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Carwyn Jones, Labour leader and First Minister for Wales, was grilled this morning about devolution and the future of public services in Wales.
In a brief television interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Jones defended his decision not to ring-fence the NHS, and maintained that the Wales Job Fund would tackle what Marr described at “unemployment black spots”.
Carwyn Jones, courtesy of Flickr
“I do not believe for one moment health has been ring fenced in England,” he said. Mr Jones highlighted the 7.5% decrease in Wales’ health budget.
“We can only do what we can with the money that we get,” he said.
Mr Jones said of unemployment: “There is no one answer. The last thing you do is remove the future job fund – taking away the scheme that helped them the most seems ridiculous.”
He claimed the Wales Job Fund would create 4,000 jobs for young people.
Marr tried to rustle Mr Jones’s feathers by asking him if he felt Wales had to “march in step” with Westminster.
“We have a business-like relationship with the UK,” Mr Jones replied. “We want to shield people from the worst effects of cuts. We do things in Wales not because we want to be different for the sake of it or to be awkward,” he maintained.
Marr also suggested that Welsh universities would become “second class” and “pound saver” universities if they decided against raising their tuition fees.
Mr Jones explained he did not want to price “talented young people” out of university, and reminded Marr that some universities would be able to raise their fees if they met certain criteria.
The coalition government will go ahead with plans to raise tuition fees, after the policy was approved by 21 votes this evening.
The vote was announced after a five-hour debate in the House of Commons. The coalition motion, backed by 323 votes to 302, would raise fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year.
Some 21 Lib Dems rebelled, while 27 – including the party’s ministers – backed the change. Eight, including Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, abstained.
Lib Dem MPs Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott resigned as junior ministerial aides to enable themselves to vote against the fees rise, followed by Conservative Lee Scott.
Jenny Willott is due to resign
As well as Labour, all 12 MPs from Northern Ireland are thought to have rejected the proposals, along with SNP and Plaid Cymru members, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.
These events took place against a backdrop of mass protests, as hundreds of students took to the streets of Westminster. This is the third protest against increasing tuition fees.
Tuition fee protests earlier this month
Scotland Yard says 10 police officers have been hurt in clashes between police and students. Three are in hospital, and one has suffered a serious neck injury.
So far 15 arrests have been made.
At the time of writing, protesters are attacking the Supreme Court building in Parliament Square. They are not thought to have got in.
The BBC has reported an attack on the car containing the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, as they travelled through central London on the way to the Royal Variety Show. Their car was kicked as they drove along Regent Street, and paint was thrown. Their window is rumoured to have been smashed. The BBC are discussing a “serious lapse in security”.
Student protesters remain in Parliament Square. One BBC reported said “there are a group here who clearly are not ready to go home”.