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Betsan Powys | 11:54 UK time, Monday, 20 October 2008

Remember this?

The half-hearted attempt by the Assembly Government to seek the powers to ban smacking in Wales not long ago spawned a thousand dodgy headlines (yes, me too on this blog) but was quietly dropped.

The Welsh Affairs Select Committee said it would impinge on the criminal justice system, which isn't devolved to Wales. Nice try with all your talk of banning smacking "on social welfare grounds", was the message: now get real. Welsh Ministers backed off.

So is the present row over the Assembly Government's request for powers to legislate over the so-called right to buy scheme a case of back to the future? Welsh Ministers asking for more than they think they can get, being helpfully guided - or slapped down - by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and backing off?

I don't think so and here's why.

MPs' message on smacking was simple and proved irresistible: you don't have the right to ban smacking, so don't expect us to give it to you.

On suspending, or even scrapping the right to buy, the message is far less straightforward: you do have the right to do both but you only discussed suspension of the right to buy when you talked to us about it, so we believe you should stick to that. In fact you only seem to want to suspend the right to buy in certain areas in extreme circumstances so sticking to that narrower request really shouldn't bother you.

Just being helpful.

Not the same message at all and neither is the response. It's not proving hard this morning to find Assembly Members who are lining up behind the Presiding Officer. I'm not talking just Plaid either. The Conservative group is not backing his argument but Labour, Plaid and Lib Dem AMs are. He is, they're more than happy to say on this occasion, on the money. This can't be about MPs letting go only those powers the Assembly Government says - and can prove - it needs now. What about the scope for future policy making?

MPs on the Welsh Select Committee might regard this as a bit of posturing by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas but there are plenty of AMs who don't ... I'll venture to add, for once.

David Jones MP has this down as the PO going off on one, on cue.

"He does appear to use the argument that he is the self appointed custodian of the Welsh constitution" he says. "I really don't know where he gets that from. He is the Presiding Office for the National Assembly for Wales no more no less in the same way that a County Council chairman is the chairman of a County Council. But he has appeared to have adopted this grander role of guardian of the Welsh constitution which frankly is bemusing everybody else."

Alun Michael - who does sound genuinely bemused by it all - believes it's a case of a man who can start an argument in an empty room doing just that.

Except today, the room is filling up with people who have no appetite at all to back off, who see no reason to back off, who believe the accusation of 'anti-devolution sentiment' is well made and who rub their hands at the thought of the Secretary of State checking up on his guidance notes and acting "as honest broker should there be any dispute between the Assembly and Whitehall or Westminster".

In other words they think he should come down on their side and have the air of people who think that on this occasion, if eventually called upon, he just might.


or register to comment.

  • 1. At 5:02pm on 20 Oct 2008, brynt41 wrote:

    Let's face it, the Government of Wales Act isn't working, and isn't going to work. Lord Richards stated that a legislative body was required. Constitutional issues are arising and will continue to arise, when two democratic institutions conflict. It might just have worked when Westminster and Cardiff Bay were run by the same party, when the occupant of No 10 had the last word. Really, it was a case of sleight of hand on Hain's part. "We'll give you what looks and sounds like legislative powers, but you can only legislate on things which we agree on and issue a permit for."

    In other words, the Assembly was sold a pup, which is kept on a very short lead. Make no mistake, the responsibility for this mess lies entirely with the Labour Party, and particularly with its MPs. They were, and are, the ones who oppose full legislative powers. What is especially galling is that they're motivated by self-interest, to retain their cushy seats, for all the good that they do there. This is a party which has done Wales down in just about every possible way, in and out of government. Wales has languished even though it has been loyal to that party for a century. We've been taken for granted, and paid the price for it.

    Contrast with what's happening in Scotland. There, all parties agree that further powers should be delegated, although Labour are procrastinating. This has come about because Salmond is in the driving seat. He's adept, and a consummate politician, despite it being his first experience of government. Plaid needs to get its act together, because they're allowing Labour to walk all over them. They'll get no respect from us, if they just lie down and take it.

