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A representative democracy

DSC00025The National Assembly of Wales is not working as it should.  That’s the view held by Assembly Members according to the Electoral Reform Society who surveyed their opinion.

Apparently they feel they could use their time better and they feel that government gets away with murder when it comes to scrutiny.  Oh, yes and they’re over worked and more of them are needed.

OK they didn’t quiet put it like that, but you get the message.

Some Westminster commentators have said the debates in nthe Assembly are “boring” and “grim to watch.”

As an old Westminster hack myself there’s many a debate in Westminster that would answer to that description as well. Many a time I’ve witnessed an almost empty chamber with some non-entity droning on and on.

When will people realise that as a breed politicians are quite boring. But politics is not part of the entertaining industry they don’t have to be interesting but they do need to be effective.

The National Assembly itself has to important functions to pass laws and hold the government to account. How effective are they at doing the job?

It’s early days yet for the Assembly as a law making body. It has only had real law making powers since 2011. Not many laws have been passed by the place, yet.

The test of the legislature’s effectiveness will be how many lawyers make fat fees challenging alleged defects in the laws it has passed.

Holding the government to account, well that’s a totally different kettle of fish. The Assembly has been up an running since 1999 and should by now have developed effective ways of making sure that Carwyn Jones and his merry little band account for their actions.

Oral questions to the First Minister are not very edifying. Indeed it’s an occasion that most sane people would want to avoid.  All to often they degenerate into party fun and games, lots of heat and very little light. It fails either because the questioner hasn’t mastered the art of the supplementary or the question is not forensic enough or quiet often Carwyn Jones just doesn’t seem mindful to answer answer.

On every level it fails, its not theatre like the Commons and it certainly is not scrutiny.

But some of the standing committees do succeed in their job of scrutiny. These have been effective forums to holding not only government ministers to account but also many other Welsh institutions as well.

But as new laws head their weary way towards  the statutory book, the standing committees have their work cut out to scrutinise all of these. Undoubtedly, they’ll have less and less time to hold the government to account in other areas. This is why many including the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler are calling for more Assembly Members.

Yes a critical mass is needed to do the job properly, but its not just a question of numbers, there is a question of quality.

Wales’s political parties need to ensure that they choose candidates of quality. Looking around the current Chamber you’d be hard pressed to argue that the parties have not exercised due diligence.

Things need to change. Yes it is a representative democracy, but it seems that the institution has more than its fair share of the inadequate.



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