DEPARTING First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced the Welsh Government’s legislative programme for the Assembly’s term following the summer recess.
The programme makes good on the Welsh Government’s policy promise of ending the physical punishment of children in Wales. The measure, which has been opposed by the campaign group ‘Be Reasonable’, is one of a package of members aimed at promoting child welfare.
Commenting on the move, an NSPCC Cymru spokesperson said: “The NSPCC has long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults so the Welsh Government’s intention to remove the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ in the coming year is hugely welcome.
“It is a common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children.
“It is wrong that a legal defence which does not exist in a case of assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child.
“Closing this loophole will bring Wales in line with dozens of countries around the world and finally give our children equal protection under the law.”
A bill will also be brought forward to establish duties of quality and candour in health and social care. This will place statutory obligations on all health organisations in Wales to be open and transparent and will ensure lessons are learned and improvements made where necessary. A new independent body will be created to give people a stronger voice for their experiences of health and social care services.
The government will bring forward a local government bill, which will include reform of local authority electoral arrangements, including reducing the voting age to include 16 and 17-year-olds.
The way animals are treated is an important reflection of society and over the next 12 months, a bill will be introduced to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds.
The government will also introduce a bill to make Welsh law more accessible. The Legislation (Wales) Bill will be the first major step towards achieving a clear and well-organised statute book.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “The year ahead will be one of the busiest for us in legislative terms since Wales gained primary law-making powers.
“Making our statute book ready for EU exit is a big challenge for the Welsh Government and the National Assembly but we must not let this limit our ambitions. We will keep driving forward progress and delivering for the people of Wales.”
In addition to the Welsh Government’s legislative programme, the National Assembly will be asked to undertake a substantial programme of correcting regulations under the EU (Withdrawal) Act between October and March in preparation for EU exit.
However, Carwyn Jones’ final statement on the Welsh Government’s law-making priorities for the year ahead have been branded “unambitious, last-minute scribblings of a tired administration” by the Welsh Conservatives.
One of the proposals to be brought forward is a ban on wild animals from performing in travelling circuses, something Welsh Conservatives have been calling for in recent years.
Legislation to merge councils is likely to face much contention following fierce opposition from the Welsh Local Government Association over the past few months after being told they will have to merge voluntarily, or have t imposed upon them.
Interim leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies AM, said: “After nearly 20 years at the helm, the Welsh Labour Government have been proven to be unimaginative and tired.
The headline bills to be announced today is typical Welsh Labour: tinker at the edges, but do nothing to resolve the fundamental challenges to Welsh society and its economy.
“We have an underperforming health service, a health board in special measures for three years, and an education system that ranks bottom of the UK nations.
“It is time to be more radical with public services – not only to deliver better value for money for taxpayers, but also better outcomes for everyone in all parts of Wales in health, education, and beyond.”
And Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood also expressed her and her party’s disappointment at Labour’s programme.
“I congratulate the First Minister on delivering his eighth and final statement on a future legislative programme.
“However, I am saddened to say this looks like a re-hash of a legislative programme we have seen before. At a time when our democracy, our nation, is in flux, we need ambition, vision and leadership. Values I do not see demonstrated by today’s statement.
“We can agree that Westminster is failing Wales. But this Parliament – the new home of Welsh democracy – was meant to give us the opportunity to do things differently. When they cancelled plans for a tidal lagoon, legislation should have been brought forward for a new nationalised Welsh energy company. We must take our future into our hands, not allow Westminster to tie them behind our back.
“We are leaving an environment that is increasingly inhospitable. Air pollution kills tens of thousands every year and plastic waste litters our coastline and countryside. But a Clean Air Act and bottle return scheme are nowhere to be seen in this statement. There is also no proposed legislation or laws to create a feminist Welsh government a reality as promised.
“Many key decisions have also been kicked into the long-grass. The size of our parliament and who can participate in our democracy, for one.
“There is not a single piece of legislation planned for education, transport, energy, the environment, housing, social care, farming and fisheries.
“This is a legislative programme of old ideas and no ambition. The Welsh Government can do better. The National Assembly can deliver better. Wales needs better.”
Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire Westminster hopefuls selected
Early stages of the battle for the new Westminster seat of Ceredigion Preseli have started with the current Ceredigion MP launching his campaign in north Pembrokeshire.
Ben Lake – who has represented Ceredigion in Westminster since 2017 – kicked off his campaign at Crymych Rugby Club recently, outlining his priorities as Plaid Cymru’s candidate.
The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joins parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with Ceredigion.
The new constituency takes effect automatically from the next scheduled General Election, following a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32.
After the launch, Ben Lake said: “My priorities were I to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Ceredigion Preseli are clear – a fair deal for rural communities, investment in infrastructure and increased funding for public services, and a thriving, sustainable economy that has the needs of communities rather than those of large corporations as its focus.
“I look forward to getting to know more people and communities across north Pembrokeshire over the next few months whilst also continuing to serve the communities of Ceredigion to the best of my ability.”
Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, formerly the MP for Ceredigion from 2005- 2017, is standing for his party in the same seat.
