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Bumpy Roads

Betsan Powys | 13:42 UK time, Wednesday, 28 November 2007

One theory I heard in London last week was that MPs had treated the Assembly as a parent might a child: letting it find its own way in the big wide world, holding back for fear of being accused of interfering. Perhaps that had gone on for too long and 'holding back' had led to a lack of familiarity, an unhealthy distance.

But things were now improving, went the theory. Welsh Ministers were making the trip down to Westminster more regularly. Parent was getting reacquainted with child; famliarity was breeding contempt. Oh no, not that bit.

Today the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, has made the trip to Cardiff. And his message is pretty specific:

“I am a devolutionist. I always have been. I helped to deliver the original devolution settlement for Wales, as well as the enhanced 2006 Act, and I am as passionate as anyone else about seeing it succeed.

“So I have a presumption in favour of legislative bids.

“Let me be clear that there is no case whatsoever for the Assembly to be required to supply every detail of future, perhaps unforeseen, Assembly Measures. Under the 2006 Act Parliament’s responsibility is to transfer enduring competence, and must accept there will be scope for the implementation of policy not yet contemplated.

“But, by equal measure, Parliament cannot rubber stamp or let anything through ‘on the nod’. Each request for legislative competence will be subject to scrutiny, as the Government made clear during the passage of the 2006 Act. We will make a judgement on the detail of each proposed Legislative Competence Order. How clearly defined its scope is. Whether it is within the terms of the overall settlement for the Welsh Assembly Government to legislate in a certain field. And whether a purpose for the transfer of power can be identified.

“We have no desire to meddle in future policy developments which are the prerogative of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Assembly. That would be against the spirit of the Act.

“But it is an important principle that Parliament and Whitehall Departments are allowed to probe the basis of legislative requests, and that in doing so are not presented as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘obstructive’. The mentality that sees Parliament as an ‘inconvenience’ will itself act as a roadblock to devolution’s progress, and is in any case against the terms of the settlement as entrenched by the people of Wales in 1997".

Someone asked me in response to Monday's posting whether anything happened in the Senedd on Tuesday. Yes, it does. Yesterday journalists were given this hand-out by the Assembly Government, a list of 'Frequently Asked Questions' on the legislative process shared out during Counsel General Carwyn Jones' lobby briefing.

Q: "Does the UK Government need to be made privy to what the Assembly wishes to do with the power that the LCO transfers before they agre to the LCO?"

A: The Welsh Assembly Government's immediate policy intentions should not be the determining factor when considering the proposed order ... In other words ... the detail of the Measures themselves will be a matter for the Assembly - this is the nature of the enhanced devolution settlement".

I'm clear about one thing only: the LCO-route has been a bumpy one, so bumpy that Peter Hain has come with a message. He clearly agrees that the process isn't working as effectively as it should. A lot's been done in 15 months but anyone who's tempted to suggest that Parliament's part in the whole process is a bit of a nuisance; that Parliament is meddling unnecessarily in what is Assembly business - that's not just unhelpful; it's counter-productive.

So just you try and go ahead and publish plans without cabinet clearance in future, just you try and draft orders that are so broad it's impossible to see the edges and that road will get a whole lot bumpier.

Off to read Hansard's record of a debate in the Lords last week on the Local Transport Bill. Lord Glentoran was none to please that the Lords "are being asked to sanction a general transfer of powers when the Welsh Ministers cannot or will not say how they intend to use it".

Perhaps he'd appreciate a copy of the Q+A handed out yesterday.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:07 PM on 28 Nov 2007,
  • dewi wrote:

Seems so blasted tortuous doesn't it. Roll on Sir posh UN bloke from the Gwendraeth's convention.

  • 2.
  • At 12:51 PM on 29 Nov 2007,
  • Alistair Cook wrote:

Will there be an official Welsh Assembly response to the Queen's speech read out in Westminster? Maybe it's time for Rhodri to address them and outline the intentions. Where will it stop?

Are the AMs proposing the LCOs coming from a different angle than those MPs and Lords receiving them? Do they have different career/parliamentary backgrounds? Maybe they need better briefings beforehand.

After all, the spirit of the Assembly wasn't meant to be as confrontational as Westminster so it's probably a bit of a shock having the London hounds chase them around Westminster...

  • 3.
  • At 02:53 PM on 29 Nov 2007,
  • Greg wrote:

What a terrible process! Of course it doesn't run smoothly, no one knows what to do.

Thought I'd just started to understand everything to do with this issue but after reading this I feel more in the dark than ever!

Betsan, perhaps we need some 'back to basics' lessons for the 'thickies' among us!

  • 4.
  • At 03:31 PM on 29 Nov 2007,
  • Hughesy 62 wrote:

It is a bit tortuous, you're right.

I can't believe that the UK Labour party could be so arrogant as to impose what could be argued as a tri-cameral legislative system with choke points and vetoes at every stage on the and then throw out accusations of bad play when it gets accused of 'meddling'.

Far from being a fervent supporter of theirs I'm so glad that Plaid are involved in the next stage of devolution. In 1979 and 1997 Scotland had a devolution agreement based on full and open nationwide debate and we had one based on the outcome of what labour thought 'best'.

Let’s hope that Sir Emyr will stir a nationwide debate that includes the consideration of all public services, tiers of Government, academic thought (not just political theory) and all of civil society.

I remember something about partnership in 'A Voice for Wales'. Let’s see if it comes to fruition shall we? Rant over.

  • 5.
  • At 09:43 PM on 29 Nov 2007,
  • Vern wrote:

You're right Hughsey. If you think this is bad, imagine life in Wales if the Tories ever get hold of power at Westminster again...!

  • 6.
  • At 08:50 AM on 03 Dec 2007,
  • Hughesy 62 wrote:

Vern, perhaps that's the secret plan. Mr Hain knows that the Tories have got a good chance to win the next General Election, so he has created a system that would allow the Tories to break Wales (again) and therefore secure a Labour dominated Wales (again) through a backlash against a UK Conservative government.

What a clever bugger, or am I just being a cynic?

Just like to find out where does our tax money go to?? England! our tax money should go to the Welsh government to help our local schools and facilities, also our government (Plaid) should look after our details and infromation because its obvious Mr Brown's men cant!! look they still havent found those CD'S!!
and Mr Hain and he's government are good in lying! I must say, its a tradition to not keep your promise, Labour and torries have no common sense

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