Welsh Executive Committee meeting, 8 September 2018 (joint report with Christine Newman)

This meeting was a special one, dedicated solely to receiving and discussing Lord (Paul) Murphy’s report on Phase One of the Welsh Labour Party Democracy Review. The consultation period ended on 31st July, shortly after the WEC’s last meeting, but we did not receive the report until late on Friday 7th September, the day before our meeting; we were told that the delay was due to Lord Murphy undertaking on-going meetings with different interested groups up to the week before the WEC meeting.

The report itself was quite concise, detailing the background to the review and its scope: to deal exclusively with the electoral system to be used to elect our leader and deputy leader. The controversy at the end of 2017 is still fresh in people’s minds, when the WEC took the decision to retain an electoral college system, despite the majority of consultation responses favouring One Member One Vote (OMOV). Although Lord Murphy did not provide a precise breakdown of the responses, it was made clear that, this time around, CLPs and individual members (the latter via an online survey) favoured OMOV, as did Unite the Union, some smaller affiliate bodies and the majority of the members of the Assembly Labour Group. Other trade unions (including UNISON and the GMB) favoured a reformed electoral college system.

It was clear from Lord Murphy’s report that there is consensus against the continuation of the status quo, whereby the elected representatives (AMs, MPs and the one MEP) retain a third of the college (which, in the deputy leadership election, led to their votes being worth more than 400 times those of ordinary party members). There is also overwhelming support for the continued involvement of levy-paying members of affiliated unions and other organisations. However, there was no consensus over the electoral method that should be used and Lord Murphy therefore asked the WEC to consider two options:

  • OMOV (which he calls “OMOV Plus”, to emphasise that it would not just involve party members – the ‘M’ in OMOV – but also affiliated supporters); and
  • a reformed electoral college (wherein 50% of the college would be for party members and 50% for affiliated supporters).

The report contained draft wording of the relevant additions to the rule book to be added depending on which option was chosen, and contained a section on the workstream arrangements in place for Phase Two of the review, which is to consider all other aspects of party democracy devolved to the Welsh party.

The WEC therefore had to decide, on the basis of Lord Murphy’s report, what to put to the Special Conference (to be held on Saturday 15th September), where delegates from party units and affiliates will make the final decision.

The first discussion was therefore around whether or not both options should be presented to conference – as Chris and Darren, among several others, argued – or whether only one option should be presented. The latter view was put by most of the union reps who spoke (other than those from Unite), who wanted just the reformed electoral college option to go forward. Those of us who argued for the conference to be given a genuine choice argued that the confidence of members in the party’s process had already been damaged by developments over the last year and that this would be exacerbated if only one option were presented to delegates. Carwyn Jones made a significant intervention in the discussion, arguing that, although he personally favoured a reformed electoral college, both options should be put to conference; he added that this would not preclude the WEC from making a recommendation. When the vote was taken, it was duly agreed (by a margin of 21 to eight) to put both options to conference, which was a considerable relief and means that we will not simply be back in the same position in which we found ourselves last November.

It was then unanimously agreed that the WEC should make a recommendation to conference. Unfortunately, it was then narrowly agreed (by only one vote) that the recommendation should be for the electoral college. Conference will not, of course, be obliged to follow this recommendation – and, indeed, a WEC recommendation was rejected on more than one several occasion at the main Welsh conference in April. The main thing is that delegates from every CLP, affiliated union and socialist society will be able to participate in the crucial decision as to how we elect our leader and deputy leader in future.

The detailed arrangements for the Special Conference were not discussed at this meeting because they fall under the purview of the Standing Orders Committee (SOC), which will decide on such matters as speaking slots and voting arrangements.  A couple of significant points were made, however. It was confirmed that the decision will be taken by a card vote, with delegates casting a vote roughly proportional to the membership of the bodies they represent. It was also suggested in the discussion that, since a rule change was involved, the decision would have to carry a two-thirds majority to be valid; party officers were able to state definitively that this is not required by the rules. The unions that support a reformed electoral college also made clear that they wanted to restrict anyone taking part in future elections to a maximum of two votes: one as a party member (if applicable) and one as a member of an affiliated organisation (if applicable) – whereas some people (especially elected politicians) had as many as six or seven votes in the recent deputy leadership election, depending on how many organisations they belonged to. This had not been specified in Lord Murphy’s report, so the relevant draft rule change was amended to reflect the unions’ position.

One other point needs to be mentioned in relation to this discussion. One of our fellow CLP reps proposed that there be a recorded vote on the decisions of this meeting, meaning that the names of the WEC members voting each way would be recorded in the minutes. This is something that was incorporated in the new standing orders that we agreed back in February, which say that there will be a recorded vote if at least two members request it. The chair (wrongly, in our view) opened this request up to discussion and then put it to the vote, and, as only eight of us supported it, she declined the request. In the course of this brief discussion, some WEC members suggested, rather questionably, that to reveal how members voted might expose them to abuse and intimidation. In our view, however, this is a question of accountability: most of us on the WEC are there not as individuals but as representatives of particular sections of the party, which have a right to know how we acted in their name. We would add that we rarely mention other WEC members by name in our reports and never in connection with anything controversial.

The only other item at the meeting was a brief update on the position of the Welsh Labour General Secretary. Louise Magee will soon be going on maternity leave and it was announced the Head of Communications, Rhiannon Evans would undertake Louise’s duties during her absence.

Welsh Executive Committee Report, 21st July 2018 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

This meeting had a particularly heavy agenda and it was a struggle to deal with all 16 items even after extending the finishing time to 1.30pm.

Report of the Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Carwyn Jones gave a verbal report, where he described in not very flattering terms the current state of the Tory negotiations over Brexit. While the Welsh Government had produced a White Paper on the matter and was working with big employers, the Tories’ failure to produce a detailed and comprehensive trade deal between the EU and the UK would have very serious consequences for Wales. He also warned that public finances under the Tories’ austerity programme would be very tough next year. Carwyn expressed concern over funding for the public sector pay deal and the detrimental effect on such schemes as student finance and the free school meals project. He warned that, however tempting it may seem to raise taxes, they should not be used to plug the gaps created by central Government. Instead any such increases should go to additional needs, in order to secure a fair settlement for Wales. Concern was also expressed over the uncertainty as to whether Wales would remain part of an all EU defence, security and anti -crime force. Cllr. Debbie Wilcox rightly accused the Tory Government of ‘killing off public services’ and raised the need for us to demonstrate our opposition to what is happening under this government using the slogan, ‘Tell the Truth about the Tories’, which Chris strongly endorsed, arguing that the labour movement had been too quiet and should take our campaigning out on the streets. Carwyn finally advised the meeting that as a party we must get ready for an election, as he wondered how much more people could take of the UK government’s austerity measures.

Report of the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

A written report had been circulated, covering Christina’s campaign work plus what was happening in parliament over Brexit, the Tories refusal to fund the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Wales Questions. The Welsh MPs had raised a series of matters such as post Brexit farming funding, the impact of Universal Credit, Leaving the EU and international trade opportunities, the state of cross border rail services, matters in North Wales, to name but a few. It would appear that Alun Cairns replies were ‘less than inspirational’.

Report of Welsh Labour Deputy Leader

Carolyn Harris’ written report described the campaigning work she has been engaged in, since taking office. She offered to visit any CLPs over the summer. She was also involved in the current WASI Women and the Period Poverty Campaigns and said that she would be working with the Welsh Government to provide children attending summer holiday play groups with sandwiches for lunch.

Discussion of Welsh Labour Democracy Review with Lord Murphy

The first part of this item was an opportunity to raise questions and concerns with Lord (Paul) Murphy about Stage 1 of the Democracy Review, which is looking specifically at the electoral system for Welsh Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections. Chris asked Paul about comments he had previously made about his approach to considering submissions, whereby he said he will “give a flavour” of responses in his report, and asked how he would weight the respective strength of feeling for and against different options. In response, he defended this approach and said that he aimed to “ensure that all views are heard”, rather than conducting a “mathematical exercise” to weigh responses.

Darren highlighted the importance of a choice of options would being put before the special conference on 15 September but Paul failed to give any assurances in this regard and seemed to suggest that he would prefer to avoid this, hoping instead that some degree of consensus would emerge; he did acknowledge, however, that a choice might be necessary if opinion seemed very evenly divided. The Chair, Margaret Thomas, also asserted that it will ultimately be the WEC itself that decides what is put before conference.

In response to a suggestion from one of the local government reps that the leadership nominations procedure be reformed to allow for greater diversity and specifically to ensure that a woman candidate on the ballot-paper (a proposal that has been promoted by supporters of Eluned Morgan), Paul Murphy said that that would be a matter for Stage 2 of the Review. The next WEC meeting on 8 September will be dedicated to agreeing what will be put to the special conference the following weekend.

There was also a presentation on Stage 2 of the Review, which is being divided into a number of ‘workstreams’, each of which will be taken forward by a sub-committee of the WEC or an ad hoc working group. The Welsh Policy Forum meeting scheduled to take place in Newport on 27 October will also be feeding into the workstream on our future policy-making arrangements. The work on Stage 2 will get underway after the special conference concludes Stage 1 but initial meetings of the various sub-committees and working groups are to be arranged sooner than later.

Selection and Reselections

This section of the agenda covered a series of connected items on parliamentary and Assembly selections and turned out to be the most controversial aspect of the meeting. The first sub-item followed on from the paper discussed at the June meeting, which had suggested delaying selections for Westminster candidates in the six less winnable non-Labour-held Welsh constituencies, rather than proceeding with them as soon as the six more winnable seats had been dealt with, as agreed in September 2017. As agreed at the previous meeting, the Deputy General Secretary, David Costa had written to the six CLPs in question, pointing out the various concerns that had been raised and asking them their views. All but one of these CLPs had responded by stating emphatically, but in a carefully considered manner, that they wanted to select candidates as soon as possible. A consistent theme in their responses was the conviction that, if Labour is to have any chance of capturing the seat in question, it must have a candidate to act as a public spokesperson for the party. Five of the six ‘challenge’ seats are in the Mid and West Wales and Catherine Thomas, one of the CLP reps for the region, spoke passionately about the need to respect the CLPs’ wishes, supported by Darren and other CLP reps. Other WEC members raised objections, however, based mainly on the workloads of staff and officers recommended that the selections be delayed until the New Year. When it came to the vote, only eight of us (all CLP reps) voted in favour of respecting the constituencies’ views; the fifteen other voting members of the Committee present voted to delay the selections. Catherine asked that a senior officer visit each constituency to explain the decision. The Chair said, however, that this would be unnecessary: a letter should suffice but she would be willing to meet a delegation consisting of one or two officers from each CLP.

