17/05/2012 Dragon's Eye


17/05/2012

A fresh look at politics. In this edition: where has 13 years of devolution left Welsh education?; and concerns over a senior Cardiff councillor's property portfolio.


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Transcript


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The Education Minister unveils his plan to improve Welsh children's

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grasp of the three Rs. Will it Good evening. The Education

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Minister, Leighton Andrews, has outlined his plan to improve

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literacy and numeracy in Wales' schools. It's the latest part of

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his 20-point plan to overhaul an education system where

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underperformance has been ringing alarm bells for some time now. A

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declining trend in international comparisons, combined with concern

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from the schools inpectorate, Estyn, that many pupils aren't achieving

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what they should in literacy or numeracy, led the Minister to talk

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of "systemic failure". More recently, new research has

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criticised the Welsh baccalaureate's ability to prepare

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pupils for life at university. On Tuesday, Estyn said schools were

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failing to thread an emphasis on basic skills through the curriculum.

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So where has 13 years of Welsh Government left education here?

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For the past four years, the Welsh Government has made sure for every

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child born or adopted in Wales a tree is planted so they have

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something to look back on in years to come. There's 40,000 trees just

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at this one forest on the outskirts of Usk. Often they're planted by

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pupils studying for the Welsh Baccalaureate. The idea is that

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they have a more rounded education as well as being prepared for

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university. It's something that the Welsh Education Minister, Leighton

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Andrews is keen on. Last year's A- level Results Showed that while

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there were improvements in Wales, we'd fallen further behind England.

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That wasn't the full picture according to the minister speaking

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last August. The reality is that we've got an additional nearly

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7,000 young people who've got the equivalent of an A grade at A-level,

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because they've got the advanced diploma in the Welsh Baccalaureate,

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that is not included in the A-level figures. Not only have we got

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increased performance at A-level, Atack A star to C grades, we have

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the 7,000 young people of the equiff lent of A grade at A-level

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in terms of university entry point. This week concerns have been raised

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about the Baccalaureate itself and the way it prepares young people

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for higher education. Research into one university suggested

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undergraduates completing the course fared less well than those

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who had not. Because it's an ungraded qualification, it mean

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that's for every student who gets a pass in the qualification, they

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actually have a range of abilities. What we're seeing in the analysis

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is that the difference in abilities amongst the students are not

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reflected in that pass or fail grade. It mean that's students who

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might have passed but are having much lower ability than another

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student brings down their results and the performance of them at

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university as an aggregate group. Teachers broadly support the bacc

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but see room for improvement. are similar that thetic to the idea

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that is -- sympathetic to the idea that is to grade the Baccalaureate

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so that universities can differentiate between the level of

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skills. That would be useful. We think that the Welsh Baccalaureate

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is a significant and important development in our Welsh

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educational journey. We are very largely very supportive of it.

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Early this week, Estyn said many schools were failing to plan well

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enough on how to develop basic skills for 11 to 14-year-olds and

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back in January, they said that 40% of children starting secondary

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school couldn't read as well as they should. If you look at our

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GCSE results: It shows although there have been improvements,

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England has not only overtaken us but seem to be accelerating further

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ahead. But are we necessarily comparing like with like? If you

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compare Welsh performance with English performance, just on GCSEs,

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there's almost no difference, pretty much the same. The

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difference comes because in England, far more young people are achieving

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through vocational qualifications. Now again, that's something that is

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not widely recognised. It gives a bit of a different kind of picture

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of what is happening in Wales. Today, the Welsh Government has

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launched its latest strategy to try to get to grips with our poor

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literacy standards. Earlier in the week, Opposition AMs claimed they'd

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heard it all before. I know you say First Minister that literacy is a

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priority, but can I read you what the previous education ministers

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have said "Improving standards in basic skills is key. Rosemary

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butler, Labour 1999. We have decided to give particular priority

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to basic skills, Jayne Davidson, Labour Education Minister, 2005.

