Assembly Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis Thomas has one again stated his objections to Conservative plans for the Prime Minister to come to the National Assembly for Wales to take question on a regular basis in the Western Mail
He said ‘The prospect of a UK Prime Minister fielding questions in the Senedd’s debating chamber alarms him and he not only does believes it would result in constitutional confusion, he fears it would encourage the type of party political fire-fights for which Westminster is famed.
He said: “I wouldn’t want to see a repeat of Prime Minister’s Questions in Cardiff Bay.”
If such a spectacle was on the verge of becoming a reality, he said, this could “be a day when I would decide to be absent”.
At present the Welsh Secretary directly addresses AMs after the Queen’s Speech so he can take questions on the Westminster Government’s legislative agenda and its impact on Wales.
Lord Elis-Thomas, pictured, said he was not impressed by the partisan rancour which has broken on such occasions, saying: “These events are not for party political purposes in my view.”
The Presiding Officer now believes it is time for the post of Secretary of State for Wales to be abolished.
He said: “The posts of Secretary of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are creatures of pre-devolution. They are creatures of devolution by ministerial edict.
“I think the time is ripe for those posts to be combined in a constitutional ministry that would care for nations and regions – or at least nations.”
He has no enthusiasm, however, for the Conservative proposal to reduce the number of MPs at a time when no party is campaigning to increase the number of AMs.
A key concern was that Welsh MPs should focus on Westminster issues and not drift into areas of the Assembly’s responsibility, he said.
“I think it’s important MPs address their function in the [UK parliament] and don’t seek to be an Upper House of the National Assembly.”
Much of the talk about reducing Britain’s deficit will focus on cutting public spending over the next few years will be on departmental spending in Whitehall and Cardiff Bay, however the area that continues to create the most heated debate is cutting and reforming the large benefit bill that include Job Seekers Allowance and Disability Allowance.
With that in mind a report was published last month from the New Economics Foundation called ‘Benefits that Work’ and argues that the UK needs a new Community Allowance (to replace Job Seeker Allowance and Income Support), which proposes to channel benefits spending into the creation of jobs to help communities and support people to move into work.
At the launch they said ‘The Department for Work and Pensions spends nearly £3 billion on Jobseeker’s allowance and over £8 million on Income Support every year. For many deprived areas spending on benefits payments and welfare to work programmes is the largest public investment they receive. In reality this investment may fail to get to the root of the problems that exist in these neighbourhoods.
The benefits system often compounds the challenge of tackling long-term unemployment. It is complex and riddled with perverse incentives. It does not fit well with the flexibility of today’s UK labour market, where many of the jobs involve part-time, temporary or irregular hours. Complying with the requirements of benefits can create a burden instead of supporting people to find employment.
Low income neighbourhoods have the most pressing need for activities to improve them. They also have the most workless adults. This report sets out an analysis of a new policy proposal – The Community Allowance – which aims to make a constructive link between public spending on benefits and work for the development of local neighbourhoods.
The Community Allowance would allow community organisations to employ people out of work to develop the areas they live in. There is nothing particularly new about work schemes. What makes the Community Allowance original is that it secures the benefits and an additional income for people. It allows them to concentrate their efforts on moving towards employment instead of meeting the requirements of their benefits. By working through community organisations, the Community Allowance would ensure that the work and the support it provides would be tailored to the needs of the long-term unemployed.'