Responding to the plans put forward in the Queen's Speech to transform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated, Sarah Payne, Wales Probation's Chief Executive, said:
Wales Probation plays a crucial role at the heart of the criminal justice system in Wales, working closely with criminal and social justice partners, to co-ordinate effective assessment and management of risk. We are thinking through the likely impact of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms on Wales Probation and what steps we need to take to ensure we are able to lead the organisation through this significant change.
Despite the challenges and opportunities ahead, we remain focused on our core purpose - to work with offenders to protect the public by reducing the harm they present and reducing their offending.
The Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith claims there are few ideas -and fewer good ones- in the Queen's Speech. However, he did welcome the proposed increased rights for carers and support for people suffering from asbestos-related cancer.
Overall, after three years in which our economy has flatlined and on the very day when the IMF visits Britain to warn that Osborne’s economic strategy is failing, the overall judgement has to be that this Queen’s Speech is a missed opportunity and a measure of how quickly and how cataclysmically this Government has run out of ideas. It has no Bill for growth, no Bill for jobs and no Bill to change the nature of our economy so that it delivers for the many, not a few at the top.
As for Wales, three years into this Tory-led Government, we finally get the first piece of Wales Office legislation. It could have been a Bill to implement Silk Part One. It could have been a Bill to restore the capital budget and deliver investment in infrastructure. Instead we get a ‘Lucky Losers Bill’ which helps candidates from minor parties get into the National Assembly via the back door. It means that in future we could face a similar situation to that of Clwyd West in 2003 when all four candidates were elected to the Assembly, despite three of them being defeated in that constituency.
This Bill is entirely self-serving, designed only to increase the Conservatives’ meagre chances of winning seats in the next Assembly elections. They know they can’t win first-past-the-post seats in vast swathes of Wales so they are changing the electoral system to help them boost their numbers. What’s more, this legislation shouldn’t even be the responsibility of Westminster, but should be devolved to the National Assembly itself, as a legislature should be able to make laws about its own elections.
These are the fifteen words occupying about eight seconds of the Queen's Speech that pave the way for changes in the way the Assembly's elected and could see tax powers transferred to Wales in the longer-term.
The draft Wales bill will usher in the changes which would introduce five year fixed Assembly terms, stop AMs also sitting as MPs at the same time and scrap a rule preventing candidates standing in both regional list and constituency parts of Assembly elections.
But there are indications from the UK Government that it could pave the way for much wider changes. The suggestion is that as a draft bill, it could be extended to include transfer of the 'minor taxes' recommended by the Silk Commission.
Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Leader Elfyn Llwyd says the programme of laws set out in the Queen's speech is a missed opportunity to devolve further power to Wales.
Overall, this was a disappointing Queen’s Speech, mainly for its failure to deliver a new Government of Wales Act that would have paved the way for granting Wales much-needed job-creating powers.
The cross-party Silk Commission recommended the devolution of these powers to the Welsh Assembly, but yet again the progress of our nation is being hampered by the divisions and lethargy of the London government.
We are also disappointed not to see a significant transfer of powers in fields such as energy, jobsearch functions, justice and policing - all long-standing Plaid Cymru policies that would address the UK's democratic deficit and deliver better public services for the people of Wales.
– Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Leader
Aside from the Draft Wales Bill announced in the Queen's Speech, Welsh Secretary David Jones says the programme of laws laid out in the speech 'will do a lot to help businesses in Wales.'
Today’s speech shows that this Government is determined to reward hard work and make it easier for businesses to thrive. Since May 2010, this Government has demonstrated its commitment to making the UK economy more competitive and to helping unlock the collective talents of our people.
Many of the measures announced today will do a lot to help businesses in Wales and will boost the Welsh economy. Specifically, the National Insurance Contributions Bill will help many small and medium size Welsh businesses by cutting the cost of recruiting new employees, while the Deregulation Bill will cut red tape to help Welsh businesses grow.
The First Minister Carwyn Jones says he's been given assurances that the Wales bill announced in the Queen's speech could be expanded to include the devolution of 'minor taxes' such as Air Passenger Duty and Stamp Duty which would allow the Welsh Government to borrow money for large-scale projects.
But he's given a cool response to planned changes to the way the Assembly is elected which is the initial purpose of the Draft Bill. A spokesperson said:
The First Minister welcomes the indication he has been given today that the Draft Wales Bill could be a potential vehicle for implementing the recommendations from Silk Part One. With regards to electoral arrangements, we believe these should be dealt with in Wales by Assembly Members
Following the Green Paper consultation last year, a draft Wales Bill will move the National Assembly for Wales from four to five year fixed terms, making it less likely that Assembly elections will coincide with parliamentary elections in future. The bill will also give greater choice to candidates by restoring their right to stand on both a constituency and regional lists during Assembly elections. Plus the bill will ensure Assembly Members cannot be MP’s at the same time.
There'll be changes in the way the Assembly's elected under legislation announced in the Queen's speech. A draft Wales bill will usher in the changes which would introduce five year fixed Assembly terms.
The Wales bill would also ban 'double jobbing' meaning Assembly Members can't also simultaneously be MPs and vice versa. It would also scrap a rule introduced by the previous Labour government preventing candidates standing in both regional list and constituency parts of Assembly elections.
The Electoral Reform Society, which campaigns for electoral change, says the Queen's speech should include a bill which transfers power over elections to the Welsh Government. The Society's Director in Wales, Steve Brooks, says:
We hope the UK Government will announce plans to bring forward legislation to boost democracy in Wales. The Society would warmly welcome a Bill that reverses the ban on dual candidacy, and devolves power over local and Assembly elections to Wales.
With just two years to go before the next General Election, this is possibly the last opportunity to make progress on devolution before the parties inevitably focus all their efforts on the forthcoming electoral battle.
– Steve Brooks, Director, Electoral Reform Society Wales