THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has been called upon to take more positive steps to tackle hate crime in Wales.
The earnest and consensual tone of the debate was, however, undermined afterwards by a furious attack on a Plaid Cymru amendment by UKIP.
In a Senedd debate on Tuesday, October 17, members debated the impact of hate crime in Wales’ communities and progress being made to stem the tide of prejudice and violence.
The debate took place against the background of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.
‘UNNOTICED CRIMES’ TO BE TACKLED
Moving the substantive motion, Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said: “All hate crimes are abhorrent. We have seen a number of awful incidents across the UK this year, and I would like again to extend my sympathies to the victims, their families, and everyone affected.”
The Communities Secretary continued to state that while large hate crimes took the headlines, the Welsh Government was also committed to tackling the sort of hate crimes which happen on a smaller scale ‘which often go unnoticed in the wider world’.
In the previous year, Mr Sargeant reported that the figures for hate crime show that 2,941 hate crimes were reported in Wales during 2016-17, which is a 22.3% increase on 2015-16. However, while he was disappointed by the increase, which he explained was attributable to ensuring that such offences were reported and catalogued correctly, he explained that more victims were encouraged to come forwards than hitherto.
Mr Sargeant sounded a warning note of ‘real concern at the rising number of hate crimes committed last year’, including racial abuse; people being shouted at simply for speaking a language other than English—in some cases where the language being used was Welsh; and even of disabled people suffering abuse on buses and trains.
79% RISE IN RACE HATE CRIMES
Responding for the Conservatives, Mark Isherwood revealed to members that overall, police-recorded hate crimes in England and Wales in 2015-16 increased a further 19%, with 79% being race hate crimes.
In July to September 2016, police-recorded hate crime increased 52 per cent in Dyfed Powys to 35 incidents, 22% in north Wales to 56 incidents, 22% in Gwent to 77 incidents and 10% in south Wales to 276 incidents.
Police-recorded hate crime figures in England and Wales published this weeks show a further 29% rise in 2016-17.
Mr Isherwood said: “Home Office statisticians say that this is thought to reflect both a genuine rise in hate crime and ongoing improvements in crime recording by the police.
“Last month, new research showed that the number of lesbian, gay and bi people in Wales experiencing hate crime had jumped from 11 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent this year.”
PLAID AMENDMENT ‘TENDENTIOUS’
Plaid Cymru’s Bethan Jenkins moved an amendment to the motion that called on the Welsh Government to tackle the ‘radicalisation of white men into far right groups’.
While that amendment did not cause a great deal of debate on the floor of the Senedd, although Neil Hamilton from UKIP suggested although he and his party broadly supported the Welsh Government’s efforts there was an ‘attempt to use the issue of hate crime in order to grind political axes’ and described Plaid’s amendment as ‘tendentious’.
After the debate had concluded and the motion passed – including the Plaid amendment – Mr Hamilton’s response and that of his party was a little less measured and far more direct.
SINGLING OUT WHITE MALE RACISTS UNFAIR
A statement from UKIP claimed that ‘Plaid Cymru are once again burying their heads in the sand of Islamic political extremism’.
The statement continues: ‘Plaid Cymru’s amendments are an attempt to divert attention from the main practical problem. By singling out white men, they are also targeting individuals on a racial and gender basis’.
Focusing on the headline events instead of the detail of the motion reporting hate crimes at the local and community level as in the debate, the statement says: ‘The facts show that Islamist terror poses the largest threat to our communities and that should receive the bulk of police and intelligence resources.
‘The activities of individuals and groups described by Plaid Cymru as “far right” cannot be ignored but they are peripheral to the main risk to our safety and liberty posed by ISIS and other so-called ‘Islamic’ groups’.
UKIP Group Leader Neil Hamilton commented: “Plaid Cymru needs to wake up and stop making excuses for politicised Islamic extremism. Political correctness blinds Plaid Cymru to the real threat to British liberal values and undermines the protection of our way of life from those most ready and willing to destroy it.”
