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This week in the Assembly...

newsdirect's 60 second guide to what's going on in Cardiff Bay this week.

Christmas might be over but the second most wonderful time of year is almost upon us. Yes, it’s just four months to go until the next Assembly elections!

Between now and then we can expect great receptions for every candidate on every doorstep; sound and fury and maybe even a new policy or two.

Quick update on how the contest is shaping up: selection of candidates is ongoing and the latest polling, published in November, gave the following seat predictions: Labour 27; Conservatives 12; Plaid Cymru 10; UKIP 9 and the Liberal Democrats 2.

The biggest stories look set to be the entry of UKIP to the National Assembly for Wales and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. A Labour minority government or a Labour / Plaid coalition is the most likely outcome but, as the saying goes, five months is absolutely ages in electoral politics.

We hope AMs had a good break as there is plenty to get through between now and then.

Monday sees the First Minister (Carwyn Jones) go head-to-head in an Institute of Welsh Affairs / Cardiff University debate on membership of the European Union with UKIP Leader (Nigel Farage). Concerns that the IWA are unfairly giving Carwyn Jones a political platform to take on UKIP and thus framing the upcoming election have been expressed by Plaid Cymru.

On Tuesday, AMs will consider the Older People's Commissioner for Wales' Impact and Reach Annual Report 2014-15. This is likely to be an emotive discussion on how older people in Wales can best be supported to lead fulfilling and dignified lives. An ambition which has sadly gone unrealised in previous years.

Wednesday will see a very lengthy debate on the Wales Bill on Wednesday. While there is support for many aspects of the Bill, there has also been extensive criticism that the overall effect is to increase the complexity and reduce the clarity of  devolution in Wales and to roll-back the Assembly’s competence. There is some suggestion that the Bill will have to be significantly revised if it is to proceed much further. Secretary of State for Wales (Stephen Crabb) will have to make that call soon; the draft Bill is expected to be in its final form and introduced to Parliament by February.

And a busy week for the Assembly’s Committees which will be trawling through the 2016/17 Draft Budget. Expect discussion to focus on how the additional £300m allocated to the NHS will be used to ensure long term sustainability as opposed to short-term survival for Welsh Health Boards.

Need in-depth coverage on any of these sessions? newsdirect is a dedicated monitoring service. We'll be reporting live all week. Give us a shout on 029 2009 0693. 

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