Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales Manifesto

Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales Manifesto 2001

Section 4
Shared Power

Willingness to share power is essential to ensure good governance in the modern world. A rational distribution of powers between different tiers of government, from the local community to a global level, will be needed.

As we have already noted, the principle of subsidiarity, taking decisions as closely to the people as possible, is central to the Party of Wales's principles.

We shall therefore press the devolution process ahead in order to ensure increasing power over their own future for the people of Wales. The regeneration of local government, absolutely necessary for a healthy democracy, will be part of the same process.

At the same time, we see the need for more international collaboration in fields such as the environment, defence and financial control. In addition to more unity in Europe, this means increasing global action.

4 (i) Full legislative powers for Wales

The Party of Wales's main demand in terms of constitutional reform during the next parliament will be for full legislative powers for the National Assembly on a pattern similar to the Scottish parliament.

As explained in chapter 2, the current constitutional order is totally unsatisfactory.

The Party of Wales will introduce a bill to provide full legislative powers for the National Assembly in all of its areas of responsibility, together with additional areas such as the police and railways.

The Assembly should also have tax raising powers and a clear distinction between the executive and the legislature. As with the Scotland Act, the new Wales Act should leave the door open for further devolution within the UK framework. This would mean an increase in the number of Members and the resources to serve them. Resources should be transferred from Westminster to meet the cost of this increase.

  • A civil service for Wales

    We shall also press for progress towards the development of an integrated public service for local government, the Assembly and other public bodies in Wales. This would enable a national career structure to be created along with wider mutual understanding and a spirit of partnership between government levels. We would want to keep close links with the other civil services of the islands of Britain and the European Commission and regular secondments could be used as one way of ensuring this.

    4 (ii) Restoring local democracy

    We do not think that the principle of subsidiarity should end with a Welsh parliament; since dynamic and lively local government is crucial to democracy.

    Local government is in crisis because governments since the 1970s have assumed powers for areas such as further education, health, fire and housing, and have restricted councils' freedom to operate in the remaining areas. Financial autonomy has been undermined. It is no surprise therefore that voting levels in local elections have deteriorated, and the number of candidates has diminished.

    We believe in a truly local government, and that as much autonomy as possible should be permitted to local authorities with as little central direction as possible on expenditure priorities and hypethecation.

    The opportunity should also be given for councils to provide services if they give best value should be increased.

    We support the introduction of a local income tax to provide funding for local government and call for a timetable to be set for the implementation of this.

    Giving the Assembly full legislative powers would enable us to design a pattern of local government that is appropriate to the circumstances of Wales.

    The proposed Local Government Act causes great concern as it takes powers from the Assembly and gives them to the Secretary of State. We shall do everything to oppose this disgraceful effort to undermine devolution. It is a clear example of the need for full legislative powers.

    We are in favour of increasing the voice of local authorities in the selection of members of bodies such as Police, ambulance and fire authorities. It is important to introduce measures to increase public influence on councils' policies, together with adequate training for backbenchers to do their work effectively.

  • Unelected public bodies

    The accountability of quangos has improved since the establishment of the Assembly, but the promised bonfire has hardly taken place. The justification for their existence, and democratic methods of fulfilling their functions, need to be thoroughly examined,.

    4 (iii) Unity in Europe

    The Plaid Cymru will seek every possible opportunity to strengthen Wales's status and influence within the European Union.

    As we have already noted in section 1 (iii), this includes ensuring that Wales can play a part in the negotiations on further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, for instance.

    Strong Welsh representation within the current structures is also essential. This includes strengthening the Wales European Centre to act as an embassy for Wales in the European Union, a strong presence in UKRep and the appropriate Assembly Secretary to speak directly for Wales at the Council of Ministers. Similarly, it is important to increase the Assembly's capacity to scrutinise European legislation.

    In addition to advancing the interests of our country from day to day, we also want Wales to have a voice in the political development of our continent. We have already noted our support for the process of European unity, but more needs to be done to underpin the principle of subsidiarity.

    We shall support with enthusiasm every call for reform of the institutions of the European Union, including a written constitution for the Union and the inclusion of a Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Treaty.