The next item was a paper on whether we should allow selected parliamentary candidates could stand in an Assembly election if the latter came first, and on what basis. The General Secretary pointed out that the current rules don’t allow someone to be a candidate for both Assembly and parliamentary elections at the same some; we would have to give special dispensation. Darren spoke in favour of allowing CLPs to decide on this, highlighting the current strength of the party’s grassroots organisation and the need to trust our members and activists. Chris spoke in support of this and also said that candidates should always be members of the relevant trade union. Other members disagreed, however, saying that we shouldn’t allow candidates to “chop and change” and Carwyn said that the comments made in support of flexibility didn’t cover the situation where a candidate jumped ship in order to stand in a safer seat; the ‘home’ CLP would have no control of this. When it came to the vote, only three of us voted in favour of allowing leeway on this and the various specific options then fell by default.

Next, we had a short paper relating to initial preparations for selecting candidates for the 2021 Assembly elections. The first point for consideration was wherever selections should be conducted on the basis of the current procedure and the Chair asked whether anyone would have any objections to this. No-one did, in principle, but Darren pointed out that the Welsh Democracy Review would cover selections and might result in a change of procedure. Carwyn said it seemed strange to argue for immediate selections earlier on but then to argue for a delay. Darren clarified that he wasn’t advocating delay, just that any changes needed to be implemented once they were agreed. Carwyn replied that we couldn’t have some candidates for the next Assembly election selected under one system and others under a different system. Others seemed to agree with this comment and, when it was put to the vote, it was overwhelmingly agreed that the current arrangements should continue. In response to a second question under this item, everyone agreed that AMs should be contacted to establish whether they plan to stand again.

The final paper in this section of the agenda raised the possibility of re-establishing an all-Wales panel to carry out initial vetting of aspiring candidates in relation to probity and general quality. David Costa set out three options, from which the WEC could choose if it liked the idea in principle. The first of these would involve the panel conducting a basic probity check – interviewing candidates and scanning their social media accounts. The second would add a compulsory training session, while the third would also test candidates’ skills, experience and knowledge. David said that, in the view or the officers, Options 1 and 2 could be helpful to CLPs but Option 3 would be step too far.

We CLP reps were sceptical about the value of any Wales-wide panel, which we saw as involving more work for staff, which had been highlighted as a potential problem earlier. Louise replied that it would be WEC members, rather than staff, who would make up the panel but staff support would undoubtedly be required. It was also suggested in the discussion that there could be Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously known as CRB checks) for all candidates; most, if not all of us supported this, but it would be carried out by civil servants and would not require Welsh Labour input. Some senior members of the committee suggested that many candidates have little knowledge of the political world in which they are seeking to get involved, including the differences between the Assembly and Parliament. It was eventually agreed in principle that we should have a Wales-wide panel, with only 8 CLP reps voting against and it was then specifically agreed to go for Option 2, with 3 abstentions.

Conference Debrief

The WEC was presented with a document giving a thorough review of the April 2018 conference and highlighting issues that had arisen, which could be taken into account in future. Perhaps the most significant aspect related to the decision by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) not to accept delegates or motions for the April conference from CLPs or Women’s Fora that had not paid their affiliation fees before 31 December 2017. This had caused understandable outrage and the news that the SOC had agreed to relax this rule in future, provided that fees are paid before delegates are elected, was welcomed by the WEC. It was confirmed that the 2019 Welsh Labour Conference will be held in Llandudno once again, as Venue Cymru is an ideal size, disability access, etc. It was hoped that in future, the conference should be rotated around Wales but agreed that it should held in the North more frequently than the South, to help address concerns that Welsh Labour events are too South Wales orientated.

A grid was also circulated, showing motions carried by the Welsh Labour conference in April and the body responsible for acting on each of them. This was something Darren had specifically requested at the previous meeting, both in order to have a clear record of what had been agreed and to get a statement as to what the party and/or the Welsh Government proposed to do about each motion – especially in the case of more contentious issues like the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) where conference had overwhelmingly rejected the Welsh Government’s position. The grid merely gave the title of each motion, however, rather than summarising its intent, and said only which body was responsible for each motion, not what was being done about it. We had been told that we would be given a verbal report at the meeting but Darren requested something in writing and Carwyn said that he would circulate something after the meeting

General Secretary’s Report

Louise Magee’s written report included an update on parliamentary selections. Belinda Loveluck-Edwards had been selected in the Vale of Glamorgan, Marc Tierney in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Philippa Thompson in Preseli Pembrokeshire, Emily Owen in Aberconwy and Mary Griffiths Clarke in Arfon. Clwyd West would start again in the autumn. Both Louise herself and the Welsh Labour finance manager would be going on maternity leave very soon, which would also need to be factored into staff workloads over the coming months. Louise’s report also gave an overview of past and future campaigns, training, staffing and forthcoming events.

General Data Protection Regulation

A useful briefing on the party’s responsibilities under the new regulations was given by an officer from HQ.

MEP Report

Derek Vaughan submitted a written report which really expressed his contempt for the UK Government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations, the high cost of leaving the EU and the fraudulent behaviour of the Vote Leave Campaigners.

Welsh Local Government Association Leader’s Report

Cllr Debbie Wilcox’s written report included: Local Government Reform, in relation to which she said that the decision not to proceed with the forced merger Option 3 of the “Strengthening Local Government Green Paper” had been warmly welcomed by councils; the establishment of a joint working group with the WLGA and the relevant trade unions chaired by Derek Vaughan MEP, tasked with examining key areas such as financial sustainability, structures, the respect agenda, active citizenship, powers and flexibilities over a twelve-month period, in preparation for the 2022 local elections. Debbie also reiterated that eight years of Tory austerity is causing great suffering.

Police & Crime Commissioners Report

The WEC also noted a written report from Jeff Cuthbert, PCC for Gwent, who was pleased to report the Welsh Government’s support for the setting up of a Policing Board for Wales and the continuation of the Schools Liaison Programme.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting, 9th June 2018 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

This was the first full meeting of the newly-elected WEC, following the Welsh Labour conference in April. The main item was discussion of the Welsh Labour Democracy Review, which had been agreed at conference. The Chair, Margaret Thomas, began the meeting by expressing her disappointment at the leaking of the papers on this item to the Welsh media.

Report of Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Carwyn reiterated his intention to resign by the end of September 2018, allowing his successor to be elected in time to take office on the 12th December 2018, in the last week before Christmas recess. He said that he had been in government for 18 years and now needed to give someone else the chance to do the job. It had not been the easiest time because of austerity, but his government had delivered Welsh Labour’s manifesto commitments despite the reduction in resources by Westminster.

On Brexit, there seemed to be an endless public fight between UK Cabinet Ministers who should have been sacked. Carwyn welcomed the amendment put down by the Labour front bench in Westminster. Businesses that already operate in Wales were, however, considering transferring elsewhere and there was still no solution to the Irish border question. Labour needed to keep pushing the Tories and try to ensure that the public understood the issues. The Welsh Government had recently announced the shape of the new rail franchise; Carwyn said that it was not Welsh ministers’ first preference, as they would have preferred a not-for-profit model, but this had been prevented by the Wales Act. However, there would be a far better service at a far lower price than under the current franchise. Carwyn also talked about the problems caused by the US Government’s introduction of steel tariffs, and about the failure of the UK Government to guarantee the future of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, which cast doubt on the future of all such projects.

Tributes were paid to Carwyn in the course of members’ contributions, and questions were raised about a number of the points that he had touched on; most significantly, he was given the opportunity to elaborate on the deal done with the UK Government on the repatriation of powers from Europe. Carwyn emphasised the progress that had been made; the Tories had wanted to take powers in 64 areas and legislate where they saw fit, but it had now been agreed to put a minority of powers in ‘the freezer’ so that they could not be used unless there was mutual agreement, and for the remainder to return directly to Cardiff.

Report of the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Christina thanked Carwyn for all of his help and friendship and talked about the parliamentary discussions over Europe. There would now be two days to debate the EU Withdrawal Bill. Confirmation of the UK Government’s position on the Tidal Lagoon was still awaited and Labour was working with the steel unions on the tariffs issue.

Elections

There were now a series of elections for the various WEC sub-committees and working groups. Nominations had been sought in advance of the meeting, but the Chair said that she would take additional nominations from the floor.

Several of these bodies have no maximum membership limit and are open to all WEC members who wished to volunteer – namely: the Organisation sub-committee (on which Chris and Darren will both sit during the present WEC term; the Local Government Sub-Committee; the Appeals Panel; the Behaviour and Culture Working Group; and the Gender Equality Working Group. Four other bodies were subject to contested elections, however. The first of these was the Party Development Board (PDB), which acts as, in effect, the ‘executive’ of the Welsh Executive Committee. This body has 3 representatives of affiliated organisations and 3 from party units, as well as the Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales. Darren was elected to one of these seats, along with Catherine Thomas from Mid and West Wales and Deborah Davies from South Wales East. Unlike the PDB, however, the remaining three elections – for WEC observers at SOC meetings; representatives on the Electoral Reform Working Party; and the Welsh Policy Forum – reserved no places for CLP reps and none of the CLP reps who stood for positions were elected, a worrying state of affairs that suggests a lack of commitment on the part of some of our WEC colleagues to these bodies being as representative as possible.

