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Bourne: Eight months of Government stagnation ahead

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"An awful lot of that contribution seemed to relate, as Glyn Davies has already indicated, to the Labour Party manifesto for the next Assembly election and to an attempt at a justification for what has happened over the last seven to eight years, rather than looking at the forward work programme; I will try to concentrate on that.

The First Minister started off in a disarming way by congratulating the opposition parties for ensuring that this debate takes place. I thank him for that. I will try not to be totally disarmed in responding.

Naturally, we welcome some of the debates in the forward work programme; it would be unusual if we did not. For example, the debates on road safety and safeguarding vulnerable children are worthwhile and we are glad to see these and some others. There is no doubt that there are many worthwhile issues in the forward work programme.

However, with debating time in the Chamber precious, it is regrettable and frustrating that the Government has sought to fill the forward work programme with predominantly non-contentious issues that are likely to result in a predictable consensus. It is things like this that get the Assembly into the disrepute in which it is held by many people.

We are seen as too much of a talking shop. There are many issues where we can genuinely engage, where there are differences of opinion and where we can avoid some of the stagnation that I am afraid will result from some of the forward work programme that has been put in front of us.

The First Minister complained about the number of amendments from the opposition parties—I think that only two opposition parties have tabled amendments to this debate, so it is ironic to hear him complain about Plaid Cymru's amendments. There are none for this particular debate.

However, there would be fewer amendments if the timetable was more acceptable. The amendments are separated because there are different issues and people may feel that they can support some but not others. That is the reason that we have so many amendments. Let us deal with that straight away.

I am afraid that we have a tired Government, which, after about seven years and a string of broken promises—and even the First Minister referred to one of them, but there are many others; waiting lists are, perhaps, predominant among them—is unsurprisingly not going for eight months of intense activity.

We have the prospect of seven or eight months of stagnation before the Assembly elections in May next year. From reading the programme, you could be forgiven for wondering if Labour Assembly Members really want to talk about some of the issues that are vitally important: the hospital reconfiguration, on which we are asking for a debate; council tax rises, which have affected so many communities; the withdrawal of Tir Mynydd payments from farmers; the need to debate the Welsh language.

I am sure that it will be said that the opposition parties have debates for these issues at their disposal and, of course, we will use those for things that you would rather keep off the agenda, but it would be refreshing, on occasion, if the Assembly Government would grasp the nettle and put some of these issues on the agenda; we would give you credit for that.

There are nine committee debates scheduled, which means that the Government can avoid scrutiny on many of these key issues by putting these down for debate rather than some of the things that really matter to people the length and breadth of Wales. We know that they matter to people from going around and speaking to constituents and people up and down Wales.

Since the First Minister mentioned some of the highlights—at least he tried to project them as highlights—of the Labour Party's achievements over eight years, let me remind him that on some of the issues that he touched upon, such as top-up fees, it was the opposition parties which ensured that top-up fees would not affect Welsh students at Welsh universities.

That was absolutely nothing to do with the Government; it had to be dragged kicking and screaming. It was a vote upon which it was defeated, as the Record will demonstrate.

We recall some of the improvements to the budget as a result of action by the opposition parties. We recall the vote on walk-in health centres, which Labour ultimately supported, but which went against what they had said previously. These are things that have become Assembly policy as a result of concerted action by the opposition parties not by the Government.

Therefore, let us have a bit more activity in these last few months. It will raise the profile of the Assembly, it will make people more likely to vote, and it will mean that people will see that we are engaging on the issues that matter to people up and down Wales.

That would be the prize that we would have if there was a genuinely exciting, dynamic programme for Government. However, I am afraid that that does not exist here.

As we go into the last few months before the Assembly elections, we know that we have tired leaders at Westminster and Cardiff. We do not hear much these days about the dynamic partnership between Blair in London and Morgan in Wales; I wonder why.

