This meeting was very lengthy with 21 items on the agenda so edited highlights only have been provided.
Report of the Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister
Mark presented a written report to the committee. He thanked the staff of the Welsh Labour office for their hard work and loyalty over the recent very busy period.
On Brexit, Mark expressed concern that, due to the current Tory Leadership Election, the unity of the U.K. was seriously under threat. Their talk of “a no deal Brexit,” was putting undue strain on relations between Scotland, Wales and Ireland with England. However, our links with the Irish Government were strengthening, an example of this was the reopening of their Consulate Office in Cardiff. Negotiating with the Tories for a satisfactory deal for Wales seemed futile in Mark’s opinion. With this situation in mind and having discussed the matter with J.C. he felt that he had no option but to support and call for a public confirmational vote. A move, much appreciated by members of the WEC including myself. Although I did remind the meeting that we have a huge task ahead of us persuading the Brexit supporters in Wales to support our remain position. Mark confirmed that the Welsh Government (WG) hope to publish a new policy document” soon, making the case for remaining in the E.U. as strong as possible.
On Ford, the WEC were reminded that the Bridgend Engine Plant by September 2020 will have lost 1,700 jobs. Both Mark and the Economy Minister, Ken Skates AM had visited the plant and engaged in talks with management and the unions over the last few weeks. Mark gave assurances that the WG had pressed the Ford Management to reverse their decision and if that is not possible not to leave the plant/country without giving significant compensation to their staff. Concern was expressed for those worst affected, those with mortgages and young families to support. That is why a 24 hour, 7 day a week helpline has been set up for the work force, by the WG. In addition, funding is available for those affected, to attend appropriate re-training courses. As for the Ford supply chain, which had developed over the years, the WG is also offering to help them. I added that this situation illustrates how there is no loyalty among capitalist firms such as Ford, considering all the financial assistance they have received from the WG.
On the M4 Relief Road, Mark reported that a Public Inspector’s Report and a detailed account of why the WG decided to scrap this project can be found on the following website: https://gov.wales/m4-corridor-around-newport. Mark added that the two main reasons for this decision, were that the WG would be unable to meet the rising cost of the project and the serious environmental impact on the Gwent Levels. On hearing that a new expert commission, chaired by Lord Terry Burns, had been set up to make recommendations as soon as possible on how the congestion on the M4 in Newport and SE Wales can be tackled, no further comments or questions were raised on this matter at the meeting.
On Budget Preparations, Mark admitted that the situation was very serious, as the WG cannot plan its 2020-21 budget. This is because:
- We are entering the 10th year of austerity – which is a political choice by the Conservative Government.
- This same government promised a Comprehensive Spending Review, which has not taken place yet, making it incredibly difficult for the WG to make any financial planning arrangement with Local Government, Welsh NHS, etc.
- The complete lack of clarity by the U.K. Government on its Shared Prosperity Fund which is supposed to replace the E.U.’s £370million a year funding for Wales.
- The WG Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans AM has written to the U.K. Government demanding a permanent adjustment to Wales’s block grant, over and above Barnett that should then be administered by the WG and not as threatened, by the UK Government.
On Local Government, following recent talks between the WG and Local Government (LG), the following proposals were announced:
- The development of a LG Bill,
- To enshrine the social partnership model in law.
During the questioning of Mark, I raised two concerns and received assurances on one, that the WG were seriously considering re-regulating the public bus services in Wales, and secondly, the WG and LG were looking into bringing back in house, privately-run public services. Social Care was mentioned as an example. The Unison Delegate Dan Beard, raised the question of staff cuts at St David’s University in Lampeter and the reluctance of the Liberal Democrat Education Minister Kirsty Williams AM to negotiate with the unions. Dan was advised to contact Jane Hutt AM as she has been given the job of overseeing Higher Education labour matters.
A Report from the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales was noted by the WEC. It is clear that Christina and her team are keeping up the pressure on the Tories especially Alun Cairns. He is difficult to pin down and seems ineffectual in representing the interests of the ordinary people in Wales. This is partly due to the fact that the UK Government is so preoccupied with Brexit matters, as a result of which other issues are being neglected. Yet Christina and her team have been busy questioning the Tories on such matters as the European Elections, the status of the Stronger Towns Fund, the Ford Closure, the Policing Budget, the U.K. Shared Prosperity Fund, the Brexit impact on Wales, the Wales Steel Industry and the British Steel Pension.
Christina was asked what disciplinary action has been taken over the eight Labour MPs who voted with the Tories at a recent Brexit debate. She was not aware that any action had been taken.
Welsh Labour Deputy Leader, Carolyn Harris gave a verbal report on the work she had been involved in recently. Perhaps her proudest achievement is that the UK Government have agreed to give financial help to those parents who have difficulty in paying for the funeral expenses of their dead child. In addition, Carolyn has also been involved in calling for women prisoners, especially pregnant ones, not to be sent to prison in England, as at present, but to be placed in Women’s centres. She also expressed concern about the unfair treatment of Virgin staff by the Swansea management.
