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15 February 2017

A snapshot of citizen engagement at work in Welsh democracy

A snapshot of citizen engagement at work in Welsh democracy

Jim Stewart from the Alliance in Wales was invited to take part in a small citizens' panel on Monday, 13 February for a special session of the National Assembly for Wales' constitutional and legislative affairs committee.

The committee is made up of five Assembly Members from across Wales "who reflect the political makeup of the Assembly," and who "try and make sure that decisions about Welsh laws, the constitution and government matters are in the best interests of Wales and its people". 

The meeting was part of the Committee's current consultation on A stronger voice for Wales: engaging with Westminster and the devolved institutions. The citizens' panel – the first for this committee – was organised by Celyn Cooper, outreach and engagement officer for the National Assembly for Wales, in order to broaden the participation of Wales' citizens on these issues.

It was an excellent initiative as it gave participants an insight into the Committee's current focus, one that they may not have been aware of otherwise. 

The panel were asked to give their personal views under the Chatham House Rule, and as the session progressed, they gained an insight into the breadth and complexity of matters covered and the importance of engaging in this and indeed other consultations that might normally be overlooked.
Christian groups in Wales don't have the capacity to respond to each and every consultation and so often tend to prioritise according to immediate relevance to the Christian faith or the interests of members. A stronger voice for Wales doesn't have an obvious faith dimension and so may be overlooked by many individuals and groups. However, it's clearly important that a wide range of citizens express their views on the consultation's focus, drawing from their experiences, perspectives and insights. 

What are some of the issues the consultation seeks to cover?

  • Cooperation between different parliaments and institutions of the UK. The National Assembly for Wales is a young institution and so nothing is set in stone. What relationships should be developed and across what issues?
  • Should regular meetings be taking place between officials/ministers across the UK or only in response to events or emergencies?
  • To what extent should Wales look to other parts of the UK, Europe and the world for examples of innovation? The Welsh press would have a field day if Assembly Members were taking trips around the world left, right and centre at the public's expense. Nonetheless, there is great worth in being able to see first-hand the impact of a policy and to meet people who are passionate about a cause.