In opening the meeting, the Chair, Donna Hutton, congratulated Darren on this election to the NEC and welcomed Mary Williams, who had taken up the Unite seat vacated by Hannah Blythyn when she was elected to the Assembly as AM for Delyn.
Report of Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister
Carwyn Jones AM began by expressing concern about the cancellation of an NEC meeting on party reform, which had been scheduled for 6 September, as one of the items this meeting would have discussed was the package of rule changes intended to devolve greater power over the rules in Wales to the Welsh party. He was concerned that this would mean that the proposed changes would not be put to conference and there would be a year’s delay. Other members echoed his concerned but Darren pointed out that there was still an NEC meeting scheduled for 20 September, which could, in principle, agree that the proposals be put to Conference. It was agreed to write to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol, urging the NEC to approve the rule changes. It was also agreed to ask the two leadership candidates to endorse the proposals.
Carwyn also announced a plan to hold a special “Welsh Labour Convention”, in order to facilitate greater involvement of party members in the future planning of the party’s long term policy development. Huw Lewis and Janice Gregory, both recent ex-AMs, have been asked to draw up a discussion paper on this topic for the WEC’s next meeting on 5 November.
Report of the Shadow Welsh Secretary
Paul Flynn MP raised concerns about the possibility of the Labour party losing 11 of its Welsh MPs due to the forthcoming Boundary Changes (as well as losing our one MEP to Brexit). These changes are seen as an act of blatant gerrymandering by the Tories and a legal challenge is being considered because the government have not taken into account the most recent data on the number of people in each constituency. Paul also reaffirmed the urgent need for the infighting within the PLP to stop. He felt the party should come together and unite to fight the Tories and not each other. His written report was noted.
Election of the Party Development Board (PDB)
Nominations were invited for the PDB, a sub-committee of the WEC that sometimes has to make key decisions between WEC meetings. In addition to the WEC officers, Assembly Labour Leader and Shadow Welsh Secretary, Karen Wilkie, Margaret Thomas and Mary Williams were elected to represent the affiliates; and Pam Baldwin, Ceri Reeves and Darren to represent the CLPs.
Derek Vaughan MEP’s written report was noted. Carwyn said that the key issue was the need to have access to a single and tariff free market, in order to keep the manufacturing sector in Wales. However the EU would not accept this situation without the UK government paying for this arrangement, and us accepting free movement of labour and their rules. He felt that Article 50 would be triggered by mid-2017. In the meantime, Carwyn has put together an advisory group (which would have to include Brexiteers) and strengthen the appropriate section of the civil service, in order to offer much needed assistance to the Welsh Government. Assurance would have to be offered to wales’ key foreign investors. On the question of a second referendum he felt it was not politically acceptable. Any deal with the EU would have to be ratified by all 4 UK parliaments; any decision concerning devolved matters such as, fisheries, farming and the environment will require Welsh Assembly approval as well as Wales having direct negotiations with the EU.
General Secretary’s Report
David Hagendyk returned to the matter of the proposed rule changes for the Welsh party and secured agreement from the WEC that, if the changes were agreed by UK conference, there would be a wide-ranging consultation with Welsh party members as to what should be done with the new powers. On staffing, it was announced that Michelle Perfect, North Wales Organiser and Welsh Labour Women’s Officer, has resigned in order to work for Hannah Blythyn, AM for Delyn. Her replacement in North Wales would be interviewed shortly but Jo McIntyre was to be the new Women’s Officer. Under the newly-announced Organising Academy, training and training packages would soon be available for party members, with a particular focus on CLPs where UKIP is a threat; Fraser Welsh would be taking charge of this work. Details of the Boundary Changes for Wales would be published on 13 September and there would be a meeting on the implications on 16 September and begin to try and agree a common Labour position. These changes will have a big effect on the Party and raises the question of how we should respond.
Among the points raised in the discussion was the suggestion that mass voter registration should be promoted via the universities. Concerns were also raised about various issues arising out of the leadership contest, including the online abuse that had taken place and the anonymous criticisms that had been reported in the media regarding certain full-time staff. Darren raised concerns about the large number of suspensions of party members in recent weeks and asked Dave about the involvement of Welsh Labour staff in the process and the numbers of Welsh party members affected. Dave said that he did not yet have accurate data on the numbers suspended in Wales but understood that this was being complied by the party centrally and promised to pass on the information once received.
WEC Committees and Panels
Volunteers were enlisted for the Appeals panel; the Organisation Committee; the Local Government Committee; and working parties to take forward Welsh conference decisions on Making Gender Balance a Reality; the Welsh Labour Review of Policy Process; and School Term Time Contracts.
Labour Conference 2016
Arrangements were discussed, including the Delegates’ Briefing, Welsh Night and the scheduled debate on Wales. Chris remarked that it was unfortunate that Welsh ministers were not able to attend conference to talk about their respective policy areas, because the Assembly would be sitting at the time, and asked if anything could be done about this. Her frustration was echoed by others but it was reported that this was a matter for the Assembly as a whole and it was unlikely to change in the short term, give the political balance.
Local Government elections and September Event
The event planned for 17 September on next May’s elections was publicised.