13/01/2013 The Wales Report


Current affairs series with Huw Edwards. Is the Welsh government's plan to buy Cardiff Airport a good use of public money? Plus, the village battling to maintain its identity.

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Tonight on The Wales Report: So the Welsh Government wants to buy an


airport. But is the Carwyn Jones plan really a good use of public


money? What's in a flag? A Welsh


perspective on the Union flag row that's caused so much tension in


Belfast. And in the ever-changing character


of today's Wales we visit one village where the fight for


identity is at a critical stage. Welcome to the first Wales Report


of 2013. Blwyddyn newydd dda. A happy new year to everyone. It's


good to be back. And there's plenty for us to talk about as we consider


the big issues affecting the people of Wales in this new year. Any


meaningful discussion about the state of the Welsh economy must


involve transport infrastructure and let's face it Wales is hardly a


world leader in this regard. Airport capacity notably in the


south-east region around Cardiff is a crucial element. So why is Wales


not served by a successful international airport, a gateway


for business and investment and leisure which delivers its own


burst of economic growth? After a turbulent patch and a dramatic fall


in passenger numbers, the Welsh Government has stepped in with


plans to buy the airport. Or to renationalise it, depending on your


perspective. The First Minister says he has the people's support.


His critics say it's quite simply a waste of tax-payers' money. As


Helen Callaghan reports, Carwyn Jones has a fight on his hands not


least from the people running Bristol Airport with its annual


Airports, places of dreams, filled with the excitement and has signed


bustle of travel. Arrival and departure lounges, packed with


passengers to-ing and fro-ing for business and leisure. The crowning


glory of any capital city. But that is not the picture in Wales.


Cardiff Airport has been navigating its way through some pretty badge


commercial turbulence lately. In 2012, passenger numbers hit an all-


time low. Industry experts have told us that closure is the very


real possibility. With that prospect in mind, the First


Minister has been reaching for the Welsh Government chequebook. If


that plan goes ahead, you, the taxpayer, could soon be the proud


owner of Wales's only international airport. The present crisis is a


far cry from the 70s and 80s, with the growth of package holidays and


the expansion of the airport. Times were good. When ownership passed to


a Spanish company, at the airport continued to do well. But over the


last five years, there has been a dramatic decline in its fortunes.


Cardiff's passenger numbers have halved from 2 million to 1.2


million in 2011, with a seemingly similar decline in investment.


Cardiff has not come off too well out of this low-cost revolution.


The two biggest low-cost airlines in the UK are in Bristol, and


Cardiff was left with another airline, BMI Baby, which never


really succeeded. It is the problem with that one particular airline


that led to the decline in passenger numbers at Cardiff


Airport. Just across the bridge in England, there is a very different


story. Many Welsh people now fly from Bristol, helping the airport


see a 1% rise in passenger numbers over the past year. More than 5.7


million people pass through the checking gates. Their success has


not come easily. We have been working for a long period of time


in attracting the leading airlines to Bristol. We have also invested


about �100 million in the airport over the last decade, and that is


expanding the infrastructure, improving the facilities and making


it easier for people to get to Bristol Airport, which is


incredibly important to us. This is a cut-throat business. Airport


against airport. Bristol Airport remains determined to attract Welsh


customers to its check-in desks. In a further blow to Cardiff Airport,


the Wales Report can reveal that from March Bristol Airport will be


operating a direct Greyhound bus link from Swansea, Cardiff, Newport


and the airport. The Welsh Government has well and truly


arrived in a commercial jungle. In 2012, Carwyn Jones told the company


to invest in the airport or sell it. Now that is your money that is


going to be invested, how much do you want to they? As the price


varies from �50 million up to �150 million and in truth nobody knows.


