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"The Way Ahead"

Betsan Powys | 15:36 UK time, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

wynroberts203.jpgI am, I'm told by my colleague, about to try and make a glacier mint out of a piece of fudge.

I'm about to try and see clearly 'Devolution in Wales: The Way Ahead' as envisaged by Lord Roberts of Conwy in his much anticipated interim report for David Cameron.

It is a long piece of fudge, certainly. So long the Conservatives today have only released a summary excerpt of the report and guess what, it leads to three little words: yet another commission.

The simple version is this: Look, there just isn't going to be a referendum on or before 2011 because come on, like it or not, very few people think it would be won. Not that we're against more devolution or anything but there we are. Face the facts. Now if we win the next General Election then we'd take another good look at this - not sure how long that would take but we're talking a root and branch examination of the system of governance of Wales here, so it could take some time - and then we'd make up our minds. If we decided that yes, transferring more powers to the National Assembly is a good idea, then it's up to the Assembly to trigger a referendum and then we'd take a look at that request and "consider the proposal on its merits".

What if that request for a referendum came before the root and branch examination had happened? The gist of the response is that it would be up to the Secretary of State to make a decision based on the merits of the request.

Now try making a glacier mint out of that.

I don't see there a cast iron guarantee that a Conservative Secretary of State would not veto a request for a referendum from the Assembly.

The spin is that it's extremely unlikely that a Conservative Secretary of State would veto a referendum request, that it would be extremely hard to imagine any Secretary of State from any party going down that road. But that is not what it says on this particular tin of fudge.

At least one Conservative Assembly Member may believe that is what it means but that is not what it says.

Some - amongst them Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd - see rather more. He sees not just a refusal to commit to even holding a referendum if a request is made but a suggestion that a Cameron Government would consider abolishing Devolution. I've read and re-read and I don't. He'll have to show me that bit.

What I do see is talk of "tangible, sustainable and considerable benefits to the Principality". Principality? Perhaps that's one of the twenty thousand words the editor might have questioned.

So much for David Cameron's desire to see the party settling its position on further powers for the Welsh assembly.

So much for the timing: November the fifth it may be but fireworks clearly lighting up the way ahead?

Not here.

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  • 1. At 6:33pm on 05 Nov 2008, Hogygog wrote:

    What else did we expect from that prince of fudgers, Wyn Roberts ? The man never expressed a view in his life, and he's hardly likely to start now.

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  • 2. At 6:58pm on 05 Nov 2008, John wrote:

    And now for the truth ..........

    .......... from Conservative Party HQ.

    Quote .....

    ‘ we should initiate a root and branch examination of the system of governance in Wales and its effectiveness as it has developed since 1997.’

    end quote .....

    It is telling me that the report writer "might" be thinking the unthinkable.

    Second quote .....

    ‘if when that examination is completed ...……’it will be for the Assembly to initiate the referendum process and for the Conservative government at Westminster to consider the proposal on its merits’

    end quote .....

    It is telling me that the report writer "is" thinking the unthinkable.

    Devolution is off the menu .... Conservative menu that is.

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  • 3. At 7:04pm on 05 Nov 2008, brynt41 wrote:

    I've always thought of the Tory Party as essentially an English party. Most of its dealings with Wales have shown that to be the case.

    We had bad government (in Wales) before the Assembly was created. The Tories treated Wales as a colony with English governor generals sent down to Cardiff to take charge. Cameron will be no different to his predecessors, whatever Nick Bourne says. What good is devolution, if a committee of MPs and an unelected House of Lords can veto the petty legislation requests it makes, or a Tory Secretary of State, member for an English constituency can veto a referendum request? The truth is, it isn't devolution at all, its a con.

    I mean, the latest wonderful idea the Assembly comes up with, life-changing in its magnitude, is to charge 20p for plastic bags. Devolution should mean that our representatives can take meaningful and significant decisions which will really make a difference to how things happen in Wales, as compared to elsewhere. It isnt happening. We've had eight years of it, and the best they've come up with is to abolish prescription charges for the few percent of us who still paid them, and hospital car park charges.

    Where is the leadership and the vision? It certainly isn't coming from Plaid, sad to say. Its leaders are keeping a low profile for fear of rocking the coalition boat, and showing that they are not solid partners in government. But in reality, its a sham government, and it needs to be shown up for what it is. Bolstering unionist parties will get you nowhere, but slowly. You've got to sell the idea of a Parliament to the people of Wales. The Scots have got one, and you'd be hard put to find a Scot who would abolish it now.

    In 1979 I voted against the devolution proposals, not on principle, but because they proposed setting up a glorified talking shop which would add another unnecessary tier of government, and which would add little or nothing to the process of government, except hot air. The present Assembly is little better. It was 17 years of Tory rule which persuaded me to vote for it.

    If Plaid doesnt buck up its act, there's going to be another decade of pussyfooting about. Being First Minister in Wales is nothing much, being DFM is nothing at all, Ieuan. Sorry, but that's how I see it.

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  • 4. At 10:41am on 06 Nov 2008, Alex wrote:

    Betsan, why your continued hostility to the term 'Principality'? I know it's a little bit anachronistic but does it really do any harm?

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  • 5. At 12:58pm on 06 Nov 2008, brynt41 wrote:

    #4 BoredintheVale05 wrote:

    "Betsan, why your continued hostility to the term 'Principality'? I know it's a little bit anachronistic but does it really do any harm?"

    Its feudal origins symbolise the domination of England over Wales, some years before even the actual conquest at the end of the thirteenth century. So the use of the term has this connotation, and always will have. It is also associated with the title 'Prince of Wales' and the English Crown since 1284, to which Wales was 'ceded forever' (according to Wikipedia) after the conquest.

    Therefore, for those of us who are republicans, and/or are proud of our Welshness, these are reminders of how our country and people have been treated for the last seven hundred years - not just a historical event. Between 1689 and 1948 Wales was considered to be part of England, by the crown, the government and the legal establishment. This stemmed from military conquest, subjugation and occupation, by one dominant people over their much smaller and weaker neighbours.

    Like it or not, it exists in the psyche of many Welsh people, and possibly Ms Powys, also. (Though she has to tread a careful balance in the BBC). It cannot be simply dismissed as an anachronism. Fortunately Wales is rarely referred to as a principality nowadays.

    It doesn't surprise me that a former Tory minister still uses the word. It symbolises an attitude of those who view Wales from outside, particularly from England, and from a position of historical ignorance. What does surprise me is that Wyn Roberts ever joined that party. I watched the biographical programme about him a year or two ago, and he gave the impression that his choice of party for a political career was almost a last minute decision. I'm sure he did some good at the Welsh Office, and spared us some of the excesses which Thatcher might have inflicted.

    Does he need to really sit on the devolution fence from the comfort of the unelected Lords? I suspect he says what he thinks his Tory betters want to hear regarding the issue. Redwood and others were treated as his betters. One would think that he could now do his native country a favour, and stand up for it, after being treated so poorly for so long.

    So Wyn, three marks out of ten, when you could have done so much better. Still, not to late, when it comes to your final report.

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  • 6. At 1:13pm on 06 Nov 2008, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    I can understand not liking the term Principality, after all I have heard the argument advanced that Wales isn't a country its a Principality of England - which is of course inaccurate as Wales was demerged from England some time ago. So the use of it is somewhat anachronistic... which I suppose fits with sections of the Tory Party

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  • 7. At 4:06pm on 06 Nov 2008, supermk wrote:

    Complete independance for Wales solves the problem of feudal domination from England and would be welcomed by many English and presumably most Welsh people.

    Otherwise we are all left with the negatives of the relationship between England and Wales, unfair settlements, English resentment at having to pay Prescription charges etc. etc.

    So let there be a referendum on Independance for Wales as there will be shortly in Scotland and get this sorted out once and for all.

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  • 8. At 6:33pm on 06 Nov 2008, harrowingdunn wrote:

    And yet again the true politcal colours of the so-called independent BBC are shown. The antipathy shown by Betsan to the Tories in Wales is constant - she runs after the faintest whiff of a bad news story and ignores any good news ones. Anyone recall an article about the strength of the Tory performance in the 2008 local elections? I thought not. Anyone read a detailed and critical assessment of the performance of the "odd couple" arrangement passing for government in Wales? When it comes to discussing Labour and even Lib Dem affairs it is first name terms and a rather chatty or cosy style. I do not spot that here. I wonder if consideration has been given to the comparative levels of response to the blogs written by her Scottish and UK counterparts? I am a political saddo and I do read them and do note the number of responses - the numbers are significantly different. I wonder if a more balanced style with criticism and praise shared more evenly might generate more interest in this blog. I am sure that this will get shouted down, but I get absolutely no sense of good old Welsh "fair play" in her articles about the Tories. They are penned in a completely different tone from any others.

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  • 9. At 8:27pm on 06 Nov 2008, John wrote:


    supermk, your "So let there be a referendum on Independence for Wales as there will be shortly in Scotland and get this sorted out once and for all"

    But it never will go away, never sorted out once and for all, the Nationalists will keep coming back.

    Eric Hoffer wrote .....

    A dissenting minority .......... feels free only when it can impose its will on the majority: what it abominates most is the dissent of the majority.

    The minority in this case being PC.

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