Archive for December, 2012

Carwyn’s Christmas project.

Whilst Wales was hearing about the intention to nationalise an airport a report was produced on a British Bill of Rights. Its implications for the rights of Welsh people might be profound.

Mr Cameron established a Commission to appease many in the Conservative ranks that were hostile towards the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act.

Not to put to fine a point on it there are many his parties that want nothing to do with human rights legislation at all. No votes for prisoners. Lets send people abroad to be tortured without due process etc. You get the agenda.

Many in Wales thought that looking at introducing a Bill of Rights for the UK was misconceived and might undermine devolved government. To produce it at a time Wales is beginning to debate its place in the Union and Scotland is due to hold a referendum, shows particular bad timing.

The truth of the matter is that it was an English problem, indeed a Tory backwoodsman problem that Cameron faced. There was little or no call for a UK Bill of Rights from Wales or Scotland.

It could be argued that the protection of rights  should be as much a matter for the Welsh Assembly as for the UK Parliament.

A case certainly could be made for a Welsh Bill of Rights. After all Wales had its own criminal system until the Statute of Rhuddlan and civil law lasted until the times of Henry VIII.

So when the English want to base their own human rights on the heritage from Magna Carta we too have a heritage that we can base our own Rights legislation on. After all enacting a bill of rights in Wales would be an opportunity to articulate the indigenous traditions of Wales’s very own legal and cultural systems.

After all as inhabitants of the new Wales we need rights and freedoms more closely attuned to our national circumstances.

It ought to be made clear to the UK government that any changes to the current framework of human rights legislation as they might affect Wales should be a matter solely for the Welsh Government and National Assembly.

There is a real danger that if Westminster decided to go ahead and introduce a UK Bill of Rights Wales’s current constitutional position might be seriously undermined.

The call by Carwyn Jones for a Constitutional Convention has been steadfastly ignored by David Cameron.
In such circumstances Carwyn Jones should take use the Yule tide break  to good effect. Rather than an anodyne new year messages he should spend his Christmas drafting a new bill of rights for Wales. After all he is a lawyer. So forget Mr Cameron and Sir Leigh Lewis’s commission let our First Minister be the new Hywel Dda and draft our own Bill of Rights

When Wales recovers from its binge what better way to drive away the hangovers than to discuss what rights the people of Wales should have.

Meanwhile dear reader have a good Christmas. The blog will be back in January.


Council tax debacle over

Assembly Members came back from their Christmas holidays to finally pass legislation to enable people to continue to receive council tax benefit after next March.
Responsibility for this means tested scheme is being transferred from the Westminster government to the Welsh Government.
The original attempt to pass the regulations fell because the Welsh government failed to deliver their regulations in time for the National Assembly to properly supervise them. (see previous blog “No way to run a whelk stall.”)
What seems to have been forgotten in the political shenanigans is that in the transfer process, the Westminster government cut the budget by 10%.
330,000 households in Wales who receive the benefit will be, on average, £67 worse off. Many, 230,000 to be precise, will also have to pay council tax for the first time.
Unlike, Scotland who are making up the difference, the Welsh government says it cannot afford to make up the gap. Although they seem to have cash to buy an airport.
Labour won the vote after First Minister Carwyn Jones agreed with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats a “sunset clause” allowing the assembly to revisit the regulations in a year’s time.
It was precisely this assurance that the opposition parties wanted last time the regulations were discussed but at that time government refused to do a deal.

Government have finally got their way. A vote was passed unanimously.
But it could all have been handled better. It’s no exaggeration to say that government made a bit of a pig’s ear in resolving the matter.

Questions must surely be asked about the competence of the Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant and his handling of the issue.
Posted by at 14:3

Clause four revisited.

Public Ownership. Who ever thought that the word would be used in the context of the Welsh government. But this is precisely what Carwyn Jones announced in the case of Cardiff airport. Forget Welsh Labour or New Labour this is back to very old Labour and it’s belief in nationalisation.
The Welsh Government intend to take Cardiff-Wales International into state ownership. That is, of course, if the price is right.
In making the announcement he said the usual caveats that it was “subject to the satisfactory completion of financial, legal and value for money considerations, the Welsh Government may then proceed towards a purchase of the airport.”
But the calling of the press conference and making the announcement public is a sure sign that the deal is virtually in the bag. What Jones refused to say is what he’s paying for it, claiming commercial confidentiality.
Carwyn Jones has form for criticising the airport. It’s been a theme of his that the airport has been letting down the Welsh economy. It’s not fit for purpose. Blaming it all on the owners. Clearly, the owners were fed up with his bellyaching and have said to him if you think you can do better take it off our hands for a price. thought the best thing to do was to
The responsibility will now be Carwyn Jones’s If it doesn’t work now it will be government’s fault. Government hope to make a go of it and return a profit to government coffers. But  name my a government that has not expressed optimism when embarking on such ventures.
It is now certain that the First Minister will be campaigning hard to get control on the taxes on air passengers so that he can use the levy to entice new airlines into Cardiff. The Silk Commission has already recommended that the Welsh government be given responsibility for tax on long haul flights, but the First Minister is very eager to get his hands on the powers for short haul as well. By so doing he can undercut other airports and bag a few budget airlines.
He even went so far as to talk about Cardiff being developed as London’s terminal 6.  With fast train links being developed into London.
The Business Minister Edwina Hart said that “The message from business leaders and tourism operators across Wales is clear; strong, international transport links are vital to our prosperity, and key to future economic growth.
“Subject to satisfactory due diligence, our investment in Cardiff Airport has the potential to create many exciting possibilities for the Welsh economy – boosting opportunities for international trade, and helping to increase visitor numbers to Wales.”
The  Conservative leader Andrew R T Davies needed convincing that it was a good move. He said  “The First Minister will have to work very hard to convince us that this move will represent value for tax-payer money and, equally important, deliver the improvements that are needed.”
Plaid Cymru welcomed the move and pointed out that they’ve been wanting the government to take the airport over for sometime.
The public however, will be sceptical that buying an airport is the best use of public money at a time when many are facing real hardship as essential public services  and benefits are being cut. Many will see their incomes take such a dip that the last thing they’ll be thinking of is a foreign holiday and the use of Cardiff airport.
As Nye Bevan said “Socialism is the language of priorities.” Is an airport the highest priority in these straightened times?