Opposition parties have criticised the Welsh Government for bringing forward legislation not related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives have been critical of the decision to bring forward the Local Government and Elections Bill at a time of “unprecedented emergency”.
Plaid Cymru said that it would vote against the bill as all the Senedd’s time and energy should be devoted to the covid-19 response.
The Conservatives have been critical of the bill’s enfranchisement of prisoners, saying that the Welsh Government was using the pandemic as a “smokescreen” to push through legislation on a controversial issue.
Today the Senedd will meet in Plenary using the video conferencing platform Zoom for the second time, with a maximum of 28 members participating.
Plaid Cymru’s local government spokesperson Delyth Jewell AM said it was “irresponsible” to be rushing through legislation at this time when communication was difficult and proper scrutiny is impossible.
“Under normal circumstances, we would have been supporting this bill today, and looking forward to strengthening it via amendments, and testing the government with some new ideas as well,” she said.
“But these are not normal circumstances and now is not the time to be discussing this Bill.
“All of us should be resolutely focused on helping the nation deal with the biggest health emergency in decades, and it’s our view that all the sitting time this week should have been devoted to scrutinising the Welsh Government’s covid-19 response.
“It is also Plaid Cymru’s view that if we can’t legislate properly because of the circumstances making proper scrutiny impossible, we shouldn’t be legislating at all. To do so would be irresponsible.”
The Welsh Conservatives said at the beginning of the month that they were “shocked” that the Welsh Government would “push through” legislation to change the local government election system.
“It’s a smokescreen, and frankly beyond belief that the Government in Wales is trying to push it through at this time,” Mark Isherwood, the Shadow Minister for Local Government, said at the time.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has, realistically, barely begun and there are many, many more pressing matters that must take priority over getting this Bill into law and giving votes to prisoners.
“The Welsh Labour administration must focus all of its attention on supporting NHS Wales, supporting our frontline health and care staff, supporting and keeping safe the people of Wales, and keeping businesses going during this pandemic.
“Nothing else supersedes this, and the people of Wales should remember that the Welsh Government here sees its vanity project to give votes to prisoners as a priority during the Coronavirus crisis.”