Tag Archives: Cheryl Gillan

Devolving Criminal Justice

This issue has sprung to life recently. By and large, most of us aren’t that preoccupied with constitutional affairs. It’s why there was such a low turn-out in the referendum on Part IV of the Governance of Wales Act (the one that vested certain law-making powers at the National Assembly for Wales). That’s right, the 2011 referendum the omniscient Peter Hain said couldn’t be won under “any [foreseeable] circumstances“.

So when people are asked by polling companies whether or not they would like to see criminal justice devolved to Wales, you’d hardly expect them to be gripped by fevered enthusiasm. For starters, I’m not sure I understand what’s encompassed by criminal justice, and I’m something of an anorak. Just how detailed Dai Jones Cwmbach’s knowledge of criminal justice is we can only speculate.

So it’s not a terrific surprise to see that in one of the only comprehensive polls asking the question, just 37% of people in Wales would like to see “the courts and criminal justice system” devolved.

But that may be about to change.

Because it turns out that on occasion the Home Office has decided that Wales is a good place to rehouse criminals convicted of serious offences. Criminals with no former connection to Wales, that is.

I was first alerted to this issue by Paul Flynn, who has written to the Home Secretary to complain following the news that a London gang leader at “serious risk of reoffending” has been rehoused in Newport.

And just days later, WelshNotBritish, in a blogpost titled with characteristic finesse, has uncovered the news that Gavin Benit, a convicted sex offender from Oldham, was “placed” in a flat in Colwyn Bay.

I mentioned earlier on that “on occasion” the Home Office has rehoused serious offenders in Wales. We can be reasonably confident that those occasions number no less than two.

But is there something more systemic going on here? Is the Home Office rehousing serious offenders in Wales as a matter of course? And is this one of the benefits of our criminal justice remaining a reserved matter? After all, Cheryl Gillan as Secretary of State for Wales stated:

I understand that the Welsh Government is planning a consultation on the establishment of a single legal jurisdiction for Wales. But why?

“What is the problem that needs addressing? How would such a change benefit people or business in Wales?

“The pitfalls of a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales, and consequent devolution of the entire criminal justice system, are glaringly obvious. I see no case for changing the current system for England and Wales, which has served Wales well for centuries.

Perhaps those opposing the devolution of criminal justice to Wales, such as Cheryl Gillan, would like to speak to the 15-year old girl raped by Gavin Benit to find out just how such a change would “benefit people or business in Wales”.

It’s why constitutional affairs should bother everyone in Wales, even Dai Jones Cwmbach.

4 o Sylwadau

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Police, Welsh Government, Westminster

Will The Conservatives Ever Learn?

This is the second of the recent Conservative pamphlets (with thanks again to BD). You may be  interested to hear that Craig Williams failed to meet the criteria for An Irresistible Offer, despite confirming that he would do so in his tweet of 1:53 AM – 21 Oct 12. The Conservatives will therefore be without an election address on this site. Their loss.

But the title of this post relates to something else. Because squirrelled away in very small print at the bottom of this missive is the information that it was printed by Mortons Print Ltd of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Mortons Print is one of those struggling local businesses with a measly £12 million turnover. Horncastle is part of the Louth and Horncastle constituency, which has an unbroken record of being held by the Conservatives since its formation in 1997. So it seems as if the Conservatives – as they did back in April – are very keen to farm jobs off to their friends in the English shires rather than provide employment for the many printers within the constituency of Penarth and Cardiff South. Do as I say, not as I do.

So when, on page 3 of the pamphlet, Craig Williams says that he’s “Putting Cardiff South and Penarth first”, how much credibility do we attach to the claim? And given that Craig “heads up the influential Economy Committee on Cardiff Council”, the good burghers of Cardiff are probably best off battening down the hatches.

