Wales politics

Citizens' Assembly's first Wales meeting takes place

The Irish Citizens' Assembly meeting in Malahide
Image caption An Irish Citizens' assembly meeting in Malahide

A Citizens' Assembly, made up of 60 members of the public from across Wales, will meet for the first time later this month.

The body running the National Assembly said the event would consider how best to respond to issues people care about.

Welsh Assembly Presiding Officer Elin Jones said she hoped it would help "reinvigorate our democracy".

UKIP called the initiative "unnecessary" and an admission of failure by the assembly.

Citizens' assemblies - groups of people brought together to discuss a political issue - have been held in countries including Canada, Australia, the United States, Poland and the Netherlands and there are plans for one in Scotland.

Six UK parliamentary committees have also proposals for a citizens' assembly to discuss how the UK should tackle climate change.

Ireland's has been seen as instrumental in the liberalisation of the country's abortion and same-sex marriage laws.

Ms Jones said having contact with the institution will empower people in Wales and hopefully bring new thinking into the democratic process to help "reinvigorate our democracy once again for the next 20 years".

Image caption As presiding officer Elin Jones is the referee in Senedd debates, like the Commons speaker

Ms Jones said it was "something that allows people to directly have an input in the future of our country".

"Because people come up to me in the street and tell me what I think I should be doing as an elected representative," she said.

"I think that happens to politicians all the time. This is an opportunity to create something which is a bit more formal."

This Citizens' Assembly will address the question "how can people in Wales shape their future?" through the work of the assembly.

It will consult experts and its conclusions will be published in a report.

Ms Jones said: "We want them to provide us with ideas, with a context for us to develop our plans for the future, both as an assembly, the political parties, individual politicians to take on various ideas that come from Citizens' Assembly so we can enrich the pool of ideas to put into policy in Wales.

"I hope then that the politicians in this place and outside will want to then engage with those ideas and discuss them in this place."

Image caption Neil Hamilton said Wales doesn't "need another body meeting statically made up of a handful of people"

However, UKIP AM Neil Hamilton said setting one up in Wales was an admission of failure by the assembly.

"A national assembly should be a true citizens' assembly, it should represent the feelings and opinions of the people of Wales and it doesn't," he said.

"We are all citizens of Wales and in Wales and this is the institution that represents them. And I think this is unnecessary.

"We don't need another body meeting statically made up of a handful of people."

The Citizens' Assembly will be held in Newtown, Powys, over the weekend of 19 July.

You can see more on this story on Sunday Politics Wales at 11:00 BST on BBC One Wales on 7 July and then later on iPlayer.

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