Challenging the First Minister

Ann Jones outlines some of the issues up for discussion in the first scrutiny session of the First Minister for the fifth assembly.

The National Assembly for Wales committee established to scrutinise the First Minister will meet formally for the first time in the 5th Assembly on Friday 18 November.

We will question the First Minister on the Welsh Government’s programme for government, Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021, which was published in September.

In it the Welsh Government says:

‘Wales in the 21st century is diverse and complex and our programmes need to reflect that. We need to support people when they need it most, and equip services to respond to challenges, such as an ageing population, a changing climate, new technologies and globalisation.’

We will ask the First Minister about how the programme for government was developed and how the Government set its priorities in order to respond to these and other challenges.

The way policies and commitments are delivered is just as important as what they seek to achieve. When introducing the Government’s programme to the Assembly, the First Minister emphasised that it would be delivered on the basis of partnership:

‘I have been clear since being appointed First Minister that this Government will work differently from others. We want to work creatively with all partners across Wales to find solutions to the challenges that we acknowledge face us.’

We are interested in how the First Minister sees this working and the practical steps that the Welsh Government will be taking to make collaborative delivery of policy and public services a reality.

The First Minister is ultimately responsible for the success or otherwise of the programme for government and we will also be seeking to understand how he intends to monitor and evaluate its delivery.

Over the course of this Assembly, the Committee will be looking to understand how the Welsh Government is responding to the changing economic and political environment and how it will address the challenges Wales faces.

A major change has been made to the membership of the Committee in this Assembly. It now consists of the chairs of the 12 other committees and I will be chairing it in my role as the Assembly’s Deputy Presiding Officer.

This breadth of membership will mean Members bring a wide range of policy knowledge and expertise to the Committee, and will assist us in identifying the key matters on which to scrutinise the First Minister.

The Committee will meet three times each year. While the first meeting is taking place in the Senedd, I believe it is extremely important that this Committee helps to increase the visibility of the Assembly across Wales. As a result we have agreed to hold our next two meetings in West Wales in spring 2017 and North Wales next summer.

I am also keen to ensure that there are opportunities for the public and local communities to contribute to our meetings and we will be seeking to ensure that the topics we discuss are relevant to, and informed by, the areas the Committee visits.

The Committee has agreed to focus on one substantive topic at each meeting. These will either be within the First Minister’s specific portfolio of responsibilities, his leadership role, or his responsibility for overseeing the policies and actions of the Welsh Government.

In addition, we have agreed to devote time in each meeting to topical subjects.

Overall, I intend this Committee to contribute robust but constructive scrutiny of the First Minister’s role in overseeing the decisions or performance of the Welsh Government and public services in Wales.

Ann Jones AM is the Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales.

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