North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has again outlined the reasons why the Welsh Parliament elections, set to take place in May this year, should not be delayed.
Speaking in last week’s virtual Welsh Parliament debate on ‘The Welsh Elections (Coronavirus) Bill’, Mr Isherwood said a delay would leave “many feeling disenfranchised, especially when the Pandemic has shone such a bright light on Devolved Government in Wales”.
Speaking in today’s Debate on the General Principles of the Bill, he reiterated many points, including that “an Emergency Bill streamlines the Senedd’s law making and accountability processes, and should therefore only be used when there is a real and unforeseen emergency”.
He also expressed concern that the proposed Welsh Government timetable for the Bill gave MSs just over 2 weeks scrutiny until Stage 3 next week, where, by comparison, the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill, enabling Scottish Government Ministers to delay the Scottish General Election beyond 6th May, subject to a vote of the whole Scottish Parliament, was first introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 16th November 2020, providing MSPs with over 5 weeks to consider it.
“Although the Pandemic crisis has been here since March 2020, and we have known the date for the next Welsh Parliament election for 5 years, the First Minister didn’t suggest a change in regulations until November. We must therefore again ask why the Welsh Government has put itself in the situation where it needs to be using such emergency procedures, when it was evident that the Pandemic would still be dominating the agenda?
“Understandably, there is concern about creation of a conflict of interest, where the First Minister empowered by this legislation to formally request an election delay, will be the same person leading the election campaign for one of the Parties in these elections, Welsh Labour.
“We voted last week to agree that the Welsh Government can introduce this Bill as an Emergency Bill in the Senedd, recognising the potential need for a delay based on a badly deteriorating public health situation. However, as I then stated, “we are only lending you our vote”. The Welsh Government has not said what situation the pandemic needs to be in to require an election delay and our continued support would require the Welsh Government to specify what the “bar” will need to be before the First Minister formally requests a delay.
“We are concerned that they are still finding reasons not to do this - and therefore urge them to note the seriousness of our position on this. We do recognise that some of the Bill’s content has merit. However, we remain concerned that some proposed content may only be introduced as Welsh Government amendments at a later date.“
“The Pandemic has shone a bright light on Devolved Government in Wales - and delaying the Welsh General Election due to take place on the 6th May should only be considered in exceptional emergency circumstances.
“After all, elections have taken place in several countries during the course of the pandemic, including the United States, Spain, France, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea. Few here would contest the validity of President Joe Biden’s victory in the US election – and, as South Korea’s Director General for Public Health Policy stated, not one Covid-19 case related to the election was reported during the 14 day incubation period there.”