Friday, 15 June 2012

Revolts and Standing orders

Efail-Wen in Carmarthenshire and an agenda item amending Standing Orders in the Welsh Assembly at a glance don’t seem to have a lot in common. But they do. Why?
It’s because next week sees again the onwards march of devolution. The Assembly is set to change its rules to allow for Private bills. Now what are these? Well, they’re not the same as Private Member Bills which are for back benchers to make laws. 
No, these bills are for outsiders to use. Individuals or bodies outside the National Assembly can attempt to use the Private bill to give themselves powers beyond or that which conflicts with the general law. 

Such measures usually attract a fair amount of objections and take a great deal of time before they’re passed. 

In fact the whole of the proceedings are of a quasi-judicial nature. For the benefit of Jeremy Hunt that means,  careful and balanced as if in a court of law.
Such bills are expensive and are time consuming to pass. Very time consuming indeed. That’s why in Westminster, MPs try to avoid being put on a committee dealing with a private  bill. It’s the parliamentary equivalent of doing time. The Whips have been known to use the threat of being put on the committee of a Private bill to sap the rebellious will of miscreant Members.
It will be interesting to see how long it is before Assembly Members groan at the prospect of being put on a committee that deals with one of these.
But back to the main story. Many of the big infrastructure schemes that formed the background of the industrial revolution stem from the Private Bill. Our railways network and our canal system were all established by using the devise  of the Private Bill. And of course, the development of Cardiff Bay itself was as a result of a much contested Private Bill.
But what’s it to do with Efail-Wen? Well, this was the first place that the Rebbecca Riots struck. They were attacking the toll gate there. At a time of real poverty in rural Wales because of wet harvests, the small farmers vented there anger at having to pay tolls to the various Turnpike Trusts founded to repair and maintain roads. 

There were a web of toll gates around Wales and each time the people passed through, they had to pay.  Around Carmarthen there were about 11 different Turnpike Trusts so little wonder that the natives in the area revolted.  And you’ve guessed it, the Turnpike Trusts were established by Private Bills.
So when Nick Clegg said that the Welsh government should accept more responsibility for raising the money it spent surely he didn’t have such schemes in mind. Or did he?


  1. Hardly worth blogging about!.
    I'd prefer a blog on the latest on AWEMA - seems to have gone quite quiet.

  2. Come on Gareth, more serious stuff please on the fall and fall of Wales. How much longer do you think we will have to put up with the cretins in Cardiff? Even the 'Welsh' in Wales know that we can't carry on like this. We're a laughing stock.

  3. Yes, kp, I bet they can't keep a straight face about us in Greece...

  4. forgive me if i am wrong but i dont see thousands of starving people queuing for free food in wales. Im not aware of anyone in wales giving their children away because they cannot afford to look after them. Im not aware of the suicide rate in wales increasing by 50 percent recently and so far as im aware the unemployment rate in wales is nowhere near 25 its difficult to see any comparisons between wales and greece, other than in the above poster's fevered imagination.

    As for the query about the durability of devolution for wales? well given the dismal standards and half baked arguments of the dwindling band of anti-devolutionists in wales i think it would be fair to say that devolution is going to be a permanent feature of welsh political life...the only question being as to how much further wales goes along the path of devolved government and at what speed?

    Further devolution is likely to come as a result of the silk commission's findings...while a yes vote in Scotland's independence referendum in 2014 is likely to result in the process of welsh devolution gathering even greater speed.

    Leigh Richards