Adam Price’s Blog

The Blog of Adam Price AS/MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Adam Price MP / AS - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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Archive for January, 2009

30th January 2009

Fool us once shame on you….fool us twice??

It is now increasingly clear that a perfect storm of reckless and irresponsible bankers and spineless and unprincipled politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have driven the world economy to the edge of a precipice.  What we are seeing now is those same politicians handing out a parachute, paid for with our money, to those same bankers who are busy pushing the rest the rest of us over the cliff.  If this continues for much longer then it’s not just the streets of France and Greece which will see rioting.  People are angry at bankers who drove us into this crisis and who are now seeking to profit from it - in the sure knowledge that the taxpayer will bail them out if they get their sums wrong again.

Take Timber-Frame Developments which employs 18 or so in Llandybie in my constituency.   A small company - but  in a village that has already seen the loss of the local Corus plant this week, every jobs is vital.  The company has been driven into liquidation by the apparently unscrupulous actions of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) now part of the merged Lloyds Banking Group. 

TFD were contracted by Birmingham -based developer Whitefire on a new apartment building, The Horizon Building, in Sheldon, near the West Midlands, financed by HBOS Corporate .  As is normal in construction projects contractors were paid on a monthly basis by the bank after the receipt of a drawdown valuation.  This proceeded as normal until October 2008 when HBOS became engulfed in the wider banking crisis and the Government was forced to step in with its injection of £37 billion, most of which has gone to HBOS and the new merged Lloyds banking Group in which the taxpayer is now the biggest shareholder.  Valuations of the work done in November and December were received on time by the bank and the bank, it would appear, assured Whitefire Group that they were fully supportive of the project and of the company.  These assurances were conveyed by Whitefire Group to all contractors working on the site.  Only on Christmas Eve was work suspended on the project by the owner of Whitefire group, Mr Richard Whitely, until the bank released the monies owed.  This had now grown to £1.3 million.

On Tuesday 13th January 2009 the bank suddenly announced they were withdrawing their finanical support, that they were not releasing the money owed for October, November and December, and were effectively forcing Whitefire Group into administration.  As a secured creditor the bank now stands poised to recoup all of its money (plus interest and fees) while companies like Timber frame Developments have been driven to the wall.  Effectively by providing Whitefire with financial assurances for three months while refusing to release monies for work conducted the Bank has saved itself £1.3 million and gained from three months of work and material completed at the expense of the contractors.  This is not prudent financial management; this is a bank, under-written by the taxpayer, exploiting its privileged position to exact maximum advantage with scant regard to the consequences in terms of jobs and the wider good.  It is exactly the kind of amoral, unjustifiable behaviour that has dragged us into the morass in the first place.   Incredibly, HBOS have pulled this same trick with this company elsewhere as well leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

I think there can be but one public policy response to this kind of behaviour now and that is to nationalise the entire Lloyds Banking Group (we own 43% already….buying the rest of the shares would cost a mere £2 billion).   When Labour loyalists like John McFall and City figures like Jon Moulton are making the same call you realise that this is now mainstream.  The only way now to get credit flowing again and then rebuild and restructure banking so that it works for us, not us for them, is to bring the entire sector (or at least the lion’s share of the banks) into public ownership.  For the moment, bankers, not builders, are the ’cowboys’ of capitalism.  It’s time to round them up.

28th January 2009

In defence of Barnett…(and devolving policing)

Well, I thought that would get your attention.  Calling for the replacement of the Barnett Formula with a needs-based alternative is like an article of faith in Plaid - and no, I haven’t become a heretic overnight.  But the debate in Westminster Hall (the ante-room to the main chamber) on police funding puts an interesting new twist on this debate and makes the case for further powers: in the case of the Home Office Grant to Welsh police authorities Wales would be better off if policing was devolved (and therefore came under the terms of the Barnett Formula) compared to the current situation where a modified needs based formula is applied.

