The next item on the agenda is the 90-second statements and the first 90-second statement today is Darren Millar.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Next Tuesday, 31 October, marks the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Protestant reformation, a day when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his now famous 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Though primarily a protest against some of the beliefs and excesses of the then Catholic Church, the theses became a catalyst for the movement that changed the world, and the non-conformity it promoted would eventually take Wales by storm. The reformation affirmed the idea that the Bible should be available in everyday language, not just Latin. It promoted freedom of religious belief by challenging the authority of corrupt church leaders, and it promoted the belief that salvation is found through an individual’s faith alone in Jesus Christ, not through good works, penance or the intervention of a religious cleric. It wasn’t all plain sailing. Some of Luther’s beliefs are frankly abhorrent and many of the early reformers reverted to the practices that were as corrupt as those they railed against. Yet, despite these, it’s impossible to diminish the positive impact of Luther’s actions 500 years ago and the effect that they had and are still having in Wittenberg, Wales and the world. I will close with the words of Professor Sarah Williams of Regent College in London: ‘If we believe that all human beings are created equal, that they are free to act according to conscience, to speak freely, to be treated fairly before the law; if we believe that rulers should obey the same laws as their subjects, that oppression should be resisted; that leaders should be held to account, that differences should be tolerated within civil society—then the Reformation is something we must celebrate.’
Last week, I was delighted to attend Merthyr Tydfil’s civic centre for the rededication of the plaque that honours volunteers from the town who joined the international brigades to fight fascism in Spain—a fight that they hoped would save Spanish democracy and avert a world war. The event was attended by relatives of the volunteers and it was touching to listen to their stories about the commitment made by members of their families and to hear about the risks and dangers faced by the volunteers as they travelled to the front line for the battle against Franco and the fascists. Some did not return. The rededication was followed by the annual S.O. Davies memorial lecture, organised by the Merthyr Tydfil Trades Union Council. The lecture was delivered by local historian, Huw Williams. Huw’s lecture was a reminder of the deep, international roots held within communities all across Merthyr Tydfil. This, of course, included people of Spanish origin who had come to Merthyr to work during the employment boom—some of whom later returned to Spain to fight alongside the international brigades. So, this plaque links together one part of Merthyr Tydfil’s rich political heritage with events in Spain of the past, and indeed, of the present. It reminds us all that we forget our history at our peril. Today, wise heads in Spain and Catalonia are at this very moment thinking carefully about their history and so, I hope that we remember this important part in our history by acknowledging the sacrifice of those from Merthyr Tydfil and across the south Wales Valleys who volunteered for the international brigades to fight for democracy and against fascism in Spain. ‘No pasarán.’
The Vegetable Summit was held yesterday simultaneously in Scotland, England and here in Wales at the Pierhead. Its aim is to change our dysfunctional food system. Most people have heard about five a day, but few actually achieve it. Vegetables should be a fifth of our shopping; we buy less than half that. Sugary, fatty, salty foods are piled high and sold cheap, while some communities are fruit and veg deserts. The advertising industry tries to target children with sugar-loading cereals, drinks and biscuits and a mere 1.2 per cent of advertising is spent on promoting vegetables. Not surprisingly, nearly 80 per cent of five to 10-year-olds do not eat enough vegetables to stay healthy, rising to 95 per cent amongst 11 to 16-year-olds. That drives up obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The pledges made yesterday include Birmingham, Brighton, Redbridge and Cardiff councils becoming veg pioneers so that growing and eating lots of veg is a normal activity. Lantra and Puffin Produce are working on a plan to increase Welsh veg production by 50 per cent by 2020. Castell Howell is driving up veg sales and putting more veg in its ready meals. Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op are all going to put two vegetables in all their main meal dishes, and Greggs will put veg in all its soups and at least half its sandwiches. Cardiff Metropolitan University will include two vegetables rather than one in its canteens at no extra cost and Charlton House will be trialling free veg upstairs on Fridays. My Peas Please vision for Wales is delicious, accessible, affordable veg, where eating it in large quantities is normal.