Wales’s silent chamber

Gareth Hughes condemns the Senedd’s dereliction of duty on the day of action

Accordingly the Parliament resolved—

That the Parliament recognises and appreciates the valuable work done by Scotland’s public sector workers; notes the importance of pensions that are affordable, sustainable and fair and believes that long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership; registers its strong opposition to the UK Government’s decision to impose a general levy on pension contributions and considers this to be a cash grab for the purposes of deficit reduction rather than a move to secure the long-term sustainability of public sector pensions; regrets the fact that UK ministers appear to be relishing the prospect of strike action, which will cause major disruption and inconvenience to ordinary members of the public across Scotland; condemns the UK Government’s:

– threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK;

– immediate levy on pensions contributions, and calls on the UK Government to reverse its short-term pensions cash grab.”

The Scottish Parliament carried this motion on Thursday, with 63 votes for and 18 votes against. It was a motion that those that were on strike on Thursday would fully approve of. Many Welsh public sector workers would surely have welcomed such a motion being passed by the National Assembly.

There was a debate about the strike in the House of Commons and it featured in the exchanges between Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Members of Parliament had many different and varied views on the day of action, but they were in the Chamber debating the issues. And in Wales? Nothing, not a word. Our democratic institution was silent. Why? Because it had decided to close for the day.

With about 30 per cent of the Welsh workforce employed in the public sector its importance to the Welsh economy cannot be underestimated. Surely on Thursday, of all days, the Senedd should have been open for business.

The Assembly should have been debating the issues facing the public sector. The previous day George Osborne had upped the ante on job cuts to the sector from the 400,000 previously expected to 710,000 as a result of the new spending cuts announced. Many of these lost jobs will be in Wales.

Such announcements normally would have seen an Assembly Member asking for leave to place an emergency question to a Minister, but not on Thursday. Silence was the order of the day.

The whole institution had given up its democratic mandate for gesture politics. Better to be seen on a picket line for a photo opportunity than doing the job they were elected to perform.

The question has to be asked: how come that the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Westminster Parliament could meet but not Wales’s democratic institution? Yet, again our politicians have shot themselves in the foot. The National Assembly may be a relatively young political institution but it doesn’t give a licence to it’s members to act in an immature way. The message to them all – grow up.

Gareth Hughes is an independent political commentator. He blogs here.

2 thoughts on “Wales’s silent chamber

  1. As someone facing a huge pay cut due to pension changes (on top of pay freezes and severe service cuts) and as a trade union steward representing members who will have to drop out of their pension, if changes come through – it didn’t come over to me as immature. Sometimes, making such statments means a lot to the people who deliver services that the Senedd directs and pays for.

    Journalists are always telling us not to compare Wales with Scotland or Northern Ireland, so why choose to do so now?

  2. Totally agree- and it creates precedent. What would happen if there was a strike for a number of days? Would democracy in Wales just shut down?

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy