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Posts Tagged ‘Bethan Jenkins AM’

If you hand’t realised that there’s just a month to go until the referendum on strengthening the Assembly’s powers, then by the end of today you will.

On March 3rd we will all be asked,

Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?

On our ballot papers we will be told that if we vote YES,

The Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament’s agreement.

And if we vote NO that,

What happens at the moment will continue.

So that’s the choice. Over the next four weeks then campaigners on both sides will try to persuade us to vote one way or the other.

There won’t be an official NO campaign, nor will there be an official YES campaign, because the main NO campaign group, True Wales decided not to apply for that official status and the rules meant there could only be two official groups or none.

Lack of official status won’t stop True Wales trying to get you to agree with them though.

Neither will it prevent the main YES campaign group, Yes For Wales, which has the support of all four political parties in the Assembly and a massive amount of backing from high-profile individuals, charities and other organisations.

At ITV Wales, we’ll do our best to let you know over the next four weeks what the arguments are and what both sides are saying.

Starting this evening at 6pm on Wales Tonight.  We’ll be live from the Senedd in Cardiff Bay with a special report and guests from both sides of the debate.

Then at 1035pm join me for Sharp End where we’ll discuss it further.

We’ll also be looking at efforts to end child poverty and asking if they’re ambitious but realistic or hopelessly optimistic in an interview with the  minister responsible, Labour’s Huw Lewis.

Last week we spoke to the Education Minister Leighton Andrews about the problems facing our schools. This week he’s launched a major shake-up of our education system. I wonder what my guests think.

They are Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins, the former Conservative minister, Rod Richards and the Western Mail’s Chief Reporter Martin Shipton.

Join us all for Sharp End at 1035pm ITV1 Wales.

 

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I gather negotiations are taking place tonight to try to head off a potential embarrassing disagreement in the Assembly chamber for Plaid Cymru tomorrow as one of the party’s longest awaited moments arrives.

AMs are voting on the Welsh Language measure which would impose new obligations on public bodies, big companies, utility suppliers and train and rail operators to provide services in Welsh to those who want them or face punishments including fines.

The measure would also create a language commissioner to fight for and enforce the freedoms of Welsh speakers.

It’s the culmination of many years’ effort by Plaid Cymru and delivering language legislation was one of the main reasons the party went into coalition with Labour nearly four years ago.

But language campaigners inside and outside Plaid are divided on whether or not what’s on offer tomorrow fulfils those long-cherished hopes or represents an opportunity missed.

The sticking point is the status of Welsh – ministers say what they’re proposing enshrines its position and guarantees the freedom to speak it without involving costly court cases to define the boundaries of that freedom.

Campaigners talk about rights rather than freedom and are demanding that the language is given official status alongside English.

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins has tabled an amendment which she and other language activists say effectively does that.

Her obviously strongly-held conviction and the fact that she’s tabled the amendment at all means that she’s unlikely to withdraw it and Plaid’s leaders know that.

But they also know she speaks for a large swathe of party supporters and don’t want to risk a damaging split.

That’s why they’ll be talking tonight and tomorrow. What nobody knows is how many – if any – Plaid AMs will join Ms Jenkins and vote for the amendment. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will probably back it.

It’s unlikely to be a defeat for the Assembly government but could expose a rift ahead of legislation which ministers say is truly historic for the language and which introduces ‘the most comprehensive measure we’ve ever brought forward.’

And talking of amendments, there are 71 of them tabled for discussion tomorrow which means AMs are expecting the debate to take between four and six hours.

It’ll be a marathon session but as an incentive for them to crack on, they’ve all been invited to the Wales Yearbook Welsh Political Awards which is being held in Cardiff’s City Hall tomorrow night.

You can see the ceremony for yourself Friday night at 11.05 on ITV1 Wales but I’ll tweet the results as they’re announced. You can follow my twitter feed @adrianmasters84.

UPDATE 16.05: Senior figures within Plaid have sought to draw the lines more clearly and to set out exactly the protection they believe the measure provides in a statement quoting not just the Heritage minister but Helen Mary Jones AM who’s often seen as the voice of the grassroots. She says,

“It would be dangerous for there to be a weakness in the measure that would allow the very status of the language to be left in the hands of a judicial interpretation, which on any given day, could be completely indifferent to the needs of Welsh language speakers. The measure, as it has been presented, takes that risk off the table and ensures that this is as far reaching as it could possibly be.”

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