The fact that the hate crime debate referenced the increasing number of small incidents of criminal behaviour that targeted people on the basis of their difference from others that took place in small communities, towns, and cities across Wales and was not about terrorism was not mentioned in the release. The fact that those incidents usually – but not always – consisted of racial abuse directed at minorities was also not mentioned.
Local coronavirus restrictions imposed to control outbreaks in South Wales
Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four more Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.
The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Tuesday 22 September 2020, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four local authority areas.
The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport:
People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;
All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm;
Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales.
From 6pm on Tuesday 22 September, the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm will also be extended to Caerphilly borough.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
“Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.
“In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.
“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.
“We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.”
The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas.
The Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border tomorrow to discuss the wider situation in South Wales and whether further measures are needed across the region to protect people’s health.
The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.
Keep Wales safe by:
Always keeping your distance
Washing your hands regularly
Working from home wherever you can
Following any local restrictions
Following the rules about meeting people
Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.
Julie James AM attends the launch in Swansea of new research on benefits of Community Led Housing
JULIE JAMES AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government, attended the launch at Down to Earth in Swansea of new research from the Wales Co-operative Centre, with support from the Nationwide Foundation, which found that residents who live in community led housing (CCLH) experience improved mental wellbeing and happiness, as well as improved skills development.
Over 50 residents from 22 community led housing schemes across Wales and England were interviewed. The top benefits that residents highlighted were:
Residents felt less isolated, being surrounded by a supportive network
• Improved mental wellbeing and happiness
• A better quality of life with the potential for skills development and increased levels of confidence, as well as a better financial situation
• Wider benefits to the community including a reduction in antisocial behaviour and greater community collaboration
• Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, said of the research: “We were really pleased with the research findings and the range of softer benefits that residents have seen. As well as the expected financial benefits, there is a much wider impact on mental wellbeing and skills development which is great to see.”
Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, said: “I have been overwhelmed in hearing the benefits residents gain from living in community-led housing. The difference tenants feel in terms of improved skills, increased confidence and improved mental wellbeing to name but a few – demonstrates why community-led housing can, and should be part of the solution to the housing crisis we face here in Wales. Building more affordable housing and providing people with safe, warm and secure homes is a key priority for this Welsh Government. I’m looking forward to watching community-led housing grow and flourish – and contribute towards our commitment to building 20,000 affordable homes during this Assembly term.”
Lib Dems slam ‘botched’ scheme
THE WELSH Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for their “hapless treatment” of EU citizens after the Home Office released guidance on the new EU Settlement Scheme.
The Home Office has confirmed that for the duration of the trial period, until 30 March, EU citizens applying to stay in the UK must either use an Android phone or travel to one of 13 ‘document scanning’ centres instead.
For Holyhead, the closest ‘document scanning’ centre is Trafford.
According to an analysis by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, EU citizens travelling from Holyhead would face costs of £55 on the train for at least a six and a half hour round trip. The drive would be a 224-mile round trip costing around £56 in fuel.
The only document scanning centre in Wales is in Caerphilly. Travelling from Pembroke to Caerphilly and returning the same day by rail would cost £32.10 (the cheapest available fare at the time of enquiry), the cheapest off-peak fare from Aberystwyth would be £77.10 return. By car at an average of 40mpg, the cost of travel would be at least £27 to and from Pembroke, while from Aberystwyth the cost would be at least £25. Both car journeys represent round trips of over 180 miles.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “Too many people in Wales are deeply anxious about their right to stay. Many of them fill vital roles in the health service, our schools and the tourism sector. They want to register as soon as possible, but Theresa May’s hapless treatment of EU citizens could result in a new Windrush scandal.
“For anyone who doesn’t have an android phone, this botched scheme means they will have to travel. For people in Holyhead, that means facing a 224-mile round trip and paying over £50 for the privilege. This postcode lottery is simply unacceptable.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP said: “Following significant pressure, the Prime Minister said there will be no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. How long did that commitment last?
“It is Conservative Ministers who have made a mess of Brexit. They should either pay the cost for EU citizens or change the application system and ensure EU citizens are made to feel welcome in the UK.
“Ultimately, the best way to avoid all of this mess is by giving the people the option to remain in the EU with a final say on Brexit.”
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