The Welsh Assembly: A Dictatorship Masquerading as a Democracy?

In this article we will investigate if the actions of Welsh politicians reflects the wishes of the majority of the Welsh electorate or promotes the policies of those with global interests. The former state represents true democracy whilst the latter evidences dictatorship.

The Welsh Assembly was created by the Government of Wales Act 1998, which followed a referendum. The referendum was held on 18 September 1997, a week after the referendum in Scotland. The referendum asked voters if they 'agree or disagree' that there should be a Welsh Assembly. The outcome of the referendum was extremely close with 559,419 voting YES (50.3%) and 552,698 voting NO (49.7%). Turnout was just 50.1%

On its creation, most of the powers of the Welsh Office and Secretary of State for Wales were transferred to it. The Assembly had no powers to initiate primary legislation until limited law-making powers were gained through the Government of Wales Act 2006. Its primary law-making powers were enhanced following a "yes" vote in the referendum on the 3rd March 2011, making it possible for the Assembly to legislate without having to consult the UK Parliament in the 20 areas that are devolved. 

Welsh Ministers have a duty under section 79 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 to set out how they propose to promote sustainable development in everything they do. The Welsh Sustainable Development Scheme, One Wales: One Planet, was launched on the 22nd May 2009 at the Hay Festival. The Scheme foreword reveals that "our Scheme for Sustainable Development gives Wales an opportunity to show leadership and ambition, and to learn from the past. It gives us the opportunity to show how we are playing our full role as a global citizen, within the context set by the UN Millennium Development Goals".

The Millennium Development Goals were contained within the United Nations Agenda 21. This described itself as "a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which humanity impacts on the environment". Agenda 21 has since been superseded by the goals of Agenda 2030.

Key Issues for Welsh Electors in 2016

At the beginning of 2016 the Welsh electors were confronted with two events. The first, which took place on the 5th May, was the election of members of the National Assembly. The second was the United Kingdom referendum on whether we should remain or leave the European Union which took place on the 23rd June, 2016.

Key issues confronting Welsh electors revolved around the referendum on Europe and ongoing measures to reduce climate change. These measures included the replacement of sodium street lighting with LEDs, turning off street lighting at night, less frequent collection of household waste, increased introduction of dedicated bus / cycles lanes on public highways causing traffic congestion. A further issue concerned the proliferation of solar farms and wind turbines blighting the countryside. Many voters were also unhappy about the roll-out of SMART energy meters and increased energy charges.

Which political party best represented the views of a welsh voter who wished to leave the EU and also wished to see a reduction in wasteful green expenditure? The following examination of the Manifestos of the main political parties illustrates the difficulty confronting him in selecting which party he should select on his ballot paper

Manifestos of the main political parties at the time of the Welsh Assembly Elections 2016

Traditionally there has always been a tendency for electors to vote for candidates representing the main political parties instead of supporting the individual personalities standing for election. Neither do the majority of electors take the time and effort to scrutinise the Political Party Manifestos that provide a flavour of the policy direction to be followed should that party go on to form the governing party of Wales. The analysis of the manifestos of the main political parties that follows is more than suggestive of a political sleight of hand that erodes and undermines democracy.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto 2016 (A Wales that Works for You) stated that Welsh Liberal Democrats will "campaign for Wales to lead, not leave, the EU". They claim that their vision is for "a zero-carbon Wales that delivers green growth, a green economy and green jobs". In their view we should aim for "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% of Welsh electricity demand met from renewable sources by 2025, and, a 50% reduction in energy used for heating and electricity by 2030". To achieve such targets they proposed that they would "enshrine renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets in law". The Liberal Democrat would drive "ambitious change in how we generate energy... solar developments, offshore tidal and wave, and, widespread use of floating wind turbines to make large offshore windfarms more cost effective".

