9. Plaid Cymru Debate: Devolution of justice and policing

– in the Senedd at on 21 June 2023.

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(Translated)

The following amendment has been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Lesley Griffiths.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 5:08, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

Item 9 is the Plaid Cymru debate on devolution of justice and policing. And I call on Rhun ap Iorwerth to move the motion. 

(Translated)

Motion NDM8300 Siân Gwenllian

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Notes that over a quarter of a century since devolution, Wales remains the only devolved nation without its own legal system and powers over its police forces, despite there being no rational basis for this.

2. Believes that:

a) powers over justice and policing should be fully devolved to Wales; and

b) establishing a distinct Welsh legal system and making Welsh police forces fully accountable to the Senedd can be vital steps along the road to independence.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to formally request powers over justice and policing.

(Translated)

Motion moved.

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 5:09, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and it's a great pleasure for me to open this Plaid Cymru debate, my first debate as leader. I'm pleased that the first debate under my leadership is on such a vitally important issue. Justice is an issue that is at the heart of our daily lives. It impacts on our communities, on our citizens, in so many different ways, and it's related to fairness, it involves us devising our own fates. Fundamentally, it's only through ensuring that Wales receives the necessary powers that we will successfully build a fairer, greener, more prosperous nation, a more ambitious nation, indeed. 

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru

Devolving justice and policing, it's not a 'nice to have'. I view this as being essential, and I believe it is harmful that we do not have these responsibilities. I'll begin this afternoon with the words of a leading academic expert in the field of justice, Dr Rob Jones. His startling conclusion in co-writing The Welsh Criminal Justice System was that, and I quote:

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 5:10, 21 June 2023

'On many key measures we uncover that the Welsh criminal justice system performs even worse than that of England, a country with a well-deserved reputation as among the worst performers in western Europe. We see higher rates of violent offences, disturbing data on race throughout the system, higher rates of incarceration than in England, and a higher proportion of the population subject to some kind of probation supervision.'

As Members across the Chamber consider the contributions today and make their own contributions, I urge everybody to ask themselves, 'How can this be acceptable?' Whilst the UK Government implements policies that seek to address issues that may well be prevalent in England, it cannot be right—it can never be acceptable—for us in Wales to have to inherit so-called solutions that do not work for us here in Wales.

Now, before I turn to the purpose, the practical need for devolving the justice system, I do want to say a few words about the politics. The 2021 Welsh Labour manifesto committed to pursuing the case for the devolution of justice and policing, as set out by the Thomas commission, yet only yesterday in this Chamber the First Minister endorsed a very different proposal that emerged from the work of the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, that of only devolving powers over youth justice and probation to the Senedd in the event of a Labour Government in Westminster.

It is, to say the least, a disappointing outcome to Labour's contribution to the debate on devolving further powers. I welcome rowing together in the same direction, but, goodness me, it frustrates me when one is rowing faster than the other. The result is that you end up going around in circles, don't you? The constitutional crumbs on offer are a far cry from what was promised by the First Minister's predecessor, who, on the passing of the Wales Act in 2017, stated that without engagement on the fundamental questions of justice and jurisdiction our current devolution settlement would never be stable.

Can I urge the Welsh Government to be as ambitious as we are on these benches for Wales on this particular issue? I repeat what I said yesterday: if you don't ask, you do not get. Yes, there's a need to keep the would-be Prime Minister Keir Starmer's feet to the fire on prior commitments made by Labour themselves, but the formal questions have to be asked of UK Ministers currently. I read with a huge amount of disappointment the answer given to my colleague Lord Wigley's written question in the House of Lords, which exposed, according to the Minister, that Welsh Government have not formally asked for the transfer of justice and policing powers.

Now, I heard what the First Minister said here in the Siambr yesterday, that it's not true that Welsh Government hasn't been trying to influence policy on devolving justice, and I know that discussions on enacting elements of the Thomas commission have been going on, and the First Minister gave a description yesterday of some of the action that has been taken. But let me say this to the Counsel General today: don't give Conservative Ministers at Westminster the reason to say that there has been no formal request for the devolution of police and justice. And let me ask the Counsel General today: write to UK Government to make that formal request for the full devolution of powers over police and justice, and I will only be too pleased, when that letter is made public here in Wales, to endorse it, and then, if indeed Keir Starmer does become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, that we hold him to fulfilling that request made by the Counsel General in the name of Welsh Government and in the name of the Senedd.

Justice is, without doubt, one of the bedrocks of policy making. It allows Governments to control the safety of their people. It's essential in allowing policy makers to develop the type of communities they aspire to have and, in doing so, tackle any problems that get in the way of that vision. Without powers over justice, a jagged edge appears, whereby Welsh Ministers have responsibility over areas that directly or indirectly interconnect with justice and policing. As Lord Thomas said in stark terms when he completed his in-depth work—and we're grateful to him for his commitment to this—people in Wales, he said, are let down by the system in its current state.

Few, I think, I hope, would disagree that the way that responsibilities are currently split between Westminster and Cardiff has created complexity, confusion, incoherence in many ways in justice and policing in Wales. And it's not only complex in a bureaucratic way; it complicates people's lives and has a detrimental impact on people's lives. It creates practical difficulties, it affects access to justice, it disproportionately affects access to justice for those who suffer from the inequalities that are so prevalent in our society. We've seen cuts in legal aid, more people representing themselves in court, an over reliance on incarceration, compared to rehabilitation, a lack of facilities for women, and an over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people within the criminal justice system. These are things that I want to see us in Wales being able to resolve. These are the consequences of decisions made elsewhere but put into action here, whether we like it or not.

The Counsel General and I see it in the same way on the principles around policing, certainly. I was reading this afternoon the words of the Counsel General himself earlier this year:

'it is logical, it makes sense', he said on the devolution of policing, and every elected police and crime commissioner, he said back in February, was agreed that it should happen;

'I believe one day it will happen.'

Well, let's hasten the day that it does happen. He should be as frustrated as I am at the messages coming from the leadership of the Labour Party under Keir Starmer. We need to see this happen.