We do not know two things, the purchase price and what the


Government intends to do with the airport if it goes ahead with the


purchase. Having bought it, they will have to find someone to run it


and hopefully at a profit. It is thought they will appoint a new


management team but that team will be facing a massive challenge. To


make the airport busy and profitable you have got to attract


new airlines and they have to see it as a money-maker. You can spend


as much money on it as you like. The Welsh Government can put


window-boxes full of daffodils everywhere in there. It is not


going to make a difference to the airlines. Yes, they would like to


obviously bring these routes in and yes, the public would love it as


well. But at the end of the day it is the airline that has to take the


risk. At the moment, they don't think that there are enough people


here in South Wales with enough disposable income to support the


services. I just can't see it happening. And an airport in public


ownership will have many people keeping a very close eye on the


books. This is a commercially sensitive market. We would be


concerned if state subsidies were provided to Cardiff Airport and of


course this date Minister -- First Minister is calling for the


devolution of aviation tax and the scrapping of aviation tax. But if


that was to restore an efficient and open and competitive market for


air travel across the UK, we would have a problem. With respect to the


possible nationalisation of Cardiff Airport, we certainly do not have


any issues. Of course provided that process and competition is on a


very level playing field. Our concern would be if there were any


state subsidies provided as part of the process. We welcome the


assurances from the First Minister that Cardiff Airport will be


operated on a commercial basis and there will not be state subsidies.


Provided that is the case, we will be very happy. Many believe that


this plan has not been fully thought through and it could cost


us dear. We do not know how much they will pay for the airport. They


have given us no idea what their objectives are and they have given


us no idea what kind of action plan they will put in place. And now the


owners of the airport have got the First Minister over a barrel. They


can name their price, otherwise the First Minister is forced into a


humiliating U-turn. The problem is it is not his money. It is our


money as taxpayers and we have a duty to scrutinise this very


carefully if and make sure that money is effectively spent to


deliver something that is a benefit rather than just a black hole


sucking public money down the drain. The Welsh Government believes that


Wales needs a major airport close to the capital city. But are we


travelling to destination unknown? And crucially how much will the


ticket cost? So joining me in the studio is the


Labour Assembly minister Mick Antoniw, who was on the airports


committee before it was privatised. And the Conservative MP for their


of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns. Let's be direct. Is there a commercial case


for having this airport in the first place? Any interest and


investment in the airport is welcome and it is important to the


economy and the jobs at the maintenance centre next door as


well. The point I want to make is that you do not have to own an


airport to support an airport. It has been run down over recent years.


The Welsh Assembly Government has not really supported it at all.


Only last year we have public fights between the airport owners


and the First Minister and just two-and-a-half years ago the


National Transport plan did not have any mention other than two


lines of Cardiff Airport. That is the priority of support that there


was Government has given the airport over the last five years or


so. We will come back to the commercial viability, a crucial


question. From your point of view, is this strategy the right one


given the fact that this airport has been doing quite poorly? If we


think an airport is important to the future of the Welsh economy,


then it is the only strategy available because no one else at


the moment is going to step in. We either let it deteriorate, or we


say there is an important role for the airport and we are going to


build that role and make it part of the hub of the economy.


viability of this airport as a unit, pie in the sky or not? Well, I


think the Welsh Government is looking at it the wrong way. They


think having an airport is imported to the economy, and it is. But you


need to have a vibrant economy that will support an international


airport and they are looking at the telescope the wrong way round, if


you like. The important thing is to have a strong economy. I have


spoken to a number of airlines who have said that they do not see this


disposable income and the business demand locally to be strong enough


to support them. But if you look up the North East, Newcastle airport,


and some of the airports in Scotland, Emirates were looking at


the North East and some of the airport in Glasgow and Edinburgh


and they were also looking at Cardiff. You cannot subsidise an


airline because that is against European rules, but you can support


the marketing of the roots, both in the overseas destination and in the


UK. You can make that flight more viable much more quickly. There was


Government refused to do that over recent years, but the regional


development agency in the North of England was happy to do that and


the Scottish Government was happy to do that for Glasgow and for


Edinburgh. But the Welsh Government did not do that and that is the


sort of support that we need, but we can do it without owning the


airport. How much do you think the airport is what? The answer is that


I do not know. I have seen figures from �35 million up to �150 million.


You have to look at the books and the debts and the potential


partners. Bristol were talking about them investing �100 million


of their own money. You have got the same in Newcastle and


Manchester, where they are investing enormous amount of money


in infrastructure, but they are again effectively publicly owned.


