Nick Clegg in Newport: Deputy PM attacks Welsh first minister over NHS
Welsh Liberal Democrats Spring Conference 2014 in Newport. Rt Hon Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats speaking on stage at the University of Wales City Campus. (5167350)
UPDATE 13:50pm: Lib Dem UK Government Business secretary Vince Cable said there would have to be fewer MPs and fewer councillors if there was to be more AMs.
Speaking to journalists at Newport's university city campus, Mr Cable said the Lib Dems believe more members of the Assembly would mean the Welsh Government could be better held to account.
He said his party supported the major recommendations in the second Silk Commission report which called for policing, youth justice and other powers to be devolved.
“I don’t know about every little bit of small print but we agree with the major recommendations, the major thrust of it and want to support it," he said.
One of the recommendations was that the Assembly should have more AMs.
Asked by the Argus if he supported the idea, Mr Cable said: “The view the party’s coming to is that that would enable better accountability for the government.
"But we’re also conscious of the public mood - too many politicians and they’re all a bit expensive.
“The corollary of having more AMs would be fewer MPs and fewer councillors, and that’s how it would be balanced up. The exact number work is something that would need to be thought through.”
12:50pm: THE deputy prime minister has attacked Carwyn Jones saying he needed to get his shoulders to the wheel and fix the Welsh NHS.
The Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg said the first minister was also reinventing history over rail electrification, but admitted that it “hasn’t become easier” for the Lib Dems to win seats from Labour at the next general election.
He spoke ahead of today's speech at the Welsh Liberal Democrat conference in Newport's city centre university campus, when he said his party would be the first to commit to devolving policing and a raft of other powers to Wales.
Mr Clegg told gathered Welsh journalists that it was “reprehensible that Carwyn Jones is seeking to pretend that a legitimate debate about standards of care in the Welsh NHS is all to do with Westminister politics.
“He should explain himself to the NHS patients in Wales that have seen a systematic failure to meet targets in Wales compared to the NHS elsewhere," he said.
“He should put his shoulder to the wheel and fix the problems of the NHS in Wales, that is what he’s there for... and not seek constantly to blame his own failings on Westminster politicians.”
The Argus asked, given the efforts put made 2010 to win Newport East, whether it was realistic he could have success in Labour areas like that seat.
“Self evidently in the seats that we didn’t win in 2010 up against Labour, it’s clearly not become easier to win those seats in the mean time,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean we give up."
Over the rail electrification debacle Mr Clegg said Carwyn Jones is “reinventing history”.
“It couldn’t be clearer, that the UK Government made a clear commitment to support electrification of the mainline to Swansea," he said.
"We all agreed that we need to see electrification of the Valley Lines but the financing mechanism of that is all through borrowing powers associated with the franchises, and the franchises are a devolved matter.
“Carwyn Jones did not object at that time.
“For him now two years later to concoct some excuse to wriggle out of his own the agreement that we reached with each other at the time is really quite cynical. I’ve said to him quite direct and forcefully that I think it is very unfair on the Welsh people to basically seek to wriggle out of commitments that we entered to in writing in the past.”
Addressing a packed lecture hall in the University of South Wales Newport city centre campus, Mr Clegg said the Scottish referendum represents an important moment for Welsh devolution.
“Because why not further devolution to Wales too,” he said.
Mr Clegg told conference that the Silk Commission challenged all parties to commit in their manifestos to transferring powers from Westminster to the National Assembly on transport, S4C, teachers’ pay, sewerage, energy consents, youth justice and policing.
“Last week, Ed Miliband came to Wales with a half-baked promise to make changes to the Welsh settlement, missing out a whole range of important recommendations made by Silk," he said.
“Where Labour failed to meet those challenges, the Liberal Democrats will rise to them and I will be the first party leader to fully commit my party to including those proposals in our 2015 manifesto.
“We are the only party that is willing and able to give the people of Wales more and better devolution."
He said that from tomorrow over one million Welsh workers will get “£700 back in their pocket” as a change in the income tax threshold to £10,000 comes into effect.
This will increase to £12,500 if the Lib Dems got into government again in Westminster, he said.
Speaking about the recent TV debates, Mr Clegg said the UKIP leader Nigel Farage was challenged to debate Britain’s membership of the EU “so that, for once, people would hear both sides of the argument: in versus out.”
He admitted they wouldn't be able to win the argument in just 120 minutes - but vowed to take his party's message around the country.
“Britain only has one truly internationalist party. There’s only one real party of in.... So we will fill the void left by our opponents – make no mistake.”
Delegates gave a round of applause when Nick Clegg referred to Kirsty William’s campaign for more nurses in the Welsh NHS.
“I want Kirsty in government in Wales because there is no one better placed to fight for a stronger government in Wales,” he said.
Mr Clegg finished up his speech saying his party “must fight and fight again to create a liberal Britain”, with the audience giving him a standing ovation
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