My Maiden Speech

Diolch Mr Deputy Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity today to make my maiden speech during the Queens Speech debate on the issues in my view that will dominate the short and medium political term. How we respond to the longest lasting recession since records began and the sort of support structures we put in place to deal with the human cost of the recession in terms of welfare support. These will be the overriding domestic issues over the term of this Parliament, and it is an area where I hope to be able to contribute to in this House following my time working for the Citizens Advice Service in Wales. I will close my contribution today by talking about an issue that is of huge importance to me, fuel poverty, but before that I would like to follow the tradition of maiden speeches to this House and use this opportunity to talk about my home constituency, which I now have the ultimate honour of representing as a Member of Parliament.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr consists of four valleys. Two rural valleys, the Teifi and Tywi to the north, both based on two majestic rivers which provide amongst the best Salmon and Sewin fishing in the whole of the British Isles. Agriculture provides the backbone of the economy of these areas, and I am committed to fighting to preserve the traditional Welsh family farm and the traditional Welsh rural way of life.

My constituency also consists of two post industrial valleys of the Amman and Gwendraeth. As a son of the Amman Valley I can claim without prejudice that the anthracite coalfield contains the best coal in the world. A producing economy, the industrial half of my home communities have suffered at the hands of UK macro economic policy obsessed with financial services and its negligence of manufacturing.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr therefore is the gateway to rural or post industrial Wales – depending on your trajectory of travel. Its unique make up, representing both industrial and rural Wales means that those who are fortunate enough to represent it often speak for the whole nation. There are those who seek to place artificial divisions between both communities. That is not a path I chose to follow. Rural and industrial Wales, Welsh speaking and non Welsh speaking Wales are all part of the same nation. We share the same economic and social challenges. Only by working together will we be able to free the potential of our people and build the better future we all desire.

The constituency is probably most famous for its production of Welsh sporting icons. Some of the greats of Welsh rugby come from the area, most notable Carwyn James and the king of our national game, Barry John. A traditional factory for the Welsh national rugby team, current Welsh and British Lion greats Dwayne Peel, Stephen Jones and Shane Williams are also sons of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. With his guile, speed and natural rugby instinct, Shane is the greatest Welsh rugby player of the modern era. If my namesake Gareth will forgive me, arguably the greatest ever Welsh rugby player. Despite his fame and fortune, Shane continues to live in the Amman valley and is an inspiration to all of us who come from the area.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr is also famous for its many castles. Some of conquest and some of defiance. The three Deheubarth castles in particular of Dryslwyn, Dinefwr and the imposing Carreg Cennen are symbols of Welsh resistance and our determination as a people to preserve our identity and defend our freedom.

Llandovery in the north of my constituency is the home of one of the most impressive historical statues in the whole of Wales. The modern sculpture of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd Fychan is another reminder of the sacrifice many a Welshman have made for the cause of our country. In response to the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in 1401, the English king Henry the 4th sent a huge army from Worcester. He arrived in north Carmarthenshire and press ganged Llywelyn – a 60 year old landowner from Caeo to help him capture Glyndwr. Determined not to betray his people or his prince, Llywelyn led the conquering army on a wild goose chase for weeks than enabled Glyndwr to move his armies to the north of Wales and consolidate. For his troubles Llywelyn was dragged to Llandovery and was disembowelled and dismembered during a public torture that lasted hours. I very much hope that modern Welsh patriots are saved from a similar fate.

Carmarthenshire today is recognised for its beauty. Known as the Garden of Wales it is the home of the National Botanic Gardens and Aberglasney House. My love however is for its rugged features. My constituency consists of the Western fringes of the Brecon Beacon National Park – and in particular Llyn y Fan Fach – where Arthurian Legend has it, lays the lady of the lake and the sword Caledfwlch – or Excalibur to give its English name.

The north of my constituency was also the home of a real life Robin Hood. Twm Sion Cati earned his fame by robbing from the rich to give to the poor – I consider myself a redistributive politician very much in the same vain! His arch enemy was the Sheriff of Carmarthen – a post I once held – although I must admit it was somewhat confusing for a Welsh nationalist like myself to hold that particular office. I look forward to campaigning for a tax on international currency transactions in the honour of Twm.

Carmarthenshire is the home of great Welsh political radical minds. Llandybie born D J Davies formed the Independent Labour Party in Ammanford before the first world war, but then became a founding member of Plaid Cymru in the 1920s. He began working in the mines at 14. He served in the US navy and was a formidable boxer. He lived in Denmark and became convinced that the advancement of the Welsh working class could only be secured in a free Wales. Heavily influenced by the syndicalist movement he wrote the masterpiece ‘The Economics of Welsh Self Government’ in 1931. It formed the basis of the decentralist socialist vision that guides my party to this very day. His vision of a mutual approach to economic development is one I believe areas such as Carmarthenshire have to embrace if we are to meet the challenges we face today. At its heart we need decentralised financial systems as seen in the USA, where Community Banks and Credit Unions provide a platform beneath the local economy and help stop the sort of regional wealth polarisation witnessed in the UK over recent decades.

Jim Griffiths was a son of Betws. A Labour politician, he was the co architect of the modern welfare state with Aneurin Bevan. On the Welsh wing of the party he helped deliver the first measure of Welsh devolution with the creation of a Minister for Wales. This political victory for the first time enshrined Wales as a political nation – and set in motion the chain of events that have led to the creation of our own Government and legislature.