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 5:17, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

I am very pleased that we have been able to bring forward this debate at the Senedd today. I look forward to hearing the contributions from all parts of the Siambr. I also look forward to hearing the Counsel General's response, and I truly believe that this debate will drive or inspire something within the Welsh Government to want to accelerate their actions on what they state in their manifestos and so often in public. But we can't let words be words alone; it's action that is important. If every other normal nation worldwide that has legislative powers over justice policy and policing takes it for granted that they have those powers, then what excuse is there for Wales to be any different? And what damage is caused to Wales and its citizens by not having those powers? Think about those two questions. And won't the solutions to those questions lead naturally to the conclusion that devolution of justice is the only sensible solution? 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 5:18, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

I have selected the amendment to the motion, and I call on the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution to move formally amendment 1, tabled in the name of Lesley Griffiths

(Translated)

Amendment 1—Lesley Griffiths

Delete all after sub-point 2(a) and replace with:

establishing a distinct Welsh legal system and making Welsh police forces fully accountable to the Senedd can be vital steps to ensuring that justice and policing can be better delivered for the benefit of the people of Wales; and

the Commission on Justice in Wales set out clearly why powers over justice should be wholly devolved and a Welsh legal jurisdiction established.

Calls on the Welsh Government to continue pursuing the case and preparing for the devolution of policing and justice.

(Translated)

Amendment 1 moved.

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour

I very much welcome the contribution of the new leader of Plaid Cymru, and I should congratulate him on his election last week and wish him best wishes for the future in that role. 

The devolution of policing and criminal justice is something we've discussed here on a number of occasions, and it is possible to find that elusive cigarette paper of difference between the Plaid Cymru benches and the Labour benches on this matter. But my advice would be not to try to do that, but to seek unity and to seek agreement on these matters, rather than to seek division, because this is an emergency. This is an ongoing emergency in our country. It's not an academic or abstract concept, something for lawyers to talk about late at night, something for constitutional anoraks to converse over when they've run out of every other abstract concept to converse over. This is an emergency that affects people in this country today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and it is women, I believe, that suffer the worst excesses of the failure of this system.

The administration of criminal justice and policing in Wales is broken. It's broken—structurally broken—by a system that was never designed to work in the context of democratic self-government in Wales. We should recognise that. What I would seek to do, and—. I've heard this debate, and quite often we have some very sterile arguments, I'm afraid, on a Wednesday afternoon over this matter. I've absolutely no doubt at all that Mark Isherwood will join the debate in a few minutes and will quote us a speech that he made in 2018 or 2017 and will quote his speech again from 2020 where he lists the crimes that were committed by people from Merseyside or elsewhere in north Wales. It is right and proper that we discuss these matters, Mark, but we have to have a more intelligent conversation as well.

If you look at policing, for example, across the United Kingdom, it's devolved in every single administration in the United Kingdom, and it's devolved in cities of England, such as Manchester and London. Nobody is suggesting that these places are oases of crime with no relationship to places elsewhere. Nobody is suggesting that police forces in Wales have no relationship with police forces across the border or elsewhere. Nobody is suggesting that we don't speak to each other, we don't work together. Nobody is suggesting that we create some sort of iron curtain across our borders and prevent police officers here speaking to colleagues elsewhere. Nobody is suggesting those things. Those straw men that are put up to argue the case against devolution need to be recognised for what they are.

I think here the Conservatives and, frankly, some people within the Labour Party, are making a fundamental error of judgment when it comes to what this means. I want to see a strong United Kingdom and I want to see a stable United Kingdom, and the asymmetrical form of devolution we had in the United Kingdom back in the 1990s probably fairly reflected the wishes of the people of Wales in 1999, and I think it is important to recognise that. But what reflected our views 25 years ago doesn't reflect our views on the structure of government today, and government needs to move and the constitution needs to move to recognise that. What that means is that symmetrical devolution, certainly on the island of Great Britain between Wales, Scotland and the rest of the UK—and England—is important in terms of the structure of the United Kingdom and enabling the United Kingdom to have the governance that we all require.

This is a point I want to make to our Conservative colleagues: it is a mistake to confuse unionism with centralism. If you had listened to a debate in the House of Commons some time ago, you had some of the fiercest Northern Irish unionists arguing for the devolution of policing and justice to Wales because they recognise that a strong union is a union where each constituent part of that union has similar structures and similar powers available to it, because that creates a stability within the union. If you've got the MP for Strangford or wherever arguing for devolution of justice and policing, you can be pretty sure they're not doing it because it's also supported by Sinn Fein. You can be pretty sure as well that they understand the importance of the devolution of these matters for the union in the future.

What I hope we'll be able to do—and I would like to hear the Counsel General's response to this—as the Victims and Prisoners Bill is currently in front of the Houses of Parliament in London: what is the view of the Welsh Government in terms of a legislative consent motion here? It appears to me that much of the content of that Bill should be enacted here and should reflect the priorities of this place and the Welsh Government, and not simply a Government in London that doesn't recognise the importance of these matters to people here in Wales and the structures that exist in Wales in order to deliver policy—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 5:24, 21 June 2023

Thank you, Alun. You can conclude now.

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour

I will bring my remarks to a conclusion. So, I would ask all Members in this Chamber, for the good of the people who are some of the most vulnerable people in this country, who are currently so badly served by criminal justice and policing, to vote for this—to vote for this because this will strengthen the United Kingdom, but it will also begin to create the coherence of policy, the coherence of structure that means that we can go to work for the people who need this work more greatly than others. Thank you.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

New Plaid Cymru leader—congratulations; same old chestnuts being recycled yet again and same grandstanding from Alun Davies. I will, therefore, recycle my arguments showing that this call defies reality. Of course Wales remains the only devolved nation without its own legal system and powers over its police forces, reflecting the rational basis for this. Specialist policing matters such as counter-terrorism are best co-ordinated at a UK level. Further, policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter, but, for reasons of geography and population, the situation in Wales is entirely different. Prior to the introduction of direct rule in 1972, the old Stormont Parliament had the responsibility for policing and justice in Northern Ireland, and successive UK Governments retained a commitment to redevolve policing and justice when circumstances were right to do so. Further, Great Britain and Northern Ireland are separated by a big chunk of sea. In contrast, yes, 48 per cent people in Wales live within 25 miles of the border with England, and 90 per cent within 50 miles. In further contrast, only 5 per cent of the combined population—

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

I'll finish the sentence, and then, yes. Only 5 per cent of the combined population of Scotland and England lives within 50 miles of the border between those countries.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru

Interesting stats as they are, what's the difference between Manchester, therefore, and the rest of England, and how can Manchester have greater devolution of policing?