Welsh police authorities next year will get an increase in central government grant of 2.6%.  This is lower than the average for England of 2.8% because of the distinctly urban bias in the funding formula (low crime areas like Dyfed Powys lose out as a result).  If the Barnett Formula was applied, however, Welsh police authorities would get £2.2 million extra compared to the settlement actually on the table.  That’s the salary costs of an additional 100 police officers for Wales every year - hardly small potatoes.  I fail to see how even David T.C. Davies MP - who is a part-time Constable with the British Transport Police -  could argue with that. Though I’m sure he will give it his best shot, whare teg.

27th January 2009

Auto Suggestion

Ian Pearson just repeated Mandelson’s heavily trailed announcement on the car industry in the House of Commons.  I made the point that the main purpose of  Government policy had to be saving jobs through increasing sales and that none of the measures announced today would lead to a single additional car sold.  The problem with car finance has been left to the redoubtable Mervyn Davies to sort out at some unspecified point in the future. Meanwhile 1600 people a day in the UK are turned down for a car loan.  I asked why the Government hadn’t considered introducing the kind of generous incentives - in the form of rebates or vouchers - for people swapping older more polluting cars with newer vehicles - the so-called car-scrappage schemes introduced in Germany and France.  The minister said they hadn’t been introduced yet; that they wouldn’t boost new car sales; that they’re poor value for money; and that we shouldn’t believe everything we read in the newspapers (or on the web) .   Ditto everything we hear in the Commons I suspect.

26th January 2009

Rhowch Dim Criced I Gymru - Give Wales a Cricket Team

It’s a mystery why a Celtic country with the strongest cricket tradition is hidden under the umbrella of England’s team when Scotland and Ireland have independent teams. Indeed, Wales has more cricket teams than Scotland and Ireland combined. For over a century, we’ve sustained a first rate team. And many of ‘England’s’ players have come from Wales.
In the two other famous team games - rugby and football - we have, luckily, national representation. And yet, cricket teams are just as numerous as football and rugby ones in Wales, indeed, even more so according to the cricket journalist Michael Blumberg. The standard of a Welsh test team would surely equal at least Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. So why not, therefore, venture in our own colours?
Opposers say that Wales is already represented in the England and Wales Cricket Board (the EWCB). But how often do you hear the second letter pronounced by the media or even game officials? Also, it’s only England that is represented in the team’s name. This is a bit like calling the West Indies team - the only other multi-nation team acknowledged by the International Cricket Committee, the ICC - Jamaica, or calling Ireland’s team Ulster or Eire.
The ICC remains neutral on the matter. So why, therefore, are Wales’ cricketers treated in this manner? The argument given states that money to Glamorgan would disappear. But why would this be the case? Glamorgan receives money because the team competes in the EWCB’s county competitions - not because the team produces players for England. In the same way, Swansea and Cardiff benefit from being part of the English football leagues but this doesn’t have any effect on Wales’ right to compete as national team
A new national team would be able to ask the Welsh Assembly Government for support, as it has a duty to support national teams as set out in the One Wales Document. Also, the ICC has development funds available to new nations. But the biggest prize of all would have to be beating England at Lords. An old-province avenging its former masters.

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Mae’n ddirgelwch pam y dylai’r wlad Geltaidd sydd a’r traddodiad criced cryfaf gael ei chuddio o dan ymbarel tim Lloegr pan fo gyda’r Alban ac Iwerddon dimau annibynnol. Mae gan Gymru mwy o glybiau criced na sydd gan yr Alban ac Iwerddon rhyngddynt. Rydym wedi cynnal tim o’r radd flaenaf ers dros ganrif. Ac mae nifer helaeth o chwaraewyr “Lloegr” wedi dod o Gymru.

