FMQs: Sabres rattled and desks thumped ahead of European election

With the recent formal recognition of the Brexit Party group and the upcoming European Parliament election, this afternoon’s FMQs was of the livelier variety.

You can read what I’ve had to say about the European election at State of Wales; full results and analysis next Monday (hopefully).

Preliminary work started on Clean Air Act

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), doubted whether the Welsh Government will meet carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. Doubts over the reliability of data – alongside the estimated 2,000 excess deaths each year due to air pollution – builds the case for a Clean Air Act.

“I can tell him that I have already had discussions with (Environment Minister) Lesley Griffiths about a Clean Air Act, and the preparation inside the Welsh Government has begun to think about how such an Act might be developed. Of course, we will want to talk with all those experts and those interest groups…..having better data….that allows you to track changes over time would be a necessary part of any legislation.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Paul Davies was pleased they were looking into this, but surely there was a more urgent need; between 2015-2016 greenhouse gas emissions in Wales increased and plans for a clean air zone in Cardiff have been dropped – this was despite the Welsh Government being taken to court over air pollution.

The First Minister said it was actually the UK Government “in the dock” as the Welsh Government were there solely as part of a UK system.

Mr Glum vs Mr Disappointment

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) pointed to a string of failures under Labour: increases in child poverty and unemployment alongside falling life expectancy. Does Wales stand a chance after Brexit if this is the trend before?

The First Minister thought Adam Price should be more cheerful:

“….the Member never has a good word to say for Wales. He never loses an opportunity to choose the most dismal statistics he can find and run Wales down….while….we do our best to build Wales up. We do our best to attract businesses to come to Wales. He never misses an opportunity to paint Wales as the most dismal place he has ever come across.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Well, if Mark Drakeford was disappointed in Adam Price, Adam was equally disappointed with him – particularly on Brexit:

“….before tens of thousands of Labour supporters follow Hywel (Ceri Jones – founder of the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme) in abandoning you at the ballot box, why not humbly admit, First Minister, that on the question of the second referendum, in slavishly following the British Labour line….you simply got it wrong?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister said Labour’s position reflected the complexity of Brexit, but it was for the UK House of Commons to decide whether it was time to return the question back to the people.

Respecting the referendum

Struggling over the noise generated by the rest of the chamber, Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) returned to Brexit and whether the First Minister backed Leave or Remain? Nobody knew, with Mark Drakeford’s first major electoral test coming on Thursday. While Labour says they respect the referendum result, their actions show they clearly haven’t.

The First Minister: “Hark at him!”

“No sooner had he arrived here under that (UKIP) ticket he flew across to the other side of the Chamber to be a cuckoo in the nest of the Conservatives. Now the bird has flown again. This sort of peripatetic (roaming) approach to politics is not one that I think leaves him in any position to ask others in this Chamber questions about respecting democratic mandates.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford.

He went on to add that the Welsh Government has always respected the result and focused “on the form rather than the fact” of Brexit. The Brexit Party’s prospectus would leave Wales worse off whilst undermining the UK’s security and global influence.

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