Better together in the UK and the EU

Kirsty Williams unveils the nursing Bill she will be introducing in the Assembly in 2014

I hope 2013 will be remembered as the year the British economy turned the corner. The recession of 2008 had a huge impact especially here in Wales and the road to recovery has been long and tough. I trust that the positive signs of the last few months will continue into 2014 and this year will be one of economic prosperity for Wales.

I think it is fair to say 2013 was a tough year for the Welsh Labour Government. Wales languishes at the bottom of the league tables when it comes to education and health. We now have six Local Education Authorities in Special Measures and December’s PISA results showed we had fallen even further behind our UK and European colleagues with regards to the basics of our education system.  In health we saw a record 13,000 Welsh patients waiting over 36 weeks to start their treatment and the slowest ambulance response times in the UK. This cannot be allowed to continue.


Looking ahead to 2014


This is the last in a series of articles this week in which the leaders of the four parties in the National Assembly have set out their hopes for the New Year. Tomorrow Roger Scully surveys the electoral fortunes of the parties during 2013. On Saturday Jon Owen Jones speculates on what awaits them in 2014.

That is why in the annual budget negotiations with the Welsh Government, the top Welsh Liberal Democrat priorities were Education and Health. We worked with Plaid Cymru to ensure a better deal for Welsh people and managed to secure a doubling of the Welsh pupil premium (also known as the ‘Pupil Deprivation Grant’) so that schools in Wales will get an extra £35 million to help break the link between income and attainment. We also secured an extra £50 million to help health and allow people who are well enough to return home more quickly.

The coming year will be highly significant politically. For the first time in centuries the United Kingdom could be broken up. It is absolutely right that the Scottish people are having a say on their membership of the United Kingdom, but I truly hope they remain with us. I am a believer in devolution. I believe decisions should be taken at the closest level possible to the people they affect. However, I also believe being part of the United Kingdom gives Wales huge advantages and I feel the same is true for Scotland.

This idea that we are ‘better together’ applies equally to our relationship with the European Union. In May we will be electing our members of the European Parliament. There is little doubt that the European Union needs to change but the fact that we are members is a huge advantage to us. To be part of the world’s largest trading block is extremely important to businesses and farmers in Wales who trade internationally. Wales benefits by £144 million from our membership of the European Union and that is not something we should put at risk.

Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in reform not isolation and I hope the people of Wales will vote for a party that wants to improve our relationship within the EU rather than separate us from it.

On a personal level 2014 looks set to be a very busy year for me. As well as my usual Assembly and constituency duties I recently won the ballot to bring forward my own piece of legislation. I have chosen to introduce a bill that will set minimum nursing levels in Welsh hospital wards. We are lucky to have some of the best nurses in the world in Wales but we have fewer of them per patient than any other part of the UK, so too much is being asked of them. If we have more nurses they can spend more time with each patient so we can identify and rectify problems more quickly. This type of legislation already exists in parts of Australia and the USA and it has dramatically improved patient outcomes and reduced mortality rates.

Whatever you have planned for the coming year, I hope that it will be a successful one for you. We know that all of the problems, economic or otherwise, will not disappear overnight but we are confident that the recovery is underway. Welsh Liberal Democrats will remain relentlessly focussed on building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.

Kirsty Williams AM for Brecon and Radnor is leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

13 thoughts on “Better together in the UK and the EU

  1. To be fair to the Liberals they do seem to be very effective at getting their victories in opposition. Policies like the pupil premium seem very popular with the teachers I know. It must be good when the Labour AMs are trying to claim it as their own.

    Considering how few there are in the Assembly it constantly impresses me how their are able to be as good, if not better, than the Tories and Plaid at getting things done.

  2. Perhaps the best crafted boring personal New Year message of the four but as we come to the end of this series of articles it becomes even more obvious that the party most likely to make the headlines in the only election that matters in 2014 has been ignored by what is claimed to be Wales’ #1 political think tank.

    In case your combined intellect hasn’t got it yet – it’s UKIP. In just 5 months you will, hopefully, find out how little time the electorate now has for the Lib-Lab-Con-Plaid consensus on EU membership.