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One of our key priorities is improving levels of literacy,

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Labour Education Minister 2009. My current priority is to raise

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literacy standards, Leighton Andrews Labour Education Minister,

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2011. In fact, the only Education Minister that I couldn't find a

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quote from was you Carwyn. If improving literacy has been a

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priority for every Labour Education Minister since 1999, what do you

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think has been going wrong? We have been consistent in our desire to

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raise literacy and numeracy. That's been evidenced by the question

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asked bit leader of the Liberal Democrats. Leighton Andrews as the

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education minister is the latest in the long line of ministers who will

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continue to improve literacy and numeracy. I see nothing wrong with

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that. As with these saplings, it takes time for any policy to root

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itself and make a difference. The same goes with education policies.

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But it's 13 years since we got the Assembly. How likely is it that the

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Welsh Government's education policies will turn into a mighty

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Welsh oak? I think it is time now that we begin to ask quite far

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going questions about the effects that many of the policies that have

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been introduced are having. Of course, that poses the very

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interesting issue, well, how do you measure the effects? What kind of

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effects are you really looking for? Many in the education sector

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believe the Welsh Government's policies are going in the right

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direction. Their targets are ambitious. To be in the top 20 of

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the international league tables in three years. Things may be looking

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up, then, but it might take a while longer for them to blows om.

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-- blossom. I'm joined now by Education Minister, Leighton

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Andrews. Welcome to Dragon's Eye. Good evening. The national literacy

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programme, then, how do you expect that time prove literacy and

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numeracy? This is a sustained focus. There are a number of elements to

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it. We start with introducing standardised reading tests across

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Wales. There are already many reading tests going on at the

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present time, but what we've not had is a standardise add proch.

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We've drawn on extensive research to support development of those

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plans. We've commissioned work externally to help us with that.

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We're also going tone sure that newly qualified teachers have

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appropriate standards of literacy and numeracy and that there will be

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a national framework to assist teachers in all subjects to ensure

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that they are providing young people with the skills they need in

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literacy and numeracy. On the tests, there'll be statutory tests from

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next year, across Wales and consistent, same tests taken by

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each age year group? From years two to nine, those tests will be taken.

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We've done the work, of course, as I've said to develop standardised

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tests. What happens to the results? Obviously, they're going to be

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tabliated. Will parents have access to them? They'll principally be

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diagnostic tests for teachers to understand the progress that the

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young people are themselves making. I think they will give head

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teachers, they will give governors a view as to how overall the

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teaching of literacy and numeracy are taking place within that

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particular school. It is important they have access to that so they

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understand. We already know, for example, that secondary schools

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tend to retest the young people coming to them from primary schools.

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Head teachers tell me that they make judgments about which primary

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feeder schools are making accurate assessments of the performance of

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the young people who reach them at secondary. So no automatic parental

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access to the results of the tests? We're work through on the detail of

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what we will be doing with the tests when they come in. As I said,

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they are voluntary this year. I still think there are issues to

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look at. I think it's important. Most parents would expect young

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people leaving primary school to leave with the appropriate reading

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age, clearly 40% of them are not at the present time. Indeed, is the

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re-introduction of consistent tests across the country an admission it

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was a mistake to drop SATs and not replace it with consistent

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assessments of progress? because SATs, teachers will tell

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you when we had SATs they focused really on teaching to those SATs.

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What we're enabling here is practice which allows teachers to

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engage with young people in introducing them to literacy and

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numeracy in a variety of different ways. We know for example, I was at

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a school this morning, again, that has pioneered different approaches

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for boys and girls. We know boys learn in a different way than girls.

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It's important that teachers have the flexibility. The unions are

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worried about the work load. understand that the unions have

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concerns about that. I've signed on, off on additional support for the

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backing of the tests, which we will be taking forward in due course.

