First minister needs tighter scrutiny, says Tory leader

Andrew RT Davies says moving First Minister's Questions to a later time would boost its audience

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Wales' first minister should face more intense scrutiny in a bid to improve the public's faith in Welsh politics, say the Conservatives.

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies says weekly grillings of Carwyn Jones in the assembly should be moved to a different time to boost TV and web audiences.

He also thinks the first minister should be grilled by Welsh MPs at Westminster once a year.

But his remarks have won little support from Labour or the Presiding Officer.

"Transparency and scrutiny are questionable at best," stated the Tory leader, Mr Davies.

"It's about time we had a properly considered overhaul of proceedings.

"A technical refresh could boost public engagement and restore that much-needed faith."

'Surprising' claims

Currently, First Minister's Questions (FMQs) takes place at 13:30 on Tuesday afternoons during term-time and lasts for 45 minutes.

The three leaders of the opposition parties ask questions that the first minister has not been given any notice about.

Other AMs also ask questions, but on topics that have to be submitted at least five days in advance.

Carwyn Jones First Minister Carwyn Jones answers questions one afternoon a week in the Senedd chamber

The Conservatives say FMQs should include more topical questions and be held later in the day so there would be a potentially bigger audience online and on television.

Mr Davies said: "Changing the time of weekly questions to the leader of the Welsh government and allowing time for topical questioning gives Wales better opportunity to properly engage.

"Regular scrutiny of the first minister by the Welsh Affairs committee should also be a key pledge if Labour ministers are serious about transparency."

However, the assembly's presiding officer, Dame Rosemary Butler said a review process of oral questions to ministers had already been carried out.

"I am surprised that these claims for reform and refresh to assembly proceedings continue to be made publicly by Andrew RT Davies," she stated.

'Ineffective opposition'

Dame Rosemary said the assembly's business committee spent three months between March and May this year considering reforms to how assembly sessions are run.

"All parties were given the opportunity to comment on that programme and it was unanimously agreed by representatives of all four parties on the Business Committee," she added.

But a spokesman for the assembly's Labour Party group said Mr Davies's comments reflected poorly on the Welsh Conservative leader.

"The fact is, Tory dissatisfaction with how the assembly operates says more about their lack of ability to be an effective opposition than anything else," said the Labour official.

"Their spokesperson for assembly business has just sat on a lengthy review of how Senedd business operates, and he has raised none of these points."

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