Llywydd takes ‘legal advice’ and ‘raises questions’ about Labour-Plaid deal
The Llywydd has taken legal advice about the cooperation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
Elin Jones, who is in charge of running the Senedd, said the “arrangements” are novel and raise questions” about the way the parliament conducts its business.
The First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price officially signed the cooperation agreement this morning, and the details of how it will work in practice as well as the code of conduct for Plaid Cymru Designated Members was published at the same time.
Jones said the legal advice was to look at “the status of Plaid Cymru” and whether they are a group in the Senedd, or whether they will play an executive role as part of the Welsh Government.
But she added that it is her “preliminary view” that that Plaid Cymru are “not a group with an executive role” under the terms of the agreement.
She has also asked the First Minister for more detail about the role of Designated Members, which she said “requires careful consideration”.
Specifically, she asked for “greater clarity” on “the number, remit and responsibilities of Designated Members” and for their “names and portfolios” to be published.
In a written statement on the matter, Elin Jones said: “Members will be aware that the First Minister and the leader of Plaid Cymru signed a Co-operation Agreement earlier today. Following the initial announcement last week I have been in correspondence with the First Minister and asked that the precise details of the operation of the Agreement be made public and Members will have seen that the mechanism and a code of conduct for Plaid Cymru Designated Members was published this morning.
“The Agreement makes arrangements that are novel and raise questions regarding the operation of Senedd Business. I have therefore taken legal advice on the impact of the Agreement on the status of Plaid Cymru as a group and in particular whether they are a group with an executive role.
“The definition of a group with an executive role is set out in Section 25(8) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (“GoWA”). It states: ‘For the purposes of this Act a political group is a political group with an executive role if the First Minister or one or more of the Welsh Ministers
appointed under section 48 belong to it.’
“As far as GoWA is concerned, therefore, the references to ‘executive role’ only apply to a party group that has entered government in the sense of having at least one member appointed as a Welsh Minister or as the First Minister.
“Under the terms of the Agreement, Plaid Cymru will not have any ministerial roles and so my preliminary view is that they are not a group with an executive role.
“The GoWA definition of ‘executive role’ also applies to the use of the term in the Senedd’s Standing Orders.”
‘Notwithstanding the legal position’
She added: “Notwithstanding the legal position, the details of the Agreement raise issues for the operation of Senedd business and our current conventions, which are based on the demarcation between government and non-government (or opposition) Members.
“In particular, the introduction of a new role of Designated Members requires careful consideration. I have asked the First Minister to clarify the number, remit and responsibilities of Designated Members and to publish the names and portfolios of those Members.
“Once there is greater clarity in this area I will consult the Business Committee and make a further statement on how the Agreement is likely to impact on the operation of plenary and committee meetings.
“Although the Agreement presents us with a new and novel arrangement for government as a Senedd we should nevertheless also consider the opportunities that it affords us as a developing democracy.
“My role as Llywydd is to ensure we uphold the principles of transparency and accountability and that the arrangement of Senedd business facilitates scrutiny of the government.
“It is, however, for the Senedd to determine its own ways of working and I welcome suggestions from all Members on how we might adapt our approach to non-government business as we see the Agreement operating in practice.”
The agreement includes action on free school meals for all, strengthening the Welsh media, the development of north-south railway links, the teaching of Welsh history, second homes, a larger Senedd and more.
The joint policy programme covering 46 areas was unveiled last Monday and given the seal of approval by Plaid Cymru’s conference on Saturday.
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