  3. That Bill sounds great. I was recently treated in a Hospital where the nurses were working very hard and doing a good job but there simply weren’t enough of them. One told me she was supposed to finish her shift 3 hours earlier. I hope the Welsh government Listen to Mrs Williams on this issue. It coud make a real difference.

    Agree re. Europe too, we should be careful not to bite the hand that feeds us.

  4. John R Walker is right: this is a relatively well-crafted contribution but the whole exercise is redundant without a contribution from UKIP. Even those of us who are not – currently – UKIP supporters would like to know more about where they stand on Welsh issues. After all, the big question in Welsh politics this year is whether is they will turn out to be the most popular party in Wales in the European elections. They are also the only party saying something radically different from the four-party oligarchy that runs this country.

  5. “Wales will get an extra £35 million to help break the link between income and attainment.”

    Good luck with that.

  6. John Winterson Richards – I think the May elections could turn out to be the EU referendum that the major parties are refusing to give us.

  7. I’d be delighted to read a piece from by the UKIP leader in Wales. Who is it by the way?

    If they were indeed invited to contribute, I would be pleased to hear what their policy on devolution is. Do they intend to scrap the National Assembly or not? Are they happy with the status quo? Or do they propose further devolution in one way or another? Until UKIP are honest about this, you can’t really take them seriously.

  8. Considering the small number of AMs they have, I can’t help but have a begrudging respect for what the liberals actually manage to achieve in the Assembly.

  9. Six months ago When Mr Mark Drakeford, Welsh Minister for Health was appointed, he promised to reduce waiting times for operations. then it was 6 months for a Cataract. Now the Royal Gwent Hospital state that waiting time has gone up by 50% making this waiting time Criteria double the waiting time in England
    Kirsty Williams is too much tied to her Liberal Party Policy.The fact is that the Welsh Assembly does not seem capable of running an efficient Welsh Health Service , as she freely states waiting times are way above those in England, The solution appears to be, to let the Welsh Health Minister go,and hand the job of looking after the Health Service ,back to Parliament in London. The liberal solution will not reduce Welsh Hospital waiting times by 6 Hours!
    If you are in doubt Kirsty why not call for a Referendum on who should run Welsh Hospitals, Parliament or the Assembly?

  10. Kirsty believes that Wales gains ‘huge advantages’ from being in the UK. How, then, is Wales one of the poorest countries in the EU, and is declining in relative terms. Put simply, we’re going backwards, in just about every conceivable area, from the economy to health, education and the Welsh Language. Moreover, there aren’t any prospects of improvement out of our current state of increasing dependency.

    That as I see it is what being part of the UK has done to Wales. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to sort out our own problems, primarily those that others have created for us. That cannot be done within the existing political system, with the hub of power away in an indifferent if not hostile Westminster, and a lethargic and unambitious Labour administration in Cardiff. Their record on Wales speaks for itself: FAIL.

    It will have to be independence. The longer we delay biting the bullet, and taking the pain, the worse it will be. If we don’t, then we’ll get the pain anyway eventually, as taxpayers elsewhere tire of subsidising us.

    For goodness’ sake, one of Wales’ parties has to offer us some hope. It isn’t going to be the unionists. Plaid needs to get its act together, as did the SNP.

    Jeff D & Ally

    I don’t know what your ‘love-in’ with the LibDems is, but as far as I can see of the three unionist parties they’re the most irrelevant and ineffective. Their role in the Coalition has been a disaster, from tuition fees to wrecking any possibility of electoral reform & abolition of the Lords. They’ve been in coalition with Labour, twice, in the Bay, during which time Wales continued its remorseless decline towards penury. Their claimed great achievement of increasing personal tax allowances has been negated by the massive increase in inflation. In any case, increasing allowances doesn’t help non-taxpayers at all.

  11. The EU is a voluntary union for the benefit of all. The UK is a forced union of injustice, intollerence and exploitation.

    Give me the EU every time. Only tyrants like the UK.

  12. So that must mean then, Gwyn, that 90% of Welsh voters are in favour of tyranny. Turkeys voting for Christmas? How do you explain it, I’m baffled.

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