On the political risk, do you think it will be impossible for Carwyn


Jones to withdraw now that he has committed to buying it, no matter


what the prices? I don't. If it turned round the whole situation,


and the situation changed in terms of the due diligence work, I think


they would have to pull up. The Assembly is only going to support


the business plan that is viable. None of us are going to sit there


and support something that cannot be sustained. Two issues come out


of that. One, at the company that owns the airport has the First


Minister over a barrel. That is because of the political priority


but the First Minister has made of it. But he could turn round and say


he is not prepared to pay that price, there was taxpayer will not.


He has made such a political and this on this before Christmas that


I think it would be impossible for him to walk away and that is a


worrying factor because we will pay more money than it is worth. If it


was such a good deal, there would be a host of private sector


companies queuing up ready to take over the ownership. Or ready to


take over the running of Cardiff Airport. And even with the massive


numbers of passengers going through Bristol Airport, Bristol Airport


lost money last year and that is the risk to the taxpayer. And


finally, at a time when there is a desperate need for capital spent in


the economy, on roads, infrastructure, on a whole range of


projects, tier cannot believe the First Minister is talking about


tying up tens of millions of pounds. -- I cannot believe. And he is also


taking on the debt of the airport itself. Is it not important for


Wales to have its own proper international airport? Well, it is,


but you do not have to own an airport to support it. That is the


fundamental issue. Scotland and the Regional Development Agency in


Newcastle both supported their airports and do not own them.


is a status purchase and not something that makes commercial


sense? It is not. Ownership is not the key issue alone, the key issue


is who will step in and rescue the airport. That tells you that it is


a bad deal, doesn't it? It does not. There is nobody else around. If you


think the airport is important, who will step in and actually do that?


In exactly the same way as the local authority stepped in with


Manchester and with Newcastle, and in fact the Scottish Government


with the Highlands and Islands, we now think that an airport is


important that we want it or we walk away. Adding the Welsh


Government has taken a brave and correct decision. -- I think.


doing it because no one else will do the job. That is because they


have not shown to bought over the last five years or more and I have


given examples in relation to that. -- not shown support. There is


interest and I think people will be surprised when the announcements


are made with regard to this plan. We will have you back to talk about


What's in a flag? In this case, the Union flag - or Union Jack, take


your pick. It's a question that's featured prominently in news


headlines in recent weeks given the violence on the streets of Belfast.


The City Council voted not to fly the flag every day, and the


decision led to some of the worst violence since the Good Friday


Agreement was signed nearly 15 years ago. And plenty of questions


have been asked about the way the decision was handled. My next guest


knows more than most about the situation in today's Northern


Ireland, having served as Secretary of State. He's Labour's Peter Hain,


the MP for Neath. What has gone wrong? A number of things. I


believe the main one is that working-class loyalists feel they


have not been stakeholders for changed since we negotiated the


historic solution in 2007. Young people but at the forefront of


these problems are without jobs, youth unemployment is horrific in


Northern Ireland. Particularly loyalist youngsters feel they don't


have a real future. They think that republicans are getting everything.


That is a misnomer. Some of the recent trouble around the parading


season was young Republicans. You have youngsters without jobs and


trading, in the NEETs category, on both sides of the divide, feeling


this is not best seen any more. They can't get jobs, they don't


have a stake so they are causing trouble. I think there is an


identity she was well. Was it right to make the decision in the first


place? It was made because a compromise was being sought, but


with hindsight, were they right? is very difficult for me as a


former Secretary of State to say what was right or wrong. This is a


devolved legislature, it is a devolved Northern Ireland. What


would you have done if you were in office? This is a divided city


between Protestants and Catholics still, between Unionists and


nationalists, Republicans. The decision they took was hard argued.


The Alliance Party, which has traditionally opted a middle way,


was the one which came up with only flying the flag on certain


designated days. It seemed a reasonable compromise. In fact, it


has inflamed the situation, but for reasons which are not only, in my


view, to do with the Union Jack, the British flag, above Belfast


City Hall, but with the wider alienation, especially of your


loyalists, from what they see as a developing society around them.


