“THE Moon’s a Balloon” - David Niven fans will instantly recognise the title of the dashing actor’s 1972 autobiography.

The star of numerous box office hits, Niven was also one of the early high profile figures to be diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), the degeneration of motor neuron nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This incurable disease may be rare but treatment costs are high. This is why I recently moved a debate in the Assembly calling on the Welsh Government to safeguard funding on MND research and treatments. We owe no less to the sufferers of this cruel and debilitating disease and their families.

"I cannot paint what then I was…" Guests at this year’s Chepstow Civic Service were treated to a moving rendition of William Wordsworth’s “Lines above Tintern Abbey” in the atmospheric surroundings of Chepstow Castle.

The new mayor Cllr Ned Heywood spoke of the enduring role of town councils in a changing world and also the Williams Commission proposals to reduce the number of local authorities in Wales. Yes, savings need to be made but I remain opposed to any moves harmful to the Monmouthshire which inspired Wordsworth to visit and so eloquently repose by his “sylvan Wye”.

A more recent visitor to Monmouthshire, the Duchess of Cornwall , clearly enjoyed spending longer than originally intended dropping in on some of Usk’s stunning gardens. The Duchess couldn’t fail to be impressed by the hard work and dedication of the many volunteers who have helped make Usk in Bloom such an overwhelming success in recent years. Keep up the hard work everybody, it’s appreciated by all visitors to the town, particularly anyone with experience of bulb planting!

Just up the road, a great deal of hard work has also gone into the development of “Humble by Nature” at the Meend Farm in Penallt. Guests at the recent opening of TV presenter Kate Humble’s new shop saw first-hand the welcome emphasis on promoting local produce to the wider world. It all makes a difference.

Finally, the last month has seen me appointed as the Assembly’s Shadow Minister for Finance. The Wales Bill currently going through Parliament seeks to make the Assembly more fiscally responsible. It’s essential we get the financial settlement for Wales right, particularly the form of any devolution of income tax. Wales simply cannot afford to become a high tax part of the UK.