Submission to UK Democracy Review

It had been agreed at the previous full meeting of the WEC that, although the UK party’s Democracy Review dealt mainly with issues that were not specific to Wales, there were one or two matters on which the WEC should make a submission. The agreed points, which had been set out in a brief paper, mainly acknowledged that we were now embarking on our own Welsh Democracy Review, but also reaffirmed the importance of the devolution to the WEC of certain key aspects of the Welsh party’s business. The response also included a declaration of support for the continuation of a seat for the Welsh Labour Leader on the UK party’s NEC. We and other CLP reps had previously expressed reservations about this seat being in the gift of the Welsh Leader, rather than elected by Welsh members, but the majority of the WEC favours the current arrangements, and so we suggested that a second seat could be added, which would be elected by the whole Welsh party, and it was agreed to include this in the submission. The final point in the paper was to reaffirm that, since the NEC meetings usually clash with Assembly plenary business, Carwyn needed to appoint a representative to participate on his behalf. Darren pointed out that, under the NEC’s rules, Carwyn could either take the seat himself or delegate someone else, but not switch between the two. However, Carwyn did not seem to take this on board, and the only additional point agreed was to ask that the NEC meetings be switched to a different day, a request that seems unlikely to be accommodated.

Welsh Labour Democracy Review

We then moved in to the most significant business of the meeting, which had been trailed in the media beforehand. Carwyn had circulated a paper to the WEC, proposing that the Welsh Democracy Review agreed at the April conference be split into two stages, the first of which would deal solely with the question of how the Welsh Leader and Deputy Leader would be elected in future, tacitly acknowledging the continuing controversy over this issue since the declaration at conference of the Deputy Leadership election result, whereby Julie Morgan had won two-thirds of members’ votes but lost out overall. Carwyn proposed that this part of the review be concluded at a special conference on 15 September, before the election to choose his successor. Stage 2 of the Review would then cover all other areas of organisation and activity devolved to the Welsh party and Carwyn had suggested a list of topics, including increasing the recruitment of new members and the engagement of existing members, especially women; raising the representation and involvement of people from BAME communities and from the LGBT+ community, as well as making it easier for people with disabilities to get involved; strengthening the links with affiliated unions and reviewing the party’s relationship with socialist societies and friends’ groups. Carwyn proposed that Lord (Paul) Murphy, the former Torfaen MP and UK cabinet minister, oversee the Review.

In the ensuing discussion, Darren welcomed Carwyn’s initiative but asked a number of questions of detail: would all members be able to give their views in both stages of the consultation; would the WEC make a recommendation to the special conference on Stage 1, with the latter making the final decision; would all CLPs be able to participate in the special conference, including those barred from the April conference due to late payment of affiliation fees; would the list of areas covered by Stage 2 be expanded to include items omitted from Carwyn’s list, such as the make-up and functioning of the WEC itself; and, given, the formidable range of issues covered by the Review as a whole, would Lord Murphy have a team of people to assist him? The Deputy General Secretary, David Costa responded to these questions and answered most in the affirmative, although he said that the inclusion of late-paying CLPs would be a matter for the Standing Orders Committee.

Another CLP rep said that the Review should be looking at how we could retain, as well as recruit, members and pointed out that, in this time of austerity, some members were finding it difficult to keep up their subs payments. It was pointed out, however, that membership fees are non-devolved and this should therefore be covered by the UK review. Our BAME rep, Ramesh Patel, said that the party needs to do more engage BAME members and pointed out that, for example, Cardiff’s Labour-led Council does not have a single BAME member in its cabinet, despite its highly diverse population and a number of BAME councillors. An MP said that it was important that any submissions from CLPs should be the result of genuinely representative meetings, so that the views expressed could be weighted appropriately, and a trade union rep said that ‘official’ responses from CLPs and affiliates must carry more weight than those from individual members of such bodies. David Costa said that Paul Murphy will produce a report that reflects the issues and concerns that will have been fed in, rather than the numbers for and against each option. He confirmed that the WEC would make a democratic decision about what to put to the special conference.

It was agreed to adopt the proposals contained in Carwyn’s paper, with a special WEC meeting on 8 September and a special conference a week later, on the 15th.

Consultation on Leadership & Deputy Leadership elections

We then moved on to the draft consultation document for Stage 1 of the Democracy Review, containing a series of questions relating to preferences between OMOV and an electoral college, and particular variants of each. Darren suggested a series of amendments: first, that the questionnaire should take the form of a ‘decision tree’, so that anyone expressing an initial preference for OMOV or the electoral college should then answer subsidiary questions on their preferred system, not on the alternative; second that the option for OMOV to be limited to party members should be removed, as no-one actually wants to exclude affiliated supporters; and that there should be a question on whether multiple voting should be permitted. Chris and other CLP reps supported these points, and one also said that the explanatory preamble should make clear that the current system gives full-time politicians a vote worth more than 400 times that of an ordinary member. Other members opposed these suggestions, however, and some suggested that anything not covered by the set questions could be added as ‘further comments’ under Question 5.

When it came to voting, the Chair refused to take amendments to the paper first, which is the normal procedure in Labour party (and other) meetings, and instead asked the WEC to vote on the paper as originally presented. It was agreed to accept it unamended by 18 votes to 9, with Chris, Darren and all other CLPs present among the nine.

Preparation for Leadership Election, including Appointment of Procedures Committee

This was a routine procedural item, the main outcome of which was agreement that the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) would be the Procedures Committee for the Leadership election in the autumn. This marked a change from the Deputy Leadership election, when the Party Development Board (PDB) was the Procedures Committee. PDB members had also been prominent supporters of one or other of the two candidates, however, whereas the SOC members are expected to remain publicly impartial in relation to internal elections and other contentious matters within the party.

Selections Update

A paper was presented to the WEC that had not been circulated beforehand, which raised a number of concerns relating to the ongoing selection of parliamentary candidates in non-Labour-held seats. In particular, we were relatively few members were putting themselves forward for selection as candidates in these seats. Questions were posed as to the desirability of relaxing the rules on nominations and minimum shortlist sizes, as well as the potential introduction of a Wales-wide panel to undertake ‘quality control’ in relation to aspiring candidates. Most controversially, it was suggested that, in view of the relative paucity of candidates and the renewed possibility of boundary changes, selections in the six least-winnable Welsh seats (known as ‘challenge’ seats) – which the WEC had previously agreed should proceed a.s.a.p. – could be postponed. CLP reps argued against any delay, pointing out that the CLPs in question were all committed to securing a candidate a.s.a.p. and also proposed (successfully) that considerations of natural justice should apply to any vetting of candidates. It was eventually agreed to defer a final decision on the issues raised in the paper until the next WEC meeting and, in the meantime, to solicit the views of the CLPs in the ‘challenge’ seats about deferring their selections.

The discussion of selections was the last substantial item, the remainder of the agenda being made of uncontentious reports, which had been circulated in writing; minutes; and correspondence.

 

Welsh Executive Committee meeting, 4 November 2017 (report from Chris Newman only)

The meeting began by the chair allowing Andy Richards, the regional secretary of Unite to raise a matter that had not been included on the agenda, to a packed meeting. What followed, shocked me. What I witnessed was an act of un-comradely behaviour, that was intended to humiliate and intimidate Darren Williams. DW then left the room. Although the chair invited him to remain in the meeting he did refuse to allow comments on what took place to be raised.

Report of the Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Carwyn Jones announced that he had sacked Carl Sargeant because of certain sexual harassment allegations and that the matter had been referred to Louise Magee, the Welsh Labour general secretary, to deal with. The Committee members’ attention was drawn to the availability of copies of the Labour Party’s Sexual Harassment Policy document.

The topic of Brexit was raised and how the Tories were in a weak negotiating position with our EU partners. CJ was very concerned with the threat that the Tories seem keen to reclaim Wales’s devolved powers. He has made it clear to the Westminster Government, that the Welsh Government will not support their ‘Brexit Bill’. He suspects that we could get a hard Brexit deal, which would be bad for Wales. He gave the example of loss of jobs at our ports, where Welsh shipping/trade could easily be transferred to Ireland.

On a more encouraging note, relations with the PLP and AMs were good and he found Jeremy Corbyn very supportive.

Fran Griffiths suggested that we send our good wishes to Jane Hutt, who has returned to the back benches, after her long service in cabinet. That was heartily agreed.

Report of the Shadow Welsh Secretary

Christina Rees has an injured foot resulting from a fall but she praised her team for their support. The members are Chris Ruane, Tonia Antionazzi and Jess Morden and they are working closely with their Welsh PLP colleagues and Welsh Government. For example, they have tabled a series of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill and pressing the Tories on the spending commitment for Wales. CR hopes to be back in Westminster by the end of the month and being involved in more ‘Welsh Labour Listens’ joint events with Welsh Ministers and their British Shadow colleagues.

Meetings of the Party Development Board

Members were presented with a summary sheet of the responses to the consultation on the election procedures for the Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour. This document was marked confidential because it had the results of the survey. I don’t agree that such information on i.e. how CLPs, MPs AMs and affiliates voted needed to be treated as confidential, after all we are all party members. It was at this point, I took the opportunity to raise the matter of the incident at the beginning of the meeting. I explained that I found it unpleasant and uncalled for and should have been dealt with as a private matter. I then asked that my comments be added to the minutes.

Q1 A clear majority of both CLPs and affiliates felt that the period for supporting nominations should be retained.

Q2 19 of the 27 CLPs supported OMOV in a single section while 5 of the 6 affiliates supported OMOV in an electoral college. Despite the clear majority in favour of OMOV, it was decided to keep the electoral college. It was at this point that I asked the members how had the results been arrived at and what electoral procedures had been adopted by the various groups within the party. I explained that, as chair of SEA Cymru, we had e-mailed to our members, the relevant document and asked for their comments, plus we discussed this matter at our Autumn Meeting. Yet as a member of a LP socialist society, I had not been asked for my opinion by the WEC Socialist Society rep. I further pointed out that at last night Cardiff West CLP GC Meeting and at a recent Women’s Forum Meeting that I attended, a number of Unite and Unison members who were present, conferred that they had not been consulted on the matter. I also pointed out that our AM had not been consulted or the other AM as far as he was aware. Our MP confirmed that he had not attended the recent Welsh PLP Meeting when this matter was discussed. He did confirm that he supported OMOV and that the Welsh PLP was not a decision-making body. Finally, I reminded the members that the LP in England and Scotland had both adopted the OMOV system for their future leadership elections.

What followed was a series of defensive excuses which I found frustrating because it means that the opinion of the ‘foot soldiers’ of the LP have been ignored.

Q3 A clear majority of CLPs and affiliates felt that Registered Supporters should not be part of the electorate for the election of the Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.

Q4 Again a clear majority of CLPs and Affiliates were in favour of a special conference to be called in the event of a leadership challenge.

