03/02/2013 The Wales Report


03/02/2013

Huw Edwards takes a look at issues that matter in Wales. There have been calls for compensation for Welsh workers blacklisted for trade union activity. And is Wales over-governed?


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Transcript


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Tonight on The Wales Report, we are at Westminster, asking just how

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many elected politicians does it take to govern Wales effectively.

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Is it time for a major rethink? And the price of union membership, we

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look at the case of the blacklisted Welsh workers, punished for

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exercising their basic rights. Stay with us. We are at Westminster for

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the programme, the Prime Minister failed to win approval for his

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plans to cut the number of MPs and constituencies by 50. We will be

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discussing the implications for Wales and its main Wales -- layers

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of government. But first, a scandal affecting many trade unions in

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Wells involved in the construction industry. That practice of

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blacklisting has had a devastating effect. As many as 40 building

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firms were said to be using a name, -- using those names, and there

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Employers regarded unions as troublemakers and no company bosses

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wanted a striker on their hands. Fast-forward 40 years, and it was

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in the nothing has changed. Throughout the Eighties and

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Nineties, some of the biggest names in construction used a secret

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database to vet staff. The secret files contained are the names of

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more than 3000 construction workers. Detailing their trade union links

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and whether they had reported health and safety breaches and a

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whole host of other personal information. Many on the list were

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branded trouble makers and politically motivated. Others were

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just on therefore simply raising health and safety concerns and some

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found it impossible to get work as a result of being on it. When I

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started on site, when they were jacket -- checking my details, I

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had been working there for a few days. At the end of my second day,

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by eight services were not what hat -- required. One a asked the

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question, I had to press it, it was told -- I was told about its it

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being about my trade union activities which was active on

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other sites elsewhere so because of that they refused. They were quite

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open about it. It was extremely difficult, there were many

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Christmases that I could not provide what other families could

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provide, or certainly other people could pride for their families.

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When I think about that, I become very bitter. This has affected many

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people's lives. Dramatically. Some people have taken their lives

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because they think there is no hope for themselves. The existence of

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the list which was set up by a company called the consulting

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Association was revealed in 2009. There database was sealed -- seized

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by the Information Office and the firm was shut down for breaching

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data protection laws. What was on the list provoked widespread

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outrage. We believe that this runs into tens of thousands of

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individuals. We have been unable to put an accurate figure on that,

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because the information commissioner has refused to tell us

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how many people are affected, they have also refused to contact those

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individuals which we think is a scandal. Tonight, we can reveal the

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full extent of the list's impact on workers across the length and brat

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of Wales. At least 111 builders and construction tradesmen living or

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working in Wales were on that list. Details of workers from Anglesey to

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Denbigh share, right down to Swansea and Cardiff. They were all

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on the consulting Association list. Many still are not aware of their

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names were on the list and no one knows exactly what was written

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about them. That particular list no longer exists. The UK group which

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represents some of the firms involved say that no company would

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ever discriminate against a worker for flagging up a health and safety

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issues. They also say that there is no evidence to suggest that workers

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are being blacklisted today. But we have been told by one construction

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worker that it is still going on all over Wales. He does not want us

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to reveal his identity because he feels speaking out would get him

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into trouble. Blacklisting has existed for such a long time, and

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is evident now. I do not think they want any sort of trade unionism at

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all on site. They prefer to dictate what goes on, and whether there are

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any concerns from the employee with regards to health and safety or any

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issues, they would rather undermine that and not have you there. There

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are many others who also believe that blacklisting is still

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widespread in the construction centre. They are calling for urgent

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action. A I think this is a widespread practice, and I would be

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deeply sceptical about this being the only instance and the only

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instance which is now finished. Publicly-funded construction

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project including the Olympic Stadium were built by companies to

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have admitted using the Consultant Association's lists to recruit

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staff. So how do we stop that from happening again? There are now

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calls for the Welsh government to attach conditions to publicly

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funding Bills, which spell out how recruited -- employees should be

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recruited. Failure to comply would result in a fine. I believe here in

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Wales we could do something about procurement policy. We cannot

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control the private sector procuring goods, there is a massive

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amount, three to �4 billion of public procurement every year here

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in Wales. If we can change and affect the way procurement works in

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Wales, we can make a big difference across Britain. This was a huge

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crime against thousands and thousands of workers, had without

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justification. Many working on building sites across Wales now

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want compensation for what they are calling the unemployable years, and

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they want the world government and local councils to help them stabbed

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at blacklisting as a practice -- the Welsh government to help them

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stamp out blacklisting. Only will those days when being part of a

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union landed you on a list of undesirables will truly be part of

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the past. With me now is Corinna Ferguson,

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legal officer for the civil rights group Liberty. Thank you for

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joining us. Lots of people will find it difficult to believe that

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this kind of thing still goes on. To what extent does it go on?

