Senedd Bites #6: A Civic Service

Could you be called up to the Senedd’s “Second Chamber”?

An interesting proposal has been put forward by one of the Assembly’s few parliamentarians – David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) – on introducing a form of “citizens’ service” similar to jury duty where members of the public would be called up to perform certain roles in public life – including a possible future second chamber of the Senedd.

He believes the idea would keep politicians “rooted” and improve engagement with democratic processes.

Committee demands changes to UK Brexit Bill

The External Affairs Committee recently listed a number of changes they would like to see to the UK’s Brexit Bill in order to get to a point where AMs could give their consent when a Legislative Consent Motion is put in front of them at some point in the near future.

At the moment, the Welsh Government’s position is that the Bill, in its current form, can’t be approved as it amounts to a “power grab” that infringes on the Welsh devolution settlement. Although recent talks on the matter between the two governments were said to be positive, the Committee has made more specific demands, including:

  • All powers currently exercised by the EU in devolved areas should be passed to Wales, not the UK.
  • The Welsh Government should have the power to amend EU laws in effect in Wales, but this power should be limited to allow proper scrutiny by the Assembly.
  • The UK Government should not have the ability to amend EU laws that affect Wales unless those areas are reserved matters.

Provisional details of Welsh Youth Parliament announced

To coincide with a visit of former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to Swansea to receive an honorary degree and have the Law school named after her, Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion), announced initial details of the make-up and role of the future Welsh Youth Parliament.

The Youth Parliament will replace Funky Dragon, which was controversially stripped of funding in 2015.

Following a consultation, the Youth Parliament – which will represent the views of 11-18 year-olds – will have 60 members representing 40 constituencies and 20 “groups” with members (known with the catchy acronym YPWM) serving two-year terms. The body will also be independent of all political parties.

Welsh Government warned about introducing a tourist tax

A “tourism tax” was one of four potential future taxes that could be introduced by the Welsh Government in the next few years as part of the draft 2018-19 budget. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but tourist bodies have already warned of the potential impact of such a tax.

Tourist taxes are commonplace across Europe with money used to address the negative impacts of tourism such as damage to the environment, as well as to fund services used exclusively by tourists such as information services and certain forms of transport.

Tourist bodies have warned, however, that introducing a tax in Wales when no such tax exists elsewhere in the UK could drive tourists away when tourism is worth about £5billion to the Welsh economy.

National Procurement Service “makes a loss”

A critical report from the Wales Audit Office (pdf) revealed that a national body set up to save the public sector money on procurement has actually made a loss. It has only saved £14.8million compared to the anticipated £52million, whilst also running up a £2million operating loss.

While the Welsh Government pointed to praise in the report for its leadership of the project, but opposition AMs said this proved Welsh Government procurement policies weren’t working. Both the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru called for public contracts to more competitive for Welsh businesses.

U-turn on tuition fee rise

Following moves by the UK Government in England, the Welsh Government have followed suit by scrapping a proposed tuition fee rise to £9,250 a year and freezing them at that level instead of having them rise with inflation. The threshold at which graduates would have to repay their student loans will also rise to £25,000.