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Melding: Easier access to public information in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I welcome the code—it is an advance on the earlier code, and it would be churlish not to welcome it. However, as several Members commented, the procedures that are used in the Assembly can spike the use of effective information.

Many of us feel bitter about what the Labour Party has done in Government by way of stymieing the level of scrutiny that is required, particularly when there is a Government that is composed of just one political party.

However, we live in a climate in which it is assumed that we have a right to information, unless there are grave grounds for that information to be withheld, or it is in the public interest to do so. That is an advance on the previous culture, which was secretive. I welcome that, and I acknowledge that much of that progress has been made under Labour Governments here and in Westminster, and that it is a good thing. However, we must ensure that it becomes effective in the way in which we are governed and in how we scrutinise Government.

One point that has not been raised is that the best thing that we could do to make this code an active and lively code is to improve our website. It is nigh on impossible for some people outside to get to information. It is one thing for the information to be available, but to be able to find it is another thing altogether. I will steal an excellent quotation from Jenny Randerson here—I hope that I will not get into trouble for this.

She said that it is one thing to be told that the book is in the library, but unless you are given some assistance and a reference, that is not helpful. That is a good illustration of the difficulties that people have in trying to navigate our website.

I return to the issue of a national archive. The principal documents of government should reside in Wales. It is a great shame that the First Minister has refused to seriously consider this issue. There is a question of cost, which he is hiding behind at the moment, in his rather dismissive way.

I was approached by an academic following the First Minister's response to a supplementary question that I put to him yesterday about the need for an archive located in Wales. If I were to quote what this academic said to me about the veracity of the First Minister's response, I would get into the most dreadful trouble with you, Presiding Officer. Therefore, I will not go down that road.

Suffice it to say that it was a very positive and vigorous refutation of the First Minister's claim that all information is now digitalised and available at the touch of a button. The person in question said that that was a crass and misleading analysis—I do not know whether that is true. However, the vast majority of documents that we have at the moment would take decades to digitalise, and that is to forget the archive that currently exists.

It is strange that anyone would not support a national archive, when we are trying to improve the status of Wales economically and trying to emphasise the role of devolution in national life. As we all know, many people, from all over the world, request information from us.

However, if they visit and want to do some research on Welsh devolution, they must go to Kew—the London Welsh would probably give them a warm welcome, but we would give them an even warmer welcome in Aberystwyth, or somewhere else appropriate. I am disappointed with the First Minister, frankly, for his lack of imagination and his dull response on this issue.

On scrutiny, the code, in describing what the principles mean in practice, helpfully states that: 'We will publish the facts and factual analyses behind policy proposals and Ministerial decisions, unless they are exempt under this Code.'

I accept that. It goes on to state that 'This will normally be when the policies and decisions are announced.'

That is helpful. However, during this term, I have tried to get a definition of a disabled person. This Government has a policy to make homecare free for disabled people. That is an expansive policy. There is an existing definition of a disabled person in British law, and I have been unable to find out whether the current legal advice is that it is this definition that stands.

The Minister for Health and Social Services amplified this decision in an announcement without giving us the definition of a disabled person. How can we scrutinise governmental decisions if we do not have something as basic as a definition of the group that will benefit from it?

A restricted definition could render such a policy practically null and void by making it very narrow in its application, or it could be a dramatic advance that the people of Wales—and certainly disabled people as defined under the current definition—should know about.

The Government must go away and think hard about this matter because, to its credit, it is taking on a code that has wide ramifications. However, governments are odd beasts whoever controls them, and executives, like princes in the past, play some strange games. I hope that you will respect the role of the public and of opposition Members in scrutinising your actions."

"Croesawaf y cod—mae'n welliant ar y cod cynharach, a byddwn yn anfoesgar pe na bawn yn ei groesawu. Fodd bynnag, fel y soniodd sawl Aelod, gall y gweithdrefnau a ddefnyddir yn y Cynulliad atal y defnydd o wybodaeth effeithiol. Teimla llawer ohonom yn chwerw ynglyn â'r hyn y mae'r Blaid Lafur wedi ei wneud fel y Llywodraeth o ran rhwystro lefel y craffu sydd ei hangen, yn arbennig pan fo'r Llywodraeth yn cynnwys un blaid wleidyddol yn unig.

Fodd bynnag, yr ydym yn byw mewn hinsawdd lle y tybir bod gennym hawl i gael gwybodaeth, oni fydd rhesymau difrifol dros atal y wybodaeth honno, neu ei bod er budd y cyhoedd i'w hatal. Mae hynny'n welliant ar y diwylliant blaenorol, a oedd yn gyfrinachol ei natur. Croesawaf hynny, a chydnabyddaf i lawer o'r cynnydd hwnnw gael ei wneud o dan Lywodraethau Llafur yma ac yn San Steffan, ac mae hynny'n beth da. Fodd bynnag, rhaid inni sicrhau y daw'n effeithiol yn y ffordd y cawn ein llywodraethu a'r ffordd yr ydym yn craffu ar waith y Llywodraeth.

