Those of us who have been elected Members of the Assembly since its inception in 1999, (there are 9 out of 60) look back to the Referendum in 1997 as the green light for devolution in Wales.
We recognise the responsibility we have all had, to make sure devolution delivers a positive difference to the people, communities and businesses we represent and serve.
Carwyn Jones, our First Minister, reflected on the impact of the National Assembly in his speech to the Institute of Welsh Affairs on Monday 18th September, when he said:
‘It means that the people in Wales have much more of a say in the services they receive and Wales is richer for that.’
I certainly feel that spirit when I meet constituents who have influenced our policies on organ donation. On 1st December 2015 when the Organ Donation Act came into force, I met Mr and Mrs Burgess at Barry Hospital with Mark Drakeford AM, the Health Minister, and we unveiled a plaque in the reception to mark this significant development.
Wales is the first country in the UK to introduce deemed consent for Organ Donation and now others are following our example.
It is also important to take stock of some of the policy changes which people value, when we speak about the changes we have brought in. These include:-
*Free prescriptions for all
*Free breakfasts for primary school children (taken up in practically every school in the Vale of Glamorgan)
*The first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath along the entire coastline including our Heritage Coast -– 860 miles – generating £85m for the Welsh economy and supporting over 1,000 jobs.
*The first country in the UK to introduce the plastic bag charge
*The first Fair Trade country in the world.
*The first country in the UK to appoint independent Commissioners for Children, Older People and Future Generations.
*Introducing the Foundation Phase for 3-7 years.
Investing in the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Line, re-opening stations in Rhoose and Llantwit Major 12 years ago, is a major example of what the Assembly with a Welsh Labour Government has been able to do – being clear about this priority for commuters, young people, families, pensioners has also benefited the environment by helping to take cars off the road.
Developing Cardiff Airport into one of the fastest growing airports in the UK has been a plus for the Vale of Glamorgan and for Wales.
Investing in new schools in the Vale, as part of the biggest new school building programme in Wales since the 1960’s, has benefited our pupils in Barry, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Dinas Powys and Penarth. We were able to build these schools without using the private finance initiative, in partnership with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, despite the punitive effects of austerity on our capital programme.
We now recycle, reuse or compost 64% of our waste compared to around 4 % in 1997 –going from the worst to the best in the world.
I have been fortunate to be able to attend the launches of Rhodri Morgan’s Book, my most honoured constituent from Michaelston-le-Pit, with Julie Morgan AM. I believe we have so much to thank him for, as a result of his inspiring leadership in the first decade and more of devolution. As the book says, he believed strongly in being close to the people he served, learning, listening and sharing his life with them.
He taught us so much, and we have a responsibility to move forward in these challenging and uncertain times, with the memory of his guidance and example.
As Rhodri always said, we want policies rooted in everyday life, and our shared priorities will reflect that in the Budget next year – Taking Wales Forward in the next phase of devolution.
Jane Hutt AM
Leader of the House