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What happened in the Assembly this week? – 6th July 2018

Leadership challenges, the 70th Anniversary of the NHS, children’s mental health and Brexit negotiations…

Leadership elections

Cardiff University published its latest Welsh Political Barometer poll on voting intentions for the Assembly and Westminster this week. The poll also gauged opinion on who would make the best leader of the four political groups in the Senedd which all currently face leadership elections.

Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth confirmed that they will challenge Leanne Wood for the leadership of Plaid Cymru. On Monday, Mr Price, a former MP, said he would not stand if Leanne Wood accepted a co-leadership system. His proposal was rejected by Ms Wood who said it was a matter for the membership. The poll showed a clear lead for Leanne Wood (36%) in terms of support from Plaid members, with Mr ap Iorwerth and Mr Price trailing on 14% and 13% respectively.

Suzy Davies joined interim leader Paul Davies in the Welsh Conservative leadership contest. Ms Davies has called for the winner of the contest to be crowned leader of the Welsh Conservatives, rather than leader of the Assembly group. The contest looks set to be difficult to predict with recent polls showing that 8% of party supporters think Paul Davies would make the best leader while 6% backed Suzy Davies and 62% said they were unsure.

In the Labour leadership race, Mark Drakeford was this week backed by his cabinet colleagues Ken Skates and Lesley Griffiths as well as Housing Minister Rebecca Evans and Newport West AM Jayne Bryant, bringing his total number of nominations to 12. As a result, there will now only be room on the ballot paper for three candidates, meaning one of Huw Irranca-Davies, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan will miss out.

NHS at 70

In a week of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Vaughan Gething announced a pay rise offer for NHS Wales staff which would match the 6.5% three-year pay deal in England. The pay rise will need to be accepted by a union ballot before it can be applied to staff, apart from doctors, dentists and senior leaders. Earlier in the week, the Bevan Commission warned that serious problems facing the NHS are not being addressed as politicians too often use it as a “political football”.

Children’s Mental Health

AMs shared their personal experiences of mental health services during a Senedd debate on the Welsh Government’s response to a report on children’s emotional well-being. Lynne Neagle, chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, was critical of the Welsh Government’s response in which it accepted only seven of the report’s 27 recommendations in full. Ms Neagle said the response does not reflect the committee’s call for a “step change” in mental health services, calling on the Welsh Government to reconsider its response and report back to the committee in the autumn.

Brexit White Paper

The External Affairs Committee began the week by quizzing Mark Drakeford and Rebecca Evans on the Welsh Government’s influence over Brexit negotiations through the Ministerial Forum. By Thursday, Prof Drakeford and the Scottish Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, claimed the devolved administrations are being denied the opportunity to influence negotiations. In a joint letter, the ministers stated that the UK Government’s draft White Paper on EU negotiations was not shared with the Welsh or Scottish Governments before a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

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