Archive for 3 October 2002

Conference was about health, education and Iraq

I’ve just returned from the Labour Party National Conference in Blackpool. I was only a visitor this year, but I had a great time going to Young Labour and Labour Student events. I didn’t get a chance to question Tony Blair at the Sky event; if I had I would have asked him what he sees the role of Parliament as in the age of devolution.

I went to many of the fringe meetings on devolution, most notably the Campaign for the English Regions. Tony Robinson was chairing it, and there were many interesting speakers presenting the case for devolving power down to the English regions. With Welsh devolution working so well, I think English devolution is the natural next step for bring decision-making of health and education closer to the people.

The main discussion at the conference floor was health and education. There is a lot of talk of the post-comprehensive era in England, which is not going down well with the delegates from Wales, where comprehensive education is progressing well.

The other big discussion here as you would expect is whether or not Britain should use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. I’m not sure where to stand on this issue. Saddam Hussein is torturing and killing many of his own people and something needs to be done to stop him, but I’m still not sure using force against another sovereign state is the answer.

At present, I think Ann Clwyd has the best idea. She is proposing a non-violent option of bringing indictments against leading members of the Saddam regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Limited Brief

To give the Assembly primary legislative powers would create an inefficient body disconnected from the people of Wales and would lead to a barrage of duplicate Westminster bills (The Western Mail, September 23).

If each region of the UK had its own parliament, in order to ban or allow fox hunting, 12 separately debated bills would have to go through the full legislative process, where a simple majority vote in the Assembly would do just fine.

The Assembly is currently accountable to Parliament, and it not able to pass any laws without them being independently scrutinised by MPs.

This acts as a safety net, making sure Welsh legislation goes through the same thorough and time-consuming process as Westminster bills.

For the same standards to be achieved in the Assembly, AMs would have to give up time currently spent helping their constituents and dealing directly with the public, further disengaging people from politics.

The Assembly has achieved so much in the past few years, education standards have improved, unemployment has decreased and the economy is more stable than ever.

The last thing Wales wants is Assembly Members wasting hours of time and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money pondering new laws that our MPs are more than capable of debating on our behalf in Westminster.

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