Yn y ddau gem tim adnabyddus arall - sef rygbi a phel-droed - mae gyda ni gynrychiolaeth genedlaethol, diolch i’r drefn. Ac eto mae clybiau criced yng Nghymru yr un mor niferus a rhai rygbi neu pel-droed, neu hyd yn oed yn fwy yn ol y newyddiadurwr criced Michael Blumberg. Byddai safon tim prawf Cymreig yn gydradd o leiaf a Zimbabwe neu Bangladesh.  Felly, pam ddim mentro yn ein lliwiau ein hunain?
Yn ol y gwrthwynebwyr, mae Cymru yn cael ei chynrychioli eisoes ym Mwrdd Criced Lloegr a Cymru (yr EWCB).  Ond pa mor aml y clywch chi yr ail lythyren na yn cael ei ynganu gan y cyfryngau neu swyddogion y gem? A Lloegr yn unig, wedi’r cwbl, yw enw’r tim. Mae hyn ychydig bach fel galw tim India’r Gorllewin - yr unig dim criced arall aml-genedlaethol sy’n cael ei gydnabod gan y Cyngor Criced Rhyngwladol, yr ICC - yn Jamaica, neu alw tim unedig Iwerddon yn Ulster neu Eire.

Mae’r ICC yn niwtral ar y mater. Felly pam fod cricedwyr Cymru yn derbyn y fath sarhad? Y ddadl sydd yn cael ei grybwyll yw y byddai arian i Forgannwg yn diflannu. Ond pam? Mae Morgannwg yn derbyn yr arian oherwydd ei bod hi’n cystadlu ym nhystadlaethau sirol yr EWCB - nid am ei bod hi’n cynhyrchu chwaraewyr i dim Lloegr. Yn yr un modd mae Abertawe a Chaerdydd yn elwa o fod yn rhan o gynghreiriau pel-droed Lloegr heb newid dim ar yr hawl i Gymru gystadlu fel tim cenedlaethol.

Byddai tim cenedlaethol newydd yn medru gofyn am gymorth gan Lywodraeth Cymru sydd ag ymrwymiad i gefnogi timau cenedlaethol yn nogfen Cymru’n Un, a’r ICC sydd a chronfa datblygu ar gyfer cenhedloedd newydd. Ond y wobr fwyaf, does bosib, fyddai curo Lloegr yn Lords. Fel Indiaid y Gorllewin a’r Dwyrain: cyn-dalaith yn talu’r pwyth yn ol.

16th January 2009

Ar drothwy etholiad….yn India - Close to an election….in India

Three of the richest people in the history of the world are Indian, and yet, as the new film, Slumdog Millionaire or the new book by the Booker prize winner Arvind Adiga, The White Tiger, show, very few people in India have benefited from that. It was, therefore, suprising to see recently less people begging in Kerala - the Malayali speaking province in the south-west of the sub-continent - than there are to be seen on the streets of London. For decades, Kerala’s success has been a mystery. How has a relatively poor region managed to achieve western levels of social development without western levels of funding?

The statistics are striking: literacy level of 91% (the same as Malta) compared to 65% across India; life expectancy is about five years higher in Kerala than anywhere else in the country (and higher than many members of the European Union) and the number of infant deaths are half the number in the rest of India. Many explanations for this have been offered. One important element was the progressive social policies introduced by the royal family of Kerola: Trivandrum’s Queen ordered in 1817 that the state would offer free education for everyone, half a century before the British State reached the same standard of enlightened policy. And it wasn’t an exception that it was a queen that announced the order - succession tradition in Kerala treated women as equals to men, even having female priests in some of the temples.
Some find it significant that a third of the population are Christian, but the same is also true of Goa which doesn’t have the same level of development. It’s possible that Kerala’s success could be rooted in the tendency not to discriminate on the grounds of sex, religion or on the caste system. It is this englightened tradition that allowed the Communist Party to come into power there in 1957 - the first time Communists ever formed a Government through election anywhere in the world. They immediately implemented policies that would transform society by transferring land from the old empirical estates to local people. Secondly, a public education system and health service were created which were so popular that even the party’s political opponents kept them in place in the rare instances they captured power from the Communist party. Election will be held again in April and in Kochin this week there is a row of red banners belonging to the CPI(M) swaying in the wind, a paper Star of Bethlehem can be seen on every second door and Che Guevara competes with the Lord Krishna (and the local favourite, Ayappan) for attention. In unity through diversity there is strength.