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I'm pleased, though, that the unions have, as far as I can see

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today, given a pretty favourable response to what we're planning to

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do here. In terms of the additional support, how will that manifest

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itself? There will be, in the context of the national framework,

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we're looking at training for teachers, we may look at additional

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support in the organisation of the tests themselves. There'll be the

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opportunities for teach efrz to -- teachers to develop their own

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practice in the masters on practice. There are a number of ways in which

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we're giving that support. We've heard from all your predecessors

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that they've all assured parents over the years that numeracy and

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literacy were at the heart of their educational priorities. Why do you

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think that they've so consistently failed to deliver up to this point?

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I think, I don't think they've consistently failed to deliver.

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Let's be clear about the education system in Wales. More young people

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are gaining qualifications, fewer are leaving school without

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qualifications. We've been seeing general rise in standards. We've

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bieneered things like the Welsh Baccalaureate and doubled the

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number of vocational qualifications. What I've decided to do over the

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last year to 18 months is to review what we have been doing on literacy.

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That's why I got Estyn to look at the skills framework. As you know,

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according to Estyn, one in five pupils arrive at secondary school

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functionally ill literal. Surely it was up to your predecessors to take

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action to arrest this decline before you adopted it, why did they

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fail? One of the things we are clear about now is that when we

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removed SATs in 2004, we needed to have put in place some other

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accountability mechanisms. We needed a closer eye, perhaps, on

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the outcomes at the end of primary schools. I think what we've seen,

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as there's been closer working between secondary schools and

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cluster primary schools, good practice developing in which people

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are learning about the best ways to measure children's performance. We

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clearly have got some work to do. I think the 40% you mention is the

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clear expression of the problem. 20% functionally illiterate is not

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acceptable. That's why I'm introducing these five-year

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programme. Thanks you for joining us. There are concerns over whether

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a senior Labour councillor in Cardiff secured a favourable lease

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from the local authority for a shop, which he then immediately sublet

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for a profit. Councillor Michael Michael was a Cabinet member when

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the deal was done in 2001 for the commercial unit. He's only just

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been re-elected to the local authority this month and now

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appears set for a senior role chairing the planning committee.

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Here's Brian Meechan. In an unforgettable night for Labour, the

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party swept back to power across the country, including Cardiff.

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This is Councillor Michael Michael, working in his hairdressers. He

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might have been open for business today, but he wasn't open to

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speaking to Dragon's Eye. He lost his seat in this ward in 2008, but

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before that, he held council Cabinet positions in Cardiff,

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including being Deputy Leader. This is the shop that Councillor Michael

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secured the long-term lease for from the Council whilst a member of

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the ruling Cabinet. It's only been closed for a few weeks. It's right

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next door to Councillor's Michael's hairdressers. A former Deputy

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Leader of Cardiff Council, who now leads the Liberal Democrats group

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was concerned. There has to be full openness and transparency. Yes, it

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was thoroughly investigated at the time. I understand nothing was done

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illegally. But for some people, it does leave a sour taste. There's a

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bit of a cloud over it. He paid the Council �10,000 far the lease on

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the property for 99 years in addition to paying an annual rent

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of �1. The deal went ahead despite concerns being raised at the time.

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It emerged that the Councillor Michael intended to immediately

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sublet the property. The senior valuer said, "I do not think this

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is at all acceptable." The valuer believed if the Councillor could

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make money from subleting the shop then the Council was not getting

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the correct amount for it by selling the lease. The deal went

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ahead and Mr Michael sublet the shop for an immediate profit, a

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one-off fee of �10,000, plus an annual charge of �3600. Local

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businesses are unhappy that they've not been offered similar

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arrangements. This is a peppercorn rent like that premises is. But

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mine is �25 a year, a very low figure, but I had to buy that at a

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market value. I paid in 1999 for this �180,000. It doesn't seem to

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match up. Mike owns two shops neighbouring Mr Mikeles. Cardiff

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Council has only issued two long- term leases on retail properties

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since it was created in 1996, both of them to Councillor Michael

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Michael. That's what he's negotiated. We were never given the

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option to naishiate this plan. We didn't know we could negotiate this

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plan. We were told by the valuation office that our rates would be

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whatever the rates would be for the shop, as in mine is � 2,600 a year.

