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New Welsh Bills Announced

Carwyn Jones has provided an update on the legislation that his government plans to bring forward in the next year. He outlined five Bills that included topics such as the NHS, Welsh Law, local government, wild animals in circuses, and a ban on smacking children.

His government currently has a working majority of one in the 60-member Assembly due to the 29 Labour AMs, and co-operation of the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams, and Plaid Cymru-turned-Independent AM and Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas. This means that for any of these Bills to fail, there would need to be unanimous opposition amongst Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives, and UKIP, and for one of the Government-supporting AMs to vote against the whip – a rare occurrence at the Assembly.

The Welsh Labour Government, whether in minority or majority, has been relatively successful in bringing forward legislation. Compromises are usually agreed with all opposition parties along the way, and the only time that a piece of legislation fell was on e-cigarettes, when a political row overshadowed the policy debates.

The NHS Bill will establish ‘a duty of quality and a duty of candour’ for health and social care in Wales. The bill will also establish a new independent body to represent citizens’ voice, and include proposals to require NHS Trust Boards to appoint a vice chair.

The Anti-Smacking Bill intends to outlaw physical chastisement of children in Wales. Whereas there may be some opposition to this Bill from the Conservatives, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, indicated her party’s support for the Bill. This should guarantee its safe passage through the Assembly.

The Local Government Bill is the latest in the Welsh Government’s attempts to reduce the number of Local Authorities in Wales from 22. The First Minister stated that they will attempt to allow Local Authorities to merge voluntarily but are committed to reducing the number either way. This Bill will also propose allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local elections, and will look at changing the voting system – possibly to proportional representation – for local council elections. Leanne Wood noted her support for the latter proposal, but not for the Bill in its entirety, as the opposition parties have yet to agree to merging councils.

There are a number of influential Leaders of Local Authorities in the Labour Party, so it will be interesting to see how they react to this Bill and its proposed voluntary mergers.

The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill proposes the ban of the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales. No opposition parties indicated their opposition to this Bill, and it is likely to be popular amongst Labour-supporting AMs. Its passage through the Assembly should therefore be guaranteed.

The Welsh Law bill is intended to improve the accessibility of Welsh Law and make provision about how Welsh legislation is to be interpreted. Little detail is known about this Bill yet, but it is likely to be a relatively technical Bill that introduces changes to the way new legislation is codified in Wales.

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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