New laws for Wales: one year on from the referendum
- 28 February 2012
- From the section Wales politics
It was the day, in the words of the first minister, that an old nation came of age.
In the words of his deputy it was the beginning of a new era.
According to one leading campaigner, it would usher in a "no blame, no excuse culture".
The assembly no longer had to ask Westminster for permission to pass laws in areas for which it is responsible.
So, one year on from the "historic" vote to give the Welsh assembly more law-making powers, how is it getting on?
How many Welsh Acts have been passed under the new system since the referendum on March 3 last year?
The answer, apparently, is none. Zero. There are new laws in the pipeline, although the Local Government (Byelaws) (Wales) Bill and the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill have yet to set many pulses racing.
A National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill was introduced last month. You can see an update of the progress of legislation since May 2011 here.
Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, said the Labour-run Welsh government isn't solely responsible for the lack of legislation.
"The powers are there but there's no real thought about what to do with them. I think actually that's the biggest problem in Welsh civic life at the moment: we have further powers - what do we do with them?
"I think we should sit down and really think forward because otherwise, power for power's sake we may argue is a good thing, but actually power is there to improve matters for people. If we don't do that then we're failing them."
He said parties should be thinking about what they could do now that they couldn't do before. "We are as guility as anyone in not coming up with creative thinking but for a government to be stagnant is worse."
It is fair to point out that the assembly didn't formally acquire its new powers until after the Welsh general election last May although given past (annual) complaints about the lack of more than one law in each Queen's speech at Westminster some might have expected more rapid law-making.
Alternatively it is possible that last year's vote was historic more in its symbolism and that politicians have discovered it is, after all, difficult to legislate away poverty or ill health.
The anniversary of the referendum, should it not already be in your diary, fals on Saturday.
UPDATE: A Welsh government source said:
"Quite apart from criticising his own party, Elfyn Llwyd is taking a very London-centric view of Welsh politics by this 'view from afar'.
"The Welsh government announced the most detailed legislative programme ever presented since devolution in July 2011. It sets our plans for the next five years to address many of the issues that the people of Wales care deeply about - such as improving our public services, tackling under performing schools, reform our social services so that they are able to meet changing social expectations and demography, and action to address homelessness.
"We have been consulting on plans to create an opt-out system of organ donation, a new vision for housing and on plans to improve food safety.
"We will use the new legislative powers that we received following the referendum in March when we need to, but we will not create legislation for the sake of it. We are committed to consulting on our proposals with a wide range of stakeholders. We want to create legislation which is built on consensus between government, political parties, civic society and the general public.
"Unlike much of the legislative work that has been introduced by the UK government, we intend to take the people with us.