By Mark Isherwood

MS for North Wales

The announcement in the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review of £18 billion per year for the Welsh Government, the largest annual funding settlement since devolution began over 22 years ago, is to be welcomed. This includes a £2.5 billion per year spending boost, on top of which over £168 million will be invested in Wales to boost the post-pandemic recovery and enhance the Welsh economy. This includes funding to revitalize the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site, and for a Veterans Commissioner for Wales.

As Chair of the Cross-Party Group for Funerals and Bereavement in the Senedd/Welsh Parliament, I attended an online meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Funerals and Bereavement in the UK Parliament, which included a Statement by the UK Government’s Minister for Bereavement, Gillian Keegan MP, and a presentation on the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation, established in response to recommendations by the Competition and Markets Authority.

As Wales Species Champion for the Curlew, I attended a meeting with members of Gylfinir Cymru /Curlew Wales to discuss ‘A Wales Action Plan for the Recovery of the Curlew’ ahead of its launch on 22nd November. Without action, the curlew, with its evocative call, may be extinct as a breeding bird in Wales by 2033.

I also attended the Stroke Association’s ‘World Stroke Day 2021’ virtual Senedd event, which celebrated ‘Hope after Stroke’.

It was a pleasure to campaign with Jeremy Kent, the Welsh Conservative candidate in the Gresford by-election. I congratulate him on being elected as the new Wrexham County Councillor for the Gresford Ward. As Jeremy said, “the hard work starts now - I’m looking forward to working hard for all residents”.

Over the last few weeks, support has intensified for our call as the Official Opposition in the Welsh Parliament/Senedd for a Wales-specific Covid inquiry, including Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and Medics4MaskUpWales. The most significant backer is the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru Group.

Although the Labour Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay has signed-up to the Westminster UK-wide inquiry, this will naturally prioritize the actions of the UK Government.

Decisions made in Wales using emergency powers should be scrutinised here too. Having exercised the extensive powers available to him, the First Minister was very keen to highlight that he was in charge in Wales. The power to hold an inquiry has always been in his hands and he must not be allowed to hide from proper scrutiny.

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