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Petitioning the Assembly

2008 Chwefror 29 12:00 AM
Gan Kirsty Williams AM yn County Times 29th February 2008

When people think of the Assembly they all too often picture Grey-Suits in Cardiff offices making decisions with scant regard for the voices of those they serve back in their constituencies. While this may indeed sometimes be an accurate image of the Assembly Government and its Ministers, the Assembly as a whole is fighting this undemocratic practice. As well AMs listening to the concerns of their constituents through surgeries there is now also a process for the people of Wales to speak directly to the Assembly in the form of petitioning.

Since last year members of the public have for the first time been able to petition the National Assembly. Individuals and groups can call upon the Assembly to take action on devolved areas of policy and if it is within the Assembly's power it is required to act upon the petition. The aim of the system is to be as open, responsive and effective for Welsh citizens as possible. Anyone or any group can submit a petition calling upon the Assembly to address their concern; the key is to gain the widespread support of those affected by the issue and to have a thorough dossier of supporting evidence. Once a petition is submitted it is for the Presiding Officer and his representatives to determine whether it is permissible, and falls within the Assembly's remit. If it passes this test it will then be published on the internet for further signatories and providing enough it will then be presented to the petitions committee for consideration who can then take evidence before making a recommendation for further action.

Last week I was lucky enough to sit in on the committee's discussion in order to speak in support of both Powys Community School's Action Group's petition on school closure and a constituent's petition for a bridleway along the A40 at the Talybont-On-Usk junction. The School's petition was at the second stage of consideration with group members giving evidence in a Q&A session. Another Powys based petition to re-open Carno station was deemed so well-founded that it subsequently went before the Enterprise and learning cross party committee who even visited the site, and work is still ongoing. Currently active residents in Llanspyddid near Brecon are putting together a petition calling for action to address the dangerous A40 junction in the village.

If you feel you have an important issue that the Assembly could address and would like to set up a petition further information is available from petition@wales.gsi.gov.uk or you can contact me at the above address for support and advice.

Petitioning is truly a great opportunity for people to engage with the Assembly and we should be proud of what has been created and ensure that it is used in full.

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