On Remembrance Day, we paid tribute to those who gave their lives during conflict. Over the past year, as Welsh Secretary, I have been fortunate to visit veterans of the Armed Forces across Wales and hear their stories. It is vitally important that we never forget the sacrifices people made – and continue to make – for freedom in our country. We remember them, past and present, and their service is recognised and appreciated by us all. It was a privilege to join The Royal British Legion in Abergavenny for Sunday’s Armistice parade where the rain failed to stop a large crowd from paying their respects. I also attended a Remembrance Day event at Chepstow School on Friday morning, which was extremely well put together. I wish to congratulate the staff and young people who took part in a very moving and thoughtfully produced service.
I saw Abergavenny and District Civic Society pass comment on the Labour-led administration at Monmouthshire County Council and its policy of 50 per cent of all new houses being affordable. There was also a political swipe at the housebuilding policies of the previous Conservative-run council. A former Labour town mayor is chair of the civic society and I am aware there are other members who are supporters of the Labour Party. Nonetheless, non-political organisations and publicly funded comprehensive schools should do their utmost to retain political neutrality. I fully accept people who run organisations like charities and our local schools have got political views but no matter how enthusiastic they are, these leaders should try and keep their opinions to themselves. Sadly, there have been one or two instances recently where that clearly hasn’t happened.
The King’s Speech set out a series of policies which will benefit people across the UK, including Wales. The UK Government is committed to reaching net zero by 2050 but oil and gas will continue to be needed while we make that transition. Our Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will protect the economy and safeguard over 100,000 jobs by backing North Sea oil and gas extraction and ensuring we are not so dependent on other nations. There will be new legislation to protect the public, such as whole life orders for those who commit the most heinous sexual or sadistic murders, compelling criminals to attend their sentencing, and forcing rapists to serve their full term in prison with no chance of parole. The government is also committed to creating the first smokefree generation by preventing children who turn 14 this year or younger from being legally sold cigarettes. There is a great deal more, of course, including better protection for leaseholders who are being exploited by landlords and support for S4C to be able to market its high-quality Welsh content around the world.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 15 November 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 16 November 2023*