Jonathan scores concessions from UK Government over fiasco of election date clash

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards has tonight forced concessions from the UK Government in London to allow the National Assembly for Wales to change the date of the Assembly election by up to six months when it clashes with a UK election.

The UK Government made the offer after Mr Edwards laid amendments to the Fixed Term Parliament Bill at committee stage.

After Mr. Edwards led the Plaid / SNP motions which lasted for more than five hours, the UK Government offered to consult with the National Assembly for Wales and the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to come to an agreement about the ability to change their election dates by up to six months when a clash is scheduled to occur.

However, Mr Edwards has expressed disappointment that the ConDem Government still refused to accept Plaid Cymru amendments for a four year fixed term UK Parliament. The Welsh and Scottish Government had already called for UK parliaments to be set at four years – rather than every five years as proposed by the Bill. If this had been accepted then there would be no clash between different sets of elections.

Commenting after the debate, Mr Edwards said:

“I am very pleased that the UK Government has finally accepted our sensible argument that elections to the National Assembly for Wales should not be held on the same day as the UK election.

“They told me that they would begin tomorrow with consultation with the Welsh Government to ensure a compromise which would allow the Assembly to vary the date of the next Welsh Assembly election so that it does not clash.

“This is an excellent victory for Plaid Cymru and the SNP who have been campaigning hard for fair democracy for Wales and Scotland.

“Although I fully support the concept of fixed term parliaments, I am disappointed that the UK Government still wish to pursue with a five year electoral term. This will put Westminster at odds with other levels of democracy, such as the Assembly and local authorities in Wales, who have elections every four years.

“If they had also accepted our suggestion of a four year parliamentary term then there would be no major electoral clash between the Welsh Assembly election, UK General Elections and local elections in Wales, and none of these battles would have been necessary.

“The fact remains that when they take place, the Welsh Assembly elections, which determine priorities for Welsh public services such as health, education, transport and other issues, must be the most important and only priority for voters in Wales – and in elections of such significance in the future.”

Local Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas added:

“This is a yet another fantastic victory for Jonathan and for Welsh democracy. Jonathan has led the way in Westminster debates on constitutional reform; endeavouring that Wales and Welsh democracy is not disproportionally affected.

“The fact he has secured this concession from the UK Government is a testament to his hard work and well-articulated arguments.

“This concession follows Jonathan’s Westminster Hall debate last week on the Housing Revenue Account Scheme in which he secured the UK Government’s assurance to look into the injustice of the scheme that has seen a reported £2billion paid to the UK Treasury from Welsh local authorities.

“In Jonathan the people of Carmarthenshire have elected a fantastic advocate for the County and for Wales.”

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