Monday, 30 November 2009

Round 2?

Remember the Affordable Housing LCO? It caused a considerable fuss under scrutiny from the Welsh Affairs Select Committee earlier this year in particular due to its desire to transfer power on council tenant’s right to buy their homes from Westminster to the Assembly before bring killed off.

This morning the Deputy Minister for Housing, Jocelyn Davies, published its successor: the Sustainable Homes LCO.

The difference?

Well this one’s longer and has considerably broader scope. In fact the only this it has in common with the Affordable Housing LCO is Matter 11.5 which would transfer the legislative competence to "enable the National Assembly, if it so wished, to replace the current Right to Buy scheme with improved and updated schemes".

So it would give the Welsh Assembly the power to abolish right to buy if it wanted to.

But this might not cause quite such a stir this time around. Why? The WASC’s complaint was, basically, that the powers asked for in the Affordable Housing LCO were too specific and so they ended up scrutinising the laws the Assembly could make instead of asking whether or not they should get the powers to make them. This time that job should be left to Assembly Members if and when the LCO comes into force.

How far it will get on its journey is hard to say because the General Election round the corner could put things on hold just a little bit...

Dewi Tri

PS to learn more about the process of transferring powers to the Welsh Assembly, see my colleague's very helpful diagram...


What happens after the next election?

Ever wondered what happens to LCOs currently under scrutiny after the next election?

Does the Welsh affairs select commitee in Westminster have start their deliberations all over again?

Well this is what we've been told happens:

"If Parliament is dissolved, the process of approving LCOs will be interrupted until after the new Parliament is opened. Following a general election, it will be the decision of the newly-elected UK government as to how proceed with any LCOs which have already begun or completed the process of pre-legislative scrutiny. If the government indicates its intention to proceed with the process, it will be up to any new Welsh Affairs Committee (or Lords Constitution Committee) as to how to deal with any proposed LCOs which were already under consideration in the previous Parliament."

So essentially it's up to whoever forms the new government.

It's therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that there could be changes in committe membership - which will surely mean that those hoping to see their LCOs this side of next christmas are unlikely to get their way.

Dewi Un


Friday, 27 November 2009

Jonathan Edwards takes Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Well dear readers, I hate to be smug but, as I rightly predicted on this very blog some time ago, Jonathan Edwards has been selected by Plaid Cymru members to succeed Adam Price.

Roughly 9.30pm last night the man from Ammanford won the ballot, securing the required number of votes in the first round of voting.

Having interviewed him today – it’s apparent that party members have chosen the candidate who is most likely to be able to mirror Adam Price’s success. His politics and background are very similar to the current incumbents, and their close relationship is something that is likely to endear him to the local electorate.

It will be interesting to see now much of Price’s majority remains at the next election – with some suspicious that local people vote for him as an individual as opposed to Plaid as a party.

Jonathan Edwards isn’t worried about that though pointing to Rhodri Glyn’s large Assembly majority as reason to believe that the parties appeal is strong in the area.

It will be a busy 6 months for him with a general election round the corner, but he didn’t seem too daunted today, in fact it was clear that he is looking forward to the challenge.

Dewi Un


Barnett: What the Tories say...

The Barnett formula is not popular.

Nor is it fair according to Gerry Holtham who issued a report on the subject back in July. The formula is based on population and not on the age of that population or the levels of poverty amongst that population.

Peter Hain says it’s worked alright until now but accepts that Wales could lose out in the future and to make sure that doesn't happen he’s said (if Labour win the next General Election) come Budget time the Government will pay special attention to Wales and “take action if appropriate”.

It’s been widely criticised (although not, I should say, by Gerry Holtham).

Of course this won’t be Peter Hain’s problem if Labour lose next year’s General Election – the decision on how to deal with Barnett could then be down to the Conservatives.

Here’s what their Wales spokesperson, Cheryl Gillan, had to say in full yesterday:

“Typically, this is a vague promise to do something in the future.

“In this very statement the Government reveals they don’t expect further convergence to happen in the coming years.

”This is a nothing statement, which is more about electioneering than securing the future financing of Wales.”

Call me a cynic but it doesn’t look like Barnett is going anywhere anytime soon...

Dewi Tri


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Pawb a’i Farn – or is it?