He said: “I too am looking forward to putting forward my Party’s message on the doorsteps of Preseli, and across Ceredigion, not least our measures to help people with the cost-of-living crisis, and promote the agricultural sector. There is a battle for hearts and minds across our new constituency, and I believe I have the energy and experience to win it.”
Welsh Labour recently selected Jackie Jones – who has been contacted for a statement- for Ceredigion Preseli.
As part of the constituency changes, other parts of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids – are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency, which will replace parts of the current Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South.
Welsh Conservatives, who are in the unusual situation of having two sitting MPs in seats that are to disappear, have yet to make any selections for the new constituencies.
They currently have MPs Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb sitting – respectively – in the current constituency seats of Pembrokeshire South and Carmarthen West, and Preseli (Pembrokeshire).
Pembroke South Quay second phase approval expected
PLANS for a community hub and associated works, part of the second phase of Pembroke’s South Quay Regeneration Scheme, are expected to be approved despite concerns raised by the town council.
Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee, at their October 3 meeting, will consider an application by the local authority for the erection of a community hub with associated infrastructure works at the Grade II-listed 7 Northgate Street.
Led by Pembrokeshire County Council, the South Quay project, by Pembroke Castle, centres on the rebuild of formerly derelict properties on Castle Terrace to create a new public visitor centre, library and café.
The proposal includes the refurbishment of No 7; demolition of the existing public toilets; construction of a four-storey ‘L-shape’ extension building, a three-storey frontage to South Quay and the extension of a public space and reconfiguration within the car park.
The community hub – recommended for delegated approval – would provide a service for older people, learning and skills areas to support independent living, and continued education for people with disability, and supported employment opportunities.
Pembroke Town Council, Pembroke Castle Trust, Pembroke and Monkton Local History Society, and local resident Richard Naylor have all objected to the proposal, saying it would be an overdevelopment of the conservation area which would not preserve its character, and would tower over neighbouring buildings such as the nearby Royal George hotel.
At a May public meeting, chaired by Pembroke Mayor Cllr Aden Brinn, those present felt the development was not in keeping with the historic character of the town.
“It was agreed that the proposal to locate a ‘Social Services’ hub at the quayside was totally inappropriate and would not benefit the regeneration of the town,” a statement from the town council said.
Richard Naylor, a member of the public present said: “The proposal is a gross over-development of the constrained building site, resulting in a dense layout of accommodation with little natural light or ventilation.
“The over-height buildings are out of scale with the existing Royal George and the listed 7 Northgate Street.”
The meeting also received written responses to the planning application from the Trustees of Pembroke Castle and The Pembroke Civic Trust – both echoing the comments and concerns of the town council.
A report for planners suggests minor amendments to existing plans, requesting delegated authority for the Head of Planning to determine the application following receipt of satisfactory details.
A condition requiring an archaeological investigation is also required, the report says.
It adds the principle of the development is supported by local development plan policy but “a number of planning conditions are necessary to ensure delivery would be in accordance with these policies as well as the submission of amended plans”.
Haverfordwest old library plans expected to be approved
PLANS by housing association group Ateb to move to Haverfordwest’s former library are expected to be approved despite concerns about a potential loss of parking and the relocation of an important piece of artwork.
The former library building in the town’s Dew Street has not been used since 2012, a replacement library is now sited at the former riverside market.
In an application before the October meeting of Pembrokeshire County council’s planning committee, W Lloyd Davies of Ateb Group seeks permission for a change of use of the 1960s building – designed by Pembrokeshire County Architect Gilbert Ray – to provide office accommodation, a communal cafe and ancillary community uses.
The application, which includes lettable office space, conference facilities and meeting rooms, is recommended for approval.
If permission is granted, Ateb plans to relocate the company’s headquarters from its current premises at Meyler House, St Thomas’ Green, Haverfordwest.
A report for planners says the applicant owns and controls an existing car park nearby with an indicated capacity of 126 spaces, the former library and Dew Street public car parks which are now operated as ‘pay & display’ parking.
Haverfordwest Town Council and residents have expressed concerns about the impact of development on existing parking provision.
The Dew Street Campaign, a local residents group, has submitted representations calculating a ‘worst case’ scenario suggesting that 70 parking spaces would be required to serve the development. The group has also suggested that there is potential for loss of the car parking provision to any housing development as it is controlled by the applicant.
The Head of Infrastructure – Highways indicates that it is likely that there is sufficient parking adjacent to the site to accommodate all of the proposed uses, the report says.
However, it is recommended that 27 spaces in addition to five proposed in the application are secured in a suitable layout to serve the development.
It is also recommended that efforts should be made to encourage active and sustainable travel modes to and from the proposed development in order to minimise the amount of personal vehicle use.
“The concerns of the Dew Street Campaign vis-à-vis potential housing development on the existing car parks is noted,” the report states.
“However, there are presently no applications for such development and in any event, the loss of available car parking provision would be a material consideration in the determination of any application should an application come forward.”
Another concern raised about the development is cultural.
The library building features a first-floor sculpture by David Tinker, an important and influential modernist sculptor and painter, designed to capture the light falling on the building, but it is proposed to move it where it will be less apparent to the public.
Officers are recommending a condition that requires a detailed method statement for the relocation of the Tinker sculpture.
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