This year marks the 20th anniversary of devolution. I was part of the anti-Assembly “NO” campaign when the people of Wales voted in a referendum for a Welsh Assembly. But if you believe in democracy you respect the wishes of the majority. It would have been wrong for those of us who opposed the Assembly to try and prevent it through spurious legal challenges, or by claiming people didn’t know what they were doing. No, no, no. The only response was to accept we had lost and make the best of things.
Today I find myself not only accepting the Assembly but making the case for it to have an extra tax raising power - over air passenger duty – so the Welsh Government can do more to support Cardiff Airport. By a strange irony, whilst I am campaigning for the Assembly to have an extra power, several of its AMs are doing their best to ignore the result of the most recent referendum in Wales; which showed a much bigger majority in favour of Brexit.
There has rightly been shock and sadness at the proposal by Ford to close the plant in Bridgend where Dragon petrol engines are built. Many have tried to blame Brexit. The head of Ford came into Parliament last week and made clear that Brexit had nothing to do with the decision. It is instead all about the fall in demand for petrol engines, which has partly come about because of emissions laws and pressure to switch to electric vehicles. In other words, it is climate change rules not Brexit which is causing the loss of jobs in the petrol and diesel engine industry. The UK government intends to ban any new petrol and diesel engines from being built after 2040 but many MPs want the ban brought in much sooner, meaning car manufacturers will think twice about setting up new factories here. I don’t believe cars are destroying the planet. But I wish those who do would have the courage to accept that draconian anti-car laws will lead to huge job losses.
I think worries over CO2 are exaggerated, although I am not against environmental legislation if it makes sense. Greenpeace are running a campaign about the cleanliness of our rivers which I fully support. So I will be putting on a wetsuit with local athlete and trainer Angela Jones to wild swim on the Wye and see how we can make the best use of our precious natural resources.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 15 July 2019*