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Thursday, December 06, 2007

By the book

It was inevitable I suppose that Carwyn Jones' textbook would be mentioned when he answered questions as Counsel General yesterday and so it came to pass. The book by the way for those of you who are curious is "Constitutional and Administrative Law" by Bradley and Ewing.

First up was Eleanor Burnham who asked: 'Having been tickled by your textbook, Counsel General, I wonder whether it tells you how to prioritise your advice on the constitutional custard through which we are all swimming, as was referred to by my colleague, Paul. Does it also tell you how the Westminster Government can facilitate the progress of legislative competence Orders so that we can bring about some constructive Measures that are made in Wales?'

Carwyn made it clear that he was willing to share his knowledge but not it seems when it comes to answering the questions: 'I bring many books into this Chamber, and they are all law books. I would be willing to share with anyone in the Chamber Judicial Remedies in Public Law, or Human Rights Law and Practice, or any book that enables me to provide the advice to my colleagues that they would expect.'

Jenny Randerson followed up with, 'I am sure that your constitutional textbook will refer to the tradition that Member proposed legislation, in general, be regarded as being non-party political. Do you agree that that is a good tradition that we should continue here, and that we should not encourage voting along party-political lines in relation to Member proposed legislation at the first stage of its introduction?'

And then there was Mick Bates:
'Does your textbook have a chapter on ambition? There are currently eight Bills before Parliament that contain no framework powers for Wales, and, therefore, I put it to you that you have missed an opportunity. Would you agree that your Government is being far too timid in putting forward bids for Welsh legislation via the direct route, and that it will ultimately lead to a pile-up of legislation that disappoints the aspirations of the Members in this Chamber and of this country?'

I did ask Carwyn afterwards to what extent he needs to rely on his own knowledge to do the job and how much he can rely on his advisors. After all, as Darren Millar pointed out, t
he number of legal advisers employed by the Welsh Assembly Government has increased by more than 130 per cent over the past four years. The answer I got was that as Counsel General he needs to be able to interpret the advice he gets and relay it in plain English to his colleagues. So that is fair enough then. I expect him to bring a lot more books to the chamber in the future.

The 2006 Act envisaged that the post of Counsel General would be filled by a top Welsh solicitor or barrister. You only have to read the debate in the House of Lords to realise that and the response the government to the comments of Lords Thomas and Carlile. Carwyn Jones might be a barrister but you could hardly describe him as an experienced one.
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