    We won't get much change from the Tories, either. Their record on Wales is even worse than Labour's. David Jones MP's comment on DE-T sums up these numpties' attitude to the Assembly:

    "He is the Presiding Office for the National Assembly for Wales no more no less in the same way that a County Council chairman is the chairman of a County Council."

    What a wally!
    This is Jones' first stint in Westminster, elected in 2005. (Born in London, university education in London, supports Liverpool). Let's hope the people of Clwyd West wake up, and get shot of him at the next election. As far as I know he hasn't achieved anything for Wales, and with an attitude like that, he probably never will.

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  • 2. At 8:04pm on 20 Oct 2008, Crossroads wrote:

    And there was I thinking that this was all about that "I don't want to be a lord" Lord David Ellis Thomas wanting to stop people buying their council houses.

    Does he and his cronies not realize that.....

    Virtually all council houses are bought by the council tenants already living in them.

    That most people who buy their council houses live in them for a very long time, many until they die.

    That council tenants who have bought their council houses then proceed to 'do up' and modernize their pride and joy...using their own money to do so.

    The presence of 'private' council houses on a council estate has the effect of improving both the standards and yes, behaviour of the other tenants.

    There is also the one fact that our so called experts fail to see. A council house be it sold to it's council tenant occupants, or used as a council house,still only houses a family, it makes no difference. This must lead anyone to the conclusion that pure political biogtry is behind all this.

    I suspect LORD Ellis Thomas is not too familiar with big rough tough council estates. What with being so important and everything, "that type of person" rarely enters into his cosseted little world.
    Yet this is the man who wants to stop all council tenants in Wales from gettng their foot on the housing ladder by purchasing their very own humble council home.

    LORD Ellis Thomas, along with his arrogant cracach camp followers should be ashamed of themselves. They have lost touch with ordinary decent people, and trample their modest houseowning dreams under their expensive, shiny, London bought shoes.

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  • 3. At 8:19pm on 20 Oct 2008, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    Lets face it the whole LCO process was bound to be restrictive. First of all the National Assembly can not ask for legislative powers over a subject area, just a narrow subset of a subject area. The idea was to still allow some room for the Assembly to develop policy without having to promote bills at Westminster. Now it appears that the Welsh Affairs committee want to restrictions that so each LCO will permit only one Assembly measure, so effectively giving them a veto over the content of each measure. They don't have the power to amend measures but by restricting the content and scope of an LCO they can effectively veto the content of the Measure. Its a blatant attempt by the committee to control policy from the Assembly.

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  • 4. At 8:57pm on 20 Oct 2008, osian wrote:

    LCO don't work. End of. That's why we need further devolution, or at least a change to the system. The presiding officer has every right to intervene as this is cross party consensus on this matter and it isn't party politics. So Alun Michael has no right to tell the presiding officer to stop it. The Welsh Affairs Select Committee is treating the Assembly as a child. It doesn't matter that they don't want to legislate fully on the power they're asking for now, it just gives some flexibility. We are allowed this power so the Welsh Affairs Select Committee has no right to deny us it. If Alun Michael wants to limit assembly poilcy in this way he should resign and campaign to become an AM.

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  • 5. At 9:54pm on 20 Oct 2008, Crossroads wrote:

    Because of recent goings-on , more and more people now think the assembly was a mistake.

    Maybe it's time it was quietly wound down.

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  • 6. At 10:59pm on 20 Oct 2008, Notonationalism wrote:

    Actually, Brynt, David Jones was brought up in Clwyd, and I fail to see how attending an English university precludes one from a Welsh identity. You talk about the self-interest of MPs but that argument became invalid the moment that AM expenses were published to reveal all those greedy snouts at the Welsh Assembly trough.

    We do not want independence. Nor do we need the Soviet-style poverty that your nationalist dogma will inflict on the people of Wales. Furthermore, in his utter failure to act impartially and put aside his Plaid Cymru, pro-independence leanings, Dafydd Ellis Thomas shows a distinct lack of gravitas. If he wishes to campaign for independence, he should resign from his position as Presiding Officer forthwith.