Pawb a’i farn – is the BBC’s Welsh language equivalent of Question Time. Roughly translated it means “Everyone and their opinions” but according to the Welsh Conservatives that title may be far from accurate.

If you haven’t seen it – the programme works much in the same way as QT. An invited panel (that represents varying positions on the political scale) answer questions and respond to comments posed by an audience of roughly sixty people. The show travels around Wales from Ammanford to Anglesey talking about a range of issues and topics.

Last week’s edition came from the Senedd building Cardiff Bay, and as a fan of the programme I jumped at the chance to sit in the audience. A free buffet and a lively debate later the set lights turned off and I left for home content with a fun couple of hours.

Alun Cairns, it seems didn’t enjoy his evening as much as I did. We’ve heard this week that Nick Bourne and Alun Cairns are unhappy at his treatment on last week’s programme. It would appear that the Conservatives are worried that the programme audience didn’t represent “Everyone” as the title of the show suggests, they feel the audience was rather one sided.

Nothing official has been said or done by the Conservatives to complain yet, but we understand that Alun Cairns is “considering his options...” at the moment and may take the matter “further”.

Intrigued? Does he get an unfair ride? Make up your own mind, watch it back here

Dewi Un


He Will Not Veto!

Well Peter Hain says he's not going to veto a referendum (which means Labour and the Tories seem to be on the same page)...

He’s just told Plenary: "If I am the Secretary of State in receipt of an Assembly request to call a referendum, I would not veto that request."

It appears he has actually been convinced by the All Wales convention report!

But he still seems to think that the "new system is starting to work and is starting to work well."

It’s not an unequivocal show of support – but it clears things up a bit!

So I guess the ball is now fully in the court of the new Labour leader. If that new leader is Edwina Hart it seems unclear if she will move as quickly as Plaid might like. Today her response has popped up on her campaign site, it says: "Our focus will be on testing public readiness to support such a vote."

(I thought that was what the All Wales Convention was all about.)

Dewi Tri


Clear as Mud

So what is Welsh Labour’s stance on the timing of a referendum? Well if you read this statement sent out yesterday lunchtime by Peter Hain, Rhodri Morgan and Gary Owen (Welsh Labour Chair) it seems obvious.

“ Our internal policy process has already begun: Welsh Labour’s Welsh Joint Policy Committee has met, prioritised the need to campaign for a General Election victory, and agreed to start considering the All Wales Convention report in detail as a prelude to stepping-up wider Party consultation with AMs and MPs, councillors, trade unionists and members as soon as the General Election is over.“

Holding on this long would make it difficult to foresee a referendum before the next Assembly elections in 2011, let alone a referendum in 2010, and in particular the Autumn of 2010 which is the favoured option of the opposition (and Plaid Cymru)

But wait – fast forward a couple of hours, in which Rhodri Morgan took a battering in Plenary, the One Wales coalition started creaking and scores of angry AMs and advisors were pacing up and down the Senedd and we have a different picture.

Another joint statement – this time by Rhodri and Ieuan Wyn Jones reading:

“All options for the timing of a referendum remain open... nothing has been ruled in or ruled out, including, if it proved practical, a referendum in the autumn”

So what is the stance of Welsh Labour? If they want to wait until after an election before making any moves then the above statement is a falsehood – because they wouldn’t have the requisite time, which means they are ruling an Autumn referendum out. So the question remains, do they want to wait until after a general election or not?

Peter Hain is talking to Assembly today so hopefully things will be far clearer soon - or alternatively they could stay just as they are, clear as mud.

Dewi Un


Friday, 13 November 2009

The Debate: Results

There I was last night popcorn in one hand, oversized soft drink in the other eagerly anticipating the contest between the three people vying to become Wales’ next First Minister. Aside from the cries of “get a life” from my housemates and girlfriend I must say I quite enjoyed the programme despite the candidates rehearsed answers to some of the questions.

So who came out on top? Well I think it was a pretty close run thing. There’s not all that much to separate the three on policy (bar a couple of notable exceptions), there was a lot of “well I agree with a lot of what Carwyn / Edwina / Huw said there but can I just add...” so I think the decision will come down to style and personality.