A paper on Transitional Rules for the Women’s Committee, was accepted by the WEC. It was agreed that a transitional period for regular discussions between the Women’s Committee and the WEC, would be necessary, in order to fully implement the rule changes.
Welsh Labour Democracy Review: an Interim Report on Stage 2 of the Democracy Review was presented to the WEC and accepted. It was agreed that the less contentious issues would be dealt with first and presented for approval to next year’s Welsh Labour Conference. It was also confirmed that a series of meetings on this matter would be chaired by Lord Paul Murphy, plus a timetable was being arranged for these ongoing consultations.
The Reselection of MPs was included in the Democracy Review paper, as there was an issue to be resolved in relation to the way this is applied in Wales. Cllr Debbie Wilcox reminded the WEC that councillors have to go through a full reselection process before they can stand in each election. I added that, in the interests of fairness, such a practice should also apply to AMs and MPs but this was opposed by one of the AMs present on the grounds of inconvenience and workload. Mark Drakeford asked the WEC to agree that he should write to the UK General Secretary, asking for a rule change to allow Welsh Labour to have control over reselections in Wales. He said that there were two key principles here, firstly the matter of devolution and secondly the question of parity with the English party. He noted that there had been a significant transfer of responsibilities to Wales at the 2016 LP conference but, following the change at last year’s conference in the way that reselections are conducted, there was now an inconsistency and not everything was devolved. It was agreed that the letter should be written.
There was a paper updating us on Candidate Selections that still had to be conducted, namely: PCCs for South Wales, Dyfed-Powys and North Wales; the remaining Parliamentary Selections, Assembly Selections for constituencies not currently held by Labour; and Assembly Regional List Reselections and Selections.
On Local Government, Cllr Sarah Merry presented a paper, concerning approved procedures that were felt necessary following the recent development on the Vale of Glamorgan Council, where the ruling Tory Party have split and now Labour councillors and Independents (i.e. ex-Tories) are running the Council, hence the need for a code of conduct on power sharing. The other paper which was formally agreed, was entitled NEC Local Government Committee Review of the Party’s Local Government Organisations and Groups, it was about adopting rules, guidelines and procedures appropriate for Welsh Labour.
Vacancies on the WEC: Two Trade Union places had become vacant and, since there were no runners-up from the original election, David Costa had drafted a proposed procedure for filling the vacancies, which involved inviting those unions eligible to nominate to do so and then conducting a ballot if necessary; this was agreed.
CLP Rules & Standing Orders: this item set out what CLPs needed to do in order to implement the rule changes agreed at UK conference in a number of areas, including:
- All CLP Secretaries should follow the national model of Rules and S.O.s and any deviations must be agreed by Welsh Labour.
- On Quorums, the new rules state that the minimum should be 25 for a CLP GC and 6 for a branch meeting.
- Formal Notice of all meetings and the business intended should be sent out by the secretary to all those entitled to attended at least seven days prior to the meeting. Those members not on e-mail should be contacted by post.
- A GC executive should include 6 officers including a Policy Officer, a new post with an important role. There was a request for a yearly breakdown of membership levels per CLP, with the numbers who had lapsed, joined, left, etc. It was agreed to request this information from the NEC.
The Code of conduct/disciplinary procedures for National Assembly LP members. The paper was introduced by Vikki Howells, setting out the revised rules for the Assembly group, which had now been completed, and was accepted by the WEC.
Dates for WEC meetings up to the following year’s Welsh conference were also agreed.
Acting General Secretary’s Report. This covered:
- The work done for the European Elections.
- Staffing – Grace Ashworth became the third trainee organiser, who will be based in Aberconwy. There are two staff vacancies since Alex Bevan and Victoria Solomon had left. Welsh Labour was awaiting approval from the UK Labour HR team to appoint replacements.
- The Brecon and Radnorshire by-election would be held over the summer.
- There would be a Labour Stall at the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst.
- The Welsh Policy Forum had met on Saturday 22/6/2019, the first of a two-year term in the current cycle.
- A Stage 2 policy document was being prepared over the summer for launch in November’s Welsh Policy Forum.
Jackie Jones was warmly welcomed at the beginning of the meeting, as the newly elected and only Labour MEP in Wales. She and the other Labour candidates had submitted a report outlining where Labour could have improved its performance in the recent European Election.
WLGA re-elected leader’s report.
Debbie Wilcox confirmed what the First Minister had stated – that the Public Sector Finance was in disarray due to the Tory Government’s position over Brexit. On Local Government Reform, constructive talks were taking place between the First Minister and the Housing and Local Government Minister and progress was being made.
A PCC report from Jeff Cuthbert was accepted by the WEC. Finance was a very serious concern.
Minutes of the previous WEC were accepted.
Under the final item Correspondence:
- The North Wales Consultative Committee report was accepted by the WEC.
- Stephen Doughty MP asked whether Welsh Labour had received any reply to a complaint about Darren Williams (who was not present at the meeting) for circulating a supportive message about Chris Williamson MP on behalf of Welsh Labour Grassroots. This request was seconded by Tonia Antoniazzi. What an uncomradely way to end a meeting!