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

The mayor in Manchester, as elsewhere, has the same powers as the police and crime commissioner. Are you calling for that to be centralised in the Welsh Government and for our regional police and crime commissioners to be abolished? Because that's what it sounds like. Despite this, the Thomas report makes only one reference to the key issue of cross-border criminality, in the context of county lines, and the only solution it proposes is joint working across the four Welsh forces in collaboration with other agencies, without any reference to established joint working with neighbouring partners across the invisible crime and justice border with England. And although I've repeatedly asked Welsh Government Ministers whether they will commission work to remedy this deficit, they've always dodged, dived and diverted in the name of policy-led evidence.

As I learned when I visited Titan, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, a collaboration of North Wales Police and five north-west England forces, all north Wales emergency planning is done with north-west England. Ninety-five per cent or more of crime in north Wales is local or operates on a cross-border, east-west basis. North Wales Police have no significant operations working on an all-Wales basis and the evidence given to the Thomas commission was largely ignored in the commission's report.

Commenting on its 'Delivering Justice for Wales' report last year, the Welsh Government described

'a distinct Welsh justice policy based on prevention through tackling social challenges and rehabilitation', and contrasted this with a more punitive approach, it said, by the UK Government. In so doing, it conveniently ignored all evidence to the contrary, when the UK Government has stated repeatedly that it favours a policy based on prevention through tackling social challenges and rehabilitation. It ignored the UK Ministry of Justice's 'Prisons Strategy White Paper' to rehabilitate offenders and cut crime, its victim strategy to align support for victims with the changing nature of crime, and its £300 million turnaround scheme over three years to support every council across Wales and England in catching and preventing youth offending earlier than ever, helping to stop these children and teenagers from moving on to further, more serious offending.

Further, it was the UK Government that published a female offender strategy to divert vulnerable female offenders away from short prison sentences wherever possible, invest in community services and establish five pilot residential women's centres, including one in Wales. However, it was the Minister for Social Justice here who subsequently wrote to Members, stating that she had been working closely with the UK Ministry of Justice and announcing that she announced that one of these centres would be near Swansea in south Wales. Of course, Swansea's planning committee then refused this.

The powers of police and crime commissioners are held by elected mayors in London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, and should remain with police and crime commissioners in Wales and not be centralised in the Welsh Government. Of course, the UK Government recognises that devolution has altered the legislative and policy context of policing and criminal justice in Wales, and has already established a form of administrative devolution through Welsh offices, units or directorates based upon co-operation, including HM Prison and Probation Service in Wales, Youth Justice Board Cymru and HM Courts and Tribunals Service Wales. To devolve or not to devolve is not about the transient policies and personalities of different governments at a particular point in time. Both the policies of parties and the policies, personalities and parties of government in any geographical area change over time.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

I'll conclude, yes. And neither Plaid Cymru's desire to divide and destabilise, nor the failing and controlling Labour Welsh Government's desire to grab ever more power, should be allowed to distract us from the real needs of Britons on both sides of the east-west, England-Wales border.

Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

Wales's anomalous position as a devolved nation without a legal system of its own is not simply a constitutional irregularity; it has profound and damaging consequences for the quality of justice and policing. The cost of being tied to the England and Wales judicial system, which inherently concentrates decision making in Westminster, has been emphatically illustrated over the last 13 years of Tory austerity.

Let’s start with the access to justice, which was one of the key issues highlighted in the Thomas commission. Cuts to the justice department’s budget in Whitehall have precipitated a disastrous decline in the provision of legal aid across Wales and England. Indeed, the Law Society has recently taken the Government to court for failing to uphold the recommendation of the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid to increase legal aid fees by a minimum of 15 per cent. For example, between 2012 and 2022, the number of provider officers for litigators in Wales had decreased from 175 to 106; from 180 to 122 for advocates; from 248 to 160 for solicitor firms; and from 54 to 29 for not-for-profit organisations. The situation is compounded by the fact that the legal workforce in Wales is also an ageing one. As such, it is inevitable that we will witness further shrinkages in the provision of legal services over the coming years. In north Wales, 48 per cent of criminal duty solicitors are over the age of 50; 49 per cent in south Wales, 62 per cent in west Wales and 64 per cent in mid Wales.

Another consequence of cutbacks to the justice budget in Westminster has been the emergence of the so-called advice deserts—areas of very low coverage in terms of legal advice centres on issues such as community care, welfare, education and immigration. In this respect, the landscape of legal services in Wales is particularly barren. Latest figures from the Law Society show that 18 out of the 22 Welsh local authorities do not possess a single community care legal aid centre; 20 out of the 22 do not possess an educational legal aid centre, and 21 out of the 22 do not possess a welfare legal aid centre. Given the fact that such centres are often a lifeline to the poorer households, which would otherwise be priced out from legal council, the veritable desertification of Wales in this respect risks baking in existing inequalities within the justice system.

The impact of austerity on policing has also been severe. The number of full-time equivalent police officers in Wales has only just recovered to the level it was at in 2010, after years of underfunding. Meanwhile, the number of police community support officers in Wales and England is at its lowest level since 2006. We should also consider the extent to which decisions in Westminster are inflicting enormous pressures on the budgets of police forces. All four police forces in Wales are having to make efficiency savings over the next few years, with the South Wales Police force—

Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

Let me just finish this sentence. All the police forces in Wales are having to make efficiency savings over the next few years, with South Wales Police currently facing a £20 million shortfall in its budget. Yes, Mark.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

Will you recognise the fact that Alistair Darling's austerity budget in the spring of 2010 introduced the police cuts that lasted until 2015, because he dated them to 2015, and that police budgets have been rising since 2015?

Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

But it's Labour and Tory: it's the same old story, so, there we are.

The police precept element of council taxes also has increased substantially this year to counteract cuts to central funding. In Gwent, it's 6.78 per cent, and in Dyfed-Powys, 7.75 per cent. We therefore have a shameful scenario in which the people of Wales are having to fork out more of their hard-earned money in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, to compensate for the centralisation of spending decisions in the hands of austerity-obsessed ideologues in Westminster. A recent survey also revealed that 97 per cent of north Wales police officers believed that their recent treatment by the Government, especially on funding, has harmed their morale.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by the Tories' disregard for the value of justice. After all, the self-declared party of law and order has made rule breaking its modus operandi in recent times. But it is unacceptable that simply due to the ideological constitutional arrangements that currently exist here in relation to justice and policing, that the people of Wales should be made to endure declining standards. We can do better, and of that I'm confident, if we are given the chance. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Mike Hedges Mike Hedges Labour 5:35, 21 June 2023

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. We quite regularly have these debates about the devolution of policing and the criminal justice system. I know, because I've led some of them. In Britain, we have had piecemeal devolution, whilst in the USA, Germany, and most other countries, areas of responsibility are either devolved or held centrally. For example, in the USA, California and New York have the same areas of responsibility as Montana and New Jersey. We have asymmetric devolution, and as Spain has found, that leads to problems. With devolution, we have the two extremes: Plaid Cymru believing that they can salami-slice powers to separatism; and the anti-devolutionists, mainly in the Conservative Party, believing that all proposals for further devolution should be resisted.

A case has to be made for every additional power to be devolved, which means that the powers devolved to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and English mayors vary considerably. Policing has been devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and we only have to look at Northern Ireland's history to realise that that was a really big step, to devolve policing to Northern Ireland. Wales is the outlier. In Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, the powers of the police and crime commissioner have been merged into the mayoral role. Why should Scotland, Northern Ireland, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire have policing devolved, and not Wales?

Many of the levers that affect levels of crime have already been devolved to Wales: community safety, education, training, jobs, mental health service, alcohol and drug treatment, housing, healthy communities and many more—as well as other services. Tackling crime and reducing offending and reoffending necessitates the police working with other public services, which already operate at different levels across Wales. For example, support for those with mental health conditions, both before they reach crisis point and afterwards, needs police intervention, and once they have entered the criminal justice system that often means working with the Welsh NHS and local health boards. If policing powers were devolved, this would allow for much greater liaison between both services locally and by Ministers and civil servants at a strategic level within Wales, rather than between Wales and Westminster.

There is a potential for a successful Welsh model, which can build on the strength of devolution without cutting us adrift from the United Kingdom. I believe that police devolution should not include the National Crime Agency, national security and counter-terrorism; they should stay as British. Co-operation in policing clearly needs to extend not just to the British isles, but also Europe and beyond. We know that crime and terrorism know no borders, and we need co-ordinated measures to make sure that criminals cannot avoid charges by fleeing abroad.

The Welsh Government have shown their support by their investment in additional police community support officers, and many of us recognise the very good job these community support officers do within our communities. Obviously, national security, as I said, needs to be excluded: spies and terrorists need to be done on at least a British basis. The National Crime Agency is a crime-fighting agency that needs to bring the full weight of the law to bear on cutting serious and organised crime. What it leaves is the day-to-day policing carried out by the four Welsh police forces. The police do not work in isolation. They work closely with the fire and ambulance services, which are both devolved. When you dial 999, you're not asked if you want a devolved or non-devolved service.

Another argument in favour of devolving policing is the ability to better connect policing with other devolved services, such as support for victims, domestic abuse and the health service. With policing devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is anomalous that it has not been devolved in Wales. Looking at continental Europe and North America, it is Wales that appears out of step across most of the democratic world. Other than control of national security and serious crime, policing is carried out by regional or local police forces. Law enforcement in Germany lies within the 16 federal states. Policing in the USA consists of the federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is well known by people watching American tv programmes, but state agencies like highway patrol and local policing are done locally. What these have in common is that local policing is local, and major crime and national security are dealt with at a national level.

I believe that the way forward is to devolve most policing to the Senedd, but to keep the UK National Crime Agency and the national security services centrally. Just remember that up until 1960 large cities of Britain policed themselves. We had watch committees—they were allowed to do it. It's just that when they were nationalised by the Conservative Government in the 1950s, where control was taken away from the local watch committees and given to the Home Office, that meant that we lost an awful lot of local control. And I know police authorities—I served on one—but they were nowhere near as effective as the watch committees.

We should get back the right to police ourselves and hand local policing to the Welsh Government. If they can do it in Northern Ireland, with the history they've had in Northern Ireland, of disputes and people shooting police, et cetera, for political reasons, there's no reason why we can't have it in Wales. 

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 5:41, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

I'm in favour of the devolution of justice, because I believe it will improve the justice system for people in Wales. That was the firm opinion of the Commission on Justice in Wales. Lord Thomas was against calling that commission the 'Thomas commission', because he wanted to emphasise the expertise of all of the commissioners. The commission was very fortunate to be chaired by the former chief justice of England and Wales, but the commission also included international experts in the field of constitutional law, prisons, the probation service, the legal profession and policing. Expertise was also apparent in the drafting of the report, from experts in the field of victims and human rights. The commissioners were not typical members of boards in Wales. Neither were they trying to push any specific agenda. The commission was not a mouthpiece for the Welsh Government. The report is very critical of the Welsh Government in several places. It had no ideological motivation. It was not a commission of nationalists at all. 

The justice commission recommended devolution after it had weighed up carefully the evidence in detail: 205 pieces of written evidence, 46 oral evidence sessions, and 87 engagement sessions. It was a report by experts based on detailed evidence. It is therefore incredible that the Tory party, and so many within the Labour group in Westminster, are willing to disregard the report. 

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 5:42, 21 June 2023

It's certainly obvious that Baroness Bloomfield, in her answer to Lord Wigley, saying that there's no been no persuasive case that shows that justice would be improved by being devolved to Wales, clearly has not read the report at all. 

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

Devolution has been disregarded on ideological grounds, which is very strange, because Lord Hunt said that, in 1990, he and Ken Clarke agreed that policing would be devolved to the Welsh Office at that time, but it was prevented by bureaucracy in Whitehall. The response by Sir Robert Buckland to the report spoke volumes—there were no strong arguments against it, just that the jurisdiction of England and Wales had worked well for centuries and it should continue. Well, as we've already heard, that's just not true. 

As Alun Davies and Mike Hedges said, I cannot see the logic of any unionist who professes to be in favour of devolution opposing the devolution of justice. It would create a proportional system throughout Britain. That should lead to a clearer system of devolution and less bickering between governments, and it would help to deal with the problems of the jagged edge, and it would be much easier to explain the principles that underpin the administration of justice throughout the UK. The current system just makes no sense. 

We see those problems. We see the lack of accountability. For example, only a third of the budget for policing in Wales comes from Westminster. The rest comes from Wales. And in 2017-18, the Welsh Government and local authorities were responsible for nearly 40 per cent of the spend on justice in Wales, and that didn't include spending on the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cymru within family law, it didn't include young offender teams, or education and social care in prisons in Wales. The lack of accountability is clear in relation to this significant expenditure.

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 5:44, 21 June 2023

I remember Whitehall officials challenging the line that Wales had the highest prison population per head in western Europe. When they were asked to support their challenge, they said that Guernsey was worse. Now, with the greatest respect to Guernsey, its population is smaller than that of Ynys Môn, and it's very difficult to compare the number of prison population per 100,000 on an island that only has a population of 64,000. The truth is, when policy is formed in Whitehall, Wales is not even on the radar, let alone the fact that Wales has its own devolution settlement. We should pin a map of Wales at the entrance of the Ministry of Justice to remind them of our existence.

I agree with the First Minister that the devolution of probation and youth justice will be an exciting first step, but piecemeal devolution of justice was rejected by the Commission on Justice in Wales report; it would only shift the jagged edge slightly sideways. I urge my Conservative colleagues and those within the parliamentary Labour Party to read the report, to put to one side blind ideology and to look carefully at the evidence. The evidence overwhelmingly points that justice needs to be devolved, and it's a matter of when, not if. 

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 5:46, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

Let us show clearly today to Westminster, to a future Labour government, possibly, that the opinion of the great majority of this Senedd is that justice should be devolved. Thank you.

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the debate so far. For those of us who have made the argument as to how necessary this is, it's one thing saying this time and again; it's now time to take action. That was Rhun's challenge: how do we ensure that these aren't just warm words? Because the people who suffer when we don't have the powers here in Wales are within our communities, and it's our job here in the Senedd to secure the best for those communities.

We heard from Peredur about the impact of austerity policies on policing specifically. We also know, in terms of austerity, the huge pressure that this has placed on police—cuts to health services, and particularly mental health services—and how much police time and PCSO time is spent dealing with these cases because the necessary services aren't in place.

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru 5:47, 21 June 2023

Day in, day out, I see in the town where I live, Pontypridd, fantastic work being done by both police officers and PCSOs to make our town a better place to live, going above and beyond to help the community through a number of initiatives, but equally I know they are overstretched, and that, simply put, they have to try and fill the gaps left by services such as youth clubs. They are spending so, so much time because they are trying to work with a system that fundamentally doesn't work.

We see a deterioration in crime rates as a symptom of this: total recorded crime in Wales at the end of December 2022 was 275,233, up nearly 25,000 from the previous year. This means that the rate of crime in Wales currently stands at 88.6 per 1,000 people—the highest level since the Office for National Statistics first collated data in 2015. It's apparent that this is part of a longer term trend. Crime rates have risen each year in Wales since 2013, with the exception of 2020, and apart from burglaries and drug-related offences, there have been increases in each category of crime in Wales over the past year, with substantial rises in theft, at 33 per cent, bicycle theft at 19 per cent, and shoplifting at 31 per cent, in particular.

Anecdotally, I know, from speaking to police officers and PCSOs, that the link between the cost-of-living crisis and those statistics is something that is of huge concern. The fact that we're criminalising people because they can't afford some fundamental things such as food now is a concern. The fact that they're being criminalised for some of the political decisions that have led to that situation is something that we should reflect on. The rate of violent crime in Wales is also higher than the UK average, at 37.7 per cent per 1,000 people, compared to 35.8 previously.

At this stage, it's worth reflecting on the situation in Scotland, where justice and policing are fully devolved. Over the past decade, recorded crime in Scotland has generally decreased, and currently stands at its lowest level since 1974. Moreover, the crime rate in Scotland at the end of December of last year was around 52 per 1,000. It's worth understanding and exploring further how different approaches can make a difference, and ensure that when we have the powers here in Wales—because I'm convinced that it's a matter of when we have them, rather than if—then our approach will be one bespoke for the challenges we face. After all, we have a criminal justice system that is failing too many people. Too many UK Governments have favoured heavy-handed incarceration over rehabilitation, which is disproportionately weighted against some of our most vulnerable people living here in Wales today.

The prison population of Wales, as of December of last year, was 5,154, or 165.9 per 100,000 of the Welsh population. It's one of the highest rates in Europe. We see that our prisons are overstretched. If we look at Cardiff prison, for instance, it's overcrowded: 138 per cent; Swansea, 155 per cent. Thirty years from the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which exposed the full extent of institutional racism within the police, we see huge issues, with, in 2022, 27 per cent of prisoners in England and Wales identifying as an ethnic minority, compared with 13 per cent of the general population. We've seen allegations of misogyny and racism at Gwent Police that, sadly, are by no means isolated nor exceptional instances across Wales and England. We can do so much better here in Wales—a system that works for people and finds solutions. We cannot allow a Conservative Government or a Labour Government, should there be one after the next election, to continue to fail our communities. I hope we can work together as a Senedd to demand these powers now and fully.

Photo of Joyce Watson Joyce Watson Labour 5:51, 21 June 2023

I do want to support the principle that powers on justice and policing should be devolved to Wales. The Welsh Government is committed to pursuing that case and preparing for the devolution of police and justice.

We have all here seen the results of 13 long years of Tory failure—even on that bench, they can't be blind to that. They've seen neglect, austerity, inequality, unfairness, and a broken legal system as a consequence of their policies. A failed system, where only 1.3 per cent of rape cases are now being prosecuted; a broken system that has created scandals like Hillsborough, with a 27-year fight for justice, because of an absence of legal aid to support the families and the victims of that tragedy in trying to secure a voice for themselves in the justice system, and now a call for, quite rightly, a Hillsborough law.

In the 11 years since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, we've seen a two-tier legal system develop, with legal aid cut, denying justice to many Welsh people. Access to justice and the right to advice, representation and support is a fundamental human right. The link between justice, access to justice and our core public services is a key to tackling poverty, social disadvantage and inequality, and that was mentioned just now. The Thomas commission—sorry about calling it the Thomas commission—found that spending per head on criminal legal aid is £11.50 in Wales, compared to £15 a head in England. So, if it were devolved and we received our fair share of funding, I absolutely agree that we could fund legal aid better. We would create our own Welsh legal aid and advice service, to serve the people of Wales and provide the access to justice that we all believe in.

Individuals facing criminal prosecution and imprisonment fear that the financial cost of defending themselves could bankrupt them, even if they are successful. This can lead to people—and it has led to people—pleading guilty to offences they haven't committed, to protect their homes and their assets for the rest of their family. In the case of rape, the median time between offence and completion is now over two and a half years, with only, as I said earlier, 1.3 per cent of cases now being prosecuted. The huge delays result in emboldened criminals endangering prosecutions, and they have devastating consequences for those victims—a shameful situation that, in all honesty, is more suited to the nineteenth century than the twenty-first.

Despite justice not being devolved, and despite not being resourced to help those struggling to access legal aid, the Welsh Government has taken action to support people, and, last year, made more than £10 million funding available to single advice services in Wales. I agree with the Minister that powers over justice should be devolved, and a Welsh legal jurisdiction should be established. I also have to discredit what the Tories are arguing—that, somehow, an English police force wouldn't know where the lines were drawn, or a Welsh police force wouldn't know where the borders are between England and Wales. I'm sure they manage perfectly well to know where Scotland ends and England begins, or where England ends and Scotland begins. And quite frankly, if anybody couldn't draw a line on a map or understand it, I wonder whether they should be in the police force at all.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 5:56, 21 June 2023

The urgent need to devolve powers over justice is not only a question of principle; as we've heard already, it is necessary to gain greater fairness for our people, to help people when they are at their most vulnerable. We have heard already about institutional racism in parts of our current justice system; I'd like to focus my remarks on the ways in which our present system not only lets down women, but exacerbates their trauma.

The Equality and Social Justice Committee has, I know, looked at this, and found a worrying lack of progress since Baroness Corston's work on this area 16 years ago. The committee has highlighted how counterproductive short custodial sentences are for female offenders—again, this is from our current system—citing evidence from the Prison Reform Trust that 60 per cent of prison sentences handed out to women in Wales in 2021 were for less than six months. Those will often be for petty offences. Women are more likely to be the primary carers of children, meaning that their incarceration will throw their families into the mouth of a lion. Nobody in those families will come out unscathed by that experience of separation, loss and trauma—they will be ripped apart.

A six-month prison term—again, what is put out by this current system—cannot be motivated by any hope of rehabilitating a person into society, or of encouraging them to change their ways. It is a punishment, slapped down on people who often offend for complicated reasons—a sense of hopelessness because of neglect or abuse or the fact that support services haven't been there to get them onto a better track, or indeed the cost-of-living crisis. So many petty crimes could be avoided if we invested in caring for people instead of criminalising them. And it's not only a question of doing what's right, it's also a question of resource. Short prison terms are statistically far more likely to lead to reoffending. The Women in Prison charity has found that over 70 per cent of women released after prison sentences of less than 12 months reoffend within one year, meaning nobody is learning anything from the experience—it just makes things worse, and sets up this cycle of carelessness, abandonment and blame.

This system lets down female survivors of crime badly too. UK Government statistics show that only 1.9—. We've heard these harrowing statistics of how few recorded rapes result in conviction. Almost 70 per cent of survivors of rape withdraw from investigations because of their loss of faith in the system. As the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has found, it is a system that retraumatises survivors of violence because of a lack of support in family and criminal courts. I know from my experience of working with survivors of stalking and coercive control about the devastating, shattering impact that that retraumatisation can have—that cycle of carelessness all over again.

Devolving justice in and of itself, Dirprwy Lywydd, won't signal an automatic change, but transferring those powers, if it is accompanied by work at the ground level, by investing in social services, refuges, training for police, and integrating these services more effectively, will start to mean that fewer women will fall through those gaping gaps in our system. I know the cross-party group on women has looked at this too. It can start to rebalance the scales, and to mean that instead of thinking of justice as a system of punishment, it can instead be a mechanism for mercy. Mercy is what is so often missing from our justice system—that quality that is never strained, which, as Portia reminds us, can 'season justice'. And as well as mercy, we might strive for a society where desire for the common good, where responsibility for other people's well-being is a cornerstone of how we live our lives. That is how we will obtain true justice, because as Helen Keller said,

'Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained'.

So, let's give ourselves the tools to make that investment in our fellow citizens, to make the choices that will make our society a less careless place, a safer place, and, most of all, a merciful one. 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 6:01, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

I call on the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, Mick Antoniw. 

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour

Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd, and can I thank Plaid Cymru for bringing forward this important debate? I do welcome the opportunity to discuss and keep attention on these issues. I obviously congratulate Rhun on his first major speech on this issue as leader of Plaid Cymru, and I suspect the first of many as this process continues. Can I also say that, in terms of all the contributions that have been made today, I do embrace the width of them because they raise so many of the different aspects of the justice system that have led us to the view as to why it is important to devolve justice? I can't address all of them and I don't want to respond to two of them. I will next week, I think, be addressing a gathering of the Bevan Foundation, and, of course, I'd hope there to expand even further on the issues around equality, justice, social justice and the linking of those. 