But it’s back to page 1, and the headline “Investing in Welsh Railways” that I cast my eyes now. Apparently the Conservatives in Westminster are going to be electrifying parts of the railway in Wales. Well, excuse me for not popping open the champagne, but until I can hear the crackle of the wires in Maesteg, Ebbw Vale and Treorchy I’m not going to hold my breath. Because there’s a world of difference between announcing that something will happen and actually achieving it. And Craig’s eager to have a pop at Labour for not electrifying during their 13 years’ tenure at Westminster. But since Craig is so keen to make comparisons across the border let’s have a look at England. A country where lines were being electrified in the 1930s and which has about 50% of its lines electrified already. So successive  UK governments of all colours have been happy to let Wales founder for at least 80 years in a rapidly diminishing club of non-electrified European countries that now puts Wales in the august company of Albania and Moldova.

As in the previous post, I’m glad that pensioners are receiving a significant increase in allowance after several years of (inflation adjusted) parsimony under Labour. I’ll pose the same question as last time: where’s the money coming to pay for it? At least partially, it’s coming from eroded services and cuts in benefits. But those are the choices of government.

And as in the previous leaflet, Craig is very good at trumpeting tax cuts without revealing how much better off the top 1% will be as a result of his party’s activities. And once again we see Craig’s commitment to police officers trudging the streets rather than protecting the public in ways that might actually be effective.

It’s good to see a focus on education, and Wales’ slipping down the international league tables is a cause of concern to most people. In this he’s spot on to slam Labour, who’ve presided over this alarming slump in performance since 2006. But it’s a little ironic for him to be raising the £604 less per pupil that is spent in Wales on education, because that’s just about equal to or less than the £300-£750 million underfunding that Wales suffers as a result of the Barnett formula. Get your party to fix the formula, Craig, and watch that gap fall away.

5 o Sylwadau

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Westminster

Nose-Spite-Face

I can’t be the only one to be surprised at the row rumbling on at the Supreme Court over whether or not the National Assembly for Wales has exceeded its jurisdiction in its first piece of primary legislation.

That law – sexily entitled “The Local Government (Byelaws) (Wales) Bill” – aims to simplify procedures for making and enforcing local authority byelaws. But it turns out that the Bill would have the effect of cutting out the Secretary of State for Wales from the process of approving byelaws in Wales. And there’s the rub – the National Assembly may not alter the role of any Secretary of State without their express consent unless those powers are incidental to or consequential on other provisions – and it looks as if Cheryl Gillan didn’t provide that consent. Some people have argued that the Welsh Government didn’t do much of a job in seeking it. But Alan Trench has helpfully coralled all the information that shows the extent of communication between the Welsh Government and the Secretary of State.

Alan previously described the Welsh Government’s position as weak, if not hopeless. But there’s a bit more to it. In testimony this week we’ve seen the startling revelation that the Secretary of State has used this tremendous power all of, erm, well, never, since the establishment of the National Assembly. So in 13 years, this power, which the Attorney General is so keen to retain on behalf of the Secretary of State, has remained unused.

Now we see that the Welsh Office is considering sending for the Attorney General for the second ever Bill to be passed by the National Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill. This is a Bill whose impacts are restricted solely to the activities of people who work in the National Assembly for Wales, but we could be keeping the Supreme Court busy yet again in the near future.

And rumours are already doing the rounds that the presumed consent for organ donation Bill (Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill) is lining up to go to the Supreme Court.

This has all coincided with a quite remarkable poll by ITV which showed that people in Wales overwhelmingly want the Welsh Government/National Assembly for Wales to have the biggest say in how Wales is run.

Now one of the few things that can be guaranteed to turn someone who is ordinarily a mild-mannered apolitical into a font of political activism is the idea that London is interfering in the business of Wales for no good purpose. And as we can see above – and as you can read in countless articles online – it appears that there is no good purpose to the Attorney General’s interventions. Given that two Unionist parties are fighting this battle, Nationalists must be rubbing their hands in glee.

As an aside, I have some sympathy with the Welsh Government’s representative Theodore Huckle QC, who argues that there should be a Welsh judge on the Supreme Court in instances where Welsh legislation is being considered. The reason there isn’t is because EnglandAndWales is one legal jurisdiction and there are three judges on the panel representing EnglandAndWales and anyway “it’s difficult to identify what constitutes a Welsh judge“.

Theodore’s answer: “We know one when we see one“.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Democracy, Welsh Government, Westminster