Author: Blog Author

Towards a Parliament that Works for Wales

Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, delivered the Annual Lecture of the Wales Governance Centre (Cardiff University) on Wednesday 6 December 2017 at the Pierhead  in Cardiff Bay.

A full video of the lecture is available on YouTube or you can read the transcript below….

It gives me great pleasure to be with you this evening and I’m grateful to you, the Wales Governance Centre, for the invitation and opportunity to deliver this lecture as another term and indeed another year draws to a close.

Difficult term

The past few months have not been easy, to say the very least. The sadness which struck the Assembly in light of Carl Sargeant’s death has been accompanied by a whole range of emotions, questions and reactions which will no doubt continue for many months to come. And throughout it all, as Llywydd, it has been my duty to ensure that our Assembly treats Carl’s family with the respect they deserve, and that our Members have been able to mark the passing of a close colleague with the dignity expected of our national democratic legislature.

I have no doubt that our small, but perfectly formed circular chamber provides strength to our politicians – both at times of scrutiny when they want to challenge, to confront or to remonstrate, or on those rare occasions, when we want to unite – sometimes in defiance, but also to express grief and pride. It is during these times that I am most proud to be the Llywydd – when our democratic institution becomes a focal point for a collective national expression. And it’s during the difficult times, that the Assembly demonstrates true resilience and endurance.

For me, a member of the Assembly’s class of ’99, old enough to recall the disappointment of ’79, this resilience continues to be a remarkable phenomenon. For some here this evening it is what they have always known and have come to accept and expect of us.

The Brett and Wil Generation

There are some young, first year politics students in the audience this evening who have made quite an impression on me over recent weeks – you may have seen Geneva, Aisha, Brett and Wil on the Sunday Politics Show recently, speaking eloquently about how we can make politics and the political environment in Wales better for the next generation. This is the generation which is ready and waiting to take on the baton into the middle part of this century – if not before.

Brett and Wil had already secured a starring role on television a few weeks earlier when they rushed over, with great excitement, to the Welsh Government’s Office in Cathays Park after hearing there was a reshuffle underway. They declared this on Twitter – I think I may have retweeted one of them – only to be interviewed later by ITV Wales. And it was during a discussion with reporter Rob Osborne, they revealed that remarkably they had no memory of any time at all when Jane Hutt was not a government Minister.
Listening to them speak, I started thinking about their ages, which I have since confirmed, and I worked out that I was campaigning as a candidate in the first ever election to the National Assembly for Wales when each one of these students – or political pundits as I’m sure they’d now like to be known – was born, between July 1998 and February 1999.

As one of those considered to be the ‘young intake’ of that first National Assembly, it is a sobering fact when you realise that you have been an elected Member throughout the lifetime of an entire new generation. To take it a step further, Wil, who is from Aberystwyth, has never ever had another constituency AM apart from Elin Jones. And long may that be the case!

This is the generation that considers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones as household names. Brett tells a funny story of how he once went on holiday in a caravan on the same site as Rhodri Morgan. To him it was a perfectly natural, ordinary thing to camp in a grassy field next to the leader of your nation’s government.

For Brett, Wil, Aisha and Geneva – this is the Wales they know, this is who we are. The National Assembly is as much a part of this nation’s identity as Calon Lan, Parc y Scarlets or Gareth Bale.

There are now three generations of Welsh devolutionists – the fighters, the founders and the future:

  • The fighters are those who spent most of their lives battling for self-government, only to succeed and then pass it on to the next generation
  • The founders are those of us who have had the duty to enshrine the Assembly’s place and status in the nation’s psyche and to solidify the foundations upon which it has been built
  • And then there’s the future, the next generation – those who want to run with it and make it thrive. And I’m not just talking about our future politicians. This applies to our future leaders in other areas too who contribute to the politics of Wales outside the elected arena: the academics, the economists, the policy makers, the statisticians, the psephologists, and the commentators. For these people – indeed for all the people of Wales, whether they are interested in politics or not – we have a duty to strengthen the core of our democratic institution.

Continue reading “Towards a Parliament that Works for Wales”

The Wales Act 2017 – A new chapter for devolution in Wales

2018 will see new powers being given to Wales, but what difference could it make to you and life in Wales? 