Q5 There was a majority in favour of the job description for the Deputy Leader, with the following additions a) Build capacity, especially in constituencies without Labour constituency representation

  1. b) Work with Welsh Labour representatives in local government.
  2. c) Have a role on the Policy Committee and in the development of the Welsh Labour Manifesto.

Q6 The majority of CLPs and affiliates agreed that eligibility for Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour and not a Deputy First Minister should be extended to AMs, MPs and County/County Borough Council Group Leaders and in this case, it must be a woman. The election for this post will be processed asap i.e. early next year so that a Deputy Leader is in place by the time of next year’s Welsh Labour Conference.

Q7 The outcome is that any candidate for Leader would require support from at least 20% of the National Assembly Labour Group i.e. 6 AMs, while candidates for Deputy Leader would require support from 20% of all WPLP, AMs and MEP and require at least three nominations from each of the WPLP and NALG.

Appeal Process for All Women Shortlists /AWS

At the last WEC Meeting it was agreed that there would not be a consultation with CLPs on the Future on AWS, but that there would be an appeal process. However, subsequent advice from the Governance & Legal Unit was that an appeal to the same body that made the original decision would not stand up in a Court of Law.

Consultations with the six priority CLPs (Arfon, Aberconwy, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan, Clwyd West and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) have already taken place so their selections would not be affected. Agreement was made that at least three of the six majority seats (those mostly in Mid and West Wales) be deemed AWS (without consultation or appeal); that all Labour held retirement seats be deemed AWS (without consultation or appeal) and that Clwyd West be allowed to select from an AWS, as per its request.

General Secretary’s Report

Louise explained in more detail the LP’s procedure for dealing with sexual harassment cases and reassured members that support was available for all victims. She was pleased to report that the Welsh Labour Office now has 3 additional members of staff. One will be a policy Officer Alex Bevan, who will replace Martin Eaglestone and starts work in December. We will have a Local Government Officer, which is a new post, and a Digital Officer. A progress report was given on selection, how delegates found the national conference and Welsh Night enjoyable, a huge programme of training was being organised along with ‘meet the Front Bench’ events throughout Wales, plus a LP dinner evening, the production of a Welsh Labour leaflet aimed at university students in hand, the launching of the e-mail Weekly Welsh Labour Updates seems well received. On the question of the forthcoming Welsh Labour Women’s Conference in Cardiff on 11/11/17, I raised the question, why was the LP insisting that a small community group entitled National Abortion Rights, who wish to display their ‘Safe and Legal’ Exhibition at conference, were expected to pay a fee of £200 for simply putting up a display board and handing out a few leaflets. The secretary explained that the LP had to charge in order to earn money for its survival and that she could not show favouritism to a group even though many LP women are members because the group was not affiliated to the LP. I also raised the concern about the venue, Cornerstone, Charles Street, Cardiff. Attractive though the venue is, they believe it belongs to the RC Church and in view of its anti-gay and anti-women rights stance, they consider it an unsuitable venue for a LP women’s conference. The secretary agreed to investigate, although the booking of Cornerstone for this year had been confirmed.

Derek Vaughan MEP was absent so no EU Update Report was given

Welsh Labour Government Association [WLGA]

Cllr Debbie Wilcox felt that the massive delays in the rolling out of the Tory Universal Credit in Wales, was causing misery to clients and undue pressure on LGs. WLGA have written to the Minister of Work and Pensions about the situation because they feel the Tories are ignoring the problems of poverty that they have created and asked that the programme be delayed.

On the question of LG finance, it was noted that Mark Drakeford had been very helpful but the Tory cuts to public services had resulted in a surge in poverty and a high demand for child protection. It raises a very serious question on how do we fund public services and maintain sustainability. Westminster have got to fund public sector pay rises because local councils have not got the funds to do so.

Election onto the Welsh Policy Forum; six women have been elected

Electoral Reform a summary of response was circulated and amendment to comment [LP4] amendment 4, was accepted about the question of marginal seats and a Labour council losing its majority.  A more flexible time scale need to be considered but agreed only one salary be allowed to a AM who is also a councillor.

Welsh Executive Committee meeting, 9 September 2017 (joint report with Chris Newman)

The meeting began with the Chair, Mike Payne asking the WEC to agree to discuss the papers, even though they had not been circulated with the amount of notice specified in the party rules; this was duly agreed (otherwise it would have been a very short meeting!) Mike also announced that Martin Eaglestone would be leaving Welsh Labour, after eight years as our Policy Officer, to go and work at the Assembly and warm tributes were paid to Martin for his sterling work over the years.

Derek Vaughan MEP then gave the EU report. He said that the UK government had boxed themselves in by committing themselves to a hard Brexit or no deal. They could back away from that but only at the risk of antagonising their own hardliners. Theresa May was expected to give a flexible speech on Europe before the Tory conference, then a more ‘hardline’ speech during the conference itself. The leak that week about the government’s intentions in relation to immigration hadn’t made things any easier for them. The European Parliament would get a veto on the final deal and has a track record of voting things down in the run-up to European elections (which would be the situation in 2019). The EU institutions are very united and it is agreed that citizenship rights; the UK’s liabilities (the money that the government has agreed in principle to pay for structural funds etc, but doesn’t want to put a figure on) and a common travel area with Ireland have to be resolved before other issues. Negotiations on a future trade deal wouldn’t begin in October as planned if there were insufficient progress on these three issues. The next EU budget post 2020 could not be discussed until the outcome of the Brexit talks, and whether there would continue to be UK contributions, was known. There had been a welcome shift in Labour’s own policy in recent weeks, especially in relation to the transitional period – but it was clear that the EU would not accept the latter if it were simply a means to buy time; the outcome would have to be known in advance. Derek’s own view was that we have to keep all options open; the public mood was volatile and, if the economy were seen to be faltering, there could be a shift in attitudes toward Brexit.

Derek was asked about progress on the future relationship with Ireland and said that he has regular discussions with Irish and Northern Ireland MEPs and they had understandable concerns about whether there would be a ‘hard’ border after Brexit. There were also implications for the Good Friday Agreement, which said that there could be no constitutional change on the island of Ireland without the consent of the people, yet Brexit is going ahead against the opposition of a majority in the North. Ultimately, the heads of government of the other 27 member states would decide whether sufficient progress had been made on this to allow discussions to move on to other issues.

Chris raised concerns about dissension within the PLP, with MPs like John Mann backing hard Brexit. Derek said that he meets Jeremy and Keir Starmer regularly and there is general support within the PLP for the leadership’s position of staying in the single market and customs union for a transitional period; only a minority support hard Brexit.

The WLGA Report was given by Cllr. Debbie Wilcox, Leader of Newport Council and of the WLGA. She said that Wales’ new local government leaders were taking a new approach and had written to the First Minister expressing the need to move on from austerity budgeting and to acknowledge the real problems caused by the Tories. There was a budget shortfall of £344 in social care across Wales and £400 million of efficiency savings had already been made. After the NHS, the next two biggest public services – education and social care – were the responsibility of local government and there needed to be the capacity to plan ahead, ideally over a three-year period. The WLGA were looking at all possible options for funding and was consulting the leading economist, Gerry Holtham, who had advised the Welsh Government. Debbie’s own authority had cut £48 million in three years. There needed to be flat cash settlements in future, at the very least.  Debbie said that there was widespread support for many of the proposals in the Welsh Government’s consultation on local government elections but not for allowing council staff to stand for election in their own authorities, or for the proposal to allow a move towards proportional representation where a council wished to do so. The adoption in Scotland of the Single Transferable Vote system had, Debbie said, allowed the SNP to become the largest party overnight. She also opposed any return to the committee system, pointing out that an independent evaluation commissioned by the Welsh Government in 2015 had said that the current arrangements were working well.

Also included under this same agenda item was a consultation paper entitled Review of Local Campaign Forums and Related Structures, intended to seek the views of party units and affiliates as to how well the current arrangements in this area are working. The paper had been drawn up by the Local Government sub-committee and was presented as being “for the information” of the WEC. Darren asked that the WEC be given the opportunity to amend the paper and it was agreed to add a further question that he had suggested to the consultation, asking whether the LCF structure provides sufficient mechanisms for democratic accountability. A further question, suggested by another member, was also added in relation to making selection procedures more consistent across Wales. Darren praised Debbie’s position on challenging austerity and highlighted the anti-austerity rally taking place in Cardiff that afternoon, with Labour politicians and trade unionists among the speakers.

Next, Carwyn Jones gave his Leader’s Report. He began by celebrating the fact that the Welsh Government’s Trade Union Bill – repealing, within Wales, aspects of the Tories’ own draconian act – had now become law. Ironically, the powers used to pursue this legislation would be lost under the new Wales Act but now that it was on the statute book, it would be hard for the Tories to reverse the Assembly’s decision. Turning to Europe, Carwyn said that the referendum outcome should not be interpreted as a vote for the kind of ‘hard Brexit’ that the Tories were seeking. He had met Nicola Sturgeon recently to confirm that their two governments were taking the same position on the Tories’ Withdrawal Bill and they had made it clear to Damian Green that there was no chance of Wales supporting the bill as it stood, especially Clause 11, which would prevent powers from going back to Wales. Wales would also need the same arrangements in relation to its maritime border with Ireland as for the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The Tories clearly don’t understand the implications of their own policy, especially with regard to Northern Ireland. Carwyn was very pleased that Labour’s position in Wales and Westminster was now so clearly united and he had jointly written an article with Keir Starmer for the Western Mail.

Chris asked Carwyn how it was the Scottish Government were able to lift the 1% pay cap for devolved public sector workers but the Welsh Government could not do so and also referred to the concerns raised by Plaid Cymru about the training of medics at Bangor University. Carwyn replied, on the first point, that Scotland was more generously funded than Wales under the Barnett Formula and there was also the possibility that the Scots would choose to use its income tax powers to help fund pay rises. Wales would like to break the cap but it would mean cutting other services. With regard to the medical school issue, he said that the Welsh Government would like to see medical training taking place in Bangor but a stand-alone medical school there is not sustainable because the population is not big enough and students would end up travelling around the country for some of their training.