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  • 7. At 09:22am on 21 Oct 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Any chance that Wales had of gaining the same devolution settlement as Scotland have been comprehensively squashed by Alex Salmond's 'Go It Alone' initiative.

    Trust me, it will never happen. Gordon Brown has seen the genie leave the bottle north of the border. And if there were a referendum he might not be able to recapture it.

    So they are not going to sign up for opening another can of worms with Cardiff Bay getting ideas above their station. So let us all calm down - this idea is not going anywhere for at least a generation or two.

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  • 8. At 10:57am on 21 Oct 2008, brynt41 wrote:

    #6 Notonationalism

    Try the Republic of Ireland's 'Soviet-style poverty'. Its standard of living and gdp has overtaken the UK's. Wales is already classified as 'poor' by EU standards, twice designated for Obejctive One funding.

    As for MP DJ, his party treated Wales with utter contempt for nigh on two decades pre-1997. If and when Cameron is elected, then we'll experience more of the same treatment.

    #7 lordBeddGelert

    The genie's out of the bottle here too. The Assembly's here to stay. The Hain idea doesn't work, so the status quo is not an option.

    I don't expect to see a Tory administration in charge of the Assembly after the next election, if ever, so there's going to be a clash between Cardiff Bay and Westminster. With Tories in power in London, there's going to be immense pressure for more power for the Assembly. If a significant majority of AMs vote in favour of having a referendum, it will be practically impossible for any PM to resist democracy. Resistance will be seen as a form of neo-colonialism, and the danger then for the unionists will be further pressure for independence.

    Also, if the Scots exit, and prosper, which is not unlikely, the argument for self-determination here will also gain momentum from that direction.

    "Cardiff Bay getting ideas above their station."

    These AMs represent us. Arguably more democratically elected than MPs. I live in a constituency where the sitting MP has a very large majority, so the significant total of votes for the other parties are disregarded, mine included.

    Are you saying that the people of Wales shouldn't 'get ideas above their station'? Should we continue to doff our caps, scrape and bow to our betters across the border, continue to be treated as children, asking...

    "Miss, please may I be excused?"....

    "No, you've been three times this year, and that's quite enough!"

    And I'm calm enough, thank you lBG.

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  • 9. At 2:19pm on 21 Oct 2008, penddu wrote:

    your opinion is completely unjustified - the opinion polls show that only 15% of people agree with you and this number falls every time the question is asked.

    The Assembly is here to stay - so you might as well get used to it.

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  • 10. At 4:47pm on 21 Oct 2008, Crossroads wrote:

    Good evening Penddu.

    Your faith in opinion polls is touching indeed.
    Maybe you would like to know more about the one you mention.

    It was carried out by Aberystwyth University's INSTITUTE OF WELSH POLITICS (says it all really) and commissioned and paid for by....wait for it.... The Welsh assembly itself.

    This was not a "face to face" survey, but was carried out using random phone calls.

    We all know the type of thing, just when you are settling down to dinner, the phone
    rings,and you are greeted with..."Good evening sir, I am carrying out a survey on behalf of........." At which you tell the caller you are not interested, and not to call again.

    This is acknowledged to be the least accurate form of opinion gathering.

    So, it would appear that the assembly was insecure enough to feel a need for this survey,so commissioned and paid for it from our taxes. It appears they got exactly the result they wanted, and we paid for.

    Not only that, they hired (at unknown cost) Aberystwyth University's INSTITUTE OF WELSH POLITICS to man the phones, and ask God knows what questions.

    If ever there was a messenger deserving of being shot, it was this one.

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  • 11. At 8:19pm on 21 Oct 2008, Llyn wrote:

    “Not only that, they hired (at unknown cost) Aberystwyth University's INSTITUTE OF WELSH POLITICS to man the phones” – wrong GfKNOP (based in that den of Welsh nationalism Blackfrairs Road, London) were sub-contracted by the IWP to conduct the survey.

    “It was carried out by Aberystwyth University's INSTITUTE OF WELSH POLITICS (says it all really)” – says what really? That they are Welsh Nationalists because they have Welsh in their name? this only goes to show how extreme your views are.

    “It appears they got exactly the result they wanted, and we paid for” – If you are implying that the poll was fixed why don’t you contact the police?

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  • 12. At 11:14pm on 21 Oct 2008, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    Because innuendo, sneer, smear and hysteria are the only weapons that those who are vocal in their opposition to the assembly here have. Certainly not reasoned argument.

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  • 13. At 11:25pm on 21 Oct 2008, Crossroads wrote:

    Good evening Harri.

    Well you've certainly hidden your light under a bushel. This is your very first post Harry, and I am indeed honoured that you chose to respond to one of my mediocre efforts.
    Although you do seem rather agitated over this Harry.It is rather surprsing that of the large number of quite contentious postings there have been on here, you've ignored them all in favour of this comparatively mild offering.
    Were you starry, and did you tarry to marry in Barry Harry (!) just waiting for this very post? Was this the one that finally persuaded you to take the plunge and sort out those uppity anti-nationalists?

    You see Harri, I smell a rat here. Whenever a first time ever poster suddenly appears, out of the deep blue yonder and has a pop, alarm bells start to ring.

    I just hope we will see more posts from you Harry carry on the good work.

    Oh and in answer to your question Harri, Yes I do wonder about the accuracy of ALL surveys/polls. Especially so when a failing assembly feels the need to bolster it's poor image by commissioning expensive and unnecessary telephone polls.
    Please tell me why Aberystwyth university was involved at all in this pointless exercise?

    The voters will bear all this in mind when they are asked for THEIR opinion at the ballot box Harry....and yes I know I've failed to mention 'Gary' but you can't win 'em all can you Harry.

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  • 14. At 10:13pm on 22 Oct 2008, osian wrote:

    Just to point out that Harry is actually Welsh and is spelt Harri. Because I got confused there with your Harrys and Harris. Two different names you see, it's a different language.

    Though I do agree that a first time post like that is dubious.

    And just because the Assembly commisioned an opinion poll they're wasting our tax money to bolster their own image?! Utter gibberish. This poll hasn't been given large press coverage or any mention at all in the news really so how is it Assembly propoganda? Aberystwyth were probably involved because they are an university with a good politics department n Wales. Who would you have had do the poll? Yougov? Please don't say yougov.

    "It was carried out by Aberystwyth University's INSTITUTE OF WELSH POLITICS (says it all really) and commissioned and paid for by....wait for it.... The Welsh assembly itself."

    Are you implying that they fixed the poll? Are you implying that they must be nationalists becuase they have Welsh in their name? Who better to carry out a poll on Welsh politics than an institute specialising in Welsh politics?

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  • 15. At 10:02am on 23 Oct 2008, Crossroads wrote:

    So pleased that you pointed out that "Harry is actually Welsh and is spelt Harri"!!!!!!!

    If you don't mind I'll spell Harry as I've always spelt it.... HARRY. Exactly like I spell BARRY..... (I still smile wryly everytime I see that BARRI BARRY sign at Culverhouse Cross)
    O.K. then Osian. Just tell us why exactly the assembly DID commission and spend our taxes on this poll? What purpose did it serve?What was the point of it?

    Questioning the actions of this appallingly inefficient and costly bunch of troughers is now to be called gibberish is it?
    Your attitude on this matter bodes ill for the future Osian. Is no-one to be allowed to criticise this assembly, because as many see it they are deserving of little else.

    Your final sentence really is a cracker Osian.

    "Who better to carry out a poll on Welsh politics than an institute specializing in Welsh politcs"....

    Who indeed, and by the same token "Who better to carry out a poll on Welsh fox-hunting than an institute speciaizing in......Welsh fox-hunting.

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  • 16. At 3:45pm on 23 Oct 2008, osian wrote:

    I won;t bother answering. However on stupid signs:
    English: Tresaith
    Welsh: Tre-saith

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