"A CULTURE OF ARROGANCE AND DISTAIN "
Report of the Assembly debate on the National Parks . September 22nd 2004
Added to the two motions to take the Luc Review and Action Plan forward there were six proposed amendments and the only one carried was by Kirsty Williams. It received a resounding 55 votes in favour. This amendment had nothing to do with direct elections. It was to ensure that the newly drafted government Action Plan concerning changes to the National Parks of Wales should recognise “the importance of balancing the unique needs of the National Parks with the requirements for them to be active parts of the economy, not museums ”.
The other amendment by Kirsty Williams regarding 50% of the members being directly elected to the Parks, did not cut any ice with the Minister or Labour whip. Her proposal fell by 30 votes against. The Conservatives led by Glyn Davies moderately proposed 20% and this was also defeated.
The Minister, Carwyn Jones AM was very adamant that it should be an “all or nothing” situation with no middle ground. Either all members should be directly elected or none at all. Obviously this revealed a seemingly illogical stance by the Minister. Everyone knows that the parks have to have government appointees because they are national bodies. Therefore, it appears that 100% directly elected is an impossibility. Hopefully, when ministers show themselves to be “seemingly illogical” it usually means they have other plans or none at all.
In this present climate of quango bonfires it would seem logical for this government to throw the three National Parks onto the pile and then run them as one body from Cardiff. Wales would then have one superb National Park with three regional divisions. The benefits of this centralisation could be many, such as improved working partnerships and links with the tourist board and the Countryside Council for Wales. There is also a downside, especially for the parks residents and the further erosion of their democratic rights, if the new system was not set up to be accountable to them as well as government. Perhaps a nationally appointed body would run a new HQ and the regions’ membership would be entirely elected or nominated in a very democratic way ? Otherwise the poor relations between the authorities and those who live in the parks can only get worse.
Across all parties members were highly critical of planning and development control. The conservative’s amendment to review its function and whether it should stay with the Parks , was defeated by the whip and the minister on technical grounds of it not being within the “Review’s” remit. The minister also voiced his preference that it should stay. Glyn Davies AM (Con) was very concerned about the “low regard” the parks were held in because of planning. Peter Law AM (Lab) was in favour of all members being directly elected. In the mean time he thought planning should be returned to the local authorities, who are democratically run. He concluded by saying “there is a band of incompetence running through the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority that has created a culture of arrogance and distain".
Minister unmoved over National Parks election call
Sep 22nd 2004 Tomos Livingstone
Environment Minister Carwyn Jones said today he was unconvinced of the case to elect some members to National Park Authorities.
An independent report suggested the move as part of an overhaul of how Wales' three national parks are run.
But Mr Jones told AMs today: "I do not see the need for direct elections for part of the national park authorities. In terms of partial elections, it's a matter of either electing all of them with the consequent difficulties that may arise, or electing none of them.
"I don't believe partial election goes any way to resolve the difficulty."
Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives said they backed the Minister's cautious approach.
Conservative AM Glyn Davies said: "If you are moving down a road which is potentially controversial, it's as well to be cautious."
But the Liberal Democrats called for full elections to the park authorities.
Responding to calls for him to clarify his position, Mr Jones said there was "no answer at this stage", but the question would be addressed in future.