This week at the Senedd


by Lindsay Whittle

This week saw the Assembly return to business as usual and it was very quickly made clear that any dreams we might have had that the government might had made a new years resolution to start delivering for the people of Wales, were nowhere near reality.

Once again, Ieuan Wyn Jones used his opportunity in First Minister’s Questions to highlight the complete legislative lethargy of the Labour government and demanded answers as to why the First Minister is intent on doing nothing to improve the economy of our country and create jobs for the Welsh public, but has plenty of time to fight for his Labour party colleagues’ jobs over the boundary changes. Of course, our plea for action was met with arrogance and deflection from the First Minister, who seems to think that sitting back and allowing the economic crisis to hit all areas of Wales counts as “standing up for Wales”.


However, this week was not about what Labour has not done, this week was about one of the few things they have done.  The Minister for Education announced to the Assembly that he had had his blood pressure checked before coming to work in the morning, and with the day he was about to have, it’s just as well. With the BBC releasing a national league table based on the Welsh Government’s banding data, it was not a good day to be facing questions in the chamber let alone a Plaid Cymru debate on the school banding system. I asked the Minister what he intended to do in order to deal with the demoralising effect that his banding system is having on pupils, teachers and parents. His predictable reply was completely void of substance and instead, was an empty statement of support for his party’s policy.


There is no doubt, our education system is in desperate need of improvements, but reintroducing a system of league tables that was abolished for very good reasons in 2001, is surely not the answer.  Despite the Minister’s claims that the banding system is not a reintroduction of the league tables, our Education spokesperson, Simon Thomas, argued that if it is not possible for one school to move up a band without another falling below them, then whatever name the system is given, its functionality is unquestionably league-based. This being the case, no matter how much improvement is made, half of our schools will always be considered to be performing badly. What message does that send to our students, teachers and parents? Our motion, calling on the government to introduce a constructive evaluation process in order to ensure poor performance in schools is remedied, was passed, despite the Tories’ best efforts to block it.


But it isn’t just schools that the Labour government has been undermining. They’ve done their bit to undermine local businesses too, passing legislation on Tuesday to ensure that areas of Cardiff that are within 500m of an Olympic event will be wiped clean of any street traders and advertising not officially sponsoring the London games. This legislation is indicative of the poor management of the Olympic games by successive UK governments. Firstly, the games are considered to be a UK-wide event meaning the usual Barnett consequential is dodged by Westminster, depriving Wales of significant revenue; and now, in the handful of events allocated to Cardiff, our local businesses are prevented from capitalising on the opportunity.


I accept that restrictions need to be put in place in the stadium, but why should our main shopping street in our capital city be forced to take down any advertising for the benefit of the south east of England and multi-national corporations?

We in Plaid Cymru spoke up for Welsh business and opposed the legislation.  Labour, Lib Dems and Tories refused to oppose the plans of course – but what more would you expect from parties that exist to stand up for the interests of London, and ride roughshod over the interest of the people of Wales.