So, bring on the election that the First Minister was hinting at—he offered sneak previews of the manifesto—but, in the meantime, let us have a more exciting, dynamic timetable for what remains of this Assembly term."

"Yr oedd a wnelo rhan helaeth o'r cyfraniad hwnnw, fel y nododd Glyn Davies eisoes, â maniffesto'r Blaid Lafur ar gyfer etholiad nesaf y Cynulliad ac ag ymgais i gyfiawnhau'r hyn a ddigwyddodd yn ystod y saith neu wyth mlynedd diwethaf, yn hytrach nag ystyried y blaenraglen waith; ceisiaf ganolbwyntio ar honno.

Dechreuodd y Prif Weinidog mewn ffordd ddengar drwy longyfarch y gwrthbleidiau am sicrhau bod y ddadl hon yn mynd rhagddi. Diolchaf iddo am hynny. Byddaf yn ceisio peidio â chael fy swyno'n llwyr wrth ymateb.

Yn naturiol, croesawn rai o'r dadleuon yn y flaenraglen waith; byddai'n anarferol pe na fyddem. Er enghraifft, mae'r dadleuon ar ddiogelwch ar y ffyrdd a diogelu plant diamddiffyn yn werthfawr ac yr ydym yn falch o weld y rhain a rhai eraill. Nid oes amheuaeth bod llawer o faterion gwerthfawr yn y flaenraglen waith.

Fodd bynnag, gan fod amser trafod yn y Siambr yn brin, mae'n anffodus ac yn rhwystredig bod y Llywodraeth wedi ceisio llenwi'r flaenraglen waith â materion annadleuol yn bennaf sy'n debygol o arwain at gonsensws rhagweladwy. Pethau fel hyn sy'n rhoi enw drwg i'r Cynulliad, a ategir gan lawer o bobl. Fe'n hystyrir ormod fel siop siarad.

Mae llawer o faterion lle y gallwn ymgysylltu'n wirioneddol, lle bo gwahaniaeth barn a lle y gallwn osgoi rhywfaint o'r marweidd-dra a fydd yn deillio, yn fy marn i, o rannau o'r flaenraglen waith a gyflwynwyd ger ein bron.

Cwynodd y Prif Weinidog am nifer y gwelliannau gan y gwrthbleidiau—credaf mai dim ond dwy wrthblaid sydd wedi cyflwyno gwelliannau i'r ddadl hon, felly mae'n eironig ei glywed yn cwyno am welliannau Plaid Cymru.

Nid oes unrhyw rai ar gyfer y ddadl benodol hon. Fodd bynnag, byddai llai o welliannau pe bai'r amserlen yn fwy derbyniol. Mae'r gwelliannau ar wahân oherwydd bod materion gwahanol a gallai pobl deimlo y gallant gefnogi rhai ond nid rhai eraill. Dyna'r rheswm bod gennym gymaint o welliannau. Gadewch i ni ymdrin â hynny ar unwaith.

Yn anffodus, mae gennym Lywodraeth flinedig, nad ydyw, ar ôl tua saith mlynedd a llu o addewidion nas gwireddwyd—a chyfeiriodd y Prif Weinidog hyd yn oed at un ohonynt, ond mae llawer o rai eraill; mae rhestrau aros, efallai, yn amlwg yn eu plith—yn bwriadu gweithredu'n ddwys am wyth mis, ac nid yw hyn yn syndod. Yr ydym yn wynebu'r posibilrwydd o saith neu wyth mis o farweidd-dra cyn etholiadau'r Cynulliad fis Mai nesaf.

O ddarllen y rhaglen, gellid maddau i chi am feddwl a yw Aelodau Llafur y Cynulliad am drafod rhai o'r materion sy'n hollbwysig, mewn gwirionedd: ailgyflunio ysbytai, sef mater yr ydym yn gofyn am i ddadl gael ei chynnal yn ei gylch; cynnydd mewn treth gyngor, sydd wedi effeithio ar gymaint o gymunedau; diddymu taliadau Tir Mynydd i ffermwyr; yr angen i drafod yr iaith Gymraeg.