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In four years' time, when I get possibly another rate review, it

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will possibly go up again. So it just smacks of privilege, committee

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council privilege. Michael Michael was returned to the Council at this

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month's elections. Dragon's Eye has seen evidence that the new ruling

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Labour group intends to put him forward as the chair of the

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planning committee. I am sure prized, yes. Whilst he hasn't done

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anything wrong, the fact there's a bit of a cloud still quite raw with

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some residents of this city, it is very surprising. If it were me, I

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don't think I would have wanted to have gone for that, even though I

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knew I hadn't done anything wrong, I think I would have tended to stay

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away from that controversy. internal investigations found there

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had been no wrongdoing and that all the correct legal procedures had

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been followed. Both concluded that the sale had been sole to -- open

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to market tender and the deal was standard practice. The Council

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referred the matter to the Wales Audit Office. They decided against

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investigating the matter saying that too much time had passed and

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that there was limited information available from the Council. It said

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that if anything new evidence became available it could look into

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Another former deputy leader says the matter should not rest there.

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would write to the new council leader and ask her to investigate

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with the chief executive of the Wales Audit Office. It cannot be

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acceptable that some businesses pay thousands for Lisa's in this area,

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yards from his property, and yet this property is rented for �1 a

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year from the council. The newly- elected council meets for the first

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time this evening. This is one Raul there seems sure to rumble on.

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I spoke to the chair of the Assembly's Public Accounts

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Committee, Darren Millar. What do you make of this? It clearly

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appears there have been unusual arrangements between the council

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and Councillor Michael. I think we need clarity in order to move on

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from this, which clearly appears to be cropping up as an issue which

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people are calling for investigations on on a regular

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basis. What do you make of the response from the Wales Audit

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Office? Has it been adequate? Wales Audit Office have done

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everything they could do given the evidence available to them at the

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time that it was presented. Obviously, if further information

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comes forward it would be right for the Wales Audit Office to review

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that information in its entirety in order to have some clarity on this

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issue, to see exactly what has happened. In terms of your role as

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chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and the wider issue of

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the monitoring of the way not only that public money is spent, but

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also of the way that potential money that could be going into

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taxpayer coffers may or may not be being gathered, do you think there

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is sufficient rigour about that in Wales at the moment? We need to

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ensure there is value for taxpayers in any arrangement when there is

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any financial transaction between a council or any public body and a

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member of the public. And we need to uphold the highest standards of

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integrity, particularly when individual members of a local

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authority are in quite a privileged position and they are entering into

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a financial, or illegal transaction with a local authority of which

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they are a member. I think we could do with clear guidelines being

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published, perhaps by the Wales government, or maybe even by the

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Wales Audit Office, to ensure that people can follow those guidelines

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when they are entering into these transactions. At the moment, the

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standard is whether the law has been observed, whether there has

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been full legality. In this case, that is the case, no one has done

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anything unlawful. Some might say that is quite a low threshold to

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have as your standard. The issue with this particular case is that

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it seems the approach with Councillor Martin has been

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inconsistent with the approach in terms of that financial

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transactions, the legal transactions which have been taken

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and made with other shopkeepers and other individuals who are leasing

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properties. And I think that needs to be looked at. We need to make

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sure there is clarity so that people are treated, regardless of

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whether they hold office or not, in the same way. Do you intend to take

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any action in that regard yourself, to stimulate discussion about

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whether formal guidelines need to be adopted? I will certainly talk

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to the Wales Audit Office and the auditor general about this case and

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the issues it throws up. Thank you. You are welcome.

