February recess was a numbers game this year.
At an event on Monday, Labour attempted to position themselves as “half-way through a decade of delivery”, presumably to counteract the claims of the Opposition parties that they are stale and out of ideas. The party also unveiled six election pledges on apprenticeships, business rates, school standards, an NHS treatment fund, childcare and support for older people in care homes.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru launched their nine-point plan to make Wales ‘well, well-educated and wealthy’. Their plan includes improved cancer diagnosis times, action on student debt and apprenticeships.
Perhaps fortuitously, the pledges made by each party overlap significantly, which would make coalition negotiations easier. Less good for politicians is that it could all prove a bit hard to remember. Watch out for politicians from both parties being tested on the 3 / 6 / 9 points at some point in the not too distant future.
It’s back to the future in the Assembly next week as AMs reflect extensively on their record and review multiple things.
The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee will hear evidence from the First Minister (Carwyn Jones) in relation to the Committee’s legacy work.
On Tuesday morning, the Petitions Committee will churn through the usual raft of entreaties. As AMs have already recognised, this Committee is in urgent need of reform. Some petitions have been ping-ponging back and forth for years with no effective action being taken, while even reading others (this one on the Welsh language is a cracking example) is just a waste of parliamentary resources.
Also on Tuesday morning, Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government (Sir Derek Jones) is up in front of the Public Accounts Committee to discuss the Welsh Government’s Annual Report on Grants Management in Wales. With the long running scandal AWEMA still fresh in the memory of AMs and officials, this could get heated.
The Standards Committee meets in private on Tuesday morning to consider a number of technical issues relating to the registration of Members interests and Cross Party Groups.
On Tuesday afternoon, no doubt buoyant from his party’s conference in Llandudno at the weekend, the First Minister (Carwyn Jones) will take questions from AMs. This will be followed by an update on the Invest to Save Programme and debates on Estyn’s Annual Report and the Mental Health (Wales) Measure.
Wednesday morning sees the Enterprise & Business Committee hold general scrutiny sessions with Deputy Minister for Skills & Technology (Julie James) and Minister for Economy, Science & Transport (Edwina Hart).
The Finance Committee will be taking evidence from Minister for Finance (Jane Hutt) on the Welsh Government’s Second Supplementary Budget.
Edwina Hart is back up at Economy Questions after lunch. The afternoon’s debates include discussions on Welsh in Education Strategic Plans, the activity of the Committee of the Regions and a Welsh Conservative debate on local democracy. Russell George (Montgomeryshire)(PC) has the short debate on mobile coverage.
Thursday afternoon is quiet with the Environment & Sustainability Committee considering the development of Natural Resources Wales and their draft report into a Smarter Energy Future for Wales, both in private.
Unusually, the Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister takes place on Friday. AMs will be grilling the FM. Agenda there is still TBC.
Friday also sees UKIP Wales’ Spring Conference kick off in Llandudno.
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