In her report as Shadow Welsh Secretary, Christina Rees told the WEC about al the campaigning she had been doing around Wales. The party had had a warm reception at the Eisteddfod and the Royal Welsh Show, among other events, with its literature produced jointly by Jeremy and Carwyn, very well received. John McDonnell had visited key seats in Mid and West Wales and Jeremy, accompanied by Carwyn and Christina, had made a successful visit to North Wales. Meanwhile the Tories had reneged on their promises in relation to rail electrification and were prevaricating over the Swansea Tidal Lagoon. In questions to Christina, it was pointed out that the Tories on Bridgend Council had backed Labour motion criticising the UK government and three of them had now left the party.

There was then an important item on Selections for Parliamentary seats in Wales, focussing mainly on the arrangements for choosing candidates for the twelve non-Labour-held seats. These had been divided into six priority (“offensive”) seats and another six (“majority” seats) considered less winnable. There had been a consultation with CLPs in the “offensive” seats about the use of all-women shortlists (AWS) and three had indicated that they would be happy to choose their candidate via an AWS. The WEC’s working group on Gender Equality had recommended that these three should all be AWS and also that Arfon as the most marginal seat in Wales, should be added to the list, even though the CLP had sought an open selection. In addition, it was proposed that at least three of the “majority” seats should select via AWS and that any vacancies that may occur in Labour-held seats should be filled by AWS until gender balance is achieved in Wales’ parliamentary representation.

These proposals gave rise to lengthy debate, not on the principles, which almost everyone supported, but on a suggestion from the Chair that all Welsh CLPs should be consulted one more time before the proposals were put into effect. Some supported this view, on the basis that it might help to mitigate conflict, but Chris and Darren were among those arguing for the alternative view, that the party had already debated this issue very thoroughly over several years and the direction of travel had been clear at the last conference. Several women on the WEC who had campaigned hard for gender equality for much of their political lives gave very passionate and persuasive speeches, arguing that it had taken long enough to get to the point of having clear proposals to make that a reality and it was time for the party to show leadership. When it was put to the vote, the latter position was carried, albeit with a provision for an appeals procedure if a particular CLP felt it had legitimate reason not to adopt an AWS.

A second issue debated under this item was a proposal from one of the CLP reps, Catherine Thomas (seconded by Darren) that the six “majority” seats be allowed to select their candidates as soon as the first six selections had been concluded. This was in response to representations from several CLPs in the region that Catherine represents – Mid and West Wales – who were anxious to have their candidate in place as soon as possible, in case of another early general election. Against this, it was argued that the election could be a long way off and that it would be unfair to impose a heavy burden of responsibility on candidates and CLPs to run a lengthy campaign when there would probably be little chance of success at the end. In addition, it was pointed out that there could be problems if Assembly selections were carried out first. In response, it was argued that the CLPs and aspiring candidates in question were best placed to make these decisions and their views should be heeded and ultimately Catherine’s proposal was agreed, albeit by a very slender margin. We were told, however, that only two selections could be conducted at a time and each would take around twelve weeks, so the whole process could still be dragged out over more than a year.

Louise Magee then gave her General Secretary’s Report. She said that Welsh Labour had had a successful summer, with the Corbyn and McDonnell visits having gone well and the party’s presence at the Royal Welsh Show and Eisteddfod being well received at the events themselves and on social media. Louise added her own thanks to Martin for all his hard work and confirmed that the party would soon be advertising to fill the vacancy.

Darren pointed out that the new academic year was about to begin and asked what the party would be doing to recruit new students especially at freshers’ fayres. Louise replied that UK Labour Students would be co-ordinating the party’s efforts and we were also told that Welsh Labour Students had produced a leaflet for this occasion and that individual university Labour clubs would be mobilising.

The last substantive item was a paper on Current Issues Around Electoral Reform, which included some comments on the Welsh Government consultation, to which Debbie Wilcox had referred earlier, taking a broadly similar line to hers and suggesting that the Party Development Board (PDB – in effect, the “executive” of the WEC) agree a formal Welsh Labour response to the consultation. It also noted that the Assembly Expert panel was currently taking evidence on the Assembly’s electoral system, its number of members and the voting age. This would report in the autumn, giving Welsh Labour an opportunity to have its own discussions about the Assembly’s future electoral arrangements.

Darren asked that the party’s response to the Local Government consultation be discussed by the full WEC, rather than just the PDB, but it was explained that, as the deadline was approaching soon, this was the last meeting at which it could be discussed and the agenda was already full. Reassurance was offered, however that the role of the PDB would be simply to make a submission in line with existing party policy, rather than to develop a new policy without recourse to the full WEC.

Minutes had been tabled for the July meeting and the very brief meeting at conference in March but not for the special meeting in April, called in response to the general election announcement. Darren asked for these and it was agreed that they should be provided.

Finally, we were told that Correspondence had been received from Aberconwy, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr and Dwyfor Meirionnydd CLPs, seeking to raise various considerations of party democracy, but these issues were either matters for the NEC or had not been received in good time.

Welsh Executive Committee meeting, 22 July 2017 (joint report with Chris Newman)

This was the first meeting since the election on 8 June and the first substantive item was therefore a General Election Debrief, the main contributors to which were the General Secretary, Louise Magee; Wayne David MP, who had chaired the Welsh Labour Campaign Committee; and Carwyn Jones. All three reinforced the general view of the paper circulated on this item, that the Welsh party could take pride in the very pleasing election results in Wales, which were somewhat better even than those elsewhere in the UK, and saw three seats won from the Tories, along with ‘near misses’ in several others. This success was attributed to the harmonious campaign conducted by Welsh Labour, with Welsh MPs, AMs union members (co-ordinated by TULO) and rank-and- file party members coming together. The success of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership during the campaign, and the popularity of the UK manifesto, were acknowledged, with the Welsh campaign and manifesto seen as complementing their UK counterparts (rather than distancing Welsh Labour from the British leadership, as had sometimes appeared to be the case during the campaign). Particular mention was made of Corbyn’s ability to inspire and energise young people.

Most of those contributing to the discussion commented in the same vein but some concerns were raised about the limited resources allocated to marginal non-Labour-held seats and the possibility that even greater gains could have been made, had there been a more assertive campaign, a standpoint taken in a letter to Welsh Labour from UNISON Labour Link.  This point was echoed by Darren, who also commented that the failure to mention Jeremy at the Welsh campaign launch had provided the media with an opportunity to speculate on divisions within the party; that ordinary party members, including WEC members, had had no input into the Welsh Manifesto; and that the lack of adequate PA or staging had marred the open-air events with Jeremy in Cardiff and North Wales.

The next item concerned Election Procedures for the Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour and the Welsh Labour Rules Review. A draft consultation document had been circulated to the WEC, which was asked to approve it before it was sent out to CLPs and affiliates. Darren proposed the insertion of two additional questions in the section entitled, ‘Nomination Procedure-Welsh Labour Leader’ which stated that any candidate for the leadership must secure nominations from 20% of Assembly Labour Group – i.e. currently, at least 6 AMs out of 29. There was no consultation question on this point in the draft, suggesting that the current threshold was expected to remain in place, yet 20% seems particularly high, considering that only a 15% nomination threshold is required from MPs for the UK leadership candidate (and even this is widely seen as too high). The proposal to ask the party whether the nomination threshold among AMs should remain at 20% or be altered, was, however, heavily defeated, with Carwyn and others claiming that the Welsh Leader could not function properly in their role without the support of a minimum of 6 supporting AMs. A second proposed question, about whether nominations should be left to AMs or extended to CLPs, affiliates and MPs, was also defeated. A proposal from one of the Council reps on the WEC, to include the option of councillors (as well as – or instead of – AMs and/or MPs) being able to stand for the deputy leadership was accepted but a second proposal, from a CLP rep, to extend this to ordinary members, was defeated. The consultation paper, with that one amendment, was then endorsed for circulation within the Welsh party. Party units and affiliates have until 21 October to respond.

In the Report of Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister, Carwyn concentrated on the main issue that the Welsh Government faces which is Brexit. He said that Theresa May was presiding over a chaotic Tory Part: a party which is out of control, yet at the same time carrying on as if it had a majority in parliament. The Tory Welsh Secretary (and MP for the Vale) Alun Cairns is backing those aspects of the government’s Brexit plans that would involve Westminster taking devolved powers from the Welsh Government. Carwyn expressed his frustration at the Tories reneging on deals, such as the electrification of the Swansea to Cardiff rail line while failing to make a decision on such projects as the Swansea Lagoon. All this at a time when the Welsh Government are finding it very tough to attract investors into Wales, as the business sector want security in the market place which is not forthcoming at the moment. The Welsh Government is battling on two fronts at the moment: trying to ensure that powers due to Wales actually arrive, while also trying to stop the UK government ending all those protections currently provided by the EU. Carwyn also commented that the relationship between the Assembly Labour Group and the PLP was currently better than ever and that he was encouraged by the fact that the PLP had made Westminster’s power grab from the devolved administrations one of its ‘red lines’ on Brexit.

Subjects raised in questions to Carwyn included the parking fines at the Heath Hospital; Carwyn said that parking had to be some restriction on parking at the site, for safety reasons and there had been an amnesty on fines for a period recently; moreover, the press reports were not entirely accurate and the private provider’s contract expires in a year’s time. He was also asked if he could provide a briefing for members on the party’s position in Brexit; he said that virtually everything that he would want to say to members was already covered in the Welsh Government’s white paper. Chris raised the need for a national register of supply teachers, based on the Northern Ireland model, instead of relying on exploitative private staff agencies. It was confirmed that when teacher’s pay and conditions are devolved this matter would be addressed.

Christina Rees MP then gave her report as Shadow Welsh Secretary, enthusiastically setting out the work in which she had been involved, both in Wales and at Westminster, working hard on behalf of the WASPI women, challenging the UK government’s public sector pay cap, lobbying for Barnett consequentials for Wales and holding Tory ministers to account over their disgraceful decision regarding rail electrification. Christina also said that she’d been pleased to welcome the new Gower MP, Tonia Antoniazzi as her Parliamentary Private Secretary.