Billions of pounds of public money has been invested in industry in


the province, partly to create jobs, despite the fact that youth


unemployment is very high. People in other parts of the UK have


little patience with what they see happening in Belfast, they think


people are not responding to the kind of support they have had. Do


you lack sympathy? It is true that Northern Ireland has had more


subsidy if in its public services, its state and the public sector


generally than any other part of the UK, Wales included. In other


respects they are privileged, they still don't pay water charges. I


tried to introduce the last Secretary of State, which caused a


terrific rumpus. -- I tried to introduce them as Secretary of


State. But the society is in transition from centuries of


conflict. And a bitter, violent and terrorist conflict which needs


support to get it to a place where it needs to be. Do you see any


parallels at all, not the violence, thankfully, but any other parallels


throughout the rest of the devolved UK, people taking more


responsibility for their own affairs? You were a very big,


strong element in the campaign to get devolution to Wales. That


identity struggle, do you see it playing out elsewhere? I think


there is an issue with English identity. I have always thought the


asymmetric devolution settlement was not sustainable, power needed


to be divorced in England and not just London, to the rest of the


English regions, cities and so on. In Northern Ireland, I think there


is a different issue which could be in play under this austerity, if in


a wider sense, across Britain. When people don't feel they have a stake


in society, identity becomes even more important. For example, you


saw the rise of the BNP, when people did not feel like they were


getting housing opportunities, they worried about immigration and job


security, including under the Labour government. The BNP came to


the fore. UKIP is coming to the fore with the European question and


a lot of other associated issues, it is not just a one-issue party.


Identity becomes more important in a situation where people feel


insecure and under siege. In Northern Ireland there is a


particular issue with the loyalist community, I don't think the


Government is doing enough to engage with them. I took risky


decisions to engage with people on the fringes, and some almost in


uniform, as it were, in paramilitary activity, to engage


with them. And it paid off. The wider question of identity comes to


the fore when people don't have a wider stake in the normal bread-


and-butter jobs, housing, education, opportunities that are the stuff of


daily life. Peter, thank you very much. Peter Hain.


That notion of identity, especially cultural identity, has been


examined in detail since the latest census figures for Wales were


published. They are a gold mine of information, telling us how Wales


has changed over the past decade - with religion, language and


nationality featuring very prominently. The number of people


able to speak Welsh has fallen from 20.5% to 19%, with the sharpest


decline recorded in the heartlands of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.


David Williams has been to one of the oldest villages in Wales,


Brechfa - deep in the countryside some 12 miles from Carmarthen -


where he came face to face with the reality of what's happening. And he


discovered that the future of the language might well depend on some


of the incomers, and those who The reality of living in today's


Wales is to be found in places like this. This is Brechfa. Population,


300. And something of a microcosm of what it is to try and preserve


the essence of a community at a time of great change. You don't


just arrive in Brechfa, you have to make an effort to get here. The


villagers said to be a settlement dating back in the coffee barbie to


the 6th century. One steeped in the Welsh language, it is now


linguistically finely balanced - half Welsh, half-English. But


united in a common aim - preserving the community. Invariably,


something gets lost in translation when the English and Welsh


languages are interpreted or misinterpreted. It can lead to


confusion and misunderstanding. Take the notice on this date. In


Wells, it suggests quite correctly that this school is no longer


operational. In English, the suggestion is that the village of


Brechfa itself is no longer operational, which is simply not


true. And they hope is that this little school will soon have a new


role and will help to reinvigorate I was brought up in a village much


like this, a Welsh speaker in a community where there were only two


pupils from an English background at the school at which my father


was the headmaster. How things have changed. In Brechfa, the linguistic


population shift in the last 50 years has been, as it has in the


village of my childhood, dramatic. Not only has Welsh as the first


language taken a huge hit in this village, falling pupil numbers has


forced the authority to move the children of Brechfa six miles down


the roads are to another school. But the campaign to keep the


building open and preserve it as both an educational and business


centre of village life has only just begun.