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we don't know and we are very concerned those operating in those

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industries do not have -- probably have not been given the deterrent

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or the penalties the part required to prevent this sort of activity

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going on in the future. It could be going on now. A there could be some

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people watching saying, if I'm one of business, I want people working

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for me he was committed and dedicated, I do not want trouble

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makers. I want to find out to those workers are that I wished to avoid.

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What is wrong with that? It seems that the industry definition of a

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company definition which constitute a troublemaker is someone who is

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simply eight member of a trade union, perhaps a shop steward. I

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have seen some of the extract from the blacklist of people who had

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raised genuine health and safety concerns and we are talking life

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and death matters, these are people who had have raised a very serious

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health and safety concerns, in the interests of all the workers on the

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building sites, and it is not proper grounds to exclude them from

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employment. We heard on the report there, people saying it still goes

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on. Is that something that you think government needs to tackle in

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a more rigorous way? The real issue is that they have not been the

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penalties in the past two deter companies from doing this, so I

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would not be at all surprised if they think if they can get away

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with it. So at the first move, the penalties should be increased

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drastically? The information commissioner has the power to issue

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monetary penalties, and they can be quite substantial, into the tens of

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thousands of pounds. They ought to be doing that if there is any

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suspicion that companies are engaging in this practice. We do

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think there are grounds for the information of Commissioner to look

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at this afresh, given that they did not go into it into any detail in

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2009. Thank you very much. If David Cameron had his way, there

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would be fewer MPs here at Westminster representing fewer

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constituencies. 600 instead of the current 650. Or Wales would lose 10

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of its 40 MPs, and there would be a new member -- method of collecting

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members to the National Assembly in Cardiff. Those plans are on hold

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after the loss of the parliamentary vote. The debate is still very

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active. Of the governed by too many elected representatives? -- are we

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governed by too many elected representatives? At the local level,

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There are business leaders to think so, and a Welsh MEP who thinks so

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and the Prime Minister thinks there as well. Think what? That Wales is

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over governed. Councillors to assembly members, MPs and MEPs, a

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list of world political representatives is long. We asked

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some -- We are some of the most governed people in the world,

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totting up 8000 community councillors, 1000 there had -- 1300

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councillors, more than Scotland, 60 AMs, and that is not touching the

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non-elected keepers of the public bodies. How many politicians does

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it take to change all run a country? This week the Prime

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Minister's attempt to slim down the number of MPs and cut the cost of

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politics, as he put it, was thwarted at a vote in Westminster.

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Welsh MPs who would have been floating -- facing a process can

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breathe easy for now. The notion that Wales has a divine right for

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40 MPs is a preposterous thing. Some of the arduous that have been

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heard recently trying to defend the status quo are visible and frankly

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embarrassing. There is no rational reason why Wales has no -- more MPs

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per head than any other part of the UK. The idea that 40 is necessary

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to reflect the cultural diversity and the community spirit which is

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apparently unique to Wales is just embarrassing. Why should Wales have

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more MPs per head than England or Scotland or Northern Ireland?

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devolved Wales, the focus is more and more on how we are governed and

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by whom. And whisper this, because they know it is the wrong time to

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say it, but there are those who believe that given the job there is

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to be done if now here in Cardiff Bay, we need more elected

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representatives to do it. A number of people have looked at this, most

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famously the Richard Commission. And have concluded that 80 members

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is of to them for the assembly. It can work with 60 as we have been

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proving. I think the best way to look at this is after a week -- if

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we stick with 60, we can do less than it we could with 80. If people

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want that, that is fair enough. comes a bit of science, sort of.

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There is a theory that says most countries throughout the world have

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ended up with assemblies or first house sounds is that Correspondent

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-- that corresponds to the cube root of the population, the optimum

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size. Instead of 60 assembly members, we would end up with 144.