The main item in the General Secretary’s Report from Louise Magee was a paper on Parliamentary Selections in Wales. This set out the procedure to be followed over the coming months to get candidates in place in the seats considered the greatest priority in expectation of another early general election. A paper had been agreed for England at the NEC meeting the previous Tuesday but Wales and Scotland now have devolved responsibility for our own selections. With Labour having won 28 of the 40 Welsh constituencies on 8 June, the remaining 12 seats were divided into 6 “offensive” seats, considered the most winnable and therefore the priority for selection purposes, and 6 “majority” seats, seen as less of an immediate priority. Those in the “offensive” category are: Aberconwy; Arfon; Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire; Clwyd West; Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. There would be an initial consultation, leading up to 8 September, on gender balance in these six seats, to determine which ones should choose candidates from an All-Women Shortlist, then the selections should take place immediately in all six, using the established procedures.

Darren pointed out that, when the NEC had agreed procedures for priority marginals in England, this had included the election by GCs or All-Member Meetings of a Selections Committee to oversee the process, providing greater democratic accountability, which should help to address members’ unhappiness at their exclusion from selections for the June election. He proposed that this be incorporated in the arrangements for Wales, rather than simply leaving CLP Executive Committees to make their own arrangements, under the default procedures. This proposal was heavily defeated, however, and the paper was adopted as originally tabled. A vote was also taken on the question of gender balance and it was agreed, nem con, that the WEC wanted at least half of the six seats to have All-Women Shortlists. One of the CLP reps for Mid and West Wales asked about the timetable for selections in the 6 “majority” seats but was told that there are no definite plans at this stage.

Louise also reported that some new Welsh Labour leaflets, on various different subjects, had been produced, in time for the Royal Welsh Show and John McDonnell’s visit to Pembrokeshire (copies were handed around) and some party merchandise, featuring Aneurin Bevan, was also going to be available. Two members of Welsh party staff, Jo McIntyre and Alvin Shum, had moved on since the election, leaving eight full-timers currently based in Wales. Louise was negotiating with the General Secretary about the retention of one organiser who had originally been employed for the election and was also talking to HQ about the employment of a digital co-ordinator.

It was also announced that next year’s Welsh Labour conference will take place in Venue Cymru on the weekend of 20-22 April (a lot later in the year than usual).

By this point, we had almost exhausted the allotted time, leaving only a couple of minutes each for Derek Vaughan’s European Parliamentary Report and Debbie Wilcox’s Local Government report. Each of them said a few words and Derek added that he would circulate something in writing, but one of the other CLP reps made the point that it was unsatisfactory for such important business to be squeezed out and proposed that we make whatever arrangements might be necessary to ensure that we could extend the time in future, if required, and fit everything in. This was put to the vote and carried, nem con.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday 20th April 2017 (joint report with Chris Newman)

This special meeting was called within hours of Theresa May’s announcement of a snap general election on 8 June and was intended primarily to agree procedures for the party’s selection of candidates. The NEC, meeting the day before, had agreed the broad principles governing candidate selection and a detailed procedure for England but Wales and Scotland had the scope to adopt a slightly different approach, following the devolution of responsibility in this area last year.

Opening Remarks – Mike Payne, who took over as Welsh Labour Chair at Welsh conference in February, welcomed members and the new General Secretary, Louise Magee, to the meeting. He explained the background to the meeting and the fact that, following the devolution of sections of the Labour Party Rule Book to Wales, the WEC is responsible for administering the selection process of MPs, which was now a matter of some urgency. Of the 40 Welsh parliamentary seats, 25 were held by Labour and all of our sitting MPs had agreed to stand again. The NEC had agreed that all of these would automatically be endorsed, so Welsh Labour now needed to quickly select a further 15 candidates. The NEC had adopted an exceptional selections procedure, dispensing with the normal provisions for involvement by local members and branches, and Welsh Labour’s Party Development Board (the ‘executive’ of the Executive!) had provisionally approved a similar approach. Mike was at pains to emphasise that this was a response to the urgency of the situation and was not intended set any precedent for future elections.

General Election Update – the new General Secretary, Louise Magee had had to respond to the general election announcement on her first day in the job. She outlined the progress she and the Welsh Labour staff had made since then. Staffing numbers had been increased to help meet the increased workload, with a new regional organiser and eight local organisers to be appointed. A fundraising appeal had also gone out to members. ‘Flying start’ leaflets and posters were ready for use. The 25 sitting Labour MPs had been contacted and the Welsh members of the PLP had meet with members of WEC. A ‘Snap General Election Guide’ produced by the party centrally, was tabled and outlined deadlines, advice and procedures were to be followed. Members were reminded that a series of visits with Jeremy Corbyn were being planned, the first of which would be on Whitchurch Common in the marginal seat of Cardiff North the next day – Friday 21 April.

Stephen Doughty reported that the Welsh PLP had met and had been unanimous about the need for a clear Welsh dimension to the campaign and for Welsh branding for the Labour manifesto. One of the councillors on the WEC raised concerns that the general election announcement would mean a loss of focus on the council elections but Louise reassured her that this would not be the case. One of the senior elected representatives on the WEC expressed concern about initial messages from the UK party leadership, targeting the rich for tax increases, which he thought was divisive and electorally unhelpful. Another CLP rep strongly took issue with this (rightly, in our view) but the Chair then moved on with the agenda.

The Shadow Welsh Secretary, Christina Rees described the local election campaign so far, including major events held in North Wales, in Flint, Bangor and Wrexham and then in South Wales, in Newport and Cardiff. She had witnessed enthusiasm for a Labour Victory in the local elections and little sign of any real UKIP activity. While this call for a snap election had been a shock, our duty was to keep on campaigning for another Labour Victory.

The Welsh Labour Leader, Carwyn Jones felt that we had a mountain to climb in the general election. It was not yet clear what the manifesto would look like but it would be important to ensure that it was ‘devolution-proof’. Prior to the general election announcement, we’d seemed to be holding our own, although there had been some criticism of the UK leadership. This time last year, Labour had been predicted to lose 6 or 7 Assembly seats and Carwyn had been asked if he was going to resign but the party had obviously fought its way back from that position. It was fighting a defensive campaign, which had worked well last year. It was important to try and move the debate away from Brexit and focus instead on the Tory Cuts and a general anti-austerity message.

Minutes of Party Development Board held on 19/4/19 – this included the selection procedure being presented to the WEC. For the 15 vacant seats, adverts would be placed on the LP and Welsh Labour websites. The closing date would be on Monday 24th April at 5pm and standard CV and monitoring forms would be used.  It was proposed that all candidates be selected via a WEC panel consisting of the chair Mike Payne, vice chair Pam Baldwin and treasurer, Jen Smith. This panel will appoint candidates on the basis of their CV’s and local knowledge without an interview. Candidates who had stood in the 2015 general and 2016 Assembly elections would be considered in the first instance and then ‘new’ candidates. All selections would take place by Tuesday 2nd May subject to NEC endorsement.

Darren moved, and Chris seconded, an amendment to this process, because of concerns about the lack of any input to the selection process by local members, which could result in a degree of disenchantment and demoralisation. While recognising that the very short timescale precluded a full selection process in the 15 vacant seats, we argued that concentrating the decisions in the hands of the three officers was too ‘top-down’ a procedure and proposed that the panel for each seat should consist of one of the WEC officers, plus a WEC CLP rep for the region in question and one of the officers of the CLP in question. There was some support for this position, mainly from other CLP reps, but several other members spoke against, mainly on the grounds that our proposal would introduce unnecessary and time-consuming complications when time was of the essence and that we should trust our three officers to conduct the process. We were told that the latter would seek local knowledge about each constituency to inform their decision. Unfortunately, at least one person made the familiar, tiresome and rather insulting suggestion that our concern about democracy and accountability meant that we were less concerned than we should be about actually winning the election.

In the event, most people accepted the argument that the urgency of the situation precluded our proposal, for which there were only seven votes (compared to twenty against) and the original procedure was adopted. With the crucial decision having been made, the meeting then concluded.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 25th February 2017 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

This was a special meeting to consider the business of Welsh Labour conference, due to take place in Llandudno at the end of March.

The first item of business was the Welsh Labour Rules Review – i.e. the rule changes that the WEC itself will put before conference, many of which aim to incorporate in the Welsh party rules the decisions made by the Liverpool conference in September to transfer certain powers from London to Wales.

These included the following:

  • increasing the membership of the WEC to include a (non-voting) representative of the Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioners and a second Young Labour representative (the latter already existing de facto); and giving the WEC’s Party Development Board and its sub-committees on Organisation and Local Government formal status;
  • acknowledging that County Parties have been replaced by Local Campaign Forums and similar bodies;
  • recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader (who will be the leader of the Assembly Labour Group) and providing for the establishment of the post of Deputy Leader, with one of these being a woman (detailed procedural arrangements for such an election to be decided by WEC at a later date).
  • amending the provisions for gender balance in electing certain posts, so that the post-holder must be female at least every other year, rather than having to switch between women and men in consecutive years.
  • increasing the membership of the Welsh Policy Forum to incorporate the new positions listed above.
  • acknowledging that the WEC now has the power to draw up rules for Parliamentary, Assembly and Local Government selections in Wales (which will be undertaken at a later date).
  • introducing new Procedural Guidance for WEC meetings, to address a rule change submitted by the Socialist Health Association to last year’s conference, which the SHA was prevailed upon to remit. Papers would be circulated at least ten days before meetings, as sought by the SHA, but not published on membersnet, as the SHA wanted. Also, a quorum for WEC meetings would be set but simply at 40% of the voting members of the executive overall, and without stipulating a particular number within each section of the executive (CLPs, unions, etc.) In endorsing this Procedural Guidance, the WEC also effectively agreed to oppose a rule change from Swansea West CLP, which repeated the requirements of last year’s SHA motion – although it was not entirely clear at the time that we were making this decision.

It was agreed that conference should vote on these proposals in blocks, with each covering a single issue – not take them all together as one vote, as the Liverpool conference had controversially done with its rule changes.

More detailed proposals for rule changes in areas like the election of the deputy leader and candidate selections will be subject to detailed consultation within the party after conference.

The Provisional Conference Agenda was noted. In response to question from Chris as to how progress on agreed resolutions is reported, we were told that this would be dealt with via the WPF.

