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Melding: Labour stifles scrutiny in the Welsh Assembly

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I have observed three things in this rather sad spectacle over the last 20 minutes. First, a review does not have to review anything. It can just review your earlier commitment to have the review.

If the review is such that you believe that the conclusions would be adverse, then you can withdraw your commitment to have a review but still have declared that you have reviewed it in the first place, in that you asked yourselves whether you needed the review.

Then, the Labour Party gave one of its stalwarts, Ann Jones—a person that I deeply respect—the task of convincing us that meeting every three weeks is more than meeting every two weeks. Let us just hope that Ann is never made Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, because we will have to redefine all the mathematics text books.

However, the most chilling remark was made by Peter Law, whose contribution was not up to his usual witty or amusing standard.

There was something deeply disturbing about his remark, made in an intervention on another Member, that we should stop criticising the Business Minister because she is there to defend the Labour Party's business. Is that not what we have had this afternoon?

Labour Members have behaved like rather vindictive members of a political party. They have behaved like members of the Labour Party instead of members of the governing party.

There is a difference between the two because, if you are in the governing party, you have wider interests, the first of which is the public interest, and not the Labour Party's interest.

It may be a fiction that parties that eventually get to elected office start to decay after a while and lose public trust.

In not promoting the public interest, you have done great violence to the institution of the National Assembly. I ask you to review yourselves and the absurdity of saying that the scrutiny role is fine just because Labour Party Members are happy with it. I remind you that, as supporters of the governing party, you are already supporting the Government, which controls nearly all the business that comes before Plenary.

The principal means of holding you to account and of scrutinising you is through the work of the committees. If the committees do not perform their scrutiny role effectively, then the Government can go unchecked, which works against you eventually as policies remain untested and you overextend yourselves. That, eventually, will bring rewards for the opposition parties in future elections.

However, to tell us that we should be satisfied with scrutiny in its current form, and should not presume to say any different because to do so would mean being nasty to the Labour Party—not holding the Government to account, but being nasty to the Labour Party—is a constitutional absurdity that you ought to repent.

The Richard commission report contains a table that shows that the Scottish Parliament sat for half as much time again as we did. Its members hold a Government to account, and that is our only task.

We cannot do that via the legislative process because it is not open to us. Are you seriously telling me that the fact that we do one third less work somehow means that we are a more distinguished institution? We do far less work than Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, when it is sitting, and other comparative institutions across Europe.

I find it chilling for a member of the governing party to tell the opposition that our scrutiny is not very good and that we need a bit more time to read. We have never said that.

Also, it was disgraceful how some of your Members tried to hide behind the fear of the secretariat being overworked, and that it was its staff who wanted a three-week cycle.

There may be resource implications, and the secretariat may need more support, but you produced these arguments in such a slimy and unpleasant way. What you did 18 months ago was to overturn the custom and practice of holding committee meetings on a fortnightly cycle.

All negotiations should start from the point when you restore the fortnightly cycle. Our group will discuss anything, including the size of committees from that point."

"Dros yr 20 munud diwethaf, yr wyf wedi sylwi ar dri pheth yn y sefyllfa eithaf trist hon. Yn gyntaf, nid oes raid i adolygiad adolygu unrhyw beth. Gall adolygu eich ymrwymiad cynharach i gael yr adolygiad.

Os ydych yn credu y byddai'r casgliadau yn rhai anffafriol, yna gallwch dynnu eich ymrwymiad i gael adolygiad yn ôl ond gallwch ddatgan o hyd eich bod wedi ei adolygu yn y lle cyntaf, yn yr ystyr eich bod wedi gofyn i chi eich hun a oedd angen yr adolygiad arnoch.

Yna, gosododd y Blaid Lafur dasg i un o'i haelodau pybyr, Ann Jones—person a barchaf yn fawr iawn—i'n hargyhoeddi bod cyfarfod bob tair wythnos yn fwy na chyfarfod bob pythefnos. Gadewch inni obeithio na fydd Ann byth yn Weinidog dros Addysg a Dysgu Gydol Oes, oherwydd bydd yn rhaid inni ailddiffinio'r holl lyfrau mathemateg.

Fodd bynnag, gwnaed y sylw mwyaf brawychus gan Peter Law, nad oedd ei gyfraniad mor ffraeth neu ddifyr â'i safon arferol. Yr oedd rhywbeth am ei sylw a oedd yn peri pryder mawr, sylw a wnaed pan wnaeth ymyriad ar Aelod arall, yn dweud y dylem roi'r gorau i feirniadu'r Trefnydd gan mai ei gwaith hi yw amddiffyn busnes y Blaid Lafur. Onid dyna'r hyn a gawsom y prynhawn yma?