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Eighties -- is it a case of cuts to tant tears of politics and a boost

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of others? We have too many politicians in the wrong place, too

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many MPs and councillors, not enough assembly members. In terms

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of the second chamber in London, Wales has not represented properly

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at all. The whole situation is in Congress, inconsistent, irrational.

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Given that long list of political representatives in debating

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chambers, towns all over Wales, in Cardiff Bay, Westminster, Brussels,

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some argue there is a confusion, and duplication event of, of roles

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between institution. Government is confusing. In modern society, we

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expect government to do so much that I get confused as to what is

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the responsibility of MPs and AMs sometimes because sometimes the

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border is very grey. We have had a bill of the Assembly passed to the

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Supreme Court to decide whether we have the responsibility or not.

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MEPs, MPs, AMs, councillors, is this a politician first or

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essential representation in a compressed so world? If you are of

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the over governed persuasion, Is Wales over governed? Yes and no.

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I agree that we have too many local authorities, which was the creation

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of the former Government. We have 22 -- three national parks, so the

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numbers are ridiculous. We also have health boards. The answer is

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to slimline the internal governance of Wales and then deal with the

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national governance and the external governments. We will come

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to those in a second. We will deal with the local authority's first,

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which date back to the 90s. It is a second devolution that does not fit

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today's settlement. How many should there have been? I think the

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decision has been made for us by the health structure. Wales should

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have something in the order of between 5 and 7 counties. That is

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an enormous reform to undertake. Is there any appetite? I am talking

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blue skies, well, grey skies. is realistic? What is realistic is

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for this job to be done by the Welsh local Government association

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alongside the Welsh Government or indeed the committee or commission

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of the Assembly and local Government together. So a drastic

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reduction paired with a significant reduction in the number of MPs at

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Westminster to 30? Do you think that is realistic? That should have

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happened already, really, shouldn't it? On the principles that we have

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heard already. I cannot disagree with that but politically I am

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supposed to take the other view. I regard the issue of the numbers of

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members of Parliament as a secondary issue to the issue of the

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governance of Wales. But you think there should be a reduction and his

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30 the number you would be happy with? I think it has to be equal

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throughout United Kingdom and I look at the United Kingdom as a

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federal state, so that means the second chamber as well needs to

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reflect the balance. When Scotland changes its relationship in one way

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or another from the rest of the United Kingdom, then that will be

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another determining factor. Just to nail that down, the 30 or 40

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reduction is something you would have been happy with if it had gone

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through? I am trying to wriggle on that because I did once vote to

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save the souls of those 10 MPs. as part of the bigger reform?

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I think there is a deal to be done in a reduction of the number of

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local councillors, the reform of local Government, but as part of

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that good deal that also takes account of the number of MPs and

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the number of Assembly members. What drives the need for more

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representation in Cardiff is the amount of work that Cardiff now

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does. We will discuss Cardiff in one second. It may just complete

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the Westminster picture. What is the nature of Welsh representation

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to be in the House of Lords in the second chamber? Well, you know, I

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despair. I was one of the original members of something called

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Democratic peers, led by my friend Richard, and of course we have not

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got anywhere. It has all gone into the sand and I very much regret

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that. Partly because I find being called a Lord an embarrassment. I

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am a senator, in that sense, and that is not unusual, for people to

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be members of the National Assembly in their region and also to do work

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at the state level, or indeed at European level. What would an

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acceptable level of Welsh representation be in the second

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chamber? It has to be related to the population. So it would be 5%

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of the membership of a reformed House. I think that would work very

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well at 350. The US Senate has much less than that. Cardiff, crucially,

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given the increasing responsibility being taken on by it National

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Assembly, are you in favour of an increase in the number of AMs to

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80? Yes, I was convinced of it in theory when Richard reported. Along

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with that goes another reform, which is the introduction of the

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single transferable vote in multi- member constituencies. I am

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absolutely clear that this division between regional members does not

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make any sense for the electorate or the political parties. Therefore

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I think we have to go for that but also convince the people of Wales

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that it is necessary, at and get agreement across parties. This is

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how devolution has developed, different to Scotland, in Wales

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through the last referendum. So it does mean the Conservatives, the

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Liberal Democrats, Labour and played come we agree in the way

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:19:33.:19:34.

forward. It is a challenge. -- and Plaid Cymru. It is a challenge and

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people tell us constantly that they are fed up with the numbers of

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:19:48.:19:48.

politicians. Yes, but we are making laws. The level of governance of a

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small nation, if you prefer, that is why governments mostly happens.

