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Betsan Powys | 18:31 UK time, Thursday, 6 November 2008

What does this remind you of?

Kid: Hey Dad, can I have £10?
Dad: What do you want it for?
Kid: I'm going into town.
Dad: What do you want it for?
Kid: Just chill will you Dad?

It may remind you of life at home. It reminds an emminent lawyer and father, who knows a thing or two about devolution, of the LCO process, the way in which Welsh politicians in London scrutinise the requests for power from Welsh politicians in Cardiff.

He was at a conference today on the Evolution of Devolution and wanted to know what MPs on the panel thought of his comparison. Cheryl Gillan - no children of her own as she pointed out - had been told it was important to let go of your children and let them make their own way.

Elfyn Llwyd heard an echo of his own frustrations with the process.

And Hywel Francis? The Chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee didn't like it at all. It's our job to scrutinise or ask 'what do you want it for?' he said. AMs and MPs will inevitably have different perspectives but stop thinking in terms of 'those terrible MPs' as a committee of Dads just out to frustrate and spoil for a fight.

Peter Hain was there too. This Dad was proud that clauses delivering framework powers to Wales were now, in his view, being increasingly and deliberately more widely and permissively drafted. And what's more he had it in for "those Tory MPs" who want to try and second guess what the Assembly might do with its ten quid's worth of powers in the future. "That is not their job!"

And then came the question about the dispute over the Affordable Housing LCO. What was going to happen next? The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Wayne David was very open about that .The Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, he told the conference, agreed with the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that there was a conflict between the verbal evidence and the explanatory memorandum, a conflict that led to unintentional consequences. In plain English that while the Welsh Assembly Government had told the committee they just wanted to use the powers on affordable housing to temporarily suspend the right to buy your council house in some areas, the bid for power would actually transfer the powers to abolish that right. It was he said, perhaps "not unreasonable to expect the Assembly Government to mean what they say and say what they mean".

By now that was the gist of the message expected in Cardiff Bay but it's clear they thought discussions were on-going and had thought they'd hear it first from the Secretary of State himself.

So what now?

If Paul Murphy does take the view reported by his deputy today then the First Minister and his cabinet face a simple choice: to stand their ground, to say that this bid for power does what it says on the tin, that the consequences are entirely intentional, that they have no plans of changing their request. Or back down, accept that this Assembly Government has no plans to use the wider powers now anyway so that to allow the Secretary of State to limit them - or to use a more provocative word, veto them - is really no great hardship. Why have a serious bust-up with your Dad if you don't really need the tenner right now?

But what happens then? What does Plaid, Labour's coalition partner, do then? Shout from the rooftops that in their view, there is no constitutional or legal reason not to transfer the powers? That this is simply a case of politicians in London not wanting to give them the go-ahead and looking for a get-out? That if the First Minister is prepared to give in on this then the Welsh Language LCO is dead in the water? Will they step up the talk of a potential constitutional crisis?

Ah, now I see. It was never about the tenner was it?


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