    As has already been noted, the reforms we are seeking include strengthening democratic accountability by transferring legislative powers to a bicameral parliament - with one chamber elected directly and the other indirectly by regions and nation-regions who have their own parliaments and assemblies.

    The 2004 Inter-governmental will take place during the Conference in the next parliamentary term, and we shall give priority to pressing for Wales to have a place in such a chamber.

  • Economic and Monetary Union

    Undoubtedly, this will be one of the most important issues the next parliament will have to tackle. The Party of Wales regards the achievement of economic and monetary union in Europe as one of the cornerstones of our economic policy. In a world where global economic forces undermine the ability of national governments to intervene effectively in the macro-economy, economic collaboration across Europe is essential in order to regain democratic control over social and economic policy.

    We do not see Economic and Monetary Union as a step in a relentless drive towards globalisation, but rather as a barrier against the unfettered power of international capital, and in favour of progressive social and economic values. Without the greater capacity to examine public objectives that a truly democratic Economic and Monetary Union has to offer, our people's demand for satisfying work and a fair wage, acceptable services and a clean environment remain at the mercy of financial speculators and international de-investment.

    We support joining the Euro when the exchange rate with the pound is appropriate. Wales has suffered from Britain's decision to stay out of the single currency. The fact is that the structure of the economy of Wales is more like that of the European mainland than is that of southern England.

    At the same time we cannot ignore the dangers of operating uniform monetary policies across a whole continent. Wales has suffered greatly from such an approach in the United Kingdom. The success of EMU in our opinion therefore depends on the following:

  • The Central European Bank's accountability to parliament;
  • Addition of full employment and the prevention of regional inequality to its remit:
  • Adequate resources earmarked for inter-regional transfers.

    4 (iv) External security

    Military expenditure has cost Britain's economy dear, and the economic gain from the investment has benefited only the prosperous areas of Southern England. We shall press for a reduction in military expenditure to a level similar to the European average (from 3.2% to 2.3% in 1998) as part of the global process of reducing military expenditure.

    The 24 billion on military expenditure should be compared with the mere 2.7 billion spent on international development programmes in the current year.

    We regard the UK's high expenditure on military defence as a sign of its failure to shake itself free of its imperialist mindset. We believe that the UK must come to terms with its limitations as a power on the world stage, and indeed the ability of any nation-state to deal with the challenges facing them in the 21st century.

    We therefore welcome moves towards more collaboration between the countries of the European Union on external security policies. Such a policy should give priority to conflict-prevention and peace-keeping and should be based on democratic and non-nuclear cooperation as set out in the St Petersburg tasks .

    To this end we support the principle of creating an European armed force, but we shall press for assurances that where the force operates outside Europe it will do so in order to keep the peace and not to protect the interests of the countries of Europe.

    We also believe that it is the European Union that should be represented on the UN's Security Council rather than Britain and France.

    The USA's threat to proceed with the development of a Missile Defence System ('son of star wars') causes considerable concern. It is a dangerous step towards restarting the arms race, and contravenes the Global Test-ban Treaty. We shall oppose strongly any move by the government towards Britain's participation in the scheme.

    4 (v) One world

    The Party of Wales is totally committed to the principle of world citizenship, and we support moves towards global governance in order to deal with some of the huge problems facing mankind.

    Amongst the problems we have to tackle at a global level are issues such as the environmental crisis, epidemics, control of the arms market, gender equality, financial and economic stability in an age of globalisation, and the inequality of wealth that leaves so many of our fellow citizens in famine and poverty. The eradication of poverty must be at the heart of all international policy.

    As a step towards creating a fairer world we shall press for an ethical foreign policy, which was promised by New Labour but not delivered.

  • International security

    The United Nations must be strengthened so that it can operate much more effectively to prevent wars. It is too dependent on the contributions of large corporations, and the attempt by powerful countries such as USA to keep it deliberately weak must be resisted.

    We also call for an international agreement to abolish the production, testing and use of nuclear arms.

    Similarly, we press for much tighter regulation of the international arms market, with effective monitoring at a global level.

    Britain should take lead in this, with arms brokering regulated by making it necessary to register and license every deal, and making increased parliamentary scrutiny of arms export licenses a requirement.

