.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The doctrine of non-critical devolution

The debate on GM crops in the National Assembly was predictable in that the Welsh Liberal Democrats tabled a motion seeking the most restrictive possible regime in Wales, including some mild criticism of the UK Government, and the Labour Party voted it down. In fact they got very indignant about us criticising the UK Government and accused us of abandoning the consensus on GM crops that has been built up in Wales. It was telling therefore that their amendment got no support from any of the opposition parties as it contained a presumption that the listing of Chardon LL is inevitable. It is over that presumption that the consensus has broken down, not our motion.

I found one remark by the Welsh Environment Minister intriguing. He said that "On principle, it is wrong to criticise another UK administration when it is speaking on behalf of its geographical part of the UK. We can imagine the response if Westminster had passed a resolution criticising our standpoint on GM crops." I bet he would not take that view if the UK Government was a Tory administration. The problem with his statement of course is that on GM crops as on many other issues the UK Government does not just speak for England, it represents the whole of the British State in European law. Although, it is true that they need to get consent from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to list GM crops it is also true that their position puts inordinate pressure on the devolved administrations and there is strong suspicion of behind-the-secnes arm twisting. Devolution is not about the separation of the constituent parts of the UK but about the exercise of power at the appropriate level. Sometimes decisions cannot be taken in isolation and in those circumstances it is perfectly proper to point that out and to criticise if necessary. That is why I am also critical of the decision of the Scottish Parliament in relation to listing Chardon LL in Scotland as their decision also adds to the pressure on Wales.

We will fight on of course but it is looking increasingly likely that Welsh Labour are trying to find a way out so as to satisfy their political masters in Westminster.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?