FMQs: Norn Iron, Brexit & SpAds

This afternoon’s FMQs saw a first with the first emergency question accepted since the Llywydd introduced the practice in May 2017.

Emergency questions must be “of urgent national significance” and can be submitted by any AM at short notice.

Emergency Question

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd): Will the First Minister make a statement on the implications for Wales of bespoke border arrangements for Northern Ireland?

The Welsh Government “won’t allow” one part of the UK to be treated more favourably than others and the breakdown in talks due to the DUP’s intervention brings into question the Prime Minister’s leadership. The First Minister didn’t believe this is the sort of situation people had in mind when they voted last year.

70% of UK-Irish trade goes through Wales and anything that makes it more difficult will have a knock-on impact at Wales’ western ports.

FMQs, 5th December 2017

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Responsibility for Special Advisers

The First Minister recently told Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) in a written answer that responsibility for special advisers and their terms and conditions rests with the Permanent Secretary, but the code of conduct for special advisers says they remain under the control of the First Minister. Will the inquiry by James Hamilton cover the conduct of special advisers?

The First Minister said employment/terms and conditions were the responsibility of the civil service (over which he has no control), but conduct and appointments were his responsibility. The inquiry won’t look at the conduct of special advisers, only whether he as First Minister broke the Ministerial Code.

Verdict: Block – Carwyn dealt with it….just.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Brexit Negotiations

Plaid Cymru’s solution to the Irish border problem is for the UK to remain in the customs union. Labour are now saying that’s the case too; so why did Labour vote against this on 20th November? We don’t have clarity on Labour’s position, but will the First Minister guarantee that when a deal favourable to Wales is put on the table, they’ll back it.

Carwyn didn’t answer why Labour voted against the customs union but said it was “gratifying” that Labour and Plaid were willing to work on amendments to the Brexit Bill. Having a deal specific to Wales would be “difficult” but not impossible, though his preference is for the whole UK to have customs union access as it would be easier to achieve.

Verdict: Block – Expecting a Labour First Minister to explain the contradictions of Labour MPs will never work, but this will be a crucial on-the-record statement for the future.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Welsh Government Bullying Allegations

Did Leighton Andrews make any complaints relating to “the conduct or behaviour” of members of Welsh Government staff in 2014? If not, why had the First Minister given answers to the chamber suggesting any issues “had been dealt with“?

To the first question, Carwyn answered “No”. There were no allegations of bullying (Andrew never asked about bullying). He accused the Conservatives of creating a narrative where the Welsh Government is in chaos when, in fact, Labour has consistently delivered for Wales.

Verdict: Hit – Carwyn should stop digging before this gets worse. It’s not over.


Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West): Will the First Minister confirm the process for addressing complaints regarding the First Minister’s adherence to the ministerial code?

Any complaints regarding the Ministerial Code are submitted to the First Minister. AMs can provide evidence to the independent adviser (appointed to look into the First Minister’s possible Ministerial Code breach), but it will be down to the adviser how to proceed. The First Minister denied trying to evade his responsibilities by removing references to special advisers from his duties under a newly-amended Ministerial Code.

Verdict: Hit – A more forensic cross-examination by AMs which found the First Minister on the defensive (again).

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn): Will the First Minister provide an update on Welsh Government round-table discussions on leaving the European Union?

The Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary chairs the round-table group which has met regularly since 2016. There’s a particular focus on the impact on health & social care in terms of medicines regulations. There are also “deep dive” discussions with different UK Secretaries of State on a portfolio-by-portfolio basis to try and draft a common framework that’s agreeable to all devolved administrations.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.): Will the First Minister make a statement on plans to promote openness and transparency within the Welsh Government?

The Welsh Government are committed to maximising transparency and openness through its publication scheme. Returning to the bullying/misconduct allegations, the First Minister said complaints were made relatively often in relation to how things were done and suggestions for what should happen – but he maintained there was no bullying accusation from Leighton Andrews in 2014.

Verdict: Hit – More flip flops than a Romanian gymnast. Not good. Not good at all.

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