FMQs: “Democratic legitimacy” of Boris Johnson’s prosperity fund comments questioned

Off the rails

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) told a story about the experiences of two tourists visiting Pembrokeshire and the arduous journey by rail they had to endure – so bad one of them considered cancelling the trip whilst onboard an overcrowded train, where they were wedged between a refreshments trolly and a door.

The First Minister stated that the Welsh Government has a plan to increase capacity, but they had years of neglect by the previous franchise holder to overcome too. It won’t happen immediately and will take some time.

But, Paul Davies said, commuters were growing frustrated and demanded immediate improvements:

“Commuters are frustrated and fed up with a lack of action and waiting for the new improved service to come along. What is your Government doing to ensure that the bodies responsible for the delivery of the new franchise have the technical, managerial and financial support necessary to ensure that they are able to help deliver a new world-class rail service here in Wales?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister told the chamber that the government can only worth within the resources and powers it has at hand, but the franchise agreement was “one of the most ambitious” ever in the UK.

Indycurious, First Minister?

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) brought comments made by the First Minister yesterday into focus:

“Two months ago, Machynlleth Town Council became the first council in Wales to declare its support for independence….After your comments last week berating colonialism and your statement yesterday that your support for the union was not unconditional, are you now officially indy-curious?”
– Adam Price AM

The short answer was “No” and his comments had been seen through a particular lens. Labour unambiguous believes in Welsh membership of the UK. However, if the Conservatives were going to take a colonial attitude towards the future of devolution then it will inevitably strain the Union.

On positions of ambiguity, Adam Price turned to Brexit and whether the Welsh Government would support Remain in any future referendum regardless of whether the Tories or Labour were in power at Westminister? The First Minister said Labour would back Remain in a second referendum – unambiguously.

Shared Prosperity?

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) repeated Boris Johnson’s comments that the decision to scrap the Newport bypass should be reversed and that any future UK Shared Prosperity Fund “needed strong Conservative influence”. Would the First Minister then support a bypass, if the Shared Prosperity Fund were used to build it?

The First Minister said extra money wouldn’t solve the environmental impact of the road – which was one of the reasons the project was rejected. On Tory influence of the fund, however, he was blunter:

“My message to (Boris Johnson) is that he needs to win an election in Wales and then he will be entitled to instruct us on what we should do here. His party has never won an election in Wales in the whole era of universal suffrage, and for him to….instruct us as to the responsibilities that we have and how we should discharge them, and then announce that he intends to repatriate responsibilities that have been established here….to the Conservative Party, well I think there are real issues of democratic legitimacy in the way that those points were expressed.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

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