Llywydd imposes limits on Plaid Cymru in Senedd in response to cooperation agreement
The Llywydd is going to place limits on what Plaid Cymru can do in the Senedd in response to the party’s cooperation agreement with the Welsh Government.
Elin Jones, who is in charge of running the Senedd, has said the “arrangements” in the deal are novel and raise questions” about the way the parliament conducts its business.
In a statement she said the legal advice “makes it clear” that Plaid Cymru is not part of the executive and that it “remains an opposition party in the Senedd”.
But she added that through its Designated Members in the 46 policy areas covered by the deal, the party will have “access to information and involvement in joint decision-making” that other opposition parties won’t have.
This includes access appointing special advisers, access to civil servants and being able to the Welsh Government’s PR machine.
The Llywydd has therefore decided to make “adjustments” to the way the Senedd is run “to reflect this novel role more appropriately”.
This means though the Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, will still be allowed to ask the First Minister three questions without notice each week, that he should not use them “to promote any policy areas covered by the Agreement”.
The number of questions the party’s spokespeople will be allowed to ask Welsh Government ministers without notice will be limited to two.
Plaid Cymru’s Designated Members will not be called to ask spokespeople’s questions.
The Leader of Plaid Cymru and the Designated Members will not be called by the Llywydd to ask questions other than “in relation to constituency or regional matters”.
The amount of opposition debate time allocated to Plaid Cymru will be “reduced”.
Elin Jones said: “While the legal advice makes it clear that Plaid Cymru is not a group with an executive role, Plaid Cymru remains an opposition party in the Senedd, but now also co-operates with the Welsh Government on an agreed policy programme. It has termed itself co-opposition. I am seeking here to reflect this novel role more appropriately in Senedd Business.
“Designated Members and the Leader of Plaid Cymru will have access to information and involvement in joint decision-making relating to the areas covered by the Agreement.
“This raises questions about the role of Plaid Cymru, and in particular Designated Members, in the scrutiny functions of the Senedd. I welcome Plaid Cymru’s commitment to publish details of Designated Members and their areas of responsibility.
The Llywydd is making the following adjustments to plenary business from the start of the Spring term:
• The Leader of Plaid Cymru will continue to be able to ask 3 questions without notice to the First Minister each week, although I would not expect those questions to be used to promote any policy areas covered by the Agreement. Questions to any Ministers should focus on scrutiny, as such I expect the Leader of Plaid Cymru to frame questions accordingly. I also intend to explore further with the Business Committee how to facilitate scrutiny of Designated Members and the Leader of Plaid Cymru by the Senedd, possibly in the case of the Leader on a monthly basis, in place of the Leader’s questions to the First Minister;
• The number of questions without notice by Plaid Cymru spokespeople will be limited to 2 per Ministerial question session;
• Designated Members will not be called to ask Spokespeople Questions;
• The Leader of Plaid Cymru and Designated Members will not be able to ask questions (tabled or supplementary) or contribute to statements on subjects other than in relation to constituency or regional matters. The Leader of Plaid Cymru may contribute to statements by the First Minister;
• Designated Members and the Leader of Plaid Cymru may contribute to debates, but I expect them to declare any interests and to exercise judgment on what might be appropriate given their roles under the Agreement.
• The ratio of opposition debate time allocated to Plaid Cymru will be reduced by the number of Designated Members (including the Leader of Plaid Cymru), with the time freed-up through this reallocated to non-group activity such as Member debates.
‘Protect the rights’
Elin Jones added: “I will protect the rights of the Conservative group and Liberal Democrat party, such as continuing to call Conservative Members first. As has been my practice the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is guaranteed a contribution on question sessions. The order of other speakers will reflect an appropriate balance between Labour backbenchers and Plaid Cymru.
“The arrangements above are immediate, incremental changes to our plenary meetings to address issues arising from the Agreement.
“As I acknowledged previously, as an evolving democracy we should be prepared to govern in different ways which work in the interests of the people of Wales and I welcome any move by political parties that seeks to bring together different views for common good.
“As a Senedd, we will explore whether to make any longer-term changes to our custom, practice and procedures to reflect the novel nature of this Agreement. I will continue to keep matters under review as the practical operation of the Agreement develops next year.”
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