Autism Bill: “Tribalism for tribalism’s sake”
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), was on the warpath. His Autism Bill was voted down by government AMs last week which he blamed this on “tribalism for tribalism’s sake” leading to angry exchanges between Tories and Labour’s front bench.
The First Minister flatly rejected any notion of tribalism. The Welsh Government’s opposition to the Autism Bill was clear; a number of new measures and actions such as a statutory Autism Code mean there’s no need for a Bill at present. If these measures don’t work then legislation will be considered.
Paul said that his colleague, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West), is bringing forward his own proposal for a law on older people’s rights tomorrow (23rd January) – will this have Welsh Government support?
The First Minister said it wasn’t the job of the government to make the case for a backbench law, it’s for the Senedd as a whole.
Plan B for the Welsh economy?
Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr), painted a bleak picture of Welsh “success” in attracting major investments:
“The tidal lagoon in Swansea has been rejected by the UK Government. Wylfa Newydd, as we heard earlier, in Ynys Môn has been suspended by the Japanese. The third – the M4 relief road – is, according to most seasoned observers, likely to be cancelled by you. It was clear from last night that Mrs May doesn’t have a ‘Plan B’. The question as far as the Welsh economic strategy is concerned is, do you? “
– Adam Price AM
The First Minister pointed to a £1.4billion investment in housing over the course of this term to deliver 20,000 affordable houses, the 21st Century school building programme and major investments in new hospitals.
Adam asked whether the problem, ultimately, was whether too many decisions in Wales are being made by others and driven by forces outside Wales? Wales “needs a captain and needs a game plan”.
The First Minister said there was a clear pipeline of projects tabled at the Senedd and updated all the time. He also believed he has a “more optimistic” view of Wales than Plaid Cymru:
“….I don’t for a minute think that it helps Wales to repeat the sort of canards that the right-wing press in London put about, about Wales being somewhere where projects go to die. It’s nonsensical. It’s nonsensical in every part of Wales, where people will see the investments that we are making in public facilities, in transport infrastructure, in a £5 billion rail franchise, in a new convention centre that will bring activity to Wales from other parts of the UK”.
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)
Following a report last week from the Wales Governance Centre – which revealed Wales has one of the highest imprisonment rates in Europe – there was a flurry of questions to the First Minister, though little said which was new.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) said the high figures were despite Wales having a lower crime rate than England and the criminal justice system was “punishing Wales”, leading to her to repeat calls for criminal justice to be devolved.
The First Minister told AMs the figures in the report were unacceptable, but he wanted to take what he described as a “practical approach” to the devolution of criminal justice. He supports the devolution of aspects of the justice system which relate closely to the Senedd’s devolved responsibilities (probation, women’s prisons, youth justice) then moving on from there.