Wales politics

Don't let Brexit stop Welsh Government plans, Carwyn Jones says

Carwyn Jones Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Carwyn Jones is stepping down as first minister in December

Brexit must not be allowed to take up so much time that it stops Welsh ministers getting their plans through the assembly, Carwyn Jones has said.

His priorities include a smacking ban and votes at 16 in local elections in his final months as first minister.

The Conservatives said Welsh Labour was "unimaginative and tired" and was "tinkering at the edges".

The annual statement in the Senedd on Tuesday is the nearest thing the assembly has to a Queen's Speech.

Mr Jones said Cardiff Bay faced a "substantial programme" of amending EU regulations, but added: "As far as possible, we must not allow this Brexit workload to limit our legislative ambitions.

"But we must be flexible and be ready to adapt our legislative programme, should the need arise."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A plan to ban smacking has prompted a heated debate among parents in Wales

The first minister also used the statement to look back over his time in charge since 2009.

Presumed consent in organ donation and better support for women victims of violence were cited as highlights.

There were no surprises in the list of forthcoming bills, but much of the work required will be done under Mr Jones's successor.

A local government bill next spring will allow councils to merge. By the time it is published, five years will have elapsed since a government-commissioned report called for "urgent" reforms.

The new bill will not contain a map of new boundaries as ministers hope authorities will re-organise voluntarily.

Image caption Local authorities will be encouraged but not forced to merge

Interim Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies said: "The headline bills to be announced today is typical Welsh Labour; tinker at the edges, but do nothing to resolve the fundamental challenges to Welsh society and its economy."

The local government bill will also lower the voting age in council elections to 16

Another bill will remove the defence of reasonable chastisement for people accused of hitting children - in effect, a ban on smacking.

Wild animals will be banned from performing in travelling circuses.

With growing law-making powers, ministers want to tidy up the statute book, so a Legislation Bill will be published to make laws more accessible.

The NHS will face a new "duty of candour" so services have to open up when things go wrong.

There will also be a new national body to represent patients, replacing the seven community health councils.

Analysis by Daniel Davies, BBC Wales political correspondent

There's less ceremony and no monarch, but it's the nearest thing the assembly has to the Queen's Speech.

It was Carwyn Jones's last chance to set Cardiff Bay's agenda for the year ahead.

He mixed his greatest hits with some new material, although there are no surprises in the list of forthcoming bills.

But there was a reminder of unfinished business.

A bill allowing councils to merge won't arrive until next spring, five years after the Williams Commission said there was an "urgent" need for reform.

If it happens, it won't happen under Mr Jones. Like much of what he talked about today, that will be work for his successor.

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