Lord Elis-Thomas hints at referendum in autumn 2011

Lord Elis-Thomas

Start Quote

The important thing is to get this right in terms of providing the maximum opportunity for the people of Wales - whatever their views might be - to participate in the referendum”

End Quote Lord Elis-Thomas Assembly presiding officer

A referendum on more power for the Welsh assembly could be held in autumn 2011, its presiding officer has hinted.

Lord Elis-Thomas said he saw "no dis-benefit" to the referendum being held in October or November 2011.

The Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition government agreement says the referendum should take place before the assembly election next May.

Lord Elis-Thomas said his view would "probably not" be popular with his party, Plaid Cymru.

But he said he had ruled out this year, and February and March were "no-go areas".

Speaking on the BBC Politics Show Wales, the former Plaid leader said he had "given up" on the idea of holding the referendum on the same day as the assembly election.

He had also accepted guidance from his own legal advisers which effectively ruled out a referendum for later this year.

"Plaid Cymru exists, like all political parties, because we've been elected by the people of Wales, he said.

"The important thing is to think what public opinion would say and I think they would say we need a referendum at a time when we can turn out to vote and at a time when we can discuss these issues properly.

Cheryl Gillan MP Lord Elis-Thomas hopes to discuss timing with Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan

"I see no dis-benefit at all [from an autumn 2011 referendum]."

Lord Elis-Thomas added that he was determined that the date for the referendum should be set before May's election.

"This assembly, which made the request in the first place, should before it finishes its work and dissolves, agree the timing and all the other details including the nature of the question," he said.

He said that it would "make some sense" to hold the referendum on the same day as the Westminster government's one on voting reform but their legislation was not in place yet.

'Proper consultation'

The presiding officer said time was needed to run a proper referendum.

"My view is that the important thing is to get this right in terms of providing the maximum opportunity for the people of Wales - whatever their views might be - to participate in the referendum.

"A referendum isn't organised for the good health of politicians, it's organised for proper consultation and that takes time."

He added that a "maximum turnout" was needed.

"This referendum is about legitimising what we've been doing for the past 10 years and what we'll be doing for the next 10 years," he said.

"That is a matter that requires the full-hearted consent of the Welsh people".

Lord Elis-Thomas said he hoped to discuss the situation with Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan in the Senedd on Wednesday.

She has already said that the timing was "very tight" for a referendum this autumn, although the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, had written to her demanding such a vote.

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