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First Minister to address Labour Party Conference

First Minister Carwyn Jones and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith are to address the Labour Party Conference in Manchester later.

Carwyn Jones follows Ed Miliband into the Welsh night conference reception but the Labour leader says the First Minister was ahead on constitutional issues Credit: ITV News Cymru Wales

In his speech, Carwyn Jones will welcome what he sees as the adoption of his call for a Constitutional Convention as Labour Party policy. The First Minister had wanted voices from all parts of the UK to be heard before the referendum in Scotland but he's pleased that his idea has now been taken up by Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader has acknowledged that Carwyn Jones was right and "ahead of the game". Mr Jones will use this speech to argue that it has been wrong all along to try to reform the UK through what he'll call a bilateral conversation between Westminster and Scotland.

After all, David Cameron tried that and was so badly out-witted by Alex Salmond that he almost lost the union. We must honour our promise to refound the UK in a way that ensures the strong identities of our nations are recognised within a common bond of solidarity. I don't want to see anymore panicky responses from David Cameron to placate the Ranting Right in his own party, and the narrow nationalism of Nigel Farage.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The Shadow Welsh Secretary will also attack David Cameron's wish to link more devolution for Scotland -and potentially for Wales- to a ban on Welsh and Scottish MPs voting on England-only matters at Westminster. Owen Smith will claim that the Prime Minister is making a "shabby attempt" to expolit English desires for less centralisation of power at Westminster.

Instead of some tawdry trick to buy off backbench critics with the Balkanisation of Parliament and the purge of Welsh, Scottish and Irish influence. David Cameron should heed the words of Carwyn Jones and Ed Miliband and call a Constitutional Convention to forge a new Union for Britain. Because we’re not going to stand by and let Cameron short-change the Scots or deny power to the people of this city [of Manchester] and others across England. And I’m certainly not going let this, or any other Tory Prime Minister, silence Welsh voices at Westminster

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Mr Smith will also emphasise the importance for lower paid workers in Wales of Labour's proposal to increase the minimum wage. The Labour leadership are determined not to let constitutional questions, however important, stop them getting their economic messages to the electorate. But they know that they have to address both issues. Ed Miliband was particularly struck by meeting a Scottish voter on the minimum wage who couldn't decide whetherer or not to back independence

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AMs asked to approve Welsh tax collection

Laws that will pave the way for the Welsh Government collecting its own taxes and enabling councils to merge into larger local authorities have been announced in the Senedd. The First Minister set out the legislative programme, the principal laws that AMs will be asked to during the next 12 months.

The Welsh Government says its planning bill will "simplify rather than frustrate" development. A public health bill won't be introduced until next summer but could now include minimum pricing for alcohol, following the recent Supreme Court judgement on the extent of the Assembly's powers.

When I announced this Government’s ambitious five year legislative programme I set out our plans to address many of the issues the people of Wales care deeply about, such as improving public services despite the difficult financial situation.

We are now halfway through the programme, and while we have already achieved many of our goals, the ten bills I am announcing today continue our commitment, with legislation that will really make a difference to the people of Wales.

This legislative programme also sees us take action on two major areas of reform, putting in place the measures needed for local authority mergers and entering a new phase of the devolution story by preparing for our new tax-raising powers.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The 10 bills announced today are:

  • *Planning Bill *to reform and simplify the current planning system
  • *Qualifications Bill *to establish an independent body for the regulation and quality assurance of non-degree level qualifications
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill will be the sixth and final education bill of this Assembly
  • Local Government Bill** will prepare the ground for reforming local authorities in Wales through a series of mergers**
  • *Renting Homes Bill *to provide a new legal relationship between landlords and tenants
  • Social Services Regulation & Inspection Bill to raise the quality of care and support
  • *Environment Bill *for the sustainable management of natural resources
  • Heritage Bill** to improve protection of listed buildings and ancient monuments**
  • Public Health Bill -a consultation on its contents has just closed
  • Tax Collection & Management Bill will create a tax system

First Minister talks of fear that David Jones would fight on over farm wages

First Minister Carwyn Jones has claimed that the reaction from former Welsh Secretary David Jones to the Welsh Government's victory in the Supreme Court last week left fears that Westminster would legislate to overturn the decision that the Assembly could regulate farm workers' wages and conditions.

He didn't say he accepted the judgement, his successor did.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The First Minister suggested that those fears had been ended by the sacking of David Jones and his replacement by Stephen Crabb. He added that any attempt to "plug the gap", as the UK Government saw it, would have been "wholly wrong and undemocratic".

First Minister's hopes for "pragmatic" Welsh Secretary

First Minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs that the Welsh Government does "very much welcome what we hope will be a new approach" from Stephen Crabb.

