Row over draft referendum question on assembly powers

By Carl Roberts
Political reporter, BBC Wales

image captionCheryl Gillan submitted her draft question on Wednesday

A new dispute has begun over the Welsh assembly powers referendum with a row over the wording of the question.

The Electoral Commission is considering the draft question put forward by Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.

But the assembly government says it is "disappointed" not to agree the words with her, and called it "deficient".

The commission has 10 weeks to consult on the question ahead of a probable 2011 referendum on further powers for the Welsh assembly.

The exact wording of the question is: "Do you agree that the assembly should now have powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas without needing the agreement of Parliament first?"

Even before this process started, the assembly government made it clear that it did not agree with Mrs Gillan's question.

A spokesman for the assembly government said: "We are disappointed that we could not agree a question with the Wales Office.

"We feel the suggestion put forward today by the secretary of state is deficient and does not accurately reflect the issue that voters will be asked to decide.

"We will therefore be submitting an amended, shortened version to the Electoral Commission as an alternative proposal."

This is the latest row between the UK and Welsh governments surrounding the referendum.

The assembly government had stated that it preferred a referendum in the autumn of 2010, but Mrs Gillan ruled that date out and criticised her predecessor, Labour's Peter Hain, for not doing enough preparatory work to enable an autumn referendum.

Despite the alternative assembly government submission, the Electoral Commission is only funded to carry out its statutory duty - and that is to consider the question submitted to it by the Welsh secretary.

As a result the proposal from the assembly government will not receive any consideration as part of the formal consultation process.

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