FMQs: Binding vote to be held on M4 Newport bypass

The First Minister was substituted this afternoon by Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West).

“Unfair and unbalanced”

With the Conservatives sensing internal grievances within Labour over the latest local government funding plans, the Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies (Con, Preseli Pembs.) pounced.

“…..the Environment Minister is absolutely right: this local government settlement is unfair and imbalanced…..it’s apparent that we have a north-south divide. To add to that, yesterday, the First Minister planned to hold a Labour-only exclusive meeting with council leaders who were also urging the Welsh Government to rethink the budget settlement, despite the fact that these were the very councils that had the better side of the deal because of Welsh Government cronyism.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

Julie James stuck to the Welsh Government line that council budgets are decided by a pre-agreed formula and accused the Leader of the Opposition of making things up. The formula was devised by expert advice and there was nothing “tribal or cronyistic” about it. Naturally, the reason Welsh councils had less money was Tory austerity.

Ministerial Language: Binding Newport bypass vote confirmed

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) turned attention to the final decision on the M4 Newport bypass.

He hoped that any final decision wouldn’t be published during the half-term recess next week. Julie James said a written statement will be issued by the Economy & Infrastructure Secretary one they’ve received the inspector’s report and advice.

Adam then wanted to know if any final vote will be binding on the government and amendable to include other options?

“….To be as clear as it’s humanly possible to be, I’ve said that the debate and vote will be taken into account in final investment decisions, but that it will be in Government time. So, it’s a binding vote in Government time on the Government. So, we’ve structured it in that way. My own backbenchers have been very clear that they want a vote of that sort. And I promised that vote, as the Member rightly says, in the Assembly.”
– Leader of the House, Julie James

Effectively, that means “yes”. With that out of the way, Adam Price suggested the Welsh Government were ignoring the opinions of the Future Generations Commissioner, who suggested the economic benefits of the bypass had been exaggerated. The money could be spent on the South Wales Metro and reopening the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth railway.

The Leader of the House disagreed. The Commissioner provided evidence to the inspector and that will be considered in any official advice.

Children’s Rights

“Is the Leader of the House aware that a study published in the BMJ last week showed that countries where there is a ban on physically punishing children, including slapping and smacking, have lower rates of youth violence? The findings show that rates of physical fighting among young people were 42 to 69 per cent lower than in countries without any such bans in place.”
– Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North)

The Leader of the House confirmed the Welsh Government’s commitments to children’s rights through the introduction of a smacking ban and lowering the voting age to 16. She was “encouraged” by the research as it provides an additional evidence base for the former.

However, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) raised the issue of why the Welsh Government makes no reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child in their children’s right impact assessments (in relation to school closures etc.).

Julie didn’t have an answer to that, but in response to Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) said it was worth discussing enshrining children’s rights in Welsh law in the same way as recent discussions on doing the same thing for the disabled.

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