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Why wait for government permission for a convention?

Lee Waters sets out the Institute of Welsh Affairs' plans to hold a ‘crowd sourced’ Constitutional Convention.

Lee Waters
21 January 2015

Why wait for Westminster to grant you a Constitutional Convention?, Simon Jenkins asked at the IWA’s conference a week before the Scottish referendum. “Hold your own one; decide what you want, and ask for it – you never know, at this time, you might just get it” the former Editor of the Times implored his audience.

So that’s what we’re doing. On January 26th we’ll be launching the first ‘Crowd Sourced’ Constitutional Convention on the future of Wales, and the UK.

Thanks to dozens of small donations from across Wales, and the support of the UK’s Changing Union project, we are able to launch an eight-week experiment in deliberative democracy to run in parallel with discussions at Westminster to devolve further power to Scotland, England and Wales.

There are two critical elements to our plans – we’ll be asking questions, and not pre-judging the outcomes, and we’re putting people at the centre of our conversation. Everyone can take part, and anyone can shape the conversation.

Both First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, seem to agree that any powers being offered to Scotland as a result of the Smith Commission should be available to Wales if we want them. But do we want them? And what would it mean in practice? That’s what we’ll be asking over the course of the next few months.

Before we kick-off the process at the end of January we’ll be publishing the detailed plans and questions on this site for you to comment on and change.

Our plan is to go back to first principles and ask: what is the UK for? If we are to have a Union what things should be the same everywhere, and where can we diverge?

We’ll look at the main areas being suggested for further devolution in Scotland – powers over the economy and the Welfare State – and examine how they apply to Wales; and then look at how devolution to England will impact on the workings of the UK, and what its future should be?

This will all take place on an especially designed website which will allow us to feature expert opinion and explanation, and a space for you to question, debate and suggest – and for us to measure it all.

We are working with a range of partners to engage as many people as possible in this debate, including NUS Wales, Wales TUC, Federation of Small Businesses, the Electoral Reform Society and Community Housing Cymru.

Our objectives are to ensure that Wales is not lost in a debate chiefly focused on Scotland and England, and, crucially, to ensure the debate reaches beyond the political elites. Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has set up a process of discussion amongst party leaders at Westminster to find a consensus further powers which will culminate in a St David’s Day Declaration on March 1st. We’re hoping our crowd-sourced discussions can feed into that process and help influence the party manifestos for implementation after May’s General Election.

We still need to fundraise to help us reach as wide an audience as possible. If you think our project is important we’d be grateful for a donation to help it reach its potential. And most of all we need your help to ensure we’re asking the right questions, and, of course, to take part.

 

Crossposted with thanks to clickonwales

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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