:19:56.:20:00.

Finally, timescale. What you are talking about his ambitious, Major

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in scope. By one could such a reform package be implemented? --

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buy wine? I think by eight the next Assembly elections. How realistic

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is that? I am pragmatic and realistic but also ambitious for

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Wales. I do not see effective democracy ever come into the second

:20:26.:20:30.

chamber or even the first chamber in Westminster. I see the challenge

:20:30.:20:33.

that Scotland faces. Whatever happened in the referendum in

:20:33.:20:39.

Scotland, there will be changes in the Government. The Government of

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Wales must be effective. It must be possible to call Welsh ministers to

:20:43.:20:48.

account more effectively than we do now and to make better Welsh law.

:20:48.:20:52.

What is a point of making Welsh law after 1000 laws if we do not make

:20:52.:21:02.
:21:02.:21:08.

it better than it has been done in Westminster?

:21:09.:21:11.

Here in London the latest economic data suggests that retailers are

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weathering the economic storm a little better than other parts of

:21:14.:21:17.

the UK and certainly better than in many parts of Wales. Boarded-up

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shops, empty town centres, and a rise in out-of-town retail parks is

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an all-too-familiar scene. Is it already too late to rescue the

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Welsh High Street? One Welsh businesswoman says she has the

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answer. More from her in a moment. But first, the voices of Newport

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and shopkeepers there. In 15 months the foot fall has

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probably dropped by 25% because of fewer people coming into town

:21:43.:21:47.

because of shops disappearing. We are being pushed out by big

:21:47.:21:51.

companies like Tesco, ASDA, especially my trade personally as

:21:51.:22:01.

if shoe repairer. On the High Street is -- it is not looking good.

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When my lease runs out it might not be with me staying here. I have

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worked here for 22 years and I have seen it go from OK to worse.

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Unfortunately it is becoming much harder, very hard. This town had

:22:20.:22:25.

renovations in 1980, it is now 2013 and nothing has been done. Parking

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is atrocious and expensive. People cannot afford it and they tend to

:22:29.:22:33.

go out of town. If the Government and the councils do not pull out

:22:33.:22:38.

their fingers, there will be no city centres. We have been here now

:22:38.:22:42.

in the city centre for about eight years. The changes that we have

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seen have been at the drop in foot fall, and there is nothing being

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done down this end of the city centre to encourage shoppers down

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here. They need to do something with the business rates, and until

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then businesses will be leaving. Newport was starting to go downhill

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and we have seen that for a year or so. We have got to ride it out to

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see how long we can go. If anything is not done, within this year, I

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would not like to say what will happen. I have been here for eight

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years. About 10 shops have closed in the past couple of weeks, since

:23:26.:23:30.

Christmas. Most people are going. I will be going when my lease runs

:23:30.:23:40.
:23:40.:23:42.

out. With me now is Laura Tenison, the founder and managing director

:23:42.:23:45.

of maternity wear and children's clothing chain JoJo Maman Bebe.

:23:45.:23:51.

That was depressing. Do you think that is representative? Absolutely.

:23:51.:23:56.

Newport city centre is just tragic. I love Newport, particularly the

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market. There is a real feel of community there, but over the years

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it is just dying, dwindling. What has gone wrong? Look at Tesco on

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the outskirts of town. It has just doubled its footprint, its space.

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Why? I don't know why we need to have a Tesco that drains everyone

:24:16.:24:21.

away from the city centre with free parking. As the other retailers

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were saying, the fact that business rates are still quite high, the

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fact that parking is virtually impossible in the city centre. I go

:24:29.:24:33.

into the town centre because I'm on my way to the station and I am on a

:24:33.:24:36.

bicycle but most people, unless they are on foot, they can't really

:24:37.:24:41.

get into the city centre. There is very little to come in for. The

:24:41.:24:45.

towns that are successful in this country are the towns and suburbs

:24:45.:24:51.

of large cities that have a vibrant local communities. What we want is

:24:51.:24:55.

people living above the shops so that they use the local retailers

:24:55.:24:59.

and form a community. Lots of people watching will say, hang on,

:24:59.:25:04.

we are dealing with the trend that has been going on for over 20 years.

