First Minister Questions: New Term, Old Arguments
The below a summary of this week’s First Minister Questions session from Cardiff Bay via our partnership with SeneddHome.com.
First Minister Questions takes place every Tuesday when the Assembly is sitting and can be watched live via Senedd.tv – and has returned this week!
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), criticised the Welsh Government’s slow pace of work on several key issues affecting Wales. It was acknowledged that issues around the Newport M4 need urgent solutions, yet there hasn’t been a single update since June 25th and the expected timetable for the commission’s report has been pushed back to spring 2020.
The First Minister appealed for patience:
“The Burns review has been working hard over the summer. It is working actively, it is recruiting the other members of the commission it will need. We will announce those names very shortly. It will hold its first public engagement event next month, and I expect that the next set of proposals from the review will be with us by the end of this calendar year, as we have
said all along.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)
Then there was the climate emergency; “no substantial proposals” have been forthcoming there either – but the irony wasn’t lost on the First Minister who said the Conservatives couldn’t complain that the Welsh Government wasn’t taking the climate emergency seriously when they’ve rejected the Newport bypass.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) asked what was the brightest outcome for Wales: Brexit or independence?
“As we saw over the summer, from Caernarfon to Merthyr, thousands are on the march in Wales, and on independence the tide is turning. And….you risk, First Minister, being overtaken by events as history is accelerating. It’s happened, of course, on more than one occasion against the backdrop of Brexit. Over the summer you still said in one of your first ministerial videos that you wanted to leave the European Union on the best of terms….Even your Health Minister says your party’s policy of being both leave and remain deserves ridicule. Do you?”
– Adam Price AM
The First Minister replied, “I understand the frustration and the anger that many people here in Wales feel at the current UK Government and at the way in which events since the referendum have unfolded. It’s no wonder, I think, that people feel let down. But I am clear in my mind that the answer to those feelings of frustration and anger is not independence.
“The answer that people ought to draw from the Brexit experience is that borders create divisions, they create divisions inside societies and between societies, that they damage economies and that they reduce protections. The power of the union, as people on this side of the Chamber understand, is a power that exists inside the union of the United Kingdom and inside the union of the European Union. ”
Pants on fire
Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) half-jokingly said that while a few weeks ago the First Minister accused Boris Johnson of lying, what did he make of Labour’s “We will deliver a relief road for the M4?”
The First Minister said he was growing tired of answering questions about the Newport bypass and he wasn’t going to take statements like that from a man who’s represented several parties under different manifestos in a single term, “I have it from a man who has stood on a number of manifestos for different parties and is so attached to the promises that he made that he was willing to betray them on the floor of the Assembly and to zig-zag across the floor here. So, I don’t need to hear questions from him on that sort of issue because his own history simply illustrates how hollow those questions are.”
When Mark Reckless turned attentions to various statements from the Welsh Government saying they respected the EU referendum result, but are now seeking some form of “in-in referendum”, the First Minister argued:
“….for two years and more, this Government argued for a form of leaving the EU that would have respected the result….but would have protected jobs and economies here in Wales. He attacked those proposals time after time after time, describing them as he has again today as leaving the EU in name
“….It became clear to us, particularly as a new leader of the Conservative Party was elected, that that possibility had simply evaporated – that no matter how hard we argued for it and no matter how cogent our position was, it was never going to make a difference to somebody who….wasn’t interested in the arguments.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford
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