Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly Andrew RT Davies AM, has issued a statement on the death of Wales football manager Gary Speed:
“My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of Gary Speed at what must be an incredibly difficult time.
Today’s news is extremely upsetting and comes as a great shock. It is almost inconceivable to think that we have lost such a great talent at such an early age.
Gary Speed was tremendously gifted and I – along with millions of others - will always remember him as a legend in the game of football.”
David Cameron has also offered his condolences to Gary Speed's family. A statement from Downing Street said:
"The Prime Minister's thoughts are with Gary Speed’s family and friends on this very sad day for fans everywhere, especially in Wales."
Clwyd West MP and Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones (right) has condemned Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly. Lord Elis-Thomas is a Plaid Cymru politician.
As we reported recently, David Cameron has said that if the Tories win power, he and his Welsh ministers would submit to questions from the Welsh Assembly. Mr Jones quotes Lord Elis-Thomas as saying:
"It’s our own First Minister who answers questions here and the relationship is between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. It isn’t between the Prime Minister and the Assembly.
That’s demeaning to our National Assembly and turns it into some kind of Grand Committee (of the House of Commons) equivalent…
The idea that the Prime Minister of the UK can breeze in for a Q&A isn’t allowed under our standing orders and I have no intention of changing it.
He is the first minister of another Government in terms of our constitution. I would think if those people were serious they would have looked at the constitution. It smacks a bit of paternal unionism.”
Mr Jones has responded:
"I say it with sadness, but it is now very clear that Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, is deliberately acting as a roadblock to the development of a more mature relationship between the Assembly and Westminster.
No statement could make it clearer that Lord Elis-Thomas, notwithstanding his position as presiding officer of the Assembly, is egregiously seeking to advance his personal political goal of an independent Wales and to distance the Assembly from Westminster. It is not, with respect, up to him to decide whether the Standing Orders should be changed; it is up to the Assembly as a whole.
Section 32 of the Government of Wales Act clearly contemplates the participation of ministers other than the Secretary of State in Assembly proceedings:
(3) The standing orders may make provision for-
(a) the participation of the Secretary of State for Wales in proceedings of any committee of the Assembly, or any sub-committee of any such committee, and
(b) the participation in any Assembly proceedings of other Ministers of the Crown and of persons serving in the department of the Secretary of State for Wales or of any other Minister of the Crown.
So all that is required for David Cameron to make his annual visit to the Assembly is a simple change in standing orders. Given that the majority of Assembly members represent unionist parties, which are supported by the majority of the Welsh people, it is inconceivable that they would display the sort of political immaturity that Lord Elis-Thomas has shown by his ill-tempered outburst.
I have no doubt that they would welcome David Cameron’s annual visit as a visible, tangible token of the maturing relationship between Westminster and Cardiff Bay.
And if Dafydd Elis-Thomas, as presiding officer, wants to stand in the way of that process, it is a very sad state of affairs indeed."
Surely Mr Jones is right. It is a strange thing indeed to call for less Prime Ministerial accountability.
Nick Bourne (right), who leads the Conservatives in the Assembly, received a rather tepid response from First Minister Rhodri Morgan about business:
"Will the First Minister outline his policies to support Welsh businesses? OAQ(3)1593(FM)
The First Minister: Flexible Support for Business is the key policy for delivering support for businesses as part of our 'One Wales’ commitment. It transforms the way in which we help and support businesses by providing a single access point, enhanced relationship management and a single investment fund."
The multi-tasking William Graham is European Affairs spokesman, chief whip and group chairman. He asked about public services:
"Will the Minister make a statement on the delivery of public services in South Wales East? OAQ(3)0541(FPS)
Andrew Davies: As I said in reply to Mick Bates, in every part of Wales we are working to ensure that we have public services that are high-performing, efficient, ambitious and innovative, which put the citizen at the centre of all that they do, represent excellent value for money and work together well."
(Andrew Davies is Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery).
Mark Isherwood is Shadow Minister for Social Justice, Equality and Housing.
"What consideration does the Minister give to small business rate relief when allocating funding to the social justice and local government portfolio budget? OAQ(3)0531(FPS)
Andrew Davies: The Assembly Government’s budget for 2009-10 provides for the small business rate relief scheme, as announced previously by the Minister for Social Justice and Local Government."
These answers aren't exactly verbose, are they?
English-born Darren Millar is Shadow Minister for Environment and Planning. He asked about special needs education:
"Will the Minister make a statement on resources for pupils with special educational needs? OAQ(3)0714(CEL)
Jane Hutt: The Welsh Assembly Government provides support within the revenue support grant to local authorities to meet the needs of all pupils with SEN. Total expenditure on SEN by LEAs is budgeted to be £321 million for 2008-09, with further specific funding of £13.7 million having been allocated."
Jane Hutt is Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills. The vogue for immensely long job titles is unappealing, and the Conservatives would do well to quash it.
Nick Bourne also asked a question about rural education:
"Will the Minister make a statement on the provision of education in rural Wales? OAQ(3)0708(CEL)
Jane Hutt: The Welsh Assembly Government believes that pupils in rural areas deserve access to as wide a range of educational opportunities as that provided for other children. The distribution of funding for education takes account of the extra costs of delivery in rural areas."
Mr Melding had proposed a Legislative Competence Order (LCO) calling for the establishment of a Languages Commissioner and the affording of official language status to both Welsh and English.
In their 2007 manifesto, Welsh Conservatives called on the Assembly and local authorities to increase the level of bilingualism in Welsh society.
Mr Melding commented:
"This proposal was made with all sincerity and would have allowed us to advance the issue of further powers over Welsh language legislation.
As long as the Assembly Government delays its own LCO there will be questions over its strategy in this area.
Ministers had the chance today to back my proposals even if only as an interim measure until they produce their own.
If the Assembly Government does not produce its own LCO soon the people of Wales will lose out on this vital area of national life and the status of the National Assembly will be diminished."
Tom Greeves apologises for not translating this post into Welsh.
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