Hold assembly in north Wales, says Ynys Mon MP Albert Owen

By David Deans
BBC News


AMs should consider sitting a couple of times a year in north Wales, a Labour MP has said.

Albert Owen spoke after the 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum in 1997 which established the assembly.

The MP for Ynys Mon said there was a "long way to go" to convince people in the north that the legislature is for the whole of the country.

The assembly returns from its summer recess on Tuesday.

In the early days of devolution AMs sat in regional committees, but Mr Owen said members had not been interested.

People have "come to terms" with devolution, he told BBC Wales. "Although they will complain about it being south Wales-based, they still feel that it is good for Wales that we have our own voice."

But he added: "I still think that there's a long way to go in convincing people in north Wales that the assembly is for the whole of Wales. That will take time."

He said: "If I was a north west Wales AM I would be saying that the assembly should sit in the north in Llandudno or in a council chamber, a couple of times a year, to show that it cared, to talk about north Wales issues.

"I think with devolution, it is about bringing politics closer to the people. Cardiff is as far away from Anglesey as London is."

Mr Owen said there was a "greater sense now of transport in the north getting back on the agenda", but added: "It's more than just roads. Europe could supply money for roads, the UK government could supply roads and infrastructure and jobs.

"Really, when we talk about politics being part of the area, and the area being part of national politics, then I think you need to get politics closer to them."


Mr Owen said devolution had "probably not" delivered enough for Anglesey.

"But the expectations are too high. If you look at Parliament it took hundreds of years to develop, where we are only talking 20 years. In the scale of history that's nothing," he said.

The MP was critical of AMs from north west Wales, saying "they became very Cardiff-centric very quickly".

"They sort of looked more to nation building than representing the north west and the periphery areas of Wales.

"That has not helped close this gap in people feeling remote from Cardiff."

Plaid Cymru Ynys Mon AM Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "Successive Labour governments have failed to deliver for the whole of Wales.

"Championing Anglesey and calling on the Labour Welsh Government to spread prosperity, investment and opportunity throughout Wales is at the heart of everything I do as Ynys Mon's AM."

Tory AM Mark Isherwood said: "I was opposed to the scrapping of regional committees and have regularly chaired cross-party meetings to fill the void they left.

"But what North Wales really needs is a seat at the cabinet table and a North Wales minister could ensure that this part of Wales is firmly in the government's thinking."

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