SeneddInk

On 18 September 1997, the people of Wales voted in favour of the creation of the National Assembly for Wales.

Since then, devolution in Wales has been through a number of changes (with as many different settlements as there have been Welsh rugby grand slams—a particularly successful period for Welsh rugby!).

The Assembly and Welsh Government were formally separated, the Assembly took on primary law-making powers, Legislative Competence Orders came and went, the power to pass Measures became a power to pass Acts, and Wales received powers to raise taxes and borrow money.

On 31 January this year, the Wales Act 2017 received Royal Assent, marking the start of the next phase of Welsh devolution. But what does it mean for Wales?

The introductory text to the Act describes it as “An Act to amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Wales Act 2014 and to make provision about the functions of the Welsh Ministers and about Welsh tribunals; and for connected purposes”. What this means in practice is that the Act:

  • Includes for the first time a declaration that the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government are permanent parts of the UK’s constitutional and political landscape;
  • Introduces a new model of devolution: a reserved powers model (similar to that in place in Scotland);
  • Gives the Welsh Ministers new powers in areas such as energy, planning, roads and harbours;
  • Gives the Assembly new powers over its own internal, organisational and electoral arrangements;
  • Establishes the concept of Welsh tribunals and a President of Welsh tribunals.

Clearly the Act will provide the Assembly with greater control over some areas, in particular Assembly elections. However it also reserves control over other policy areas to Westminster including, notably, the legal jurisdiction of Wales.

Most provisions of the Act will come into force on the day to be specified by the Secretary of State for Wales, known as the Principal Appointed Day, which is the 1 April 2018. The tax raising powers provided by the Wales Act 2014 will come on stream on the same day.

So what changes can we expect as a result of the Wales Act 2017?

Naturally the Welsh Government and Assembly will wish to use new powers gained to legislate to improve the lives of people in Wales. One other possibility is that the Assembly itself might change. In November 2016, the Assembly Commission announced that it would take forward work to explore how the new powers in the Act might be used to reform the Assembly. This was followed by an announcement in June 2017 that, following a public consultation, the Commission would seek to change the name of the Assembly to Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru.

In addition, the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform, tasked with looking at the number of Members the Assembly needs, how they should be elected, and what the minimum voting age should be, reported in December 2017. Read their report here.

Whatever the outcome of the Panel’s work, it is clear the next phase of devolution in Wales is just beginning.

Huw Gapper, Senior Constitutional Change Officer

Future Senedd Consultation

Sudan meets Wales: What can the Parliament of Sudan learn from the National Assembly for Wales?

Over the last year or so, staff from the National Assembly for Wales have been working in partnership with a social purpose enterprise, Global Partners Governance (GPG), to share best practice with the Parliament of Sudan. As part of this relationship, it was decided that a visit to the National Assembly for Wales would be beneficial for a small delegation of Sudanese MPs and staff.

IMG_2168

A 1.5 day programme was prepared for the delegates. The programme included sessions on the following subject areas:

Development of the Assembly’s Research Service

To date, the Parliament of Sudan has not established a Research Service. This session reinforced the worth of having an impartial Research Service to support Assembly Members’ in their role. Delegates were very interested in the templates and ‘golden rules’ that the Research Service use here at the National Assembly for Wales.

Examples were used in this session to demonstrate how the Research Service works in partnership with Assembly Committees to support their work. Delegates were eager to learn more about this and expressed great interest in each aspect of the session.

How the Assembly engages with Welsh citizens and linking public engagement to Assembly Business

This session demonstrated how important public engagement and public perception of the National Assembly for Wales is, and what tools are used to reach out to target audiences.

Youth Engagement and Education

This was an opportunity to observe an educational visit, and to meet participating school children. The delegation were also given an overview of the Assembly’s Youth Engagement Service. A particular interest was shown in getting young people and children involved from an early age.

Continue reading “Sudan meets Wales: What can the Parliament of Sudan learn from the National Assembly for Wales?”

10 facts for 10 years of Black History Month in Wales

Black History Month Wales is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this year. First celebrated in the UK in 1987, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month (BHM) in the UK.

Map

Every October throughout the UK, BHM celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black people to the development of British society; technology; the economy; the arts and culture. Read more about the history of BHM.

