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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Labour sacking reveals command and control culture at heart of Welsh Government

There was a bizarre moment in the Assembly Plenary session yesterday when the First Minister was forced to come to the chamber to defend his decision to sack one of his own backbenchers from the chair of a committee overseeing his European programmes because she had publicly criticised Welsh Government expenditure on the M4.

The fact that the two are unrelated was irrelevant. As far as the Welsh Government hierarchy is concerned Labour backbenchers should be seen and not heard. If they have something to say then they should do so behind closed doors.

As the Western Mail reports however, the opposition have a wider concern - the effective scrutiny of government, irrespective of party, and the use of patronage to blunt that scrutiny.

As Kirsty Williams said in the Plenary session: “In the last month you have removed access to ministerial decision reports, you continually duck out of giving straight answers in First Minister’s Questions, and now you have removed a committee chair whose job it was to scrutinise the performance of your government.”

The First Minister argues that the programme monitoring group, which Jenny Rathbone chaired is an advisory committee. However, it has not operated like that in the past, often questioning officials on the effectiveness of their decision-making. And of course, advice can be scrutiny too.

All-in-all it has not been a good week for the First Minister nor for Welsh democracy.
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