Carmarthenshire was also the constituency of the greatest Welshman of our time Gwynfor Evans. His historic victory in 1966 marked the election of the first ever Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament. Gwynfor’s legacy has been to inspire generations to the cause of our country. The admiration for Gwynfor across all political parties indicate his enormous contribution in creating the Wales we have today.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I’d like to say a few words about the man I replace, Adam Price. After less than a decade in front line politics, he has already established himself as one of the greatest figures in the history of the national movement, and one of the most significant political figures of our time in Wales. When he returns form his studies in the USA, his destiny is clear – and that is to serve our people in our own Parliament in Cardiff – and to lead our people to our political freedom. Adam will be remembered for unearthing the Mittal scandal – and for leading the opposition in this House to the invasion of Iraq. However, the issues which were most important to him were those that affected local people. He was a champion fighting for compensation for miners suffering from terrible respiratory disease, and secured a pension compensation fund for steel workers that had seen their life savings disappear. Wales can ill afford to lose politicians of the stature of Adam, and I hope he returns from the US ready to continue his work on behalf of our people and our communities.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the political lineage of my county is a long and proud one. It would be folly to count myself amongst them, I can only hope to use the contribution of these political greats as an inspiration for how I act during my political career.

In the time that is left to me I’d like to talk briefly about an issue that is very close to my heart – fuel poverty. In a modern country it is a disgrace that over a quarter of all Welsh households live in fuel poverty. It is one of the greatest failures of government that people in Wales and across the UK continue to have to make daily choices between heating and eating. In the last year alone, average heating bills have increased by 33% – leaving people on fixed incomes terribly exposed – with energy prices in Wales higher than anywhere else in the UK.

We need action at international, UK, Welsh and local Government level if we are serious about eradicating the blight of fuel poverty from our communities.

  • International oil prices need to be stabilised to avoid price fluctuations. This could mean a long term agreement between oil producer and consumer countries as advocated by the French Government; and arguably the use of a more stable trading currency
  • The UK Government needs to raise incomes and ensure that available benefits and tax credits are claimed by those entitled to them. This package should include the extension of the winter fuel payments to all vulnerable groups.
  • Secondly, energy efficiency measures should be targeted at the fuel poor primarily
  • Thirdly, greater regulation of the energy market and in particular a mandatory social tariff for the fuel poor so that they are removed from a competitive market that simply doesn’t work
  • The Welsh Government needs to make sure that Wales gets its fair share of the UK Governments energy efficiency schemes
  • Secondly create a package of support and advice for people living in fuel poverty
    It also needs to promote off grid decentralised local energy systems backed up with smart metering so communities can develop their own solutions to the twin challenges of global warming and energy poverty
  • I would also like to see a statutory duty on Welsh Local Authorities which could include the retro fitting of vulnerable homes with the latest air to heat technology.

To conclude Mr Deputy Speaker, I have little doubt that the social justice agenda and the growth of Welsh political democracy and sovereignty are intertwined. During my time here in this place, I look forward to working with those across the political divide who believe in building a modern, just and prosperous Wales.

9 Responses to “My Maiden Speech” [latest first]

  1. National game??

  2. Another shining paving-stone in the road to freedom!

  3. Brilliant passionate maiden speech, Jonathan. Up there with the best of them! Pity you had to tell everyone how wonderful Sir Gaerfyrddin is – it should be kept as a secret.
    We all look forward to your following in the footsteps of Gwynfor Evans and Adam Price and becoming another champion of Wales and a stirring leader of the Welsh Cause.

  4. Outstanding.

  5. Including Twm Siôn Cati in your constituency is stretching the boundary a bit isn’t it? I thought he was from Tregaron.

  6. His hide out was in Rhandirmwyn

  7. Llongyfarchiadau ar yr araith.

  8. Amazing Jon. Hope Penygroes CC keep doing their thing, all the best to Marc, tell him to whip you all really seriously this season.

    And Ted above, the path from Llanwrtyd Wells up to Abergwesyn and over to Tregaron does have no borders pal, even with its irish fords, ask a local history teacher that and he will tell you so. Anyway, Jon has one of the most famous welsh tourists with a holiday home here in his constituency, Carlo himself, so watchit!

    If I remember right, I saw you down the Kings one blurry night, and before that passing on an underground train in about 2002 with my tool box heading to Nortel Paignton, and before that at midweek cup final game against Ammanford, with all their posh glamorgan green development players.

    Say hello to Myfanwy for me, I had to vote for Nia, to support Gordon snd all that.

    Keep the faith, fair play and all that, and if anyone goes out of control, remember Vic Hughes phrase, ‘hold the boat here’. See if they take youtube links here,

    damn, no Dafydd Iwan ‘Carlo’, this will have to do instead,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjFHqMxLGjg

  9. Furthermore, send my best to Robbie and his family of the Kings and College when you see him next. Yes, Robbie, the best new breed of tavernkeeper in Carmarthenshire East, and maybe, the whole of Wales, and, maybe, further afield. Yes, Robbie is no doubt the best tavern keeper in the whole known world, even if he could not give two hoots about politics or nationalism. He’d make a good hairdresser. : )

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