In celebration of 10 years, here are 10 facts you might not have been aware of:

1. In 1987 BHM was only celebrated in London, it is now a UK wide event with over 6,000 events being celebrated across the UK every October. Canada and America celebrate Black History Month in February.

2. The following were invented by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people:

Pencil sharpener, trolley car power system, first traffic light, sweeper truck, dustpan, automatic elevator door, first clothes dryer, fire escape ladder, fire extinguisher, carbon filament for the lightbulb, blood plasma bag, ironing board, hair brush, straightening comb, tricycle and more.

3. Betty Campbell  became Wales’s first black head teacher in the 1970s, with her post at Mount Stuart Primary School in Butetown, Cardiff.

4. Wales has one of the UK’s oldest multi-ethnic communities in Cardiff, in the area of Tiger Bay. Sailors and workers from over 50 countries settled there.

5. Leonora Brito was born in Cardiff, raised in and influenced by the multicultural community of Tiger Bay she recreated the society’s values through her writing. Her writing provided a unique insight into Afro-Caribbean Welsh society, largely unrepresented in Welsh writing until her work appeared. Her story ‘Dat’s Love’ won her the 1991 Rhys Davies Short Story Competition. She died in 2007.

6. Mohammed Asghar (Oscar) AM became Wales’s first Muslim councillor, representing the Victoria ward on Newport City Council in 2004. He became the first ethnic minority and Muslim member of the Assembly when he was elected to the National Assembly for Wales in 2007.

7. The 2011 census reported there were 18,276 Welsh African people, amounting to 0.6% of the Welsh population.

8. In 2008 Vaughan Gething AM became the youngest ever President of the TUC in Wales, also becoming the first black person in the role.

9. Eddie Parris, who was born at Pwllmeyric near Chepstow, became the first black footballer to play for Wales, playing his one and only international against Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1931 – nearly half a century before England’s first black player was awarded an international cap.

10. Judge Ray Singh, CBE, Chair of race Council Cymru is a retired District Judge and the first ethnic minority judge on the Welsh bench.

For further information on the Black History Month celebrations around Wales visit the Black History Month website.

Diwrnod #ShwmaeSumae Day – Our guide to promoting Welsh in the workplace

Once again this year, Assembly Members and staff will mark Shwmae/Su’mae Day with a week of activities. Everyone will be encouraged to start all conversations in Welsh with ‘Shwmae’ or ‘Su’mae’, and leaflets and stickers will be distributed throughout the building to raise awareness of the day.

Dysgu Learn 2

Many of the activities will be aimed at the large number of learners in the organisation. Indeed, the Assembly is at the forefront of providing Welsh lessons in the workplace. There is a team of three internal tutors who provide lessons at all levels to Assembly Members and their staff and to Assembly Commission staff.

Be flexible for your staff and their needs

The team can offer flexibility in its provision: as well as offering formal lessons that follow the usual textbooks, it is also able to offer learners one-to-one sessions. Some of these sessions can focus on specific elements such as pronunciation or improving the skills of fluent Welsh speakers. There are dedicated sessions for entire services within the Assembly such as the security service or ICT service, with the sessions tailored to the specific needs of those services.

Dysgu Learn

Make it fun and natural

The team also occasionally organises more informal events – for example, during Shwmae/Su’mae Day or around St David’s Day, a quiz, treasure hunt etc are arranged. The Assembly Choir has recently been formed, in part to offer learners the opportunity to enjoy using their Welsh.

The team utilises the ability of Welsh speakers in the organisation by appointing mentors for learners. Therefore, instead of having a formal lesson only once or twice a week, learners have the opportunity to practice their spoken Welsh skills in a less formal atmosphere.

In order to ensure that more conversations begin through the medium of Welsh throughout the year, we provide ‘iaith gwaith’ lanyards or special lanyards for learners that the Assembly produced some years ago.

In summary…

Llyfrau Books

The ultimate aim is to increase the capacity of the whole organisation to operate as a naturally bilingual organisation. Increasing the number of Welsh learners who can communicate bilingually is one way of achieving that goal.

