Clwyd West MP and Shadow Deputy Secretary of State for Wales David Jones (right) has condemned Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly. Lord Elis-Thomas is a Plaid Cymru politician.
As we reported recently, David Cameron has said that if the Tories win power, he and his Welsh ministers would submit to questions from the Welsh Assembly. Mr Jones quotes Lord Elis-Thomas as saying:
"It’s our own First Minister who answers questions here and the relationship is between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. It isn’t between the Prime Minister and the Assembly.
That’s demeaning to our National Assembly and turns it into some kind of Grand Committee (of the House of Commons) equivalent…
The idea that the Prime Minister of the UK can breeze in for a Q&A isn’t allowed under our standing orders and I have no intention of changing it.
He is the first minister of another Government in terms of our constitution. I would think if those people were serious they would have looked at the constitution. It smacks a bit of paternal unionism.”
Mr Jones has responded:
"I say it with sadness, but it is now very clear that Lord Elis-Thomas, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, is deliberately acting as a roadblock to the development of a more mature relationship between the Assembly and Westminster.
No statement could make it clearer that Lord Elis-Thomas, notwithstanding his position as presiding officer of the Assembly, is egregiously seeking to advance his personal political goal of an independent Wales and to distance the Assembly from Westminster. It is not, with respect, up to him to decide whether the Standing Orders should be changed; it is up to the Assembly as a whole.
Section 32 of the Government of Wales Act clearly contemplates the participation of ministers other than the Secretary of State in Assembly proceedings:
(3) The standing orders may make provision for-
(a) the participation of the Secretary of State for Wales in proceedings of any committee of the Assembly, or any sub-committee of any such committee, and
(b) the participation in any Assembly proceedings of other Ministers of the Crown and of persons serving in the department of the Secretary of State for Wales or of any other Minister of the Crown.
So all that is required for David Cameron to make his annual visit to the Assembly is a simple change in standing orders. Given that the majority of Assembly members represent unionist parties, which are supported by the majority of the Welsh people, it is inconceivable that they would display the sort of political immaturity that Lord Elis-Thomas has shown by his ill-tempered outburst.
I have no doubt that they would welcome David Cameron’s annual visit as a visible, tangible token of the maturing relationship between Westminster and Cardiff Bay.
And if Dafydd Elis-Thomas, as presiding officer, wants to stand in the way of that process, it is a very sad state of affairs indeed."
Surely Mr Jones is right. It is a strange thing indeed to call for less Prime Ministerial accountability.