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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And so to Scotland

I am travelling to Scotland later today for a 24 hour voyage of discovery. To be precise I am going with the Assembly Shadow Commission to find out more about how our equivalent operates up there, to pick up tips and find out how to avoid bear-traps in the brave new world of a separate Assembly Parliamentary Service from next May.

This morning's Western Mail carries an interview with the Presiding Officer in which he sets out his views:

He said, "The most important thing we have to do in 2007 is to make our proceedings intelligible to the public, as well as open and effective. That means much improvement in our scrutiny activity, a much clearer way of operating in plenary, without being hidebound by very rigid standing orders, as we have been so far.

"We don't need any of this clerking mumbo-jumbo: we want good transparent processes that operate."

He said one of the most important functions of the new post-holder would be to organise democratic accountability.

"That's not doing it in the old way - it means having much more effective committees, it means the challenge of taking on 'e-democracy', a huge area. What do we do here at the moment with all the equipment we've got?

"We could have the Welsh public on screen telling the Members on screen and telling the Government what they think of them. You may think that's a good or bad thing - I think it's a good thing. This job is about championing democracy in Wales."

So far as his critics were concerned, Lord Elis-Thomas said, "Obviously in any institution there are people who do not want change. But the second constitution of Wales is a great challenge to us, and I can tell you that there are scores of members of staff and an overwhelming majority of AMs out there who want to meet this challenge, because it's the only way we can convince the people of Wales that this thing (the Assembly) is worth having.

He goes on to express the hope that we can hit the ground running once we are operating with the new powers made available to us in the Government of Wales Act:

The way to get that, in my view, is to work the system so hard here that Westminster will be fed up with us demanding the opportunity to make legislation. Now that means that this place has got to be doing its job.

"I hope that we will have at least six Measures Welsh laws) from individual Members, six Measures from committees and six Measures from Government every parliamentary year - minimum. That's what a parliament should be doing. I've got two possible Measures which I'm looking at at the moment, but I hope everybody is doing them."

Obviously, we will do our best to learn the best way to achieve this but it may take more than one trip. In the meantime, we might make enquiries as to where exactly in Scotland the Welsh Assembly Government's call centre is situated.

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