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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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