Parliamentary and Assembly politics come together in Cardiff Bay today when AMs debate the Queen's Speech. Welsh Secretary David Jones will be in the Senedd chamber to take part in the discussion on the UK Government's planned new laws.
Plaid Cymru has tabled an amendment criticising the lack of a bill to carry out further devolution as recommended by the Silk Commission. It's likely that Labour AMs will join forces with their opponents in Plaid as the parties' MPs did over the same issue in Westminster last week.
“The Queen’s Speech should have included a Bill to implement recommendations from the Silk Commission’s first report. In particular, the Welsh Government desperately needs borrowing powers to counteract the swingeing cuts to its capital budget imposed by the Tory-led Government, and allow it to invest in infrastructure in Wales.
“A deal to give borrowing powers and devolve of a number of minor taxes was agreed by the UK and Welsh Governments in October last year, and subsequently endorsed by Silk in November. We don’t understand why David Jones isn’t getting on with it.
“The Silk Commission Part One recommendations are a complex set of proposals, and some are contingent on others. For example, we agree with Silk that any future devolution of income tax powers is contingent on a period of assignment, reform of the Barnett formula and a referendum to test the will of the Welsh people. This remains our position and we have repeatedly called on the Government to allow a debate on these issues on the floor of the House.”
"I welcome the Labour Party's support to our amendment which as everybody knows was tabled in the best interests of Wales and its people.
"In light of the comments made by the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith MP, I wonder why the Labour amendment did not contain a reference to the Silk Commission on devolution or indeed to Wales.
"However, I do hope that this presages an era of co-operation across party lines in order that we can deliver for the people of Wales and assist them to improve the economy in these most pressing of times."
– Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary leader
Labour and Plaid Cymru have joined forces in a Commons vote on transferring more some tax and borrowing powers to Wales.
Plaid had tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech 'regretting' the lack of a Government of Wales bill to make a transfer possible sooner rather than the draft bill which was included in the UK Government's programme of planned laws.
237 MPs backed Plaid's call but government MPs managed to defeat it with the votes of 316 MPs.
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