System is not perfect but it can now only improve
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.