LEAVING the European Union and ensuring the best future for Wales post-Brexit was the central theme amongst speakers and delegates at the Plaid Cymru Annual Conference in Llangollen last week (Oct 21-23).
The party faithful travelled from all corners of the nation to hear a series of key note speeches and debate party policy – a rare ritual at party conferences these days.
Amongst the speakers was Anglesey Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth, who called for a united voice in Wales to protect the country’s future after Brexit. He said: “We share one future.” – A reference to Plaid Cymru representing all citizens of Wales, irrespective of how they voted in the EU Referendum.
He said: “It’s interesting to note that the first Eisteddfod of Iolo Morgannwg’s revival took place in London – at Primrose Hill.
“Well, if back then in 1792 it was the voices of Welsh poets and singers filling the air, it’s time that London and the Westminster Government heard another Welsh voice – a united voice – uniting those who voted to leave as well as those that voted to remain in June’s referendum – a voice saying to the UK Government ‘deliver an exit that works for Wales as well as it possibly can’.
“Yes, Wales voted to leave, but I don’t think Wales wants to take leave of its senses when it comes to our economic future,” he added.
Motions debated at conference on the Friday (Oct 21) included greater emphasis on housing policy, tackling micro plastic waste, a citizen’s income and the steel industry in Wales.
Speaking on the steel motion and addressing a conference for the first time was new party member Scott Bamsey, a Port Talbot steel worker who wanted the party to support modernisation of the industry, and establishing a dedicated steel research and development centre in the new Innovation Campus at Swansea University.
Also commenting on steel over the weekend was Carmarthenshire Assembly Member Adam Price, who said: “The potential merger of Tata and ThyssenKrupp poses a significant threat to the steel workforce and the unions in the UK and Germany are rightly concerned. Both the Unite and Community unions, as well as the Welsh Government, have all noted their concerns at the potentially devastating effect on steel communities across Wales. The Chief Executive of ThyssenKrupp has himself said that such a merger would take capacity out of the steel industry.
“Protecting the steel industry in Wales is a priority and, in doing that, we need to protect the workforce. If Tata and ThyssenKrupp fail to commit to protecting jobs at existing Tata plants, then the UK Government needs to intervene to prevent the merger in order to safeguard the industry. No merger should be allowed to go ahead without assurances about jobs and the future of Tata’s plants,” he added.
Women’s pensions, local government reorganisation and the NHS were the key motion discussions on the second day of conference (Oct 22), as well as the address from Party Leader, Leanne Wood AM.
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector who was elected as Plaid Cymru’s Police and Crime Commissioner for the North Wales constabulary in May 2016, took to the conference stage to outline his priorities to tackle substance misuse, domestic abuse, modern slavery and greater transparency and answerability in the police force.
He revealed his determination to break the cycle of re-offending. Mr Jones said: “65% of boys whose father is in jail offend and children with imprisoned parents are twice as likely to suffer mental health problems and do less well in school.”
Partnership working to reduce re-offending by ensuring that ex-prisoners were successfully reintegrated into society was a priority. “Although not directly a police matter, ensuring that former offenders don’t repeat their previous criminality is essential if we’re going to break the cycle and make our society safer. That also means using our £12m budget for reducing substance misuse across the region as wisely as possible,” he added.
Plaid Cymru’s programme for the local council elections will be focused on empowering Welsh communities, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood told conference delegates.
Ms Wood said that after the vote to leave the European Union, it was more important than ever that we empower communities to take local control and become more self-sufficient.
Hers is the only party with a plan to protect and secure the Welsh national interest after the vote to leave the European Union, Leanne Wood said, calling on Plaid Cymru members keep unity in order to take her optimistic message to people ahead of the local elections.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: “The way we will survive and thrive post-Brexit is by doing more for ourselves. By being more self-sufficient. More co-operative in our approach.
“You can expect to see from us from next May a ‘programme of opportunity’ – to get our communities into being ready and resilient for the new situation we are in.
“Plaid Cymru’s role has always been to protect and secure the Welsh national interest. Despite the challenges and uncertainties thrown up by Brexit, we are optimistic.
“We have a clear and detailed policy programme which is designed to build our nation and give confidence to our people.
“Alone out of all of the parties in the Assembly, the Party of Wales responded to the EU referendum vote in a way that shows we are ready and up for the challenge.
“Like me, you support Plaid Cymru because you believe in Wales. You believe in our capacity to look after our best national interests.
“Conference, let us take this message of conviction from this hall today, out into our communities.
“Plaid Cymru will make a difference. And Wales will move forward, stronger.”