I will readily admit the Conservative election victory surprised me as much as the pundits. However, I can assure people that scare stories about a Conservative government slashing the public sector and selling off the NHS were totally untrue. David Cameron has rightly said we will govern in the traditions of ‘One Nation Toryism’ remembering the needs of those less fortunate. We must also be mindful that democracy requires other political parties to hold government to account and offer alternatives if they fail.
This is a lesson Labour should be wary of in Wales where they have dominated political life for years. Assembly elections in May 2016 offer the chance for change.
Back in Parliament, the Queen’s Speech debate on devolution provide an opportunity for me to set out some thoughts on Wales. I am relieved the Welsh Government will not be given tax raising powers without a referendum and I will certainly vote “no”.
I look forward to the electrification of the Swansea-London rail line and an M4 relief road. Hopefully, the government can be persuaded to further reduce the Severn Bridge tolls after both crossings revert to public ownership in a few years. There are sound arguments for much greater cuts than the 20 per cent VAT reduction already promised.
I don’t want to fuel the anger many may feel after reading about a planned MPs’ pay rise but I don’t want to avoid the issue either so here goes..
Several years ago, a body called IPSA was established by Parliament to determine the pay and allowances given to MPs. IPSA is, by law, completely independent of Parliament and cannot be influenced by MPs in the way other quangos can. This was in response to a concern that MPs should not be responsible for deciding these matters themselves.
IPSA developed a new pay package for MPs which has been repeatedly reported in the national press as a “pay rise”. In fact, it is a package of measures which involves an increase in salary alongside big cuts in pensions, redundancy payments, life insurance and overnight allowances. IPSA has said the overall cost to the taxpayer will be exactly the same.
I recognise there are concerns about the IPSA package, although I think many are unaware of the full details. I would be happy to vote to abolish IPSA and return to the old system of MPs being responsible for determining salaries - but being held to account for this by the electorate - if that is what a majority of the public want.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 8 June 2015*