So what of their style – Huw seemed relaxed, didn’t read from notes and came across as the most down to Earth. He did however fail to deal in specifics and generalised a lot. His performance last night wouldn’t have done him any harm but it’s fair to say that he lacked that aura of a First Minister – a nice, well meaning, idealistic politician – yes. First Minister? Probably not.

Edwina Hart has warmed somewhat to the camera’s over the duration of the contest. She has tried and been fairly successful I think at shedding her traditional grouchy image and showed some wit and humour in places last night. She did fidget with her pen a great deal and read a lot from (what I assume to be) pre-prepared notes. Mrs Hart did however tackle the questions asked (bar the one on health) fairly directly and didn’t go off on one without referring to the original question too much. She wasn’t afraid to stick her neck out and disagree with the questioners position and did receive the most applause from the audience.

Carwyn seemed the most composed of the three, as you’d expect from an ex-barrister with more public speaking experience. He didn’t rely on notes too much (although there were definitely a few pre-prepped tid bits in there). He is evidently comfortable in front of the camera’s and probably quite enjoyed the experience. But was he too safe? Was he too boring? Was he too much like the politicians that the public have turned against? With the Labour party needing an almighty great big rocket up their backsides before this upcoming election are his ‘safe pair of hands’ likely to provide it?

So there we are, on balance I think Carwyn Jones shaded it – but the other two by no means disgraces themselves. And I'm sure that their camps will disagree but there we go!

I do sometimes wish that they weren’t all so nice to each and really had a go at one another –I enjoyed last night but my housemates and better half who were forced to watch alongside me found it all rather bland. Not at all like the West Wing they said....

What did you think? If you're a Labour member who are you voting for and why?

Dewi Un


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

“Clinging pathetically to some shred of welsh culture”

Firstly dear readers – my sincerest apologies for the lack of blogging over the past few weeks. Things have changed a lot in PC HQ which has held us away from our respective keyboards.

Last week I stumbled across a programme that inspired me to get back into the swing of things.
Called Cymru Hywel Williams this programme takes a look back at Welsh history and not only questions the future of Wales as a nation, but questions the very concept of today’s Wales as a nation. It’s an interesting watch you can see it (with subtitles) here.

Hywel Williams argues that historically Wales has preferred to integrate with the English way of life rather than try to stand on its own two feet. He argues that since the age of Henry Tudor the Welsh have chosen to accept throwaway gifts from the English (like a Welsh language Bible, S4C and the Senedd) rather than stand up for itself as a nation. During this first episode of a series of six Hywel Williams claims that this weakness is born from an obsession with culture, which has led to the Nation’s loyalty being bought by the English.

Wales is often seen as a country full of radical thinkers and socialists fighting for the greater good. A nonsense according to Mr Williams who believes that support in Wales for the great socialist causes (Miners Strike etc) came from an inner guilt, and not from an underlying belief in equality and justice.

According to the historian Wales is fixated with the legends and fairytales of old and oblivious to its current lack of leaders, leadership and direction. Whilst other fledgling nations have fought for freedom and self determination, ours has chosen to fight for by-lingual signs whilst also standing by to watch the aristocracy reassert their right over Wales (Prince Charles’s crowning and The Queen opening the Senedd are used as examples).

So how much truth is there in this damning assessment of our Country? Are we just “clinging pathetically to some shred of welsh culture”?

Personally I think there is some merit in Hywel Williams’ logic – but I also feel that his conclusions are overly pessimistic. I also feel that his findings are representative of his background.

I was struck that not once during the episode did Hywel Willliams balance his argument with reference to the undoubted pride that the people of Wales have in being Welsh. What ‘being Welsh’ constitutes differs from person to person – but anecdotal evidence tell us that there is a ferocious passion here to the concept of ‘being Welsh’. Just take a look at Cardiff on a match day, or the Welsh viewing figures for Gavin and Stacey. Doesn’t this pride account for something?

I was also struck that a he chose not to balance his piece with reference to some of Wales most radical thinkers – people who have fought for equality and social justice – people like Aneurin Bevan and the scores of community development workers and voluntary organisations who’s (often radical) work goes unnoticed.

I don’t know what to make of this programme, I can’t decide whether I liked it or not, but I can tell you one thing it’s certainly got the little grey cells working!

Your thoughts are welcomed and today (as ever) actively encouraged!

Dewi Un