.
Against this backdrop and whilst the topic of autism is high on the political agenda, we have an excellent opportunity to reiterate the case for primary legislation here in Wales to put services for people living with autism on a statutory footing.
Currently, despite Welsh Government action, many people living with autism simply do not have access to the services that they need. Children with autism are without appropriate education and assistance, both before and after the transition to adulthood and independence. Adults with autism are neglected and have limited support in finding employment and training opportunities.
It’s a worrying state of affairs, but the introduction of primary legislation is a step in the right direction as it will ensure that services for both children and adults are put on a statutory footing.
We have a fantastic opportunity to make this a reality.
I have been working with fellow Assembly Members, third sector organisations and people living with autism to draft a Bill to ensure that the needs of Wales’ 34,000-strong autism community are enshrined into law.
Indeed, I’ve just launched a second consultation to invite interested parties to have their say on the Bill in its current form. It’s been great to receive so much feedback to the initial consultation last year and I hope that I’ve been able to incorporate as many points as possible into the drafting of this Bill.
The whole process has enabled me to engage with people right across the country and hear their views on how autism services should be delivered across Wales.
If successful, this piece of legislation would mean that health boards and councils would be legally required to specify what services they need to deliver, as well as expanding upon the Welsh Government’s autism strategy. This Bill could ensure that there are clear pathways to diagnosis, and help staff dealing with people with autism to get the training they need.
It’s a significant opportunity for the National Assembly to introduce laws which have a profoundly positive influence on the community, and I sincerely hope that it will continue to enjoy the support of members of all parties.
Similar laws exist in other parts of the UK – and it’s time for the same rights to be extended to people with autism in Wales.
So whilst Autism Awareness Week gives us the chance to reflect on some of the good work that has already been done – let’s also look forward to the opportunities that we still have to support the autism community in Wales.
Paul Davies AM
In a scramble for votes, Labour are conning the public over the NHS - Angela Burns AM
One of the most curious incidents of the Fourth Assembly came when the former Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, resigned from his post in Welsh Government – ostensibly protesting against his own policy on surplus places and school closures.
It was a moment of ‘peak irony’. A bizarre turn of events that led Mr Andrews to quit after a Rhondda schools was earmarked for closure.
Politics and politicians are often viewed with cynicism by the public, and little wonder.
Over the weekend we were treated to the latest instalment in Labour hypocrisy – with Llanelli Labour politicians Lee Waters and Nia Griffiths donning suitably sombre poses in protest against proposals to downgrade Prince Phillip Hospital.
I can sympathise with the plight of local residents facing closures and downgrades. In my own constituency residents face the same battle to ensure that services are not lost or downgraded.
What sticks in my craw, though, is Labour politicians swooping in to the rescue when it’s their own government which has placed services under threat.
I have raised my own concerns about the future of health services in West Wales on many occasions. For my pains I have been accused by members of the Welsh Labour Government and Labour backbenchers of scaremongering; talking down the Welsh NHS, and harming staff recruitment.
How strange, therefore, to see Mr Waters and friends reaching for the placards and Labour flags.
Vaughan Gething recently approached the Welsh Conservatives to take part in a Parliamentary Review on the grounds that he – quite sensibly – wants to depoliticise the whole reorganisation programme in West Wales.
Imagine the wave of cynicism that swept over me this weekend when I saw Labour Assembly Members, MP’s and local labour parties protesting outside Hospitals in Llanelli and Haverfordwest.
Are Labour really planning to depoliticise the NHS and do what’s best for the nation? Or is the real plan to continue to con the public and scramble for every potential vote, when the reality is that the NHS is where it is today because of years of Labour incompetence?
Many will recall a BBC poll that revealed that around half of the public were still unaware that the health service has been run by the Welsh (Labour) Government since 1999.
We have to do a better job of explaining the way things work and we need to call out cynicism where we see it. But the media also has a significant part to play in bridging the democratic deficit which exists, and they must endeavour to report in such a way that politicians are unable to blur the lines of accountability.
The Labour Party has a history of taking advantage of public confusion over where power resides as a result of devolution. It may serve their narrow political interests to exploit the situation, but it does little to improve accountability, or to promote our Welsh Parliament.
Angela Burns AM
Health Spokesperson - Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM