Archive for May, 2013

Sanctions on bad behaviour

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Assembly Members could face more than a slap on the wrist if they misbehave in future.  That is if the report of the Standards of Conduct Committee published today is agreed by Assembly Members.

The committee recommends changing the rules of the Assembly to enable proper punishments to be meted out. Punishment could include suspension without pay and the removal of their rights and privileges.

A ticking off or to describe it properly a censure is the only sanction available now, unless an AM commits work related financial misconduct.IMG_0011

These changes follow a sense of frustration by the Assembly in not having an adequate army of sanctions following some high-profile cases.

In 2010 the Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates was convicted of assaulting a paramedic following a drunken night out.

More recently Bethan Jenkins the Plaid Cymru AM had to apologise to the Assembly following her conviction for drink driving.

Earlier in this Assembly term, the Llanelli Labour AM Keith Davies was censured for a drunken incident in the five star St David’s Hotel where he was staying at the Assembly’s expense.

The move by the Standards committee follows a recommendation by the independent standards commissioner Gerard Elias QC for the institution to review its procedures.

If the changes are agreed, the new sanctions regime would bring assembly procedures more into line with Parliament and the other devolved legislatures. To get the changes through and change the Standing Orders of the Assembly, two thirds of the members have to agree the changes. But this shouldn’t prove to be to difficult, as all 60 members have been consulted and it seems most support the changes.

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Cameron’s woes

images-22Europe has a been an open sore for successive Tory governments, despite or perhaps because it was the party that took the country into the club in the first place. It was one of the issues that saw off the saintly Maggie. It split John Major’s government. Now it’s undermining the leadership of David Cameron.

His party seems to have lost a sense of proportion on the Europe issue with the placing of a motion which effectively is criticising the governments Queens speech. How else would you judge an amendment to a motion welcoming the said speech.

With two cabinet Ministers saying the would vote to leave Europe if there was a referendum held now. It creates the mood music that the Tories want us out of Europe.

This will undermine any hope of real inward investment from those foreign companies that want to sell to Europe. Why take a punt on the UK staying in when there is a dead cert in another country remaining in the club.

Indeed when Michael Gove, the education minister, says he believes that leaving the EU would have “certain advantages” it reinforces the belief that eventually Britain will leave the European Union.

But what is the vote this week for. It’s simply like a dog raising its hind leg, marking territory that no ones interested in. Its unlikely that any such vote will be carried because there is no majority for it. Its only effect will be to show the Prime Minister as weak and demonstrate to the country that the Tory party is split.

A party divided against itself will not encourage Joe Public to vote for them come the general election. Posturing is seldom good politics and shows appalling judgement.

Even in the unlikely event of the vote being carried it changes nothing. It won’t hasten a referendum, it would still be held in 2017. And even then only if Cameron wins a majority at the next election. A situation made more difficult by this vote. You couldn’t make it up could you.

To add to the ridicule of it all, the Prime Minister will miss the vote. Why?

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Because he’s in talks with President Obama to press for an EU-US trade deal, reckoned to be worth £10bn each year to the UK. A sum the country will miss out on, if we’re out of the club.

All this because of the increased presence of UKIP.  UKIP is gathering votes as a protest about what’s going in Westminster. It’s less to do with Europe and more to do with the general dissatisfaction with politics.

But a strategy to out UKIP UKIP by the Conservatives will end in tears. Vacating the middle ground of politics and moving to the right is not good territory to win an election.

M_f4e4d888-1b14-f7b4-bd30-88908228d8511Ed Miliband, must be the happiest man alive. The prospect of an election victory despite his lack of impact, courtesy of the euro-sceptic wing of the Tories. He can’t ask for better.

 

 

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Wales and Queen’s speech

photo+2-23The Queen made mention of Wales in her speech on the throne at the Palace of Westminster. Now that is news. No, not her speech, that happens at the start of each parliamentary session. But the mention of Wales is unusual.

After all since devolution the Welsh Assembly has the power to make law in many areas that were previously done in Westminster.  Her Majesty only has to deliver one speech to the National Assembly and that is the first session following elections in Wales.

Indeed her one mention of Wales today will ensure that she only has to make the trip to Cardiff Bay once every five years. For “draft legislation will be published concerning the electoral arrangements for the National Assembly for Wales.”

The details are these. The Assembly moves from having a four year term, to now having a five year term. This means that it will not clash with new fixed term Westminster elections.

If the draft bill comes to pass, it means that Assembly Members cannot also be Members of Parliament, so no two salaries. Nothing in the proposed bill would prevent an Assembly member sitting in the other house of Parliament, the House of Lords.  So Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas can continue to wear the ermine.

More contentiously, it allows candidates seeking election to the National Assembly to stand in a constituency and on a regional list. (This change was exclusively revealed in this blog on the 2 March.)

This used to be the case when the Assembly was first established. But was changed by Peter Hain on the basis that it confused the electorate. Many thought it was a partisan measure at the time to punish the Opposition parties. The Tories at the time said they would change it back if they were ever in power. They are, hence, the change.

Interestingly Leanne Woods could benefit from the change. She’s opted to fight the constituency of the Rhondda she now has the option of the safety net of standing on the list as well.

Although her Labour opponents are crowing for her to simply stand in the one. She understandably will not fall into that trap.

The one thing missing both in the bill and in the Queens speech was any mention of implementing the first findings of the Silk Commission on taxation and finance.

Expectations were high following Danny Alexander’s speech to the Liberal Democrats conference that legislation implementing the recommendations would be introduced this side of the general election. No mention was made.

Although the Welsh government have said that they’ve been told that it would be possible to add the proposals to this draft bill.

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