MP cut sparks row over councillors debating national issues
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Concerns over the slashing of Welsh MPs has prompted a row over councillors passing resolutions on issues beyond their direct control.
A report presented to Anglesey’s full council had recommended that councillors welcome the Boundary Commission for Wales’ proposals which would see no change to the Ynys Môn Westminster seat.
The constituency was given protected status last year and will not be affected by plans to slash the overall number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32.
But Cllr Dafydd Roberts, having raised similar concerns during last week’s Democratic Services Committee meeting, stressed his unhappiness that Wales’ voice in London would be weakened as a result.
Attempts to pass a motion welcoming protection but condemning the overall cut failed to gain approval from council chair Glyn Haynes, however, despite appeals from members of the ruling Plaid Cymru/Independent coalition.
Monitoring officer, Lynn Ball, advised that allowing such a motion could “set a precedent” on discussions outside of the council’s usual remit, pointing to examples where other authorities had debated and passed motions relating to national or international issues.
Cllr Roberts, an independent who represents the Bro Rhosyr ward, said: “There are many issues that aren’t devolved so its important that Welsh MPs continue to wield influence.
“I’d like to amend the recommendation that we also back retaining 40 Welsh MPs.”
But Ms Ball said that the issue of scope was “one of discretion for the chair,” and that any decision taken would have implications in future.
She added: “If you extend the scope of the motion to something outside the jurisdiction of the council and outside a sufficient degree of connectivity to the work of the council, which this amendment may well be, then that will open the door to a far wider range of motions about things that are national and international.”
Cllr Aled Morris Jones, who sits with the Annibynnwyr Môn group, pointed to a previous attempted motion on the plight of the Palestinian people that Ms Ball deemed to be outside the council’s parameters.
In response she said: “It’s always been my advice that we should keep the remit or the scope of motions with a sufficient degree of connectivity to the council, to do otherwise would change the nature of meetings in my opinion.
“Agendas and meetings will be considerably longer if we broaden the scope too widely, but I’ll leave it to the chair’s discretion,” she concluded, adding that any change in attitude could be one for the Democratic Services Committee to consider.
But Cllr Meirion Jones believed that members should be permitted to discuss any issues directly affecting the island.
Cllr Dylan Rees added: “We hear complaints that Westminster is too London-centric and HS2 not benefiting Wales, but if you lessen our voice by reducing numbers, then Welsh MPs will have less influence which can adversely affect Ynys Mon.”
The proposal to follow the recommendation, responding favourably to the Boundary Commission’s proposals, was refused by seven votes to six with 13 abstentions – resulting in no official response.
Following the meeting, Cllr Aled Morris Jones said: “Due to the ruling group refusing to accept the advice of the monitoring officer and the ruling of the chairman, the authority now will not be able to submit its opinion to the commisson’s review.
“The fact that Ynys Môn is being retained is to be welcomed but shows the ruling group does not accept the rules of procedure and precedent when it does not suit, and shows a complete lack of leadership.”
But Cllr Dafydd Roberts said: “While I welcome Ynys Môn’s retention I felt it important that we expressed our dissatisfaction and showed solidarity with the rest of Wales.
“The monitoring officer felt that took us out of scope, but my view is that Wales losing 20% of its voice in Westminster is relevant.
“While we remain in the UK Wales should have 40 seats.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.