Friday 1 July 2011

More to life than laws

The slowness of the new Welsh Government in presenting any sort of detail of its programme for the next five years is surprising for a party which has been in government for the last 12 years, and which no-one seriously expected would cease to lead the government after this year’s elections.  It’s not unreasonable to expect that they would have been better prepared.
But the opposition criticism that the legislative element of the programme is so light is rather less fair – and it surprises me as well.  I’d have thought that the opposition parties would welcome the opportunity which it might provide. 
Labour didn’t promise a lot by way of new legislation in their manifesto, but then an awful lot of government activity doesn’t really require new laws to be made.  The fact that the Assembly now has new law-making powers doesn’t mean that it should rush to emulate the sausage-factory approach to legislation which characterises Westminster.  Legislation is only part of the Assembly’s function; it also has an important rôle in holding the Executive to account.  AMs really don’t need to spend all their time thinking up new ways of adding to the law book, just for the sake of it.
The Government in London likes to keep MPs occupied as much as possible in either supporting, or opposing, the government’s legislative programme, of course.  I’ve often suspected that they do so in order to make sure that the MPs don’t have enough time to do anything more useful, such as asking the more difficult questions which so few of them manage to do.
Scrutiny and free-thinking are dangerous activities to party leaders, and are generally to be prevented at all costs.  The decision of Carwyn Jones to allow AMs more time to undertake both rather than tying them down in the minutiae of a packed legislative programme may turn out to be one of his boldest decisions yet.  If AMs are ready to seize the opportunity, of course…

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