Next, the WEC considered what stance to take in relation to those Motions, Issues and Rule Changes submitted by party units and affiliates and accepted as valid by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC):

It was agreed without significant dissent, to support motions from the GMB to establish a ‘Fair Work Commission’ to address issues like casualization and zero-hours contracts; from Unite to defend jobs, manufacturing and employment rights in the face of Brexit; from Unison, seeking to improve the quality of domiciliary care and the pay of those providing it (against the advice of the SOC, which had recommended seeking remission); from Brecon and Radnorshire CLP to maintain and strengthen NHS recruitment and provide stability and security to heath workers from the EU; and from Welsh Labour Students to increase healthcare and support for transgender people in Wales.

With all other motions, it was agreed, after debate, to ask the organisations in question to remit them for various reasons:

  • an USDAW motion seeking a package of support and legal protection for carers, because of uncertainty about the cost implications;
  • a motion from Ceredigion CLP on the election of the Welsh Labour Leader and Deputy Leader, because its support for OMOV was felt to pre-empt the forthcoming consultation on these elections;
  • a motion from Clwyd West on affordable housing because of its final paragraph calling for Fair Rents Officer to ensure parity between private sector and social sector rental charges was felt to be undeliverable (it was agreed by 11 votes to 7 to seek remittance, with us being among the seven; it was then agreed by 10 votes to 8 to oppose if remittance was not forthcoming, with us being among the 8).

The longest debate was on the motion on ‘Not For Profit Rail’ from our own CLP, Cardiff West, noting that the Welsh Government had failed to carry out conference policy to establish a not-for-profit rail franchise in Wales and calling on it to make good this failure. Carwyn argued that the Welsh Government does not have the legal powers to do what the motion asks, because these were denied by the UK government in negotiations over the Wales Bill – yet did not explain why, in that case, Welsh ministers had supported the original conference motion, at a time when the Wales Bill was not even under discussion and there was therefore no immediate possibility of any additional powers. We believe that, under the existing legislation, the Welsh Government could have specified a not-for-profit service when inviting companies to tender and established its own provider if no such bids had been forthcoming, and that that remains the case. We therefore rejected the recommendation to seek remission but almost every other member of the WEC accepted Carwyn’s argument and we were heavily defeated. The WEC will present its own statement to conference, expressing support for the principle of public control of rail travel but claiming that the Welsh Government is doing everything it can under the law. Cardiff West CLP has subsequently agreed to mandate its delegates not to remit, so there will be a battle over this on the conference floor.

It was also reported that the validity of motions from Cardiff West CLP Women’s Forum motion and the Socialist Educational Association Cymru motion was still being considered by the SOC.

Three Contemporary issues had been submitted by affiliates, and five by CLPs, for consideration by the Welsh Policy Forum in the year after conference but only one from each section will go forward. These were not discussed by the WEC because they will be subject to a priorities ballot at conference.

A Report on the Welsh Policy Forum (WPF), covering the consultation with CLPs and affiliates about the policy-making process leading up to the next Assembly elections, was also agreed.

Specifically:

  • The current structure of the WPF is retained, with the minor changes in membership that the WEC had agreed to incorporate in its rule changes for conference.
  • When nominations are sought for the next WPF, a statement on the expectation of WPF role holders is included.
  • A meeting will be held with the WLGA Labour Group to discuss the role of councillors in WPF policy making after the council elections.
  • Following a review of Local Campaign Forums in Autumn 2017, a decision will be made as to whether a rule change to increase Local Government representation should be brought to the 2018 conference.
  • The Welsh party will seek to make greater use of social media to facilitate policy discussions, supplementing the formal face-to-face discussions in the policy forum.
  • The Welsh MPs and AMs will be invited, via their WEC reps, to consider questions raised by Ian Lucas MP about MPs’ role in the policy-making process in relation to non-devolved issues; they should report back to the WEC with recommendations by September 2017.
  • Conference 2017 will be asked to approve this report as providing the framework for the work of the WPF 2017-2021. Arrangements be made for a WPF meeting in November 2017 and in the meantime, Welsh CLP and affiliates will be encouraged to contribute to the work of the party’s (UK) National Policy Forum.

Dave Hagendyk gave his final General Secretary’s Report (the vacancy has now been advertised). This was supposed to have included a further update on suspensions but Dave explained that the necessary information had not yet been forthcoming from HQ because everyone was so preoccupied with the Stoke and Copeland by-elections but he would circulate it by email when it was received.

The main discussion under this item was to initiate a consultation on whether Welsh CLPs should be organised according to the new parliamentary boundaries that were expected to be introduced, or to be based on the Assembly boundaries, which are co-terminus with the current parliamentary constituencies. (This is a matter for the WEC, as a result of ‘devolution’ rule changes agreed in Liverpool in September). This was originally intended to close in 9 June to enable the WEC to make a decision at our 8 July meeting but, given the importance of the issue and the fact that the local government elections were pending, it was agreed to give CLPs another couple of weeks to consider the proposals and, in order to facilitate this, to move the July WEC meeting to the end of the month (despite this being in the school holiday).

In Any Other Business, the case of Shiromini Satkunarajah was raised: she is a final-year electronic engineering student at Bangor University who was due to be deported, along with her mother, after eight years in the UK and had been taken to the Yarls Wood detention centre. It was agreed to circulate the petition calling for her to be allowed to stay. Darren also highlighted the important demonstration in Cardiff on 18 March to mark UN Day Against Racism and asked for the party to promote it, and concerns were raised regarding widespread misunderstandings about the role of the WLGA.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 4 February 2017 (Joint report with Chris Newman)

In opening the meeting, the Chair initiated a vote of thanks to both Dave Hagendyk, who had announced that he would be stepping down as Welsh Labour general secretary, in order to take up another position, and Jo Stevens, who had resigned as Shadow Welsh Secretary in order to vote against the whip on Article 50 in the House of Commons.

As usual, the first substantial item was the report from Carwyn Jones. He described the new Wales Act as a ‘two steps forward two steps back’, piece of legislation, which would not provide a lasting devolutionary settlement and did not offer Wales what had been granted to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The Wales Office had been unhelpful throughout the drafting process and the Westminster Government, focussed on ‘Brexit,’ had been reluctant to grant the Welsh Government many concessions.

The Joint Ministerial Council, bringing together the UK and devolved governments, had held its most recent meeting on ‘Brexit’ in Cardiff and Carwyn noted the frustrating lack of information coming from the Prime Minister. Each country had its own set of problems but they all wanted a full and unfettered access to the Single Market, yet no progress was made. The Westminster Government’s recently published White Paper on the matter was unhelpful and so was Whitehall! It appeared that the Prime Minister and her team were keen to go for a ‘hard Brexit’ dogmatic approach, which would leave Wales in a state of considerable economic uncertainty.

The Welsh Government had also published a Local Government White Paper, which seeks to promote greater collaboration between councils, as well as facilitating voluntary mergers (having moved away from compulsory mergers) and also aims to give councils the opportunity to choose their own electoral system, subject to a two-thirds majority vote (which was consistent with the Assembly’s newly-obtained power to choose its own electoral system).

There would be changes to the way the Assembly operates as a result of the new powers it was due to obtain and the Presiding Officer has set up an advisory group to help her respond to this, in which Labour had agreed to participate. There is still a widespread view that the Assembly needs more AMs, because of the increased workload associated with legislation and scrutiny work, but the political climate makes it difficult to justify the increase in cost.

Carwyn was asked a number of questions, mostly on the Brexit process and the implications for Wales, as well as the prospect of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and USA and the threat this might represent to the NHS. Chris conveyed the disappointment of the teaching unions over the lack of action by the Welsh Government’s Supply Taskforce to tackle the power of private agencies like New Directions and asked why Wales couldn’t adopt the same approach as Northern Ireland, which has a central register of supply teachers. Carwyn said that the Welsh Government didn’t currently have sufficient power to address this properly, although it would do in the near future. Mike Payne of the GMB added that the issue had also been discussed within the Education Sub-Group of the Workforce Partnership Council and it was disappointing that more progress had not been made.

Next came the EU Update from Derek Vaughan MEP, who commented on the difficult decisions Labour MPs had had to make in relation to the vote on triggering Article 50. In his view, the key ‘red line’ should have been the ability of MPs to vote on the final Brexit deal, as MEPs will. The EU is insistent that the UK must trigger Article 50 before they start serious negotiations. It was noted that, in many parts of the UK, the Brexit vote was really only an anti-Cameron/Tory/Establishment vote. Many people currently believe that things are fine following the ‘leave’ vote but don’t realise that this is because we are still in the EU, as the final exit is not until two years hence. Derek thought that we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a second referendum, not least because many people might change their views once the economy started to go downhill. Chris asked whether an early general election might be better than another referendum but Derek thought an early election would be difficult for Labour at present. Carwyn reiterated his view that all four UK parliaments should be required to ratify the final deal, although he felt that a second referendum could break the deadlock if this were not forthcoming.

Asked if Brexit could be stopped once Article 50 had been triggered, Derek said there was a view that this could be done if the other 27 EU members agreed. He also confirmed that funding for projects in Wales would still be available until 2020. After that, Wales will take a massive financial hit as it seemed unlikely that the Westminster Tory Government would not make good the losses that the Welsh Government would have to deal with.

Dave Hagendyk then gave his General Secretary’s Report and announced that the appointment of his successor should take place in early March. Tributes were paid to Dave, as those present thanked him for everything he had done over the years and wished him well in his new job.  Dave also announced that Rhiannon Evans, who was originally from Mold and was previously at the League Against Cruel Sports, has been appointed as Press and Communications Officer. Dave also hoped to secure monies to employ more staff to help in key seats for the local elections. Candidate selection for the local government elections are going well but concern was expressed about the lack of gender balance. The Training Academy is going well, providing a programme of training opportunities for new and young members throughout Wales, in modern training techniques and systems. The expected parliamentary boundary changes would also pose difficult questions for Welsh Labour’s organisation – i.e. whether to work on the basis of the 29 new parliamentary boundaries or stick with the existing 40 CLPs. Dave would bring a paper on this to the next meeting.

Dave had also conducted an investigation into some issues within Ceredigion CLP, which resulted in the re-running of the AGM, but praised the energy and enthusiasm of the CLP. Darren highlighted the fact that Ceredigion currently has only one Labour councillor and, having seen a huge increase in membership, is trying to find candidates to run a bigger slate in May but has had most of its few newly-selected candidates refused endorsement because they did not have twelve months membership. He asked Dave to clarify the scope for providing special dispensation. Dave replied that he was keen to see the local party stand more candidates this time and was willing, in principle, to be flexible if the CLP could provide more details and make a sufficiently persuasive case.

