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Friday, April 26, 2013

Welsh Labour crack the whip

Plenary on Wednesday was an unusual experience. A last minute change to the agenda saw a substantial clear-out of Labour members from the Children and Young Peoples Committee including its chair, and a consequent knock-on for other committees.

It soon became clear what had happened. Faced with a whole scale rebellion from their members over the issue of putting a ban on smacking children on the face of the social services bill, the whips acted ruthlessly and swiftly to move the dissidents to a committee where they could do no damage.

Betsan Powys on her blog outlines some of the detail:

A motion in plenary yesterday afternoon replaced Christine Chapman, Julie Morgan and Jenny Rathbone with Ann Jones, David Rees and Keith Davies as members of the committee, including Ann Jones as the new chair, moved over from the chair of the Communities Committee, which, in a swift swap, is now chaired by Christine Chapman.

The changes took place with immediate effect. This morning, the committee is starting a day of evidence taking on the long and complex Social Services Bill, including evidence from the Children's Commissioner.

The committee started in a hastily scheduled private session. When the microphones were switched on, Ms Jones asked committee members to "bear with her" as she'd only found out late yesterday afternoon she was chairing the meeting at all.

Opposition sources say the whole operation is a pig's ear - emphasising that there are now three new members of the committee coming to the scrutiny of this troubled Bill cold.

I suppose it beats having a free and open debate on the merits of the amendment. As Betsan Powys says:

The question is this: if the Government gives a Bill to an Assembly committee to scrutinise and amend, and they decide they want to amend it in a way that the Government doesn't like, is it really democratic simply to change the members of the committee instead?
It smacks of lack of discipline?

(Btw, why didn't you publish my comment regarding Danny Alexander and Welsh devolution? It was coherent, from a consistent on-line identity, it included a constructive contribution to the discussion, and was not repetitive. Perhaps too negative, but near the mark?)
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