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”

Public Accounts: Making sure your money is spent wisely by Governments.

Pierhead building at sunset in Cardiff Bay

Without scrutiny of public accounts, tax avoidance such as that by Amazon and Starbucks would not have been brought to light.

It’s not just relevant to officials and auditors, it is important to everyone.

It’s following where and how your taxes are spent.

This is money spent on behalf of everyone, and this happens on a national level through to devolved administrations and regional governments to the local level. In all these instances there are elected politicians deciding how to spend our money, and it is vital that this expenditure is monitored, to ensure it is effective and efficient.

This role has earnt the Westminster Public Accounts Committee the title of ‘the Queen of the Select Committees’, and as Margaret Hodge MP said in correspondence to Gus O’Donell, (the then Head of the UK Civil Service) ‘It is the duty of the Committee to pursue fearlessly the public and taxpayers’ interest whenever and wherever we deem it necessary’.

Without this call to account, recent tax avoidance by major corporations would not have been brought into the public domain, and there may not have been an opportunity to question anybody on the failings of publicly funded projects such as the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW).

It had never occurred to me that I might enjoy what at first sight appeared to be very dry audit work, monitoring government spend’  – Dame Margaret Hodge MP

The Senedd in Cardiff Bay

Public Accounts Network Event

The National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee is excited to be hosting the inaugural public accounts network meeting.

Being a member of the Public Accounts Committee is a big responsibility, and, so as a Committee, we all want to ensure we are up to the challenge, and are doing the best we can to ensure your money is being spent responsibly.

On Monday 18th September,  will be bringing together a wide range of people with an interest in public accounts Committees, to learn from each other, develop new skills and share best practice.

There will be representatives from across the UK and further afield, to discuss how we are currently undertaking this important work, and what can be done better.

  • Dame Margaret Hodge MP keynote – What makes an effective public accounts committee? Margaret Hodge will be talking about her five years as Chair of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee, and her pursuit of reconnecting ‘Parliament with people as voters, taxpayers and citizens by giving a voice to the issues that mattered to them’.
  • Panel-led discussion – ‘A working relationship’ – The role of the Auditors in the work of Public Accounts Committees.
    Chair: Anthony Barrett, Assistant Auditor General, Wales Audit Office
  • Academic Case Study –‘Comparative effectiveness of the devolved PACs of the UK’. Helen Foster, FCA, BA(Hons), MPA, FHEA – Lecturer in Accounting – Ulster University Business School
  • The other side of Public Accounts Committee – A witnesses’ perspective
    James Price, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources Group, Welsh Government

The full agenda can be accessed here: View Agenda

Get Involved

Feel free to send us the questions you want answered ahead of the event on anything related to public accounts, such as:

  • How Public Accounts Committees work?
  • What reports are produced by Auditor Generals or Public Accounts Committees?
  • What techniques and methods should be used to to monitor Government spending?
  • Or any questions would you ask of those responsible for spending your money.

Tweet us your questions using #SeneddPAC (click to Tweet) or email us at seneddpac@assembly.wales

We will then be able to take your questions to the event on 18 September and feed it into the discussions.

Event Booking

Venue: The Pierhead, Cardiff Bay
Date: 18th September 2017
Time: 9:30am – 16:00pm

For anyone interested in the event, there are limited spaces available for the day. To book your space contact:

Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Follow updates during the day on our twitter feed and join the conversation using #SeneddPAC

 

A Day in the Senedd with Urdd competition winner Lora Lewis

Lora Lewis joined the Assembly’s Translation and Reporting Service for a day after winning the Urdd translation competition. Here she talks about her experience behind the scenes…

As someone who has considered a career in the translation industry, competing in the Urdd competition was a natural step once I discovered that the prize was a day at the Assembly. This certainly appealed to me straight away and I set about translating the competition piece. Luckily, I got the news that I had won, and Aoife, a member of staff in the translation and reporting service at the Assembly, got in touch with me shortly afterwards and the preparations began. In no time at all, I was handing over all my possessions to go through the cameras as if I was in an airport before entering the building.

To start with, I met the Presiding Officer, Elin Jones, and had an opportunity to chat to her about the work that goes on in the Senedd, as well as introducing myself to her. The Presiding Officer was very welcoming and we even had time to take a quick photograph.

After that, it was time to start the work experience for real. I met Rhiannon and she gave me a detailed presentation of the work on the Record of Proceedings and the way they use appropriate software when transcribing and editing the official Record. I had an opportunity to do this myself using voice recognition software that could record what I said through a microphone. Without a doubt, this was great and showed me how important technology is in the workplace to facilitate these kinds of tasks.

urdd

I was most interested in simultaneous translation, and I was very lucky to get an introduction to this aspect in particular from Cai, a translator in the department. This aspect is definitely one that frightens many translators, and it’s an element of the work that certainly worried me – but Cai was ready to reassure me by offering lots of useful tips. I was introduced to simultaneous translation through a visit to the interpreting booths in the committee rooms and the Chamber. I also got to watch Plenary when the First Minister was speaking. The simultaneous translation there was very exciting and gave me an insight into how difficult this aspect of the work is, as well as what an incredible skill it is to develop.

Continue reading “A Day in the Senedd with Urdd competition winner Lora Lewis”

Enterprise, Innovation and Skills Committee: One year in – Stakeholder event

A year after its first stakeholder event in July 2016, the Economy Infrastructure and Skills (EIS) Committee invited a wide range of stakeholders back to reflect on the highlights of the year and to consider the Committee’s emerging priorities for next year.

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What happened?

On 19 July 2017, Members of the committee and stakeholders discussed how the committee has delivered its work programme and what we can do to drive things forward, in particular:

  • What were the highlights of the Committee’s first year? And what could the Committee have done better?
  • What the key trends or events over the next 12-18 months?
  • Is the timing right and is anything missing in the Committee’s initial thinking about future work?

Key themes emerging from much of the discussions were the impact of Brexit and the importance of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming economic strategy.

Thanks for the participants

Russell George AM, chair of the EIS Committee, thanked contributors for sharing their expertise. He said:

“A year after we first invited a range of stakeholders to inform us about what we should do as a committee, we wanted to hear what they thought of what we have done. And to see what they thought of some of our emerging ideas for the coming year.

”After today’s discussions, I believe that we are on the right track to develop a work programme which incorporates the views of stakeholders from across the three main strands of our remit – the economy, infrastructure and skills.”

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What happens next?

The clerking team will use the ideas and comments from stakeholders to inform a paper for the Committee to consider in September setting out priorities and inquiries for the coming year.

A Stronger Voice for Wales in a Changing Britain

You don’t have to be a constitutional expert to have your say on constitutional issues.

The National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has been looking at how Wales works with other Parliaments and Governments: the relationship between them, how well they work together and share ideas. By understanding current and past relationships, the Committee want to be able to recommend the best model of working for the future.

Different legislature buildings

But what sort of relationship does the people of Wales want our institution to have with other parliaments and governments?

Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Chair of the Committee will deliver a talk at this year’s National Eisteddfod focusing on what he will argue are the most profound constitutional challenges the people of Wales have faced for many generations, both as a nation – Wales – and as a family of nations within the United Kingdom. How Wales rises to those challenges will be the defining test of our generation.

The National Eisteddfod is of course a celebration of traditional Welsh culture and arts and language, but it is also a place where the identity of Wales and its people is constantly imagined and re-imagined. It is also where the politics and constitution of Wales – and Wales within the United Kingdom – have been hotly discussed and debated down the decades, on the Maes and off.

A UK which is negotiating its way out of membership of the EU. An England which is perhaps confused about its identity – or its multiple identities – and is experimenting with different forms of devolution in London and now in its grand metropolitan cities & regions. A Scotland which voted in one referendum to stay as part of the UK, with a government which toyed with the idea of a second referendum, yet has gone cool on the idea – at least for now. And the institutions of Northern Ireland in suspended animation with the threat of Direct Rule hanging over them. A Wales with a Scotland-style Reserved Powers Model finally, but with some expert commentators – and indeed the Welsh Government itself – arguing that the Wales Act in combination with the EU (Withdrawal) Bill risks rolling devolution backwards.

'Wales should not be afraid of leading the way in developing clear, succinct and understandable law'

In this turbulent, fast-changing environment, it is absolutely right to ask the fundamental question of how we ensure Wales has a strong voice right now, and a stronger voice in the future. In the midst of all the cacophony and clamour, the strongest possible voice for Wales in this union of nations is an absolute imperative.

Join us at this year’s Eisteddfod

Monday 7 August

Societies Pavilion 2

11.30 – 12.30

The Chair of the National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies AM, will talk about its ‘Stronger Voice for Wales’ inquiry.

This will be followed by an opportunity to meet Members of the Committee to talk about these issues which will become particularly important as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Royal Welsh Show 2017

The National Assembly for Wales returns to the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells from 24 – 27 July with a new programme of events and the chance for the public to meet Assembly Members and staff and find out more about work our work. Based in the Green Pavilion, everyone is welcome to visit our stand to give your views and options on our work.

Taking place throughout the week

On the stand

Whether you’re familiar with our work or not, by the end of your visit to the Assembly stand you’ll have learnt something new about us and what we do. Enjoy a cuppa and learn about your Assembly Members, how they represent you and how you can get in touch with them to air your views and concerns. You can find out more about our current inquiries and upcoming work that may be of interest to you or your community.

For kids

While parents put their feet up, children can take part in different games and activities around the stand to help them learn more about what we do. They will be able to find out about making laws and have a go at voting about the hobbies and activities that are important to them. There are also games to play and colouring in for younger visitors.

Tell us what makes you proud of Wales

We’re proud of our country. Our history, our culture, our heroes, our language, our land – our home. Most of all we’re proud to represent you, the people of Wales, and to make decisions and create laws that will shape the future of Welsh life. We want you to tell us what you love most about life in Wales and what makes you proud. Share your views with us on the stand or tell us on Twitter using #myWales.

