From the Senedd: Llyr Gruffydd
It’s not every week that business in the Assembly kicks off with such a significant statement as that made by the Presiding officer on Tuesday. I’m not sure that I expected a round of applause when she confirmed that on 12 November, Royal Assent was given to the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 - the first Act of the Assembly to receive Royal Assent, but it did feel rather underwhelming.
Maybe it’s because the bill was brought forward, not by the Government, but by the Assembly Commission. It’s over a year and a half since this Labour Government came into power and we’re still waiting for them to bring forward a single piece of Legislation.
The lack of enthusiasm may have been caused by the sense that this is the start of a long journey of new legislation for Wales. Then again, it might just be because the chamber was emptier than usual for long periods this week. The Labour benches in particular were rather threadbare at times, and even the First Minister didn’t bother attending the debate on his own Government’s draft budget.
It’s a pity he wasn’t there to listen to Leanne Wood’s speech. She has been clear from the outset that her priority as Leader of the Party of Wales is to improve the economy. Her budget deal will create thousands of apprenticeships, create hundreds of jobs and ensure that young people are equipped with the skills they need for the future. With a quarter of young people in Wales currently unemployed and many more struggling financially this will provide a much needed economic boost.
Another one struggling this week was Labour’s Health Minister. Not just because she was under the cosh for an ‘independent’ report that was critical of NHS reconfiguration in North Wales that had been rewritten after the health board’s intervention, but because she was also clearly unwell. She bravely battled through her Assembly business and was coughing and spluttering her way in and out of the chamber all week. Any confusion about her role in centralising health services was clarified by her admission to Elin Jones that the final decisions on hospital configuration will have to be taken by her.
My prize for the quote of the week this week goes to Labour AM for Mid & West Wales Joyce Watson who told the Assembly that she tries to “avoid clichés like the plague”. Is it the same plague as that affecting the Health Minister I wonder?