The Welsh Conservative Party Manifesto (Securing real change for Wales) was silent in relation to the EU referendum. It did make reference to an "accord achieved at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris". Their Manifesto points out that "Labour is on course to miss its carbon reduction targets – whilst recycling rates across Wales have proved sporadic". The Welsh Conservatives promised to "implement annual reviews of carbon emissions in Wales to enable better monitoring of internationally agreed targets". There was also a promise to develop a "National strategy working to develop a post-carbon infrastructure to position us [Wales] as a global leader in offshore and onshore wind, marine renewables and micro-generation".

The 2016 Welsh Labour Party Manifesto (Together For Wales) stated that Welsh Labour "will fight for Britain to stay in Europe, and to play a leading role in a reformed Union". In addition it states that 'Sustainable development will remain a central organising principle of our Welsh Labour Government". According to this manifesto the Welsh people have much to look forward to with Welsh Labour "committing to stretching emissions and landfill targets that will see a Welsh Labour Government becoming carbon neutral by 2020". Welsh Labour will also "support the development of tidal lagoons and community energy schemes, and support the roll-out of free smart energy meters to all homes to reduce bills".

Also within the Welsh Labour Manifesto was the claim that their "Environment Act provides a strong framework for long-term action to counter climate change" and that they "will report on the new Well-being indicators to measure the progress our country makes".

The Plaid Cymru Manifesto (The Change Wales Needs) revealed that "Plaid Cymru supports Wales remaining within the European Union and will campaign to remain so in the forthcoming referendum", They would also "push at all levels for the Sustainable Development Goals to be implemented, and will ensure that Wales plays a role in that".

What external force, if any, is shaping the policy decisions of our main political parties in Wales?

The Well Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and The Well Being Goals

Carl Sergeant

"The framework of the Act (Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015) and the common purpose [my emphasis] given by the wellbeing goals, developed from the bottom up, but also aligned to the international aspirations for sustainable development of the United Nations, provide the basis of our work at a high level, through our actions around climate change and health".

Statement: The United Nations Goals and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 - Carl Sargeant, Minster for Natural Resources

The four page document National indicators for Wales lists 46 national indicators which will be "applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the Well-being goals".

A few examples of National indicators is given to provide a flavour for readers. These are:-

  • Percentage of adults and children who have fewer than two healthy lifestyle behaviours (not smoking, healthy weight, eat five fruit or vegetables a day, not drinking above guidelines and meet the physical activity guidelines).
  • Percentage of people who volunteer and the Mean mental well-being score for people
  • Percentage of people participating in sporting activities three or more times a week
  • Capacity (in MW) of renewable energy equipment installed
  • Amount of waste generated that is not recycled, per person
  • Emissions of greenhouse gases attributed to the consumption of global goods and services in Wales
  • The social return on investment of Welsh partnerships within Wales and outside of the UK that are working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The source of data and it's technical measurement in relation to each of the 46 indicators is as described within National indicators for Wales: Technical document. These national indicators for Wales appear to dovetail with the following goals of the UN Agenda 2030: Goal 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; Goal 12: ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, and Goal 13: take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

The indicators are as required by section 10(1) of the Orwellian sounding Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

A news report of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford What Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow United Nations revealed that a landmark conference (Making Decisions For A Better Tomorrow) was held in Cardiff to coincide with the passing of the statute.

The World Future Council website lists conference keynote speakers as "Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Julie Gelfand, Canadian Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development; and Dr Maryam Niamir-Fuller, Special Advisor to the Executive Director on Post-2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals with the UN Environment Programme".

Catherine Pearce, Future Justice Director with the World Future Council is reported to have told her audience that "we need to overcome the short termism of election cycles and policy frameworks. Decisions this year can put us on the path for a sustainable world for today and tomorrow. Bringing together policymakers and civil actors at this conference is an important step in the right direction".

Having already discovered very little difference in the green policies contained within the Manifestos of the four main political parties fighting the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016 we can now see the cynical way in which the "short termism of election cycles and policy frameworks" has been overcome!!

The Welsh Government, the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures, the World Future Council, Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales, and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations co-organised the conference.

