Kirsty Williams writes: Slow progress in Wales

We are six weeks from the elections and the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Government getting on with the job they were elected to do – governing and legislating. The Scottish Government is demanding more fiscal powers and they are rocking the constitutional boat. Whether you agree with the SNPs policies or not, they are doing something. The story in Wales is different.

The first major government announcement in Wales came on Tuesday when the First Minister rose to his feet to outline his Welsh equivalent of the Queen Speech. This should have been a momentous occasion since the people of Wales gave us the thumbs up to more law-making powers in the March referendum, but as we were sat there in the chamber it had the feeling of a damp squib.

There was no mention of how they were going to boost the economy or get to grips with the enormous amount of money wasted in the Welsh NHS. There was no ambition for our country in his legislative priorities. What we heard instead were his priorities for cycle paths and allotment spaces. While I fully agree with those intentions, there are certainly more pressing issues.

Four years ago, the former Labour First Minister rose to his feet to give his legislative priorities. They were numerous, substantial and detailed pieces of legislation concerning child poverty, environmental protection, education, home care and the Welsh language. At the time, Rhodri Morgan was leading a minority Labour administration, soon to be superseded by the One Wales coalition government with Plaid Cymru. This was 5 weeks after the election – a very busy period.

Back to 2011, six weeks after the election and it has taken the Labour Government all this time to come up with these few priorities. The Welsh Assembly Government or W.A.G. as it was previously known, is now called the Welsh Government. Some have suggested that it should be called the Labour Assembly Government or rather more crudely L.A.G. It has been said that Welsh Labour only want to be in government for the sake of being in government and not make any real difference in government. The events (or lack of) of the past 5 weeks has proved that Welsh Labour is lagging behind.

And of course we haven’t been without our own difficulties either.

Aled Roberts and John Dixon, two of our newly elected AMs are still disqualified by the Assembly and unable to take up their seats, having fallen foul of the rules that state you can’t be an AM if you also serve on proscribed outside bodies at the time of your nomination.

I don’t want to get in to the details of either case here since they are subject to a formal investigation. But I do want to reassure you of three things.

The first is that we need to look again at our processes to ensure that none of our candidates, at whatever level, fall foul of these rules again.

The second is that there is a procedure which would allow them to retake their seats and a process has been put in place by the Presiding Officer of the Assembly to enable this option to be considered by AMs.

The third is that there is no risk of a by-election. Aled and John were elected from a regional list. In the worst case scenario, they could be replaced by other Welsh Liberal Democrats on the list. But I am clear that my duty as Leader is to do everything I can to ensure that the two Assembly Members selected by our party members have the best chance of being able to take up their seats.

In the meantime, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Members continue to put pressure on the Labour Government to come up with legislation and policies to get to grips with our struggling economy, failing NHS and underperforming education system.

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This entry was posted in News, Op-eds and Wales.
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3 Comments

  • Well, they have been busy in one area: Leighton Andrews presented his ideas for higher education funding last week – perhaps he was so fast because he didn’t think that he needed to think them through. He has now come a big step closer to ruining Welsh Universities.

  • It’s not a “worst-case” scenario, given that one of the second-placed list candidates is a former serving AM? Or am I missing something?

  • Am sorry to say that wales is becoming the UK’s own basket-case, a mini-failed state where puffed-up ‘ministers’ and their entourages run every public service into the ground and do nothing to help any sort of private sector emerge. the willful destruction of Welsh HE, the sorry standards in schools and the ruination of the NHS are just the most obvious tips of the incompetence.

    Meanwhile, sorry, but heads should roll within the paid party in wales over how the disqualification of the 2 list AMs could every have happened in the first place.

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