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The latest from the Assembly

20/11/2021

by Alun Ffred Jones

Another week in the Senedd with the government losing another debate.

The Welsh Government lost the vote on the draft budget. Everyone except Labour now agrees that the proposals are not enough for Wales in this troubled period. In their indolence, Labour introduced a carbon copy of last year's indicative budget, and since then, every party, pundit and person has laughed it to scorn.

In a period of economic crisis, the budget for Economic Development and business promotion has been cut, construction plans put on hold, and there is no mention of any injection of money despite the constant wails from their London brothers for a ‘Plan B’.

With this vote, therefore, they have to obtain the support of at least one other member. It would be theoretically possible to persuade an individual, but it's much more likely that they will seek to strike a deal with the Lib Dems, or Plaid.  I don't see the Tories being part of this. The bargaining has commenced, and it's quite usual by now to see the odd Labourite wandering the Plaid corridors grinning widely like second-hand car salesmen.

What then will be exchanged for support? What price Plaid or Lib Dem votes?

We have been open from the start, calling for a comprehensive package to stimulate the economy, to support businesses and to invest in the nation's infrastructure to create jobs. We want to see more money for the economy portfolio, for the adoption of a scheme such as Build4Wales, and the Government bringing in jobs, apprenticeships and expenditure to the economy across Wales.

The Lib Dems on the other hand have been calling for a programme similar to the ‘pupil premium’ in England – an injection of extra cash into the education system targeted at children from deprived homes. This is undoubtedly a much smaller committment in terms of effort and cost than Plaid's demands. But with Labour competing against the Lib Dems for control of several councils next May, will they want to be seen co-operating with them in December?

There are also rumours that Labour are eyeing a coalition with the Lib Dems because the first few months of a minority government proved so hectic – but then again, Carwyn can't be seen to embrace Kirsty before the  local elections. Politics, eh?

But it wasn't only  financial issues which caught the attention of politicians at the Senedd; Dafydd Elis-Thomas won his debate on the environment, forcing a challenge to the UK on feed-in tariffs; benefits to those generating renewable energy and feeding it into the National Grid.

In a speech to the Institute of Welsh Politics on Monday, Carwyn Jones set out his three golden rules for further devolution. 1. Any new powers should benefit Wales  2. They should work within the existing structures of the Welsh Government and 3. They should have a limited effect on the rest of the UK. Interesting, but by Tuesday afternoon, poor Carwyn Jones had broken two of his own rules! He called for the devolution of the Air Passenger Duty which would be operated outside Welsh Government structures and which would have a major effect on Bristol airport.

In closing the week's official business, Ken Skates, a Labour member, admitted that he read his committee papers in the bath.  I've heard of political 'wets' but this is ridiculous…