Sys­tem is not per­fect but it can now only im­prove

Bangor Mail - - NEWS -

THERE are those who claim that the Welsh Assem­bly is only a talk­ing shop, with lit­tle in­flu­ence on the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple.

In the early days of de­vo­lu­tion there was an el­e­ment of truth in this, as the Assem­bly had very limited pow­ers. But that is no longer the case.

A glance at last week’s agenda shows that dis­cus­sion does lead to ac­tion, and that de­ci­sions taken in Cardiff Bay can af­fect the lives of peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties in ev­ery cor­ner of Wales. Let’s take just three ex­am­ples.

The Vi­o­lence against Women Bill aims to re­duce all forms of such vi­o­lence and se­cure ac­cess to vic­tims ev­ery­where in Wales.

A ma­jor de­bat­ing point will re­volve around whether to in­clude a clause mak­ing it il­le­gal to beat chil­dren.

The Plan­ning Bill mak­ing its way through the Assem­bly aims to stream­line the sys­tem, but con­tains el­e­ments that I would dis­agree with.

The cre­ation of Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plans could see de­ci­sions on hous­ing and traf­fic taken on a North Wales level, tak­ing de­ci­sions fur­ther away from peo­ple.

On the other hand, I wel­come in­di­ca­tions that the Min­is­ter is pre­pared to make the ef­fect on the Welsh lan­guage a con­di­tion when con­sid­er­ing plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions.

This would be a vi­tal boost to the lan­guage in its heart­lands.

Changes in the sub­sidy sys­tem for farm­ers have caused a lot of con­tro­versy.

This fol­lows a gov­ern­ment decision to in­tro­duce a 400 me­tre al­ti­tude limit for hill farms.

A group of farm­ers have chal­lenged this in the High Court, and the is­sue is caus­ing a pe­riod of tur­moil and un­cer­tainty.

This is a prime ex­am­ple of how de­ci­sions take in Cardiff Bay has a di­rect in­flu­ence on peo­ple’s lives – for bet­ter or worse.

Agri­cul­ture also pro­vides an ex­am­ple of where the Assem­bly’s pow­ers are limited.

The cur­rent cri­sis af­fect­ing milk famers is not a de­volved is­sue and is still gov­erned by West­min­ster.

Our demo­cratic sys­tem is not per­fect, but it is our democ­racy, and can only im­prove sub­stan­tially when our Assem­bly has sim­i­lar pow­ers to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment.

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