My regular newspaper column: Your MP Writes

The state of the NHS in Wales has become a national issue following an exposé by the Daily Mail. Those in charge are not only giving a poorer service than their English counterparts but seem to question the right of anyone to draw attention to their failings. Labour MP Ann Clwyd was blocked from giving evidence to the Assembly health committee, while independent international health inspectors working for the OECD have been able to visit hospitals elsewhere in the UK but have been prevented from coming to Wales.

Now I am reliably informed that one health board run by a senior Labour figure has decided to pay for the services of an expensive law firm to send letters to the Mail demanding retractions; something which could just as easily have been done by the press officers or in-house lawyers who are already employed by this health board. Message to Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford: we need medical doctors not spin doctors.

In parts of Monmouthshire, two tin cans connected by a piece of string would probably be a more reliable way of getting a message out than sending an email. It was no surprise therefore that a public meeting in Abergavenny to hear from the Director of BT Wales Ann Beynon was completely full – despite it being a weekday afternoon. BT were left in doubt as to what people think of the service they are delivering. Most frustrating of all is that we all know there are some areas which are years away from getting the fibre cable needed for a reasonable broadband speed. If BT would at least admit where these areas are, then people living there could explore other options such as using satellites. BT Openreach needs to become BT Open and Transparent.

A new law (the Recall of MPs Bill) will shortly mean that MPs who break parliamentary rules will face an automatic by-election. Some wish to go further and want just 20 per cent of voters to be able to call a by-election as often as they want, and for any reason they want. There will always be 20 per cent who will disagree with everything their MP is doing, yet enabling a minority to impose the expense and inconvenience of a by-election onto everyone else on a regular basis would not serve democracy. If amendments to the Bill were reworded so that 51 per cent of the electorate was required to support a by-election, then I would reconsider my view.

*Published in the South Wales Argus on 3 November 2014*