Yr wyf yn siwr yr honnir bod gan y gwrthbleidiau ddadleuon am y materion hyn at eu defnydd ac, wrth gwrs, byddwn yn defnyddio'r rheini ar gyfer pethau y byddai'n well gennych beidio â'u cynnwys ar yr agenda, ond byddai'n braf, ar adegau, pe byddai Llywodraeth y Cynulliad yn mentro ac yn cynnwys rhai o'r materion hyn ar yr agenda; byddem yn eich canmol am hynny.

Mae naw dadl pwyllgor wedi eu trefnu, sy'n golygu y gall y Llywodraeth osgoi craffu o safbwynt llawer o'r materion allweddol drwy gynnal dadleuon arnynt yn hytrach na rhai o'r pethau sy'n wirioneddol bwysig i bobl ar hyd a lled Cymru. Gwyddom eu bod yn bwysig i bobl yn sgîl mynd o amgylch a siarad ag etholwyr a phobl ledled Cymru.

Gan fod y Prif Weinidog wedi sôn am rai o uchafbwyntiau—o leiaf ceisiodd eu cyfleu fel uchafbwyntiau—cyflawniadau'r Blaid Lafur dros wyth mlynedd, gadewch imi ei atgoffa o ran rhai o'r materion y soniodd amdanynt, megis ffioedd atodol, mai'r gwrthbleidiau a sicrhaodd na fyddai ffioedd atodol yn effeithio ar fyfyrwyr o Gymru mewn prifysgolion yng Nghymru.

Nid oedd a wnelo hynny ddim â'r Llywodraeth; yr oedd yn rhaid ei gorfodi i gytuno. Aeth hyn i bleidlais lle y cafodd ei threchi, fel y bydd y Cofnod yn ei ddangos.

Cofiwn rai o'r gwelliannau i'r gyllideb o ganlyniad i gamau gweithredu gan y gwrthbleidiau. Cofiwn y bleidlais ar ganolfannau iechyd galw i mewn, a gefnogwyd yn y pen draw gan Lafur, ond a aeth yn groes i'r hyn a ddywedodd yn flaenorol. Mae'r rhain yn bethau sydd wedi dod yn rhan o bolisi'r Cynulliad o ganlyniad i gamau gweithredu cydunol gan y gwrthbleidiau nid gan y Llywodraeth.

Felly, gadewch i ni gael ychydig mwy o weithgarwch yn ystod yr ychydig fisoedd olaf hyn. Bydd yn codi proffil y Cynulliad, bydd yn gwneud pobl yn fwy tebygol o bleidleisio, a bydd yn golygu y bydd pobl yn gweld ein bod yn ymgysylltu ar y materion sy'n bwysig i bobl ar hyd a lled Cymru.

Dyna fyddai'r wobr y byddem yn ei chael pe bai rhaglen gwirioneddol ddeinamig a chyffrous ar gael gan y Llywodraeth. Fodd bynnag, nid yw hynny'n bodoli yma, yn anffodus.

Wrth inni agosáu at yr ychydig fisoedd olaf cyn etholiadau'r Cynulliad, gwyddom fod gennym arweinwyr blinedig yn San Steffan a Chaerdydd. Ni chlywn lawer y dyddiau hyn am y bartneriaeth ddeinamig rhwng Blair yn Llundain a Morgan yng Nghymru; tybed pam.

Felly, croesawaf yr etholiad yr oedd y Prif Weinidog yn ei awgrymu—cynigiodd gip ymlaen llaw o'r maniffesto—ond, yn y cyfamser, gadewch inni gael amserlen fwy cyffrous a deinamig ar gyfer yr hyn sy'n weddill o dymor y Cynulliad hwn."

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