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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Welsh Language Board debate

Somebody asked me the other day when I thought that campaigning would start in earnest for the 2007 Assembly elections. I gave some non-committal answer to the effect that there is a long way to go yet. I was wrong. Things are now getting so heated in the chamber that one would think that we are already in the middle of the election.

The problem of course is that the Government has lost its majority and the opposition is using every opportunity to take advantage of that fact to get through measures that it believes are both popular and necessary. The budget crisis is currently simmering in the background, with some members talking about throwing it out altogether if the Government do not sit down and negotiate in a meaningful way. In the meantime the order of business is increasingly being dictated by the opposition parties, whilst votes on long-running areas of disagreement are swinging against the Government.

Yesterday the subject was the future of the Welsh Language Board. The Government has announced its intention take in-house all the functions of this body it can without using primary legislation. The opposition believe that this is ill-thought out and want to see more detail on how the new arrangements will work. Accordingly, they tabled a motion calling on WAG to postpone the merger until the Assembly approves a motion which satisfactorily deals with the operation of the regulatory functions of the Board and the powers of monitoring the plans of local education authorities for the promotion of the language.

I have to admit that the debate was fairly dull, and that is not just because I chaired half of it, but the fact that Labour failed to field a single speaker other than the Minister to reply to any of the opposition's arguments meant that it was very one-sided. When the Minister did stand up to speak however, things got very lively indeed:

I do not know who the Plaid Cymru mastermind was who drew this motion up for debate.

Ieuan Wyn Jones: Will you give way?

Alun Pugh: No; I need to make headway. I have given way on several occasions. Perhaps it was to you, Ieuan.

Ieuan Wyn Jones: You have to give way to the mastermind, Minister.

Alun Pugh: I will give way to the mastermind.

Ieuan Wyn Jones: You know full well, Minister, what the impact of this motion will be if it is passed today. The Government will have to lay a motion before the Assembly setting out exactly what the regulatory functions will be under the new system, what the dyfarnydd’s role will be, and what the plans will be to develop and promote the Welsh language in our schools. Do you accept that that is what the outcome of the debate will be, and will you be prepared to bring that motion forward?

Alun Pugh: I am glad that we have identified the mastermind of this motion—occupation: leader of Plaid Cymru; specialist subject: holding together a failing political party.

It is obvious that the Assembly Government will have to ensure that all parts of the Welsh Language Board are merged into the Assembly Government before we wind it up, and the whole Assembly will have the final say, through a full legal process culminating with a vote in the Assembly.

This motion has nothing to do with the Welsh language—it is all about minority Government, and the opportunity for the Tories and Plaid to engage in mischief-making. This is the Tories and Plaid jumping into bed yet again with each other for a series of one-afternoon stands—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order. I do not know where all this excitement has come from. I do not believe that the Minister is giving way.

Alun Pugh: They may have the odd lovers’ tiff; I know that Helen Mary and David Davies had one over the weekend, but they are friends reunited this afternoon for their latest tryst together.

David Davies: The Minister may not understand coalition politics, but I am delighted that Plaid Cymru is now working with a centre-right party. We welcome that, and we look forward to working with it again in future.

Alun Pugh: You have only confirmed what those of us on the Labour side of the Chamber have always believed—the Tories and Plaid are working together as one.

Leighton Andrews: On Sunday, some of us saw David Davies saying that he is always getting phone calls from Plaid Cymru Members on his mobile, to ask him to come down to vote with them. Who do you think had the Plaid Cymru mobile this weekend?

Alun Pugh: I have no idea, but I know that there is close co-operation.

Helen Mary Jones rose

Alun Pugh: There we go; now we know who has the phone number.

Helen Mary Jones: As the Minister was courteous enough to refer to me by name, I assure him, and other Assembly Members, that there are a great many ways to describe my relationship with David Davies, but a love affair would not be one of them.

Alun Pugh: Let us wrap this up; let us see what happens to the voting behaviour of the two independent Members in a few minutes. We have our old friend, John Marek, who has already voted with the Tories and Plaid this afternoon on the business statement. We know that he has been involved with a few dodgy parties recently. In this respect, he is the Robert Kilroy-Silk of Welsh politics, minus the suntan and the charisma.

Finally, there is our old friend at the back, Peter Law, the sage of Blaenau Gwent. We know that he sits with the Tories, we know he votes with the Tories, and we know from his track record that he signs amendments for the Tories, and then he tells the people of Blaenau Gwent that he is a socialist. By their deeds, ye shall know them.

All good knockabout stuff of course but hardly an advert for a mature democracy.
Like many of the other 'debates' you've posted on your blog, the speakers manageg to speak about anything but the matter being discussed. Talk about changing the subject.

Whatever our numerous disagreements may be you are providing a valued service demonstrating the slow death of Labour government in wales. Its clear to all and sundry that the Labour welsh assembly government has been an utter failure....combined with the Ten year mark of Labour government in the UK and I think we can assume that Labour will be hammered in 2007....
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