Noble aimIt’s England versus Wales.
England seeks to restrict free medical help to failed asylum seekers. Welsh Minister Edwina Hart says that ‘people judge a civilized society by the way it cares for its people especially the weak and those who face death’. The Archbishop of Wales says that it's a moral stand to give failed asylum seekers free health treatment.
These are noble worthy ambitions. All were moved by the plight of a terminally ill Ghanaian women who was deported in the middle of her treatment. The heart says Wales is right. The head says England is being practical.
Half the workload of my office is taken up with asylum seekers – most are ‘failed’. Going through the process usually takes three or four years while appeal after appeal is allowed. The legal processes and eventual deportations are very costly. The system is generally thorough and fair.
If two systems of health care exist in future, Wales will become the magnet for the seriously ill. Who can blame anyone with a life-threatening illness for coming here from a poor country for treatment that is denied to them in their home country? The flimsiest case for asylum status will admit them to treatment.
The numbers are small at the moment, but if they multiply the system will collapse. I have seen no estimate of additional resources for the NHS. Nor any understanding of the resentment if failed asylum seekers are judged to be jumping the already long queues for expensive surgery.
The Welsh Assembly should proceed cautiously. The most elevated moral gestures will be undermined by this simple truth.
Wales cannot provide a free health service to the world.
Fake surpriseTamsin Dunwoody did a little better than Labour’s 24% rating in the opinion polls promised. She got 31%. In these dire circumstances, even a tiny crumb of comfort is worth savoring. The papers seemed to have swallowed the Tories carefully planned ‘astonishment’ at the result.
I had nearly 30 phone calls from the press today. They are determined to find Labour panic and plot. I have not seen any. The party is coolly accepting confirmation of the bad news that the opinion polls have been giving us for months. Changing leaders would as pointless and self-defeating as the Tories’ musical chairs with Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard.
There is a winning agenda for Labour. Let’s dump the ephemeral games and return to the core values on our movement
MuckspreaderElfyn Llwyd MP is mouthing words supplied to him again – probably by a farming union who pulls his strings. He attacks my comment of the Assembly’s farming minister’s refusal to back the UK’s bid to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. The alternative is that France and Germany can carry on picking the pockets of British taxpayers.
"Whilst a move away from the production subsidy is understandable in the long run, removing all subsidies overnight would be devastating.”
Neither the UK, me nor anyone else is asking for the immediate removal of all subsidies. But the process of cutting subsidies must begin. In 2004, the farm Tax cost the average British family £540 for the privilege of buying the dearest food in the world. One single pampered industry still gobbles up 40% of the total EU budget.
"Indeed, even the removal of the production subsidy can only happen when market conditions allow Welsh and UK farmers to compete on the world market."
After decades of vast subsidies, British farming cannot compete on equal terms with third world countries. What an admission of the debilitating effects of living in a culture of dependency.
"Its removal now would leave tens of thousands of farmers in Wales unemployed and homeless. "
Cobblers! The farming economy is booming. Farmland and farmhouse values are soaring. The majority of farmers are now asset rich and income rich. Farmers do not the leave the industry penniless if they have farms to sell.
For two years I battled to get a report on the CAP through the Council of Europe. It was eventually sabotaged by the farming lobbies from France, Germany and Switzerland. The campaign against the waste, corruption and environmental damage of the CAP is being waged by the UK against France and Germany. Wales should be backing the UK Government.
The poverty argument of Welsh farmers is a bit threadbare. I challenged the Farmers Union of Wales to show me a poor farmer. I spent some days in his company examining his farm and his account.
At the end I said to him, ‘For one of my constituents to live your lifestyle, he would have to win the lottery.’ He was and still is living a good life. There are no paupers in Welsh farming in spite of the hysterical hype.