Mae Aelodau Llafur wedi ymddwyn fel aelodau eithaf mileinig o blaid wleidyddol. Maent wedi ymddwyn fel aelodau o'r Blaid Lafur yn hytrach nag aelodau o'r blaid sydd mewn grym. Mae gwahaniaeth rhwng y ddau oherwydd, os ydych yn y blaid sydd mewn grym, mae gennych fuddiannau ehangach, a'r cyntaf yw budd y cyhoedd, ac nid budd y Blaid Lafur.

Efallai nad yw'n wir bod pleidiau sy'n cael eu hethol yn y pen draw yn dechrau dirywio ar ôl ychydig ac yn colli hyder y cyhoedd. Wrth beidio â hyrwyddo budd y cyhoedd, yr ydych wedi gwneud drwg mawr i sefydliad y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol. Gofynnaf ichi adolygu eich hunain a'ch diffyg synnwyr wrth ddweud bod y rôl graffu yn iawn am fod Aelodau'r Blaid Lafur yn fodlon arni.

Hoffwn eich atgoffa eich bod chi, fel cefnogwyr y blaid sydd mewn grym, eisoes yn cefnogi'r Llywodraeth, sy'n rheoli bron yr holl fusnes a ddaw gerbron Cyfarfodydd Llawn.

Y brif ffordd o'ch dwyn i gyfrif a chraffu ar eich penderfyniadau yw drwy waith y pwyllgorau. Os nad yw'r pwyllgorau yn cyflawni eu rôl graffu yn effeithiol, yna gall y Llywodraeth barhau yn ddirwystr, sy'n gweithio yn eich erbyn yn y pen draw gan fod polisïau yn parhau heb eu profi ac yr ydych yn gorymestyn.

Bydd hynny, yn y pen draw, yn gwobrwyo'r gwrthbleidiau mewn etholiadau i ddod. Fodd bynnag, mae dweud wrthym y dylem fod yn fodlon ar y broses graffu ar ei ffurf bresennol, ac na ddylem feiddio dweud yn wahanol oherwydd byddai gwneud hynny yn golygu bod yn gas i'r Blaid Lafur—nid dwyn y Llywodraeth i gyfrif, ond bod yn gas i'r Blaid Lafur—yn nonsens cyfansoddiadol a ddylai fod yn edifar gennych.

Mae adroddiad comisiwn Richard yn cynnwys tabl sy'n dangos i Senedd yr Alban eistedd am hanner cymaint o amser eto ag y gwnaethom ni. Mae ei haelodau yn dal Llywodraeth i gyfrif, a dyna'n hunig dasg ni. Ni allwn wneud hynny drwy'r broses ddeddfwriaethol am nad yw'n agored inni.

A ydych o ddifrif yn dweud wrthyf bod y ffaith ein bod yn gwneud un rhan o dair yn llai o waith yn golygu rhywsut ein bod yn sefydliad mwy nodedig?

Gwawn lawer iawn llai o waith na'r Senedd, Cynulliad Gogledd Iwerddon, pan fo'n eistedd, a sefydliadau cymharol eraill ledled Ewrop. Mae'n frawychus bod Aelod o'r blaid sydd mewn grym yn dweud wrth y gwrthbleidiau nad yw ein proses graffu yn dda iawn a bod angen ychydig mwy o amser arnom i ddarllen. Nid ydym erioed wedi dweud hynny.

Hefyd, yr oedd yn warthus bod rhai o'ch Aelodau wedi ceisio cuddio y tu ôl i'r ofn bod yr ysgrifenyddiaeth yn cael ei gorweithio, ac mai ei staff oedd yn galw am gylch tair wythnos. Efallai fod goblygiadau o ran adnoddau, ac efallai fod angen mwy o gymorth ar yr ysgrifenyddiaeth, ond cyflwynwyd y dadleuon hyn gennych mewn ffordd mor sebonllyd ac amhleserus. Yr hyn a wnaethoch 18 mis yn ôl oedd troi'r arfer o gynnal cyfarfodydd pwyllgor bob pythefnos ar ei ben.

Dylai'r holl negodi ddechrau o pryd yr adferwch y cylch pythefnosol. Bydd ein grwp yn fodlon trafod unrhyw beth, gan gynnwys maint pwyllgorau, bryd hynny."

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