    A substantial tax should be placed on arms producers with the revenue hypothecated to pay for clearing explosives left by wars.

  • The environment

    As pollution and environmental damage have no respect for political boundaries, stronger control at an international level to enforce compliance is an imperative.

    Protecting the climate of the planet is one of the most important challenges of our age. With new evidence of climate change, there is an increasing realisation that human activities endanger the health of the environment to such a degree that the quality of our lives, and even our survival as a species, is put in jeopardy.

    CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution and the level of emissions is still rising. If present trends continue scientists estimate that atmospheric temperature will rise 6 degrees Celsius during this century - the greatest increase during the past 10,000 years.

    International institutions are currently totally inadequate for the task of implementing the resolutions of the Kyoto Earth Summit, for instance, and there are none that are powerful enough to counterbalance the power of international companies. The fossil fuel industry has quite deliberately set about undermining the Kyoto process.

    We shall call upon the government of Britain to be progressive in its attitude towards international discussions on the Rio process, and to ensure that next year's Earth Summit (Rio+10) is a success.

    In addition to protecting the climate, we also have to work to protect the diversity of species and to protect the environment from pollutants that are harmful to natural life and health.

    Similarly, the planet's resources have to be protected so that they may be handed on in good condition to future generations.

  • Creating a fairer world

    Environmental protection is an integral part of ensuring social justice. In a world of limited resources, the need for equality is the same between individuals, communities, countries and also generations.

    The present generation is consuming natural resources and undermining the planet's ability to absorb the harmful effects of our activities at the expense of the wealth and quality of life of future generations.

    A quarter of the people living in the developed world consume three quarters of natural resources, and are also responsible for most environmental damage, while it is the poor and deprived who suffer by far the most from the ill effects. According to one estimate 100,000 have been killed during the last two years from the effects of climate change, the vast majority in poorer countries. A more responsible attitude from western countries is therefore essential.

    The biggest threat to our security today is the increasingly globalised economy, which can bring the economies of small countries to their knees and cause environmental catastrophes brought about by climate change.

    Action at the global level is necessary to protect workers' rights , and we support the standards developed by the International Labour Organisation in pursuit of this.

    The poverty gap is growing ever wider and HIV/AIDS kills the same number of people in the developing world as world wars have killed in the past.

  • Combating poverty

    We support an annual increase in overseas aid to reach the UN target of 0.7% of GDP and call fro aid to targeted on the poorest countries. A commitment to the 2015 International Development Targets must be central to international politics. We shall call a transfer of resources from military expenditure to international development.

    Similarly a consistent method of transferring technology and finance to poor countries is needed, including special taxes for the purpose. We support the introduction of a Tobin tax, an air-travel tax, with the revenue earmarked for sustainable development in poor countries.

    We recognise the link between poverty and debt reduction and call for further and more effective debt-cancellation measures in more of the poorest countries.

    Sufficient resources must be provided to write off the debts of poor countries and for adequate resources for the Global Education Programme, to ensure a basic education for every child by 2015.

    HIV/AIDS is a global emergency. Drugs and vaccines must be made available to all on the basis of need.

    We therefore support the reform of the Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement which allows companies to price drugs beyond the reach of many of the poorest countries.

    We also support the strengthening of the Biosafety Protocol which allows the poorer countries to regulate the import of GMOs.

    Sustainable development, protection of workers' rights and the creation of a more equal world should be core responsibilities for the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF and all these should be part of a reformed United Nations system. They should be democratised in order to increase the influence of poor countries, and so that they have the power to oblige international corporations to operate in a way that is compatible with the needs of the environment.

    Key Recommendations

    Full legislative powers for the National Assembly following the pattern of the Scottish parliament with provision for further devolution

    More rights and freedom for local councils

    A stronger voice for Wales in Europe, and pressure for developments which will enable this to occur

    Support for economic and monetary union in principle, with Britain joining the Euro at the appropriate exchange rate

    Reduced expenditure on arms, and more on international development

    Move towards a common foreign and external security policy for Europe

    Opposition to USA's 'son of star wars' missile scheme

    Move towards more governance at a global level, particularly in order to act on the environment, international security and combating poverty

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