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The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has appointed a new shadow Welsh

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secretary of the Peter Hain stepped down. His successor, Owen Smith, is

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here now. Welcome, congratulations on your new role. How do you see it

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developing? I see it as a very much a crucial role speaking for Wales

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in Westminster. I think we perhaps lacked a strident, strong voice

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from Wales in Westminster over the last couple of years. I don't feel

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the Tory government really understands Wales in the way in

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which the Labour Party does, given our heritage and history here. I

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want to provide a powerful voice for Wales in Westminster, and we

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needed, because we still have macro-economic levers in particular,

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but all sorts of other areas of non-devolved policy that reside in

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Westminster, and we need to make sure the Government understands

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what Wales needs and what Carwyn Jones and his ministers need in

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order to deliver improvements in Wales. As you know, there has been

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a debate for some time about whether the devolution process

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renders the role of Welsh Secretary and shadow Welsh secretary

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increasingly irrelevant. I think that's a legitimate question and

0:22:220:22:26

debate, but I don't think we are at that point yet, or anywhere near it,

0:22:260:22:30

when you still have crucial areas, areas right at the heart of the

0:22:300:22:33

political debate - the economy, what we are doing in respect of

0:22:330:22:38

pensions, what we are doing in respect of welfare and benefits.

0:22:380:22:41

Those are not peripheral issues. They are arguably the central

0:22:410:22:44

issues of modern political debate, and that is why you still need a

0:22:440:22:49

voice around the Cabinet table or the Shadow Cabinet table, speaking

0:22:490:22:54

about Wales' needs in those areas. A you could make the same point

0:22:540:22:57

about Manchester or Wigan in those terms, because there are cabinet

0:22:570:23:00

positions and Shadow Cabinet positions that directly address all

0:23:000:23:04

of the examples you have given. Surely it is the role of the people

0:23:040:23:08

in those posts to deal with the issues you have described.

0:23:080:23:13

could do, but we are a country and that is different. They are

0:23:130:23:16

particularities to Wales and there are needs for Wales, not least the

0:23:160:23:20

fact that we have an Assembly here, which also changes the dynamics of

0:23:200:23:26

how policy is delivered. In Wigan and Manchester there is a far more

0:23:260:23:29

direct, central role right across Government. There is the Assembly,

0:23:290:23:34

earth which into seats even in areas where there is retained power

0:23:340:23:38

still. It is a unique status for Wales and Scotland and right now I

0:23:380:23:43

do not see any need to change it. In terms of the Assembly and

0:23:430:23:46

particularly the relationship of you as shadow secretary of state

0:23:460:23:51

with the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, how important is that role?

0:23:510:23:55

Enormously. The relationship is hugely important. We have had

0:23:550:23:58

strong relationships in the past and I hope to improve on that.

0:23:580:24:03

Carwyn Jones and DI are similar in age and political perspective, in

0:24:030:24:09

background, I can see us building a strong relationship. -- he and I.

0:24:090:24:13

Is it more than being the First Minister's ambassador in London?

0:24:130:24:18

think it is much more than that. Crucially, there are issues where

0:24:180:24:21

there is still policy held in Westminster. Wales has a

0:24:210:24:26

perspective on what Britain ought to do and think in respect of

0:24:260:24:29

foreign policy. Wales still has a perspective that is unique, I

0:24:290:24:34

suggest, in terms of industrial strategy. We are part of the world,

0:24:340:24:37

similar to the north-east but not exactly the same, where we have a

0:24:380:24:42

need for an active invention, interventionist industrial strategy

0:24:420:24:46

from Westminster. And we need somebody from Wales arguing that in

0:24:460:24:49

Westminster, especially when you have a Government that does not

0:24:490:24:52

believe that, that does not believe there is anything they can do and

0:24:530:24:56

believes they need to leave it to the market. They would not accept

0:24:560:25:01

they do not need to do anything. Today we heard David Cameron

0:25:010:25:05

talking about the importance of growth. He talks about it. It would

0:25:050:25:09

be good if he had a budget for jobs and growth but he has not had one.

