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  1. Nick Powell

Ban GCHQ spying on AMs, Cameron told

Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham. Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

The Assembly's Presiding Officer has written to the Prime Minister demanding urgent clarification and consultation about reports that the UK Government's electronic surveillance agency, GCHQ, is no longer banned from spying on AMs.

Until last year, GCHQ extended the so-called Wilson doctrine, which forbids targeting MPs, to include members of devolved parliaments and assemblies. The doctrine is named after Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister who ruled in 1966 that the security services could not spy on MPs.

As Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, I am responsible for safeguarding the interests of all Members and I believe that they should be afforded the same treatment and status by the United Kingdom's security services, especially in regard to communications that they may have with constituents, as parliamentarians at Westminster.

– Assembly Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM

The change of policy emerged during a court case about the alleged interception of communications to and from the Green MP Caroline Lucas, Green Peer Baroness Jones of Mouscombe and the former Respect MP George Galloway. When the exemptions under the Wilson doctrine were reviewed, it was decided that it no longer applied at all to Welsh Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and the First Minister of Scotland have also written to the Prime Minister. There's concern in Scotland that the change of policy may have legitimised spying on the 'yes' campaign during last year's independence referendum. Plaid Cymru has called on Carwyn Jones to join the protests to David Cameron. The First Minister says he is concerned by the possible infringement of AMs' privacy.

It’s completely unacceptable that any communications between members elected to the devolved administrations and the people they represent might be monitored in this way. I’d like to hear from the UK Government about why this major rule change happened and why the devolved administrations were not consulted about it.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM


  1. Nick Powell

Devolution still has a long way to go says First Minister

First Minister Carwyn Jones refused to commit to the idea of a referendum on the Welsh Government levying income tax when he responded to Stephen Crabb's speech. He also rejected the idea that the latest package of powers should mark the completion of what the Welsh Secretary had called the "devolution journey".

Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go. Particularly not just in terms of Wales but of the UK as a whole. There is much work that needs to be done in order to get the constitution right and to make sure that the United Kingdom reflects the four nations that are part of the UK state.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood complained that while Scotland was getting the "going rate", Wales was getting third rate treatment. She said the Welsh Secretary couldn't expect a stable devolution settlement if Wales wasn't treated as an equal partner in the United Kingdom.

I ask for you to offer any justification in your response for why the people of Wales should not be given the same funding per head as the people of Scotland. The same principle applies to responsibilities. Why does the Secretary of State believe that Scotland’s natural resources should be in the hands of the people of Scotland, but Wales’ natural resources should remain in the hands of Westminster politicians? Are we a less able people?It is these Westminster puppet strings that have held Wales back for far too long.

– Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM
  1. Nick Powell

Assembly should become a parliament but then use its new powers, not demand more, says Crabb

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has told AMs that the Assembly is getting "the most far reaching and significant package of powers ever devolved to Wales" and urged them to use those powers rather than spend their time demanding more. He said the Welsh Government using its existing power to call a referendum to win right to levy income tax was a crucial part of that process.

I believe now it is time that the Welsh Government demonstrates its own commitment to the whole package by making progress on the income tax raising powers that are already available to it.

There is no other Parliament in the world that does not have responsibility for raising money as well as spending it.

In 1773 the Sons of Liberty smashed up the tea ships in Boston Harbour with the rallying cry “No taxation without representation”. Here in Wales we have something of a reverse situation: representation and full law-making powers but without responsibility for significant taxation.

I firmly believe the Welsh public are hungry for us to move forwards a nation and for this place – this National Assembly, this Parliament – to become a true forum of debate, resolution and a sense of purpose and action, the articulator of our national ambition for economic growth, wealth creation, educational achievement, first-class health outcomes. For it to provide solutions on all the issues that really matter to the people it serves, not a vehicle for a never-ending conversation about more powers, or the generator of some dull consensus that settles on mediocrity where funding is always deployed as the great national excuse for not achieving our potential.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

He added that during the recent election campaign, not once on any doorstep across Wales was he asked about more powers or devolution. But he said that as a first step, the UK government will devolve decision making on planning applications for all onshore wind farms.

Mr Crabb said he rejected the idea of devolution as a never-ending journey. Instead of demanding yet more powers in future, the Assembly should consolidate its role in Welsh national life by becoming "not just a forum for grievance but a cockpit of resolution and action".


Senedd awarded Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence

The building opened on St David's Day in 2006 Credit: David Davies/PA

It is most often known for its reviews of hotels and restaurants but the website Trip Advisor has given a certificate of excellence to the National Assembly of Wales building.

The website awards the certificate to attractions 'that consistently earn great reviews from travellers.'

The Senedd has more than 90 reviews rating it as "excellent" or "very good".

We are delighted to receive a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

The iconic Parliament represents the heart of democracy and devolution in Wales. The accessibility, transparency and sustainability are the principles underlying the building and I am pleased that we have been recognised in such a positive way.

– Dame Rosemary Butler AM, Presiding Officer
  1. Nick Powell

Labour should set timetable to end unfair funding says First Minister

First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on the Labour party, as well as his opponents, to set out a timescale for delivering on the promise of fair funding for Wales, made in the St David's Day agreement on further devolution. He told his monthly news conference that it was important to know not just the value of the so-called funding floor but when it would be introduced.

The principle has been accepted and is welcome but then the principle was accepted a long time ago. What we need is a timescale now to see how Wales' underfunding will be addressed and that is true of all the parties, including my own. As a party we need to outline exactly how we will now take forward the issue of Wales' underfunding and that we could do that according to a set timetable.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones added that he expected that the degree of unfairness in how Wales is funded, compared to the rest of the UK, is now less than the £300 million a year calculated by the Holtham Commission. He said adding a minimum proportion of public spending for Wales -a floor- to the Barnett Formula was the best way of stopping any future reduction in the Welsh share of Treasury money.

Meanwhile a survey of 7,000 people across the United Kingdom by Edinburgh shows that 68% of Welsh people believe that Wales receives less government funding than it is due. Only 43% in England think their country's treated unfairly, as do 44% in Scotland. in Northern Ireland, it's 37%. The figures have been seized on by Plaid Cymru, which is calling for funding parity with Scotland and says that could be worth an extra £1.2 billion a year to Wales.

This extensive survey vindicates Plaid Cymru’s unique position in making the case for Wales to have parity with Scotland – in terms of funding and powers. Everyone accepts that Wales is the poor relation in the UK in terms of funding for schools and hospitals, but only Plaid Cymru demands that Wales is treated on the basis of equality. The Barnett Formula was introduced in 1978 – by Labour – and ever since, our funding disadvantage has been entrenched. That’s decades of Wales not receiving its fair share of resources. The Westminster parties have all signed up to retaining that formula. Plaid Cymru says it’s unjustifiable for Wales to continue to be short-changed.

– Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM
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