He said Welsh ministers had found the new Secretary of State "pragmatic and reasonable" to deal with during his time as a junior minister at the Wales Office.

Mr Jones added that he hoped the Welsh Government and the UK Department of Transport can move forward on Valleys rail electrification with the help of the new Secretary of State. There's disagreement between the two governments on which of them should pay for the project.

First Minister's hand-written apology to Opposition leader

Carwyn Jones says he's sent a hand-written note of apology to the Opposition Leader after their angry exchanges in the Senedd last week. The First Minister had questioned Andrew RT Davies' absence from a meeting between Welsh political leaders and Prince Charles.

He apologised in the chamber after Mr Davies said he'd been ill himself and caring for his mother-in-law following a stroke. But Carwyn Jones told his monthly press conference that he followed up that apology with a personal note which the Conservative leader had 'graciously accepted.'

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First Minister: 'change of attitude' needed at Wales Office

First Minister Carwyn Jones says he'd 'welcome a change of attitude' at the Wales Office but stopped short of commenting on Westminster reshuffle rumours.

The Prime Minister is expected to make changes to his cabinet over the next 24 hours and there's speculation that Welsh Secretary David Jones could be one of those to leave government.

There's been a tense relationship between the Welsh Government and the Wales Office which is why, at his monthly press conference, Carwyn Jones was asked if he'd welcome a change of Welsh Secretary.

Video: Carwyn Jones on minister's sacking

The First Minister has dismissed Liberal Democrat claims that the attempt by sacked minister Alun Davies to obtain details of political opponents' farm subsidy payments was part of a wider Labour party smear campaign. Carwyn Jones told ITV News that he was confident that it was "a one-off".

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams, who was one of the AMs targeted by Mr Davies, says Labour's official Assembly twitter feed quoted a question she asked about farm subsidy payments on the very day the minister asked his civil servants for the information on farm payments.

She said "The First Minister needs to investigate who else in his party knew about what Alun Davies was up to. Unless it is just a massive coincidence, judging from his party’s official twitter feed it would seem that others high up in the Labour party possibly knew about it.

"At the time it seemed particularly odd that the Labour party was tweeting the questions. It now seems clear that it was an attempt at intimidation; yet they’ve actually shot themselves in the foot. This scandal looks like it could have grubby Labour fingerprints all over it.

“It is outrageous that Alun Davies tried to use his position for party political purposes. If the Labour party officials were part of this shocking misuse of public office, then the people of Wales deserve to know about it.”

Welsh Government to press on with council shake-up

The Welsh Government will today emphasise its determination to cut the number of local councils. The First Minister will formally respond in the Senedd to the Williams Commission's plan to cut the 22 county and county borough councils by half.

The Local Government Minister will then publish a White Paper on the councils' future. The Government is pressing on despite so far failing to secure the cross-party support it's been seeking. Even the Welsh Labour Party has only just begun a three month consultation before deciding its position.

The Welsh Local Government Association has warned that the costs of reorganisation will be considerable but last week the First Minister made it clear that such objections are not going to stop him demanding that the councils merge into larger local authorities.

We are in the process of conducting our own analysis of what the costs might be. I have seen the Williams commission’s analysis, and I have seen the WLGA’s analysis. It is important that we, as a Government, are able to have that analysis as well. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are seeing unnecessary duplication of effort and cost as a result of the present local government structure that we have, and it must change.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Devolution can go further says First Minister

First Minister Carwyn Jones has marked the 15th anniversary of the Assembly getting its first powers by setting out the case for its role continuing to grow. He's argued that "regardless of the result" in the Scottish independence referendum the UK needs to move to a more stable settlement.

The First Minister was making the Welsh Government's formal response to the second report from the Silk Commission. It not only recommended the transfer of more functions to the Assembly but also moving to a "reserved powers" model.

That would allow the Assembly to legislate in any area not explicitly reserved to Westminster, a far cry from the position on July 1, 1999 when the Assembly was given the powers formerly exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales.

Silk puts us on the right path but I believe we need to go further, and today I am setting out the case for broader powers so we can promote our goals for health, for the environment, for the economy and transport, and for our communities, free from uncertainty and confusion about our powers.

Silk is by no means the end of the story, but adopting their recommended approach will set us in the right direction. However, the detailed provisions in the next Wales Bill will need to take into account potentially much wider changes to the UK’s devolution settlement following the Scottish referendum. We will be ready to consider whether these are right for Wales.

The Welsh devolution settlement in its current form is over cautious, over complex and out dated. The direction I have set today offers a better way forward, and we stand ready to work with the UK Government to put in place the reformed constitution Wales needs.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM
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