Stefan Schurig is Director – Climate, Energy and Cities, Member Management Board, World Future Council. He "initiated the international policy campaign on renewable energy and the worldwide promotion of ‘Feed-In tariffs’ as one of the best policies for a massive uptake of renewable energy". 

The current Director of the Oxford Martin School is Achim Steiner. Prior to his appointment he served as "United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (2006-2016)". It was no surprise to discover the the Oxford Martin School website displayed the usual purple and green theme. Videos from the conference can be viewed here.

The Role of Public Services Boards and The Future Generations Commissioner

The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act required the establishment of a public services boards for each local authority area in Wales. The role of the PSBs is to "improve the well-being of their area by contributing to the well-being goals, which they are to do by assessing well-being in their area, setting local objectives ... and taking steps to meet those objectives".

The act requires public bodies to "do things in pursuit of the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales in a way that accords with the sustainable development principle".

Section 5 of the Act means that when directing that public bodies must comply with the sustainable development principle it means that "the body must act in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

Statutory members of each board will include:-

  • The Local Authority
  • The Local Health Board
  • The Fire and Rescue Authority
  • Natural Resources Wales

Section 30 of the Act directs that the following must also be invited to participate in the activities of the board: Welsh Ministers, Chief Constables, the Police and Crime Commissioner, certain probation services, and, at least one body representing relevant voluntary organisations.

Section 17 of the Act states that "there is to be a Future Generations Commissioner for Wales". The Commissioner will be an unelected official because sub-section 17(2) provides that "the Commissioner is to be an individual appointed by the Welsh Ministers". Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 of the Act reveals that "an individual appointed as Commissioner holds office for a period of 7 years".

On the 1st February 2016 the first statutory Future Generations Commissioner took office in Wales. This role is to "act as a guardian for the interests of future generations in Wales, and to support the public bodies listed in the Act to work towards achieving the well-being goals". Sophie Howe, a former Labour councillor and special advisor to the Welsh government, was appointed at a salary of £95,000 per annum. The summary of her Linkedin profile reveals that she is the "Guardian of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act - supporting and holding to account 44 public bodies in Wales".

Despite the claims that Wales is taking the lead in relation to protecting the interests of future generations we can reveal that this is not the case. UK Column researchers have discovered that from the 1st January 2012, "the tasks of the Hungarian Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations were overtaken by its legal successor, the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights". The archived website reveals that in 2012 "the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations was invited to Hamburg to participate at the Annual General Meeting of the World Future Council". Key topics were the upcoming Earth Summit in Rio in 2012, according to the report.

A 12 page document The Future We Want prepared by the Centre for International Environmental Law, World Future Council promotes the creation of the role of High Commissioner for Future Generations. According to the report "establishing the High Commissioner for Future Generations will raise the UN and Member States' authority in the eyes of citizens". It concludes by stating that "there is a need to establish the High Commissioner for Future Generations to protect the rights and interests of future generations ... building on developments relating to intergenerational equity, the linkage between human rights and environment, and the reference to the interests and needs of future generations in numerous international legal instruments".

Although the proposal for a High Commissioner for Future Generations did not gain traction at the Rio+20 Conference we have little doubt that environmental activists, such as the World Future Council, will continue their campaigning at the national, regional and international levels. The actions of the Welsh Assembly in passing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has already provided them with additional opportunities for marketing their campaign.

Our research evidences that the four main political parties in Wales have committed themselves to the vigorous pursuit of the United Nations Agenda 2030 programme for Sustainable Development.

In passing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) the Welsh Assembly has created the Office of Commissioner for Future Generations and established Public Service Boards. Both have statutory duties to pursue the UN Agenda 2030 well-being goals. Neither the Future Generations Commissioner nor the Public Service Boards are elected to office by Welsh voters and neither can they be removed. They are all appointed, on behalf of the UN, to promote a global agenda.

In allowing itself to act as a portal through which Global Government operates the only conclusion that can be reached is that the Welsh Assembly has proved itself to be a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy.