Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM, has raised concerns about the democratic process in the National Assembly suggesting the Welsh Labour Government could manipulate the rules to railroad through legislation.
Writing on Click on Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs' blog, Eluned Parrott, a member of the Assembly's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, argues that the Welsh Labour Government could abuse the democratic process by over-using the negative procedure for regulations that flesh out a framework bill.
The negative procedure is when regulations become law automatically without the approval of the Assembly, requiring the Assembly to call-in any regulations that cause concern for a vote to repeal them.
In a situation such as we currently have, where there is no government majority, it works in the Welsh government's favour.
If regulations are introduced by the affirmative procedure, the Assembly has to vote positively in favour of regulations before they can come into force. If there is a tied vote, the Presiding Officer is obliged by standing orders to vote for the status quo and will therefore vote down the regulations.
By contrast, if regulations are introduced by the negative procedure, they are already in force by the time the Assembly votes on them and therefore the Presiding Officer's vote for the status quo keep the regulations in force.
Eluned Parrott said:
"I am very concerned that the Welsh Labour Government could subvert our democratic system in the National Assembly by manipulating the standing orders in order to get a functional majority in the Assembly.
"As a member of the Assembly's committee that scrutinises all forms of legislation and regulations, it has come to my attention that the Welsh Labour Government is increasingly trying to use a procedure that means that they can introduce any regulation they wish, without the Assembly being able to scrutinise it or vote on it in advance
"Assembly Members are asked to pass laws that have very little detail in them, with that detail fleshed out in regulations at a later date. Once the bill has been passed, however, they have carte blanche to introduce any regulations they wish.
"While this may appear to be a complex and largely technical issue, it is important that people understand how the Welsh Labour Government could subvert our democratic system. The best way of explaining what they are doing is comparing it to a Trojan horse. We are passing what seems to be an uncontroversial bill, but allowing the Welsh Government a free hand to shape a very much more controversial bill through regulations, which we will then be powerless to change.
"This is a blatant manipulation of our democratic system and the way in which we make laws for the people of Wales. The people of Wales did not give Welsh Labour a majority in the National Assembly. We, as Assembly Members, must not allow the democratic process to be subverted and hand that majority to them."