So, today, just in responding to this debate, I hope to adopt, in good judicial fashion, the high moral ground and deal with the essence of the devolution of justice. I think that most of us in this Chamber across all parties recognise that there is a great deal of agreement on the need to reform, to modernise and improve the delivery of justice in Wales. After all, who is there in this Senedd who does not want to see a more humane, more effective, fairer and accessible justice system, and one that is based on evidence, as all justice should be? A problem-solving system that is trauma informed, that is joined up with other public services, and that is focused on reducing crime, reducing reoffending and the protection of the public. 

Llywydd, we believe that the primary objective for reform and the devolution of justice is that it is a natural process of decentralisation that enables a better co-ordination of justice with other devolved public services, and it can lead to a better and fairer justice system. I acknowledge that Plaid Cymru Members have an additional motivation in this, but our view is that the devolution of justice has nothing to do with the issue of independence: it is simply and unequivocally about the better delivery of justice. This is the focus of Welsh Government, and the logic that underpins this process is not only relevant to Wales, where so many of our devolved services are synergistically intertwined within the justice system, but also to the regions of England that I believe would also welcome some of the reforms that we are talking about, and, indeed, preparing for the implementation of.  

It's been over three years since the Commission on Justice in Wales recommended that justice and policing should be devolved to Wales and that crime reduction policy be determined in Wales, to ensure that justice issues are integrated within the same policy and legislative framework as health, local government and other public and social services. So, the position of Welsh Government is clear: we support the commission conclusions and are committed to pursuing the devolution of policing and justice. Only when we have full oversight of the justice system in Wales will we be able to fully align delivery with the needs and priorities for the people and communities of Wales. 

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru

I'm glad to hear of your commitment to the devolution of policing and justice—that's great. Is that true for your leader, Keir Starmer, in London?

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 6:05, 21 June 2023

Keir Starmer has given a commitment of support to the Gordon Brown report. The Gordon Brown report makes it absolutely clear that there are no powers that, for example, there are in Scotland that Wales cannot also have. What he did do, which I think was very important, was defer specifically to the independent commission on the future of Wales, which will be producing its report, and called that, after that point, there should be constructive engagement on those recommendations. I think that is exactly the correct way forward.

There is, of course, as you say, the constitutional element. The Senedd is the only Parliament in the common law world that we know of that can legislate without the jurisdiction to enforce its own laws. So, the motion talks specifically about devolution of policing, and we agree, of course, that this is an important element of the devolution that is needed—not just the justice commission, but Silk before it recommended that policing be devolved. I make the point here: all four elected police and crime commissioners in Wales, those with a democratic mandate elected by the people of Wales, support the case for the devolution of policing. I made the case strongly for policing to be devolved when I appeared before the commission on the constitutional future of Wales chaired by Laura McAllister and Rowan Williams, and we are of course waiting with the greatest interest to see what the commission’s views will be.

Our objection to the part of the motion from Plaid Cymru does not stem from the difference about where we’re hoping to get to with regard to justice devolution. Our difference is about how we get there and why, and whilst I agree that we need to formally establish a distinct Welsh jurisdiction and for Welsh policing to become fully accountable to the Senedd, it would be a grave error to try to link this with Plaid Cymru’s position on independence. It is not some sort of stepping stone to independence, it is about the better delivery of justice. Surely it is just common sense that the law that applies in Wales should be formally recognised as the law of Wales, just as the law that applies only to England should be known as the law of England. The notion that law is still the same across the territory of England and Wales is a fiction. That outdated view no longer reflects reality, so recognising where laws actually apply can only have a beneficial impact on the clarity and accessibility of the law, not just for Wales, but also for England.

The second reason we’re asking for an amendment is because we do not recognise the characterisation that there is some sort of formal process needed to call for justice to be devolved. There is no set process for these things. There are no magic words or incantations that, if spoken correctly to the UK Government, will change the position of the present UK Government. They have their heads in the sand, they are oblivious to reason. For there to be change, there needs to be a change of UK Government and the election of a Labour Government.

There is also an implication in the motion that, somehow, we have never asked for the devolution of justice. That, quite frankly, is somewhat bizarre. This Government has openly and consistently and continually called for the devolution of justice. 

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

I just saw a Plaid Cymru meme on Twitter earlier that said the opposite of that. So, you're suggesting that that's just untruthful.

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour

Well, I think it was made clear by the First Minister yesterday, and I think it's clear to everyone here, that that was a comment from a Conservative Minister in the Lords that is totally unfounded and completely untrue. 

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru

Thank you very much for taking an intervention, so I can make the case that I made before. This was a written answer. You may or may not believe that it is a written answer that reflects the truth, but don't give them the excuse. Write a letter. Write a letter this evening: 'Okay, if you're saying we haven't formally requested, we're doing it through this letter', and I will be more than happy to endorse it. 

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour

I can assure you, during all the work that takes place in terms of discussions when there are amendments and motions going through, particularly, the House of Lords, those positions are made very, very clear.

The implication of the motion that somehow we've never asked for it, as I said, is somewhat bizarre, because we have continually called for the devolution of justice. We set up the independent commission on justice and more recently set up the independent commission on the constitutional future of Wales. Immediately after the 2019 general election, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister putting the case yet again for the devolution of and fair funding for justice. We've repeatedly made our position, and the position of this Senedd, clear with numerous Lord Chancellors over the years since the Thomas commission was published. It is profoundly disappointing that the UK Government has ignored the mandate that we have for this from the Welsh people and the disregard it has had over 13 years for the justice system, not just in Wales but for the whole of the UK. The justice system has never been in a more parlous state due to 13 years of Tory cutbacks and neglect.  

In closing, our priority is constructive action. Members will know that I've already welcomed the Brown commission’s recognition that there is no reason in principle why matters that are devolved in Scotland cannot be devolved in Wales, including justice and policing. The Brown commission recommends starting the process of justice devolution with the devolution of youth justice and probation, although they make it clear that it is for the people of Wales, through this Senedd, to determine the constitutional future of Wales. 

I can tell this Senedd that, with an imminent change in Government, we are no longer simply making the case for the devolution of justice, but as a Government, we are now preparing the ground for the actual devolution of youth justice and probation and for the further devolution of policing. We will see what the further recommendations are of the constitutional commission when it reports later this year. On 25 April this year, I issued a joint statement with the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip outlining our work, and I will again be updating the Senedd next week. Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 6:11, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

I call on Rhun ap Iorwerth to reply to the debate.

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

Thank you very much, Dirprwy Lywydd, and thank you to everyone who contributed, and thank you to the Counsel General for his response to this afternoon's debate. Yes, there is a great deal of agreement within this Chamber. We've heard so many strong arguments this afternoon, haven't we, from Peredur Owen Griffiths, Heledd Fychan, Alun Davies and Joyce Watson, with some very strong words indeed. Delyth Jewell explained the gravity of not having these powers that we're seeking in the field of justice and policing.

Yes, it was said many years ago that devolution is a process, not an event, and there was an element of requiring some patience as we began that democratic process as a nation. But, it is 10 years now since the second Silk report, or it's almost 10 years since the second Silk report noted that we do need to devolve policing, and we're still waiting. Frustration naturally builds, and the failure to improve people's lives is something that should make us, as a Senedd and as individual politicians, more and more impatient.

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 6:12, 21 June 2023

I'm grateful to Mark Isherwood for his heartfelt congratulations on my new role. 'Same old chestnuts', he said. Let me tell you what his chestnuts look like. [Laughter.] They look outdated; they look like they're backwards facing. If I were being honest, it sounded like someone who didn't believe in devolution or in the coherence of Wales. He said that Plaid Cymru was dividing and destabilising. Dividing, when his entire speech was based on dividing the north and the south of Wales. Destabilising—to hear a Conservative accuse others of being destabilising comes with a lack of self-awareness of gargantuan proportions.

Let's focus on why we're talking today about the devolution of justice and policing, and the need to do so to improve the lives of people in Wales and to tackle some of the inequalities that, as I mentioned earlier, have led to big discrepancies in access to justice and so on—[Interruption.]. By all means.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative 6:14, 21 June 2023

Lots of reference was made by your colleagues to devolution in other parts of the United Kingdom. I won't rehearse the arguments I made again, but are you aware that Scotland now has the lowest number of police officers since 2008, that police officer numbers in Northern Ireland are down 7 per cent and that nine out of 10 Welsh women released from Eastwood Park prison to services in devolved Wales go on to reoffend, compared to only one in England, released to services there?

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru

On those two points, wouldn't it be wonderful if we ran the prison service and the justice system here in Wales, so we can put those right? And I'm sure those are major talking points that you referred to in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Wouldn't I love to be able to have that discussion on what is happening to policing in Wales? We're currently unable to, because we're told that everything is okay with the current system. I just don't believe that it is. 

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 6:15, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

In my positive vision of an independent Wales, of course, we wouldn't need to have this debate, because every normal nation has its system of prisons and policing and a justice system all of its own. It seems strange having to state the obvious there. And I know that I have some work in convincing more people of the end point of that constitutional journey, but it is a journey that we're on. This isn't salami slicing, Mike, and I'm a little bit disappointed in those comments, because we are talking about something that is at the heart of our future as a nation. 

Photo of Rhun ap Iorwerth Rhun ap Iorwerth Plaid Cymru 6:16, 21 June 2023

We heard the Counsel General saying that this has nothing to do with independence. I agree that we need these powers now, whether or not we are independent—we need these powers immediately—but this will be a key part of creating that sense of being a normal nation that I so desperately want to see being played out for the future of Wales. But, whether it's on the issue of constitutional change and independence, or on the specific issue of the devolution of justice and policing, let's remind ourselves that we're not doing it because we want constitutional change for its own sake, but because we are putting in place plans and proposals that would improve the lot of people in Wales. That is at the heart of what we are talking about. 

I'll finish with responding to the Counsel General's comments specifically. Of course, he is right to say that there is much that we agree on. But the political reality, of course, is that his aspirations, and I believe they're genuine and I believe they align with mine in many, many ways, are at odds with his own party's leader. And whatever statements he has made recently offering warm words in response to a report by Gordon Brown, they remain warm words until they become pledges for, potentially, an incoming Labour Government. And I hope that the Counsel General himself will want to hold an incoming Prime Minister's feet to the fire, as I wish to do. 

Final words, in response to Alun Davies: very grateful for his comments. He said we are facing an emergency. 'This is an emergency', he said. He called on us to work together. I'll remind you that the Government's amendment today calls for deleting the clause:

'Calls on the Welsh Government to formally request powers over justice and policing.'

I accept that you believe that request has already been made. Make the request again. If you don't ask, you don't get.   

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 6:18, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

The proposal is to agree the motion without amendment. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes. I will defer voting under this item until voting time.  

(Translated)

Voting deferred until voting time.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 6:18, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

Before we move on to voting time—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

I wish to respond to the point of order raised by the Member for Blaenau Gwent earlier this afternoon. I have reviewed this afternoon's transcript, and, firstly, I find it necessary to stress to all Members that they must be very mindful of the use of terms such as 'misled' and 'misleading' in their contributions. And when unqualified, it always gives the connotation of being intentional, which I am sure was not meant. I have concluded, therefore, that the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, during his question to the Counsel General, referred to the First Minister and the health Minister as misleading the Senedd without a recognition that the the First Minister clarified his comments and the health Minister corrected the record when the inaccuracy was brought to her attention. I am sure the Member inadvertently forgot to do so, and will agree that the record should now recognise these points. I see the Member is nodding, so I see that he is agreeing with that. So, therefore, it's on the record. Thank you.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 6:19, 21 June 2023

(Translated)

Unless three Members wish for the bell to be rung, we will move immediately to voting time.