Minutes of the WEC Sub-Committees on Local Government and Organisation and Campaigns were circulated, discussed and noted.

The WEC then considered the Stage One Report of the ‘Making Gender Equality a Reality’ Working Party. This gave an update on the work done in response to a composite resolution carried at last year’s Welsh conference following motions from several CLPs and affiliates, seeking a more robust approach to ensuring gender-balanced selections. The report, which will be put to this year’s conference, set the scene for detailed consultation by reviewing the historical record, setting out some practical considerations and identifying the principles on which the party’s approach to selection should be based – namely, transparency, principle and consistency. The report was well received and Catherine Thomas and Dawn Bowden were thanked for their commitment and hard work in producing it.

Dave gave an NEC Investigations Update, saying that all those who were still suspended following last year’s leadership election had been contacted and offered an interview, although some hadn’t responded. The vast majority of those dealt with so far had had their suspensions lifted with a warning and that was likely to be the case with the majority of the remainder, although one or two were likely to b taken further due to homophobic and/or misogynistic language.

Darren queried why, based on information he’d received as an NEC member, a disproportionate number of those cases still unresolved (around a quarter) concerned members in Wales (Dave did not have an immediate explanation for this). He also said that there was almost universal recognition on the NEC that there had been problems in the way that disciplinary matters had been dealt with, partly due to the limited number of penalties available (i.e. members had been suspended when a milder response might have been more appropriate). The NE C Organisation Committee had, however, considered a paper that sought to learn lessons for the future and take a more nuanced and less draconian view in future. Another CLP rep also expressed concerns about the way some Welsh Labour members had been treated and said that she believed that at least one or two had not yet been contacted; Dave agreed to investigate this and report back. It was also agreed to make ‘Investigations Update’ a standing agenda item.

Regarding Welsh Labour Conference, we were told that arrangements were going well, with registrations now around the 300 mark (members under the age of 27 had been allowed to register free of charge). Its detailed business, comprising the review of Welsh Labour rules, policy making process and the future work programme of the WEC, would be discussed at an additional WEC meeting on 25 February.

Finally, an update on the work of the National Policy Forum was given. Alun Davies AM said that he was trying to use his role on the NPF, by virtue of his NEC membership, to promote more effective ways for Welsh Government ministers and the Westminster Shadow Cabinet to work more closely and productively together.

Welsh Executive Committee Report 5th November 2016

This was the first meeting since the end of the leadership election and the party conference in Liverpool. With Welsh conference and the local elections on the horizon, there was a very full agenda, as a result of which the last couple of items were dealt with somewhat hurriedly. Chris Newman was away at a Socialist Educational Association meeting, so I am reporting this one ‘solo’.

We began with a minute’s silence for Terry Thomas, a former NUM and GMB official who had chaired the WEC at one time and had passed away since the last meeting. Sophie and I were congratulated on her wedding and Jo Stevens was welcomed to her first meeting as Shadow Welsh Secretary – the third person to hold that position since I joined the WEC in February.

Carwyn then gave his Leader’s Report. The main issue affecting Wales continued to be the prospect of Brexit. He noted the court judgement earlier in the week, which had determined that the royal prerogative could not be used to overturn an act of Parliament. The Tories didn’t seem to think that they could succeed in challenging the ruling, hence the talk of an early general election. If they did win, there would be wider ramifications for Wales, inasmuch as the royal prerogative could also be used to interfere with the devolution process. Carwyn had attended a Joint Ministerial Council meeting with Theresa May, where he had asked her to rule out any deal involving tariffs. The Tories did not seem to have a clue as to their position. Should there be an early general election, the Wales Bill currently going through Parliament would be lost; despite the bill’s serious flaws, this would be a setback for Wales. Carwyn also reported on the legislation being taken forward by the Welsh Government in the National Assembly, including a bill to repeal the Trade Union Act in its application to the devolved public sector in Wales. Welsh Labour’s budget for 2017/18 also seemed assured of acceptance, following a deal with Plaid Cymru that had involved some uncontentious concessions.

Carwyn then took questions from WEC members, most of which related to Brexit and the risks to the Welsh economy, although the replacement of Communities First and moves to promote collaboration between local authorities were also raised. I asked him about two recent developments where the private sector appeared to be encroaching on public services in Wales: the announcement of four private bidders for the Wales and the Borders rail franchise; and the plan to build a private hospital in the grounds of Morriston hospital, by relocating the existing Sancta Maria facility. On the first point, he said that the current Wales Bill would prevent the Welsh Government from running rail services directly or from establishing a new public provider (which may be true but doesn’t explain why they couldn’t have promoted an alternative not for profit approach, in line with Welsh Labour conference policy). On the second, he said that he knew nothing about the proposal but would look into it.

The Shadow Welsh Secretary’s Report was then given by Jo Stevens, the third person to hold this position since I joined the WEC in February. Jo paid tribute to her immediate predecessor, Paul Flynn, who had made his mark during his brief tenure, and highlighted the significant contribution now being made by Welsh MPs to Labour’s frontbench, across several policy areas. Jo talked about Labour’s efforts to challenge the Tories in Parliament over their handling of ‘Brexit’, putting in 170 questions to represent the 170 days until Article 50 is triggered. David Davis had been avoiding answering any questions, while Theresa May had shown her misplaced priorities by putting immigration and border controls ahead of the economy in her talks with the EU. Jo also covered a number of other areas in which she and her parliamentary colleagues were currently active, including the prospects for the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon; the failings of the Concentrix contract let by HMRC to address tax credit fraud; the campaign for state pension equality for women; and winter pressures in the NHS. Jo was keen that, when issues like grammar schools came up, Wales’ positive record should be highlighted and Jeremy was very supportive of this. Jo emphasised the need for a united response to the Boundary Review, which was due to close on 5 December, and finished by highlighting the possibility of an early general election in the spring, which was likely to be challenging for Labour, given recent opinion polls an by-election results.

An EU Update was on the agenda but was not taken as our MEP, Derek Vaughan, had sent his apologies and the issue had already been aired under Carwyn’s and Jo’s reports.

We therefore moved on to the General Secretary’s report. Dave Hagendyk began with the update on suspensions that he had promised at the last meeting. 57 members in Wales had been suspended during the leadership campaign. 23 of these, whose cases were not deemed very serious, had had their suspensions lifted but been given a warning; the remaining 34 were subject to further investigation. Dave also reported that Michelle Perfect had been replaced by Joe Lock as North Wales organiser and that the press officer, Huw Price had left to become a Special Adviser to the Welsh Government. CLPs and affiliates were now able to make nominations for the Welsh Labour Best Practice Awards (closing date: 28 January). There had been mixed results in recent council by-elections, with Labour victories in Caerphilly, Denbighshire and the Vale of Glamorgan but seats lost to opponents in Cardiff and Neath Port Talbot.

Dave then put forward a paper setting out a proposed procedure for considering whatever changes to the Welsh party’s rules and standing orders may be necessary as a result of the devolution of certain responsibilities from London to Cardiff. The proposals seemed unduly complicated to me, with varying timescales for the different areas of the rules. Some changes that are judged necessary to be made immediately (e.g. recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader, as opposed to just Leader of the National Assembly Labour Group), but which would apparently involve minor changes to the existing rules, would be presented to conference in March, while others (including, for example, the rules for the election of the leader and deputy leader, as well as selection procedures for candidates at all levels) would be considered afterwards and either implemented by the WEC (where it has the power to do so) or dealt with at a future conference. (In addition, a later agenda item sought to initiate a consultation on the Welsh Policy Forum process with a view to agreeing the way forward at conference in March.)

In the light of all this complexity, some of us welcomed the submission by Aberconwy CLP of a motion calling for a special rules review conference, which would enable all matters dealing with the party’s structure and governance to be dealt with together at a dedicated event. I moved that this be adopted by the WEC, with the regional secretary of Unison seconding the motion. Although Aberconwy had not specified a timescale, it was made clear in the discussion (after initial criticisms that a rules review conference would be a distraction from the local election campaign) that it couldn’t take place before the late summer and probably have to wait until the autumn. Nevertheless, it was, unfortunately, defeated by 12 votes to 9.

There were also three motions (from Cynon Valley, Preseli Pembrokeshire and Swansea West CLPs) welcoming the creation of a seat for Wales on the NEC (as agreed at the Liverpool conference) but calling for it to be elected by OMOV, rather than appointed by Carwyn (a branch in Dwyfor Meirionnydd had also passed a similar motion but this was discounted because it hadn’t gone to the CLP first). Dave Hagendyk advised us that these motions could not be considered because the Welsh party does not have the power to override a decision made by the ‘national’ party conference. Nevertheless, there was a brief discussion initiated by one of the other CLP reps, who argued that members had reason to feel aggrieved because they hadn’t been consulted about the basis on which the new NEC seat would be established. I spoke to support this point and pointed out that the WEC hadn’t actually discussed the extra NEC seat at any point in the time that I had been a member and that information from comrades who were members last year suggested that it hadn’t been discussed then either. I was then personally criticised (by colleagues who either hadn’t understood or didn’t accept what I had already said) for voting at the NEC against the “WEC position” and for defending my position in media interviews, before the chair brought things to a close, after giving me another chance to defend myself, and said that if members had concerns about particular individuals’ conduct, they should make a formal complaint, rather than indulge in personal attacks during meetings. (At the end of the meeting, a senior WEC member said that he would be making a formal complaint about my “behaviour”.)

Finally on the General Secretary’s report, another CLP rep raised concerns (which I share) about the suspensions that had been carried out and it was agreed that this issue would be discussed more fully at the next meeting.

The remainder of the agenda was fairly uncontroversial. There were reports from those WEC sub-committees that had met since the last full meeting, including the Organisation sub-committee, on which I sit and which had agreed, among other things, to conduct an audit of Welsh CLPs, to ascertain how healthily (or otherwise) these bodies are functioning. There was also the item referred to above, regarding a review of the Welsh Policy-Making Process, which will be conducted by consulting party units and affiliates in the period leading up to February 2017, with the conclusions presented to Welsh party conference.