:25:04.:25:08.

Out-of-town shopping centres, people drive to them and find them

:25:08.:25:12.

convenient in many ways. The parking is easy and all the rest of

:25:12.:25:16.

it. It is pie in the sky to talk about reversing that. It will not

:25:16.:25:20.

happen. These town centres need to be helped in a different way,

:25:20.:25:25.

surely. The big shops are not going to come back in, are they?

:25:25.:25:28.

disagree completely. My entire business plan is based on

:25:28.:25:32.

regenerating local high streets. We don't go into out-of-town shopping

:25:32.:25:36.

centres, and that we boycott them. I occasionally go into a shopping

:25:36.:25:41.

scheme, but only when it is city centre. The reason is because I

:25:41.:25:47.

cannot bear the waist. We have these amazing buildings. I know

:25:47.:25:51.

Newport well. The buildings and architecture, the community

:25:51.:25:55.

atmosphere, it is fantastic. But the lack of foot fall means that

:25:55.:26:00.

everything is dying. What we can do is look at the long-term prospects

:26:00.:26:07.

for the city and do not allow any more out-of-town building.

:26:07.:26:11.

Encourage people in with lower rates and good incentives. Why

:26:11.:26:16.

can't we have good, local free parking in the city centre? Are you

:26:16.:26:20.

paying a price for the way that you have gone about this, in business

:26:20.:26:24.

terms? If you had gone into the big out-of-town shopping centres with

:26:24.:26:28.

the high football, would you have done better business? Is that right

:26:28.:26:33.

or wrong? I don't think so because I am filling a gap in the market.

:26:33.:26:37.

We find that if we go into the right towns, there is a lot of

:26:37.:26:42.

passing trade that does not want to put their small children in a calf

:26:42.:26:47.

and drive to an out-of-town shopping centre. -- in a car. In

:26:47.:26:54.

fact people call us up and ask us to come into their town. They don't

:26:54.:26:58.

want to put their toddlers in the car for an hour and dry for an hour

:26:58.:27:03.

to the shops. If you have the shops in your local community, you can

:27:03.:27:07.

have a really nice day out. Shopping centres are very

:27:07.:27:11.

impersonal. How often do have a nice chat with the security guard

:27:11.:27:15.

in a shopping centre? You don't. You walk in and do your business

:27:15.:27:21.

and there is no community atmosphere. In your local town

:27:21.:27:24.

there is a community and this fear and in Newport we can see that

:27:24.:27:33.

still but something has to happen quick otherwise it will be too late.

:27:33.:27:37.

-- community atmosphere. You think there is still some hope? Some

:27:37.:27:41.

people think it is too late. have to act quickly but we have got

:27:41.:27:45.

some success stories. I am opening in Monmouth later in the year,

:27:45.:27:49.

which has a thriving High Street. It has good independent retailers

:27:49.:27:53.

that have been there for years. Actually, even through the tough

:27:53.:27:59.

economic times they have succeeded. We have some small chains coming in.

:27:59.:28:03.

Some national names coming in. Actually I do believe that while I

:28:03.:28:09.

am an independent retailer, I don't happen to have 56 stores, I have

:28:09.:28:16.

grown because I unsuccessful. We have an enormous mail order based

:28:16.:28:23.

as well. If I open in Monmouth, he does not mean that the other

:28:23.:28:26.

retailers will be damaged. It actually means that they will

:28:26.:28:31.

benefit. What is sad about Newport and the High Street there, you

:28:31.:28:34.

don't see many national brands because they have moved to the out-

:28:34.:28:38.

of-town shopping centres. If the council had not given them planning

:28:38.:28:41.

permission to open out of town, they would be in the city centre.

:28:41.:28:46.

They want to get the Newport spent, but they will get it whenever it is

:28:46.:28:50.

most convenient. It is good to hear about a good Welsh success story.

:28:50.:28:59.

Thank you. That's it for this week's programme. We're taking a

:28:59.:29:02.

break next week, it's the big BAFTA night, but remember you can get in

:29:02.:29:05.

Huw Edwards presents a current affairs series taking a look at issues that matter in Wales.

There have been calls for compensation for Welsh workers blacklisted for trade union activity.

And is Wales over-governed? Or do we need more politicians to make it work?


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