Sessions and Events

Wednesday 26 July

09.00-10.00 Stronger Voice for Wales Stakeholder Breakfast Event (Constitutional andLegislative Affairs Committee), National Assembly for Wales stand

You don’t have to be a constitutional expert to have your say on constitutional issues. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee are looking at how Wales works with other parliaments and governments and want to hear from people and organisations who have experience of giving evidence at UK and Welsh levels and what barriers they may have faced. By asking these questions and hearing their experiences, the Committee would be able to recommend the best model of working for the future.

Thursday 27 July

10.30-11.30 Launch of Inquiry into Rethinking Food in Wales (Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee), Food and Drink Hall

What’s your vision for the future of food and drink in Wales and what needs to be done to achieve it? Members of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee will be meeting with stallholders to launch and discuss their new inquiry into rethinking food in Wales. By meeting with food producers and exhibitors the Committee hopes to learn more about how Wales could create an innovative food industry sustaining high quality jobs, and become an internationally renowned destination for food lovers.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you at the Royal Welsh Show. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the week for the latest Assembly news from the showground.

 

 

 

 

Right to Buy: Here’s what you need to know about proposed changes in Wales

Do the Right to Buy schemes help tenants access home ownership or negatively impact on local communities? Should they be abolished or suspended?

These are some of the questions tenants from across Wales discussed with us as part of our investigation of the proposed law to abolish the Right to Buy and Associated Rights in Wales.

What is Right to Buy?

The Right to Buy scheme was introduced in the UK in 1980 to allow most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount.

However the Welsh Government has recently proposed changes in law that would end the Right to Buy scheme in Wales.

Their stated aim with this change is to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from reducing further, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to access the housing market to buy or rent a home.

We have been examining the Welsh Government’s decision to propose this law to ensure that it is in the best interests of Wales and its communities.

What do the proposed changes mean?

Under the proposed law, The Right to Buy for tenants of local authorities and registered landlords would be abolished after a period of at least one year following the introduction of the law.

Some local authorities, including Flintshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey have already suspended the Right to Buy scheme.

The Right to Buy and Associated Rights have already been brought to an end by the Scottish Government in Scotland, but a different approach is being taken in England by the UK Government.

The proposed law would end the Right to Buy scheme in all local authorities across Wales.

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Want to know our recommendations to the
Welsh Government on changes to Right to Buy?

Download the report »


How could the changes affect me?

In making sure that existing tenants are aware of the changes, the proposed law requires the Welsh Government to publish information on its effects before abolition takes place, and social landlords must in turn provide that information to every affected tenant within two months of the proposed law coming into force.

After a waiting period of at least one year after coming into force, all rights will be abolished. This means every affected tenant can still exercise their Right to Buy within that period, but not after.

Your views

Alongside a public consultation, a key part of this examination involved engaging and working with tenants from across Wales to help understand what the proposed changes meant for them.

By holding discussions in Cardiff, Newcastle Emlyn, Colwyn Bay, and Ynys Môn, as well as online on Dialogue and Facebook, tenants from across Wales were given an opportunity to participate, discuss and share their views and ideas on the proposed law and whether they felt improvements could be made.

Council housing should be for those in need” – Tenant, Ynys Môn County Council Tenant Participation Group

There was broad support for the proposed law from tenants and other organisations who gave evidence, and the need to abolish the Right to Buy to to ensure that those in greatest need have access to affordable homes and prevent further loss of social housing.

Having heard all of the evidence, the Committee has agreed that abolishing the right to buy will ensure that existing and new social housing stays within the social housing sector and will be available to be used for its original purpose, namely as a means of providing affordable rented accommodation for those in greatest need.

housing-tenants-at-a-meeting

Impact on eligible tenants and home ownership

The majority of tenants acknowledged the squeeze that people now feel in trying to access the housing market.

The average annual salary in some areas in Wales is less than the minimum salary needed to qualify for Help to Buy schemes and a number of tenants are employed through zero hour contracts.

Tenants in Anglesey said that the average salary of residents was £14,000, which was less than the minimum required to qualify for Help to Buy.

As a result, the Committee believes that it is important to raise awareness and promote understanding of home ownership schemes with tenants before the Abolition of the Right to Buy takes place.

Duty to provide information to tenants

Many tenants expressed their concerns over how this change would be communicated with tenants. There is no detail in the proposed law about how the required information should be communicated to tenants or adapted to meet their varying needs.

As a result, the Committee recommends that the Welsh Government makes the necessary changes in the proposed law to ensure that this information is communicated to tenants in the most appropriate and accessible way to meet their varying needs. The Welsh Government should test the information with tenants before it is finalised to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

“…everything requires access to social media and the net now…anything that happens now quotes a www. resource …people will be uniformed if the information isn’t accessible” – Tenant, TPAS South Wales Network

 

What are the next steps?

Now that the Committee has given its recommendations to the Welsh Government on how the proposed law can be improved, the Welsh Government will have an opportunity to respond.

Before changes can be made to the proposed law, the Committee’s recommendations will be debated amongst all of the Assembly Members who represent the people of Wales on 18 July 2017.

For all the latest information and developments you can also

  • follow the Committee on twitter @SeneddELGC; and
  • visit the Committee homepage on the proposed law.

Abolition-of-the-Right-to-Buy-and-Associated-Rights-Wales-Bill