MPs focus in on Welsh powers vote

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Changes to laws setting up the assembly would widen its powers, say Welsh MPs

Welsh MPs say they believe alterations to laws that were used set up the Welsh assembly will provide "a significant widening of powers" the assembly has.

The House of Commons has to agree the changes before next year's referendum vote takes place.

The new laws would spell out exactly what powers the assembly will have if Wales backs a 'yes' vote.

But the Welsh Affairs Committee says it is not backing either a 'Yes' or 'No' vote in March 2011.

"Our aim has been to help inform the House of Commons and the wider public about the broader powers that the National Assembly for Wales will be able to exercise if the electorate votes 'Yes'," explained the committee's chair, Monmouth MP David Davies.

"We feel that we have done that and we intend to continue our role of maintaining oversight of the operation and development of the devolution settlement, on behalf of the House of Commons."

The report, published on Monday, dissects the changes necessary to parts of the Government of Wales Act which established the assembly back in 1999.

That act, and changes introduced in 2006, spells out line-by-line exactly what powers the assembly has control over.

But if further powers are devolved to Wales, it is with much broader brush strokes.

Devolution deal

Instead of detailing in minutia what the assembly and its government can and cannot do at, the new areas of authority would be set out as subjects where Welsh ministers and AMs would hold sway.

The Welsh Affairs committee said that in its view, in almost every case those powers were wider than those set out in the original legislation that led to the current assembly.

Its report states that the changes would "be at the heart of the new constitutional settlement if the referendum vote is affirmative ".

"It would define the boundaries of the devolution settlement between Wales and the UK," added the report.

However, the committee stressed that this was not an endorsement of a vote to win the referendum.

"The Welsh Affairs committee believes that it is essential that the House (of Commons) is clear about what it is agreeing to in approving the draft Order" stated the report.

"However, this should not be interpreted as a judgment by the committee on the merits or otherwise of a "Yes" vote."

But in its final conclusion it added: "While there would remain a few ambiguities and loose ends in the definition of the assembly's powers... the committee sees no impediment to the House approving it."

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