Chief Whip “didn’t know” Cabinet Secretary is keynote speaker at Cardiff arms fair

It was time for Leader of the House/Minister for Technology/Equalities questions this afternoon (and they had a tough time)….

Withholding information?

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery) asked why it appeared as though the Leader of the House was withholding information on Phase 2 of the Superfast Cymru broadband scheme?

“I did table written questions to you over a week ago. The due date for an answer was yesterday, and I do wonder why there is a delay….Also, you did suggest in yesterday’s business statement that you were waiting until today’s questions to make some kind of announcement about Phase 2 of Superfast Cymru. Now, like many Members I have inquiries every single day from constituents so frustrated about the lack of information….and the delays on the implementation of the next scheme. So, I would question why this information, and other information that I have asked for, hasn’t been released at the earliest opportunity.”
– Russell George AM

The Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) said an answer to his written question was published today but the data couldn’t be gathered in time. She accepted there were problems with the Phase 2 contract, which left her frustrated and when she has any answers they’ll be given.

Bazaar of Brutality

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) seemed to ask a fairly innocuous question on how different government departments work together on human rights issues – to which the Leader of the House said she holds a number of meetings on a one-to-one basis with Cabinet members to ensure equalities obligations are being met.

However….

“Your colleague and Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport (Ken Skates) is listed as the keynote speaker at an arms fair in Cardiff to be held next year. This event will involve the sale of weapons to regimes with appalling human rights records that are involved in serious armed conflicts, including Saudi Arabia, a country that were it not for its oil interests would have been regarded as a state sponsor of terrorism, as any honest analysis would conclude. Can you explain how your colleague’s explicit endorsement of this bazaar of brutality is compatible with compliance with human rights obligations?”
– Leanne Wood AM

Julie James is also Labour’s Chief Whip, meaning she’s responsible for maintaining party discipline and generally being up to speed on what all Labour AMs are up to.

She replied, “I did not know that my colleague was scheduled to speak there, and I will be more than happy to take that up with him.” Then Julie referred to the First Minister’s comments earlier this week on Raytheon and his promise to report back on any Welsh Government support to the arms industry.

Anti-Semitism “has no place in our society”

Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to address hate crime, but it was Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) who stirred the pot.

“Leader of the house, incidents of anti-Semitism have been on the rise across the United Kingdom. In the first six months of this year, 727 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded by the Community Security Trust. It has been reported by The Jewish Chronicle that one of your Welsh colleagues questioned whether anti-Semitic hate crime was ‘real’ and whether the threat is all ‘in their own heads’.”
– Mohammad Asghar AM

The colleague in question is Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central), who has since apologised for her comments and referred herself to equalities training.

The Leader of the House said Labour in Wales has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism and was absolutely clear that anti-Semitism has no place in Welsh society.

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