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A grand old time

Betsan Powys | 15:45 UK time, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

People in Gwydyr House, as a friend of mine once said, shouldn't throw stones. But they can throw up interesting stories on a Tuesday afternoon and some light on the future of the Welsh language LCO while they're at it.

We're expecting the Welsh Affairs Select Committee to announce what they make of the LCO over the next few weeks, if not days. Every wink, every nudge suggests that negotiations with the Assembly committee have been more than cordial. They've been "extremely pleasant" as one MP put it and "both sides have learned a lot from each other". I bet he very nearly added: "No, really!"

Bottom line? The wave of protest in response to plans to put language legislation in the hands of the Assembly just hasn't crashed over the Wales Office as some in Gwydyr House had expected. Yes, there have been issues, some serious, raised by parts of Welsh business and industry but otherwise? More muted, you suspect, than anticipated.

When we find out how "pleasant" the Welsh Affairs Select Committee's final report will be, there'll be some more to-ing and fro-ing between the Assembly and the Wales Office but the final Order should be in place within weeks.

But first, on July 8th there'll be some grand standing and I mean that almost literally.

The Select Committee's report on the order will be debated by the Welsh Grand Committee next month - the first time an LCO-in-the-making will have faced this particular hurdle. Why? Because this is an important issue, a contentious issue. When the Government of Wales Act was in the making, Peter Hain made clear that those sorts of issues would be debated fully - and here we are, a chance for every Welsh MP to have his or her say.

And then? Then, some time during the next term of Parliament, the Welsh Language LCO will be debated on the floor of the House of Commons. It won't go through on the nod. It will be debated in full, the first time in 16 years that "the language" will be discussed in the Commons.

Will MPs chomp at the bit, try to catch Mr Bercow's eye and give the order a good kicking?
Possibly. One or two contenders come to mind.

Or hang on a second: with a few months to go before a General Election, isn't it more likely that they'll take the opportunity to stand one by one and praise the order, welcome the passing of a sensible piece of legislation that they will hope, in turn, will lead to sensible Welsh laws being passed by the Assembly, securing the future of a Welsh language that (in it' place) they support ... and vote it on its way?

On its way where next? To the Privy Council possibly by Christmas and bear in mind that the born-again Welsh Secretary Peter Hain will also, then, be well on his way to claiming that it is he who delivered for Wales the most significant boost for the Welsh language in quite some time.

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