This man, and in, from Hertfordshire, walked around the


school all day in his wellingtons to raise money for a project aimed


at saving the building. Now considered a vital part of his


local community. We were very excited about helping the school.


The whole idea of a little girl living in a village and going to


the village school and having friends in the village was very


meaningful, so it was a great blow to our son lots of other families.


-- great blow to us and lots of These young women may hold the key


to the success of the project. just remember my childhood, and it


was great growing up in Brechfa, around the forest, mountain biking


in the river. I just think it would be nice to promote this area and


make people realise how great it is and how good it can be. Both Welsh-


speaking, both brought up in Brechfa, they went to this school.


Both went off to university and travelled the world but, unusually,


both have returned home. And both are determined to play their part


and re-energised their community. We just think it is really


important to keep the Welsh language alive. It is part of our


heritage and culture, and to see it disappear would be a shame. They


want to set up a food store for a yet to be established mountain-


And this is the woman who was the driving force behind the Brechfa


project. Mary Mitchell, a retired schoolteacher, is a self-employed


milk recorder, collecting samples from local farms for analysis in


England. She was brought up in Carmarthenshire, moved away but


returned with her family to live in Brechfa. It is not just about the


Welsh language, it is about the age of the people, because the


demographic has changed here and what we are getting is a lot more


retired people moving in here. Because the housing is not


affordable for younger families. What some people here will tell you


privately, though not publicly, is that a great deal of the drive


which it has sustained this village comes from people who have either


moved away and come back off from people who have simply moved into


the area. The incomers and those returning are powerful force for


the rejuvenation of places like Brechfa. It may be that for some


this is an uncomfortable truth, but one that needs to be faced not only


in Brechfa but in Wales as a hole in what is a critical time for both


the Welsh language and the survival of the communities which help to


sustain the language. But does it really matter that we


all speak the language of heaven? Is it really important to our


collective well-being that we all speak Welsh? Or is it more


important in a place like this to ensure a vibrant community which


embraces both languages? The inevitable question that divides us


as a nation and causes individuals like me continual angst and


consternation has risen its head again. There was never an easy or


satisfactory answer to that conundrum, and the complexities


attached to the issue of the language seemed magnified in places


like this. Bit by bit, the villagers of Brechfa have seen not


only the Welsh language disappear, but also those elements which go to


the core of community life here. The chapel, the Pope and, most


recently, the calf -- the chapel, the Pope, and, most recently, the


school have all gone. Only the local shop has been saved as a


community run venture. Good morning, how are you? Have you


any sandwiches? Yes, we do, in the chiller cabinet. The little shop is


at the heart of this community, a place enjoyed by everyone, natives


and incomers alike. Bill Bradley, one of the volunteer directors,


retired here from Middlesex. Well, I love it here. A lot of people


said to me, oh, don't live in Wales, but I must say I really love living


here. What do they mean, don't live in Wales? They said we wouldn't be


welcome and they all speak Welsh and we wouldn't fit in, but we have


fitted in very well. We have been welcomed by everybody. And they do


speak Welsh? They do. Sometimes I stand here in the shop and I don't


understand a word they are saying. Coup attempts at a community buy-


out of the local pub failed, so now the focus of potential is on the


local school's the focus of attention is on the local school,


close last year but still seen as the potential new sense of


community life. The local authority is keeping the door open - for the


time being, at least. We have to produce an outline proposal and a


five-year business plan with five- year cash forecasts by March.


Hopefully from September if it is accepted, we can have it to rent


for 12 to 18 months, and then the option to buy. It is absolutely


doable. The very future of the Welsh language, not to say the


future of communities like this which helped to foster it, depend


on the goodwill of all people in places like this. If there are no


communities, then there is nothing left to debate. And that would be a


David Williams reporting. That's it for tonight's programme. Next week


Tim Rogers will be assessing a big week for the NHS in Wales - and


that's always a big talking point. So get in touch and send us your


In the first of a new series of the Wales Report - is the Welsh government's plan to buy Cardiff Airport a good use of public money? And the village battling to maintain its identity in an ever changing Wales.

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