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Mae tri o’r bobl cyfoethocaf yn hanes y byd yn Indiaid, ac eto, fel mae’r ffilm newydd, Slumdog Millionaire, neu’r llyfr newydd gan yr ennillydd Booker Arvind Adiga, TheWhite Tiger, yn dangos, prin iawn bod pawb yn India yn elwa o hynny.  Syndod yn ddiweddar felly oedd gweld llai o bobl yn cardota yn Kerala – y talaith Malayali ei hiaith yn ne-orllewin yr is-gyfandir - na sydd i’w gweld ar strydoedd Llundain.  Ers degawdau bellach mae llwyddiant Kerala wedi bod yn ddirgelwch.  Sut mae rhanbarth cymharol dlawd wedi llwyddo i gyrraedd lefelau gorllewinol o ddatblygiad cymdeithasol heb lefelau gorllewinol o fuddosddiad?

Mae’r ystadegau yn argraffiadol; llythrennedd o 91% (yr un lefel a Malta) o gymharu gyda 65% ar draws India; mae hyd bywyd yn Kerala ryw bum mlynedd yn fwy na gweddil y wlad (ac yn uwch na sawl aelod o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd) ac mae marwoledd plant yn llai na hanner y raddfa yng ngweddill India.  Mae yna nifer o esboniadau yn cael eu cynnig.  Un elfen bwysig oedd polisiau cymdeithasol blaengar teuluoedd brenhinol Kerala; fe orchmynnodd brenhines Trivandrum ym 1817 y byddai’r wladwriaeth yn cynnig addysg am ddim i bawb, hanner canrif cyn i’r Wladriaeth Brydeinig cyrraedd yr un safon o bolisiau goleuedig.  Ac nid eithriad mo’r faith mai brenhines a gyhoeddodd y gorchymyn – ‘roedd traddodiadau olyniaeth, eiddo ac etifeddiaeth Kerala yn trin menywod yn gydradd a dynion, ac offeiriaid benywaidd yn ngofal rhai o’r temlau hyd yn oed.  

Mae rhai yn gweld peth arwyddocad yn  y ffaith bod treian or boblogaeth yn  Gristnogion – ac eto mae’r un peth yn wir am Goa sydd heb yr un lefel o ddatblygiad.  Efallai bod gwraidd llwyddiant Kerala i’w ganfod yn y duedd i beidio discrimineiddio ar sail rhyw, ar sail crefydd neu ar sail y gyfundrefn caste. Y traddodiad blaengar yma a ganiatodd i’r Blaid Gomiwnyddol gipio grym yn y dalaith yn 1957 – y tro cyntaf erioed i Gomiwnyddion ffurfio llywodraeth drwy etholiad unrhyw le yn y byd. Fe ddechreuwyd ar unwaith ar bolisiau o drawsnewidiad cymdeithasol gan ddosbarthu tir yr hen ystadau ymerodrol i bobl leol.  Yn ail, fe grewyd system addysg a gwasanaeth iechyd cyhoeddus mor boblogaidd y glynodd hyd yn oed gwrthwynebwyr gwleidyddol y Comiwnyddion at yr egwyddorion craidd hyd yn oed ar yr adegau prin hynny y collon nhw rym.  Mae etholiadau eto ym mis Ebrill ac yn Kochin yr wythnos hon mae rhes ar ol rhes o faneri coch y CPI(M) yn cyhwfan yn y gwynt, Seren papur Bethlehem i’w gweld bob yn ail ddrws a Che Guevara yn cystadlu gyda’r Arglwydd Krishna (a’r ffefryn lleol, Ayappan) am sylw.  Mewn undeb-mewn-amrwyiaeth mae nerth.