Un pwynt na chafodd ei godi yw mai'r peth gorau y gallem ei wneud i sicrhau bod y cod hwn yn un gweithredol a bywiog yw gwella ein gwefan. Mae bron yn amhosibl i rai pobl o'r tu allan i gael gwybodaeth. Mae'n iawn i'r wybodaeth fod ar gael, ond mae dod o hyd iddi yn fater arall. Defnyddiaf ddyfyniad gwych gan Jenny Randerson yma—gobeithiaf nad af i drafferth o ganlyniad i hyn. Dywedodd ei bod yn iawn cael gwybod bod y llyfr yn y llyfrgell ond oni bai eich bod yn cael rhywfaint o gymorth ynghyd â chyfeirnod, nid yw hynny'n ddefnyddiol. Mae hynny'n enghraifft dda o'r anawsterau a gaiff pobl wrth geisio dod o hyd i bethau ar ein gwefan.

Dychwelaf at y pwynt ynglyn â chael archif genedlaethol. Dylai prif ddogfennau llywodraeth aros yng Nghymru. Mae'n drueni mawr bod y Prif Weinidog wedi gwrthod ystyried y mater hwn o ddifrif. Mae mater o gost, y mae'n cuddio y tu ôl iddo ar hyn o bryd, yn ei ffordd ddiystyriol braidd. Cysylltodd academydd â fi yn dilyn ymateb y Prif Weinidog i gwestiwn atodol a ofynnais iddo ddoe ynglyn â'r angen i gael archif yma yng Nghymru. Pe bawn yn dyfynnu'r hyn a ddywedodd yr academydd wrthyf ynglyn â chywirdeb ymateb y Prif Weinidog, byddwn yn mynd i drafferth ofnadwy gyda chi, Lywydd.

Felly, nid af ar hyd y trywydd hwnnw. Digon yw dweud iddo fod yn wrthbrawf cadarnhaol a llym iawn o honiad y Prif Weinidog bod yr holl wybodaeth wedi ei digidoli bellach a'i bod ar gael yn hawdd. Dywedodd y person dan sylw wrthyf fod hynny'n ddadansoddiad anneallus a chamarweiniol—ni wn a oedd hynny'n wir ai peidio. Fodd bynnag, byddai'r mwyafrif helaeth o'r dogfennau sydd gennym ar hyn o bryd yn cymryd degawdau i'w digidoli, heb sôn am yr archif bresennol.

Mae'n rhyfedd y byddai unrhyw un yn peidio â chefnogi archif genedlaethol, pan ydym yn ceisio gwella statws Cymru yn economaidd ac yn ceisio pwysleisio rôl datganoli yn ei bywyd cenedlaethol. Fel y gwyr pob un ohonom, mae llawer o bobl, ledled y byd, yn gofyn inni am wybodaeth. Fodd bynnag, os ydynt yn ymweld â ni ac am wneud rhywfaint o ymchwil ar ddatganoli yng Nghymru, rhaid iddynt fynd i Kew—byddai Cymry Llundain yn rhoi croeso cynnes iddynt mae'n siwr, ond byddem ni yn rhoi croeso hyd yn oed yn gynhesach iddynt yn Aberystwyth, neu yn rhywle arall sy'n briodol. Yr wyf yn siomedig gyda'r Prif Weinidog, a dweud y gwir, am ei ddiffyg dychymyg a'i ymateb difflach ar y mater hwn.

O ran craffu, noda'r cod yn ddefnyddiol, wrth ddisgrifio ystyr yr egwyddorion yn ymarferol: 'Byddwn yn cyhoeddi'r ffeithiau a'r dadansoddiadau ffeithiol sydd y tu ôl i gynigion polisi a phenderfyniadau'r Gweinidogion, oni bad bod y Cod hwn wedi eu heithrio.'

Derbyniaf hynny. Â yn ei flaen i ddweud: 'Fel arfer, bydd hyn yn digwydd pan gyhoeddir y polisïau a'r penderfyniadau.'

Mae hynny'n ddefnyddiol. Fodd bynnag, yn ystod y tymor hwn, ceisiais gael diffiniad o berson anabl. Mae gan y Llywodraeth bolisi o roi gofal cartref am ddim i bobl anabl. Mae hynny'n bolisi eang. Mae diffiniad o berson anabl i'w gael yng nghyfraith Prydain, ac nid wyf wedi llwyddo i ganfod ai'r cyngor cyfreithiol presennol yw mai'r diffiniad hwn sydd mewn grym.

Ymhelaethodd y Gweinidog dros Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol ar y penderfyniad hwn mewn cyhoeddiad heb roi'r diffiniad o berson anabl inni. Sut y gallwn graffu ar benderfyniadau'r Llywodraeth os nad oes gennym beth mor sylfaenol â diffiniad o'r grwp a fydd yn elwa arno? Gallai diffiniad cyfyngedig wneud polisi o'r fath bron yn ddi-rym drwy ei wneud yn gul iawn o ran y modd y caiff ei gymhwyso, neu gallai fod yn ddatblygiad mawr y dylai pobl Cymru—ac yn sicr pobl anabl fel y'u diffinnir o dan y diffiniad presennol—wybod amdano.

Rhaid i'r Llywodraeth drafod y mater hwn yn drwyadl oherwydd, er clod iddi, mae'n ymgymryd â chod ac iddo ganlyniadau eang. Fodd bynnag, mae llywodraethau yn greaduriaid rhyfedd waeth pwy sy'n eu rheoli, ac mae gweithrediaethau, fel tywysogion gynt, yn chwarae gemau rhyfedd. Gobeithiaf y byddwch yn parchu rôl y cyhoedd ac Aelodau'r gwrthbleidiau wrth graffu ar eich gweithredoedd."

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