THE outspoken UKIP AM for Mid and West Wales Neil Hamilton has expressed his disdain for what he describes as a ‘Cardiff centric’ institution unconcerned with the plight of people in the far corners of Wales.
In an interview with Llanelli Online on Tuesday (Apr 28) Mr Hamilton said that he would like to see far more of the devolved power being handed back to the people of Wales under a more localised administration.
Mr Hamilton insisted that his motives for shaking the foundations of Welsh politics were as a result of his ‘libertarian’ views of the world, which he says were cultivated in the Welsh valley community he grew up in.
The UKIP AM spoke on the issues of health, education, politics and the media.
The following are extracts from the interview.
Are you confident that people are getting the correct information relating to the coronavirus specifically the total number of infections and deaths in hospitals, care homes and in private residences? Are you briefed on a daily basis?
I am not briefed on a daily basis on COVID-19. I am not getting any more information than you are. We get a statement once a week from the First Minister and Vaughan Gething. The way the statistics have been collected leaves a lot to be desired. There has been a trebling of deaths in nursing homes in the past few weeks. The statistics have not given us the full picture. In Hywel Dda you would think that the Coronavirus hasn’t hit at all. The information that is fed in is not adequate to inform us what is going on in the real world.
Are you concerned at the level of spending as a precautionary measure? Would you have liked to have seen a more staggered approach?
We should be thankful that these beds are not being used. Once the lockdown is relaxed the number of cases may rise again. All the facilities that have been created will have to be dismantled. It is a shame that we are presumably wasting hundreds of millions of pounds throughout the United Kingdom on facilities, which are not going to be used. It is a pity we can’t secure any long-term benefit out of this. There are lots of cottage hospitals and nursing homes, which could have been used in this way.
Has the Welsh Government done or are they conducting any analysis on what the economy could look like in the next 6 months, one year. Are we to expect huge tax hikes as a result of the spending we have seen?
We should be worried because of the scale of the shock to the economy is much greater than the great depression in the 1930’s proportionally. Our national income is going to fall by a third in the second half of this year. We have a shut down that is twice as bad as it was in the 1930’s. This could lead to massive disruption in the economy. A lot of firms have shut down. The High Street has been in crisis for a long time. This is going to make it even more difficult for the remaining firms on the high street to survive. It will take years for us to measure the full effect and recover. The government needs to take some drastic measures to ease the pressures on local businesses.
Home schooling has now become the norm. There were no financial assistance packages for the home school fraternity. Is it not time that the government changes their attitude to homeschooling and when the crisis is over move to support the home school community?
I am in favour of people’s right to home school so long as basic educational standards are maintained. The state should not have a monopoly on education of our children. Wales has had the worse educational results of any of the home nations in the UK. There is a lot that needs to be done to improve education in Wales. Online learning is going to be a very important element in the future. This could open up a golden opportunity for the future and for parents who want to take responsibility for their children’s education but they have to be adequately supported. The Welsh government are not interested because they want everything to be homogenised and nationalised.
Speaking about his wish to change politics in Wales Mr Hamilton said:
We have welsh assembly elections next year. I am going to be standing in that election on a policy of abolishing the assembly and devolving powers further down.. People in North Wales feel totally remote from the Cardiff dominated institutions of government. People in West Wales do. Where is the voice of the patient in the health service? We need to have democratically elected health boards. Parents should play a much bigger part in governing schools. The way of the future is to involve real people at a local level rather than have bureaucrats, civil servants and council officers deciding all the major policy decisions. We don’t need to have this huge apparatus of government in Cardiff. We could do things much better on a more devolved more flexible basis The more local services are and the more localised you can make the decision taking process the more involvement you will get from ordinary people on the ground. The Welsh Government in Cardiff might be as far away as China as far as most people are concerned.
Asked about his future as a UKIP AM Mr Hamilton said:
I was against devolution 20 years ago because I thought it threatened the breakup of the United Kingdom. It is as a result of my long-term libertarian agenda, which is to put power, back into the hands of the people. Why cant people run their own lives. It is taxpayer’s money that funds all this so why shouldn’t we make these decisions for ourselves.
In your view has there been enough media scrutiny of the government during this crisis?
As far as the mainstream media is concerned we have a monopoly in Wales and they don’t hold the government to account at all. They are only interested in trivia and they only print whatever welch government press releases tell them. Where there are scandals are to be unearthed you wont find them looking with a torchlight let alone a magnifying glass. It is up to hyperlocals to find the stories. People who are under resourced are providing the real scrutiny. If they had the resources they could do so much more. Government advertising goes to the big boys and that has to change. There have been many things in Carmarthenshire that should have been investigated but it was pointless to expect a Cardiff based media to do it.
Commenting on some positives the crisis has unearthed Mr Hamilton said:
There is a silver lining; I have found how easy it is to do video conferencing with Zoom. We have a plenary session every week and there we are all on the screen like an episode of Celebrity Squares. I have had videoconferences with the health authority and Dyfed-Powys Police. We have managed to operate perfectly adequately in this way. This will be an important addition to the way we do business. Our village shop is acting as a go between for things we would usually go to the supermarket for. It could bring more life back to our villages. The centres of our towns and cities will look very different perhaps in ten years to how they look now. You can do far more at home and it should reduce the cost of operations and that will feed through to lower prices hopefully.
You can hear the full interview here: