Archive for June, 2014

The Ministerial code

Image+1

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones has announced a probe into the behaviour of his Environment Minister Alun Davies. The investigation follows allegations that Alun Davies broke the Ministerial code over the matter of the Circuit of Wales race track scheme in his constituency.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) expressed concerns over the £280m plans but later said it had been reassured. Alun Davies is the Minister responsible for NRW and the ‘reassurance’ follows a letter written by him in his capacity as Blaenau Gwent’s Assembly Member, urging it to reconsider. It’s these facts that Carwyn Jones has asked the Permanent Secretary Sir Derek Jones to “look into.”

Opposition parties, smelling blood, have alleged a possible breach of the rule book which governs ministers’ conduct. Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said the Labour AM should resign if it is proved he broke the Code.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Food Llyr Gruffydd said: “There needs to be a clear investigation on whether Alun Davies used his role as a Minister to in any way influence a change of decision by Natural Resources Wales.

“If he chooses to make representations on behalf of his constituents then that is fine. But he can then play no ministerial role in the decision.

“Until the First Minister instigates an enquiry into whether any rules have been broken, question marks will hang over the Minister’s role. We now wait to hear from the First Minister whether Alun Davies unduly influenced the decision from within the government.”

Kirsty Williams, Liberal Democrat leader speaking at her weekly press conference reiterated her previous calls for an overhaul of how breaches of the Code are dealt with to take it out of the hands of the First Minister – and said the First Minister had failed to change the rules when there wasn’t a “live story”.

When asked whether Mr Davies should go if he is found to have broken the rules, she said “That is a matter for Alun Davies and Carwyn Jones. But one does wonder what the Ministerial Code is for.”

The Ministerial code says “4.4 Where Ministers have to take decisions on their own portfolios which might have a particular impact on their own constituencies or electoral regions, they should take particular care to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Where Ministers are uncertain about whether a conflict arises between their Ministerial and constituency/regional responsibilities they should consult the First Minister, for decision as to how the business is to be handled.”

Carwyn Jones confirmed that Alun Davies had not sought his advice as to how the matter should be handled. The permanent secretary has been given a fortnight to conduct his inquiries.

Politically Alun Davies future must be in the balance.The latest allegations come on top of the Welsh Government having to move a specialist adviser because of a relationship between her and the Minister.  Two problems for the First Minister to handle might cause him to edge the Minister towards the exit door. After all two hits saw Leighton Andrews out.

 

TwitterFacebookGoogle+Email

The week in politics

Week 1 June to 6 June

Wales

The local Labour party in the Cynon Valley are unhappy with having an all-women’s shortlist imposed on them by Labour HQ.  The sitting MP Ann Clwyd is retiring in 2015 and the selection of her replacement is underway. The local constituency secretary said the constituency needed the best candidate, regardless of their gender, and the local party was being “taken for granted”. He said the local party had a “proud record of supporting women in political activity” with an MP, AM and women Labour councilors. A similar row lost Labour the safe seat of Blaenau Gwent in 2005 when the sitting Labour AM Peter Law stood as an independent in protest at the shortlist. The voters agreed, he was elected MP.  But the Labour woman didn’t lose out, she is now wrapped in ermine and sits in the Lords. Having an unelected chamber is a wonderful way of rewarding the party’s chosen ones.

A scheme  to help poorer households pay council tax will be extended says Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths. The benefit, now called council tax support, had already been extended to cover the 2014-15 financial year. Welsh ministers said it would continue in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Council tax benefit was devolved to Wales two years ago, but the budget was cut by £22m at the same time. After a shacky introduction to the scheme with the Assembly having to be recalled from their Christmas break to implement the scheme, the government now seem to have a grip on things.

After campaigning against immigration its been found that UKIP’s new Welsh MEP Nathan Gill has  being employing “dozens” of east European and Filipino workers in his family company  providing care services to Hull City Council. Not one to miss a chance the Labour MP Peter Hain called him a “bare-faced hypocrisy.” It’s difficult to disagree with Hain.

Labour MP Ann Clwyd has been invited to give evidence to the assembly’s health committee  in July. next month. Ms Clwyd has been in the centre of a political storm after her sharp criticism of the way the Welsh NHS is run. The Opposition parties have had previous attempts to call her before the committee  blocked by Labour AMs. Labour have now acquised and Ms Clwyd will appear before the committee on 10 July. David Cameron asked her to  conducted a review into the English NHS,  but during the process she still received a large amount of information from Welsh patients which the Opposition have been eager to look into as it helps their campaign to show Labour’s failings in health.  A session more of heat  than light is virtually guaranteed on the day.

Rest

It was a no, no for Wales but not so for Scotland, they will be given full income tax powers if they a vote against independence. Proposals by the Scottish Tories would give Scotland additional responsibility over VAT, income tax and welfare. The plans, endorsed by Prime Minister David Cameron, will be in the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 UK election. Similar proposals by the Silk Commission for Wales, have been refused by Cameron and his team in Westminster. Clearly the threat of independence clarifies the Westminster mind greatly. Plaid would probably say that there’s a lesson there for Wales.

A damaging spat between Theresa May, Home Secretary and Education Secretary Michael Gove  is going on about tackling extremism in English schools. Gove accused  May of being too soft on extremism. She  hit back by criticising his department’s handling of the alleged Islamist plot to take over some of Birmingham’s schools. David Cameron was furious as it took the shine off the Queen’s speech. (seehttp://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/06/the-last-session-begins/) He’s asked the Cabinet Secretary to look into the row and provide him with a report. So expect the two to visit the Headmasters Office when he returns from D-day ceremonies.

The Conservatives held their Newark seat in the by-election, but with a reduced majority just 7,000 a drop from 16,152 in the 2010 election. Their candidate Robert Jenrick polled 17,431 votes, beating UKIP’s Roger Helmer, who finished second with 10,028 votes. Labour came third with Michael Payne with 6,842 votes, this was a seat that Labour won in the Blair landslide of 1997. The Lib Dems, run of disastrous results continue their candidate David Watts finished behind an Independent and the Green Party, in sixth place losing their deposit. The Lib Dems’ 1,004 votes, and 2.6% share of the vote, represents one of their worst performances in a post-war English by-election. Newark by-election: result in full

Robert Jenrick (Con) 17,431 (45.03%, -8.82%)

Roger Helmer (UKIP) 10,028 (25.91%, +22.09%)

Michael Payne (Lab) 6,842 (17.68%, -4.65%)

Paul Baggaley (Ind) 1,891 (4.89%)

David Kirwan (Green) 1,057 (2.73%)

David Watts (LD) 1,004 (2.59%, -17.41%)

Nick The Flying Brick (Loony) 168 (0.43%)

Andy Hayes (Ind) 117 (0.30%)

David Bishop (BP Elvis) 87 (0.22%)

Dick Rodgers (Stop Banks) 64 (0.17%)

Lee Woods (Pat Soc) 18 (0.05%)

Con majority 7,403 (19.13%)

15.46% swing Con to UKIP

Electorate 73,486; Turnout 38,707 (52.67%, -18.69%)

 Polls

Tuesday

YouGov/Sun         CON 30%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%.

Scottish referendum

Ipsos MORI. YES 36%(+4), NO 54%(-3)

Monday

Populus          CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%

Ashcroft         CON 25%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%,  UKIP 19%

Ashcroft for Newark by-election with changes from General election in brackets CON 42%(-12) LAB 20%(-2) LDEM 6%(-14) UKIP 27%(+23)

 Sunday

YouGov/Sunday Times  CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%.

 

 

 

TwitterFacebookGoogle+Email

The last session begins

photo+24The British establishment like a bit of a do. The opening of the last Parliament before the next general election was held with the usual pomp.

There was even a new carriage for the occasion. Apparently a piece of the Stone of Destiny was placed under the seat, not to discomfort HM, a strange form of symbolism at a time the Scots are fighting for their independence.

And there in lies the rub, this Queens Speech can be hailed by the Prime Minister as “a packed programme of a busy and radical government,” but in truth the chances of his governments 11 new bills ever becoming law depends more on events north of the border in September than the diligence of the Members in Westminster.

Should the ‘yes’ side win the referendum in September, Westminster will hardly be conducting business as usual.

There will be a question mark around Cameron himself. Will the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party still be allowed to hold on to his job, if on his watch the Union disintegrates?

You’ve got to feel sorry for the the poor MPs if this happens they’ll have to come back from their hols.to decide what to do. It’s inconceivable that the Parliament will run until May. After all there will be the need of a new government to negotiate the terms of severance with the pesky Scots. Serious negotiations cannot get underway with a government at the fag end of its life.

In the event of a ‘no’ vote, here are some of the new laws they hope to pass, many of which were announced during the budget.

  •  A bill implementing allowing people to draw their pensions in one go if they choose.
  •  Another pensions bill will allow workers to pay into funds shared with potentially thousands of other members.
  • A new scheme for help,£2,000 a year to be exact, towards child care  replacing the existing employer-funded scheme
  • More protection for volunteers against negligence claims if they acted heroically or in the public interest
  • Highly-paid public servants will have a curb on excessive redundancy payments.
  • Tougher penalties for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and a crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts
  • Changes in the law allowing fracking deep under private land without getting landowners permission
  • Measures to get at the assets of criminals will be greatly enhanced
  • Tougher penalties for human trafficking will be put in a Modern Slavery bill
  • A statutory code to help pub landlords against brewers and a body to adjudicate disputes between them
  • Limited powers will be introduced to trigger by-elections where MPs have committed serious wrong-doing
  • Oh yes, England will follow Wales and introduce a plastic bag levy.

There you have it, very underwhelming. Little wonder one of the Queen’s page boys appeared to faint, he wanted to escape the boredom of it all.

 

TwitterFacebookGoogle+Email