0:25:090:25:13

How will we know if you have been a good Welsh Secretary? What are the

0:25:130:25:17

criteria we should use? principally, if I have got the Tory

0:25:170:25:21

Government to listen to us to an extent and to understand they need

0:25:210:25:25

to be doing more. Secondly, perhaps even more importantly, if we have

0:25:250:25:28

succeeded in persuading the public that they are not listening and

0:25:280:25:31

need to be turfed out in order to put in place in Westminster the

0:25:310:25:34

Government that is going to listen to Wales and deliver the policies,

0:25:340:25:39

in particular with respect of the economy, that can deliver jobs.

0:25:390:25:42

Because all politicians right now ought to be measured on the extent

0:25:420:25:46

to which they are improving living standards, improving jobs,

0:25:460:25:48

improving job security and opportunities for people right

0:25:480:25:54

across the country. On a personal level, you have had a meteoric rise,

0:25:540:25:59

and over-used phrase but perhaps appropriate for you. You were only

0:25:590:26:02

elected in 2010 and you are already in the Shadow Cabinet, widely

0:26:020:26:07

described as a rising star. What are your personal ambitions? His is

0:26:070:26:11

a stepping-stone for you? I went into politics having been on the

0:26:110:26:15

other side of the lens. I was a journalist, an adviser, worked in

0:26:150:26:19

business. The reason I am in politics and not doing those things

0:26:190:26:23

is that I want to change the world and improved people's lot, and I

0:26:230:26:28

want to do that starting in Wales. This is a programme that you used

0:26:280:26:33

to be in charge of. Thank you. Let's talk to Betsan Powys. You

0:26:330:26:37

would not believe how many times the director had me rehearsing this

0:26:370:26:42

walk. You would think it would be easy but it is more than I am Capel

0:26:420:26:45

wrath! Let's look ahead to something happening next week. We

0:26:450:26:50

expect an announcement on infrastructure investment. It is

0:26:500:26:54

worth thinking ahead about this one because partly it plays into the

0:26:540:26:57

argument you have just been discussing, Nicky one of the moment,

0:26:570:27:04

growth this is austerity. You had David Cameron arguing that

0:27:040:27:07

austerity leads to growth if you did in the right way. You had Owen

0:27:070:27:10

Smith and his party and governments across Europe arguing that that is

0:27:100:27:14

wrong. Next week, the Welsh government brings out its Welsh

0:27:140:27:17

infrastructure plan. They will argue this is part of the proof

0:27:170:27:21

that we need that this is a government for growth. They will

0:27:210:27:25

invite us to contrast what they are doing, announcing where they will

0:27:250:27:29

spend the money that they have on big projects in Wales over the

0:27:290:27:33

Spending Review period, and some hints as to what is to come after

0:27:330:27:37

that. If you are Jane Hutt, you argue this is proof of growth

0:27:370:27:43

strategy. The opposition parties will say, you have �3.5 billion as

0:27:430:27:45

a block grant from the UK Government, as you always do, and

0:27:450:27:50

you are just telling us where you will spend it. How is that proof of

0:27:500:27:54

a growth strategy? How does that tell us this is more than smoke and

0:27:540:27:57

mirrors and you just want us to think of you in a different way?

0:27:570:28:01

And how it is presented, whether there is any more money to be

0:28:010:28:05

leveraged into this, will decide who wins this battle on points.

0:28:050:28:10

are seeing the UK Government trying to reposition itself, taking the

0:28:100:28:13

focus of the language of austerity and on to growth. They are

0:28:130:28:18

obviously send -- sensitive about this. A austerity moves to

0:28:180:28:21

efficiency. How the Welsh Government speaks to that argument

0:28:210:28:26

and where it fits in well be key to them and interesting for us. Thank

0:28:260:28:31

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