Here are some of the things that we have been doing to encourage learners in the Assembly:

  • producing laminated desk resources on different issues: general greetings and sayings; chairing meetings; answering the phone;
  • using other Welsh speakers in the organisation to become mentors for learners;
  • organising informal events such as ‘coffee and chat’;
  • holding taster sessions for beginners on specific topics such as general greetings or the national anthem;
  • awareness raising events such as exhibitions during St David’s Day, Shwmae Day or St Dwynwen’s Day;
  • asking staff to say ‘Shwmae’ to coincide with Shwmae/Su’mae Day.

Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary

First celebrated in the UK in 1987, this year marks the 30th anniversary of BHM in the UK. Black History Month Wales is also celebrating its 10th year anniversary.

Abi Lasebikan, Co-Chair of our Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network, takes us through the history of BHM…

Header

Every October throughout the UK, Black History Month (BHM) celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black people to: the development of British society; technology; the economy; the arts and culture.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” – Marcus Garvey

History

The first ever BHM event was held in London in 1987. Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, coordinator of Special Projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) at the time, is acknowledged as the originator of BHM in the UK and creating a collaboration to get it under way.

A colleague of mine, a woman, came to work one morning, looking very downcast and not herself. I asked her what the matter was, and she confided to me that the previous night when she was putting her son Marcus to bed he asked her, “Mum, why can’t I be white?”

The mother was taken aback. She said that she was so shocked that she didn’t know how to respond to her son. The boy that had been named after Marcus Garvey had asked why he couldn’t be white!

– Akyaaba Addai Sebbo

Black_History_Month_1987_002

It can arguably be said that the catalyst for BHM started eighteen months before the GLC was abolished in 1986. What followed in the months leading up to the GLC’s abolition was a concerted effort to find ways of carrying on the progressive equalities work of the GLC. The London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU) made up of 15 Local Authorities, formed the body that took over the radical bits of the GLC after its abolition.

 

Linda Bellos, the then leader of Lambeth Council, remembers Ansell Wong, the then Head of the Ethnic Minority Unit, approaching her with the idea of initiating Black History Month in the UK.

Continue reading “Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary”

Twenty quotes to mark twenty years since Wales said yes

Twenty years ago, on 18 September 1997, a referendum was held in Wales on whether there was support for the creation of an assembly for Wales with devolved powers. Here we take a look at that day and the journey it began with twenty quotes…

“Devolution is about harnessing the power of community – the diverse community that is the United Kingdom, and the national communities that through devolution can take their futures in their own hands.”

A quote from Tony Blair who in 1997 led Labour back to power for the first time since 1979 in a landslide victory. The Labour manifesto included a commitment to holding a referendum on the creation of a Welsh Assembly.

Tony Blair Neil Jenkins

“There are some variations across social groups in Wales. Women clearly support a Welsh Assembly – by 37 to 29 – while men oppose one by 43 to 38.

There is strong majority support for devolution among those aged 18 to 34, while a majority of those voters aged over 65 oppose an assembly.”

An extract from the results of a Guardian/ICM poll taken a week before the referendum vote.

Ron Davies

“Good morning, and it is a very good morning in Wales.”

This how Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales in 1997 and leader of the Yes campaign started his speech when the result was announced. Watch footage of his speech here. Ron Davies also famously described Welsh devolution as a “process not an event.”

“When you win a national campaign by less than seven thousand votes it makes every last leaflet, every last foot-step, every last door knocked, worthwhile.”

Leighton Andrews, former Assembly Member and Welsh Government Minister, reflects on the Yes Campaign in a recent blog for the IWA. 50.3 per cent of those who voted in the referendum supported devolution – a narrow majority in favour of 6,721 votes.

Following the referendum, the UK Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act 1998. The Act established the National Assembly as a corporate body – with the executive (the Government) and the legislature (the Assembly) operating as one. The first Assembly elections were then held on 6 May, 1999.

Siambr Hywel

“The people of Anglesey in the slate quarries of Caernarfonshire used to be known as Pobol y Medra, because their answer to the question, ‘Can you do this?’ was ‘Medra’—‘I can. That must be our message throughout Wales. Let the whole of Wales become Pobol y Medra.”

Alun Michael, having just become the First Secretary of Wales on 12 May 1999. Read the full Plenary transcript where he made this speech.

Continue reading “Twenty quotes to mark twenty years since Wales said yes”