One of the better aspects of the fifth Assembly has been its ability to innovate and refresh proceedings. There has been a conscious effort to make business more contemporary and relevant. On the Committee side, founding a committee again to examine issues around European and external affairs could not have been more timely. It has also proven itself to be one of the most authoritative and relevant arms of the Assembly in terms of business.
On a plenary level, other innovations have also been apparent on a Wednesday afternoon. The ability to ask Topical Questions has definitely perked things up and held the Welsh Government more closely and robustly to account. Arguably less impactful has been the ninety second statement, which is like an Assembly version of Just a Minute, allowing AMs to ramble on about a pet topic without repetition, hesitation or deviation. Often these are preoccupied with the deceased, being morbidly fixated around obituaries, and in a week where both Jim Bowen and Ken Dodd provided material it was only Stephen Hawking who merited a mention in the coveted death slot.
Perhaps the most impactful innovation, however, has been the Members’ Legislative Proposal occasional slot. This week it was the turn of Hefin David (Lab, Caerphilly) to move a motion on estate management companies. This debate was timely and interesting, spotlighting an area never really discussed before. It was an excellent example of the ability to use these new opportunities both creatively and pertinently and follows in a pattern of other suggestions around cardiac rehabilitation, plastics use and fracking.
Of course, these debates do not always lead to actual legislation, but sometimes they can, as also happened this week when the Welsh Government introduced its European Continuity Bill. The idea for this originally came from Steffan Lewis (PC, South Wales East) in a legislative proposal debate last year. Who knows what lies in store for Hefin David’s idea?