Friday, 17 September 2010

Long Before the Magna Carta!

Hywel Dda

43. Hwyel Dda

Leaders (164 votes)
circa 890 AD – circa 950 AD
Welsh King of the early 10th Century who established Wales’ first formal legal system
Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) is one of the outstanding figures in the often- clouded early history of Wales. The grandson of Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great), he inherited the relatively small western kingdom of Seiswllyg in around 900 AD. By the time of his death half a century later, his domain had been extended to cover much of modern Wales.
His greatest achievement was the creation of Wales’ first formal legal system. The “Laws of Hywel Dda” remained a cornerstone of Welsh government and culture for several centuries and were a unifying force in an often bitterly divided land.
These laws were not Hywel’s invention, however. He is said to have brought together learned men from across Wales to Whitland in Pembrokeshire in around 930 AD. At Whitland, traditional rights and duties, some already dating back hundreds of years, were written down or “codified” for the first time.
Legal documents drafted according to the “Laws of Hywel Dda” survive to the present. One remarkable feature of these distinctly Welsh laws is their recognition of the legal status of women and children. Elsewhere in Europe women were regarded merely as the property of their men folk, a status that persisted for centuries.
This helps to explain Hywel’s appeal to later generations, though some historians have questioned how just how “good” he really was.There is evidence the young king ordered the murder of his brother-in-law, Llywarch, in order to take control of Dyfed. His close links with the English crown also aroused the suspicion of some contemporaries.
As John Davies writes in his History of Wales: “In the age of Hywel, the essential attribute of a state builder was ruthlessness”. Ruthlessness was, it seems, an attribute Hywel possessed along the goodness with which history has credited him

Electoral system in Wales should become model for the European Parliament, says think-tank

WALES’ electoral system should be used as a model for the European Parliament, a major think-tank will claim today.
The Foreign Policy Centre is recommending that MEPs are directly elected from constituencies with a national top-up list in place to ensure “every vote matters”.
The report’s editor, Adam Hug, took evidence in Wales and is convinced that the European Parliament can be reformed at a time when major constitutional changes may be about to take place in the UK.
In a European Parliament election each party puts forward a list of candidates for a region. The parties are allocated a number of MEPs in line with their share of the vote.

Mr Hug believes this system should be scrapped because it has led to a situation in which “MEPs are chosen by the parties, individually shut off from the voters, and expected to individually represent up to 6.2 million people.”
Mr Hug says the ideas in the report, Reconnecting the European Parliament and Its People, could become reality.
Key proposals include:
Further reform to expenses, requiring receipts for general spending;
An end to the “maddening” rule under which the European Parliament must relocate for a week to Strasbourg each month;
Greater UK Parliamentary scrutiny of EU draft legislation.
The report acknowledges that the devolved regions have already shown how the proposed electoral system could work in reality.
It states: “Variants of this system currently operate in Scotland, Wales and London, where constituency representatives are combined with MEPs selected on a regional list.
“However, in a European context, where the number of MEPs cannot increase, making the top-up list national rather than regional would enable the constituency size to be as small as possible while retaining overall proportionality.”
Constituency members would be chosen either through the first-by-the-past or the Alternative Vote.
Mr Hug said he was confident arrangements could be made to ensure that parties such as Plaid Cymru and the SNP did not lose out as a result of the national list.
He was also sure that politicians would back the scrapping of the monthly trip to Strasbourg, saying: “I think you’d struggle to find an MEP, certainly amongst the UK delegation, who’s supportive of it.”
He said: “MEPs work hard to represent the public and be effective in the European Parliament, but the system is against them. It is time for radical reform of how they are elected and the way the European Parliament works to build public trust and understanding.”
He also believes MEPs should get more power to veto individual EU Commissioners, nominate candidates for President of the Commission and initiate private member-style bills.
Annabelle Harle, director of the Electoral Reform Society in Wales, wants the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation introduced. This would allow voters to list election candidates in order of preference instead of having to accept the party’s choice for the top spots.
She said: “We like the idea of more choice and more transparency.”
Constitutional expert Alan Trench expected an end to Strasbourg sittings would receive an enthusiastic welcome.
He said: “I think that’s probably the single most popular cause in European politics. It’s a cause that everybody except the French supports – I’ve never heard anybody have a good word to say about it...
“It’s obviously good for the restaurateurs of Strasbourg but not a great deal of other people.”
However, he saw challenges ahead in reforming the parliament, saying: “This is a very complex and messy institution and much of the academic writing on it finds virtue in its messiness and ways of operating. But that messiness in itself make it very hard for people to understand what’s going on.”

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