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Friday, September 23, 2005

Sub-text

Since the enormous amount of speculation in the media about the Plaid Cymru leadership, and in particular the off-the-record briefings being given to the Western Mail's Chief Reporter, Martyn Shipton, the Assembly Plenary sessions have acquired a sub-text of their own. On Tuesday the Presiding Officer had his own little dig with an oblique reference to the fact that he might be commenting on the Devolution White Paper in a different role. On Wednesday, the current Plaid Cymru Assembly leader got his own back:

Sue Essex: .........In terms of your freedom of information request, we had a request from Martin Shipton—I do not know whether he is your surrogate these days, Ieuan—and we answered the question, and did so quite truthfully in terms of the question that came forward.

Ieuan Wyn Jones: I am not so sure whether I would regard Martin Shipton as my surrogate—he may be a surrogate for others, but not for me. Let me come back to—[Interruption.]

All the excitement however was centred around an otherwise innocuous debate on the delegation of functions under the Inquiries Act 2005 to the First Minister. Although the opposition was one down they had worked out that if a vote on a delegation was tied then the Presiding Officer was obliged to cast his vote against it. Thus it was agreed that very real concern that decisions on whether or not to hold a public inquiry should be made by a cross party group rather than a single Minister could be driven home by refusing to delegate the power to the First Minister.

As members delivered their speeches, it was discovered that one AM was not present and was likely to miss the vote. It seems that Alun Cairns was talking at a business lunch in City Hall and had not yet returned. Efforts were made to contact him with an urgent demand that he come back immediately, whilst other opposition members were drafted in to pad out the debate. Deputy Presiding Officer, John Marek, summed up the mood perfectly with his opening remarks:

John Marek: I did not intend to speak on this matter, but having heard the leaders of the opposition parties make speeches with substance in them, I feel that I have to come in and support them, because this is an important issue.

What he really meant to say of course was that "I did not intend to speak on this matter, but having noticed that Alun Cairns is not yet back I felt that it was necessary to spin out the debate so as to enable him to be in the chamber for the vote." In the end Alun did enter the chamber breathless and just in time to ensure that the delegation motion fell. However the discussion had gone on for so long that the division bell needed to be rung anyway so as to give the Presiding Officer time for a comfort break before the next item on the devolution white paper, which he was proposing and summing up on.
Comments:
So what happens to delegation of functions post 2007 after separation of the Executive and Legislature?

My understanding of this is, delegations of functions are only necessary because of the corporate body status of the Assembly. When future acts of parliament are passed, giving functions to the Assembly, won’t they pass automatically to the Executive and its Ministers, rather than being passed from the Assembly to the Executive Committee, aka, the Cabinet/Welsh Assembly Government?
 
You may well be right Martyn. Thank you for pointing out my error regarding Martyn Shipton's title. I have now corrected that and removed your comment for the sake of tidiness.
 
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