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Labour’s legislative plans announced

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Final programme for departure: Carwyn Jones unveils legislative aims

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.”

Health

NHS Covid Pass to enter large scale events and nightclubs to be introduced

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Next month, people in Wales will need to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend events.

The move has just been announced by the first minister today (Friday 17th September).

According to the government, the measure is being introduced to control the spread of Covid in Wales, where cases are now at an all-time high.

Despite the increase in cases, the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, and no new restrictions beyond passes will be introduced.

The First Minister is urging everyone to work from home whenever possible and to get fully vaccinated.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting.

“Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.

“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further.

“The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”

On October 11, the NHS Covid Pass requirement takes effect.

All people over the age of 18 will need to have a pass to enter:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

It means concerts and large scale sports events will now require the passes.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.

It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Mr Drakeford continued: “My message to you today is a simple but serious one – the pandemic is not over and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing.

“We hope introducing the requirement to show a COVID pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.

“Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”

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News

Crucial council meeting debating former Chief Executive’s pay-off cancelled

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AN EXTRAORDINARY meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council supposed to take place next Monday has been cancelled.

Pembrokeshire County Council was due to meet on Monday morning to debate the controversial settlement agreement between the local authority and former CEO Ian Westley.

In a circular sent to all councillors late on Wednesday afternoon, however, officials told councillors: ‘There are a number of issues that have recently come to light which are unable to be resolved ahead of the meeting and it is essential that Members have the fullest information and be correctly advised in order to consider the matter before them.’

Those issues might be open to speculation; they could range from the relatively trivial to the vital.The meeting would have taken place before Councillors received the full report into the circumstances of Mr Westley’s departure from Audit Wales.

Former council CEO Ian Westley

That report’s content is also strictly under wraps , and the Council has not yet received the full and final report.

Individuals named in it received copies of sections of the report dealing only with them earlier in the summer. That process’ purpose was to allow those named to respond to comments made by others regarding them and dispute findings of fact with which they disagreed.

The row over Mr Westley’s departure has been followed by the Monitoring Officer’s resignation and the Head of Legal’s absence on long-term sick leave. The HR director is currently seconded to ERW, the regional education consortium.

Each of those officers will have had some involvement in the events leading to Mr Westley’s departure and the signing of the Settlement Agreement between him and their employer.As the person who led the negotiations for the Council, its Leader, Cllr David Simpson, is also likely to feature in the report.Legal issues surrounding the confidential terms of the settlement agreement (bar the pay-out’s amount) meant the scheduled meeting was to take place behind closed doors.

That’s not an unusual step in itself. Meetings regarding HR matters – for example, discussions about the appointment of the new CEO – are routinely held in private.

Allegation and counter-allegation about what happened flew around the Chamber in meetings earlier this year, with one or two councillors appearing suspiciously well-briefed.

Therefore, the question arises as to what confidence those concerned can have councillors will keep their traps shut after a behind-closed-doors meeting or not try to spin its content one way or another to suit their own or others’ agendas.

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News

Stephen Crabb’s Preseli constituency could cease to exist following boundary changes

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb is looking at an uncertain future. At the next election, boundary changes could mean that his constituency will cease to exist.

The Preseli area is being split up and divided between Ceredigion and South Pembrokeshire, according to a leaked report.

The move comes as the number of MPs representing Wales is reduced by eight.

Wales’ proposed boundary changes have been leaked a day earlier than expected by the Guido Fawkes website.

The new constituencies are expected to come into force at the next General Election expected to be in May 2024.

Despite Wales losing 20% of its representatives the number of MPs across the UK will stay the same, at 650.

England’s allocation of MPs will rise from 533 to 543, while the number of MPs in Scotland will be reduced from 59 to 57, and in Northern Ireland the figure will remain at 18.

As well as publishing its final proposals tomorrow, the Boundary Commission will open an 8-week consultation period where the public can share their views on the proposed constituencies.

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