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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

No more middle way

The rather blunt dismissal of pleas to give the Welsh Assembly powers to restore hunting with hounds to parts of Wales was inevitable. As I said previously, this was always an exceedingly thin thread that the pro-hunting lobby was clinging to.

The Government recognised that the plea for more power was never based on any principle other than self-interest. Most of those supporting the Middle Way Group are opposed to the existence of the Welsh Assembly and under normal circumstances would rather eat their own intestines than advocate greater powers for it. The only reason they are doing so now is that they have found one or two sympathetic Assembly Members who fancy their chances of a do-or-die bust-up in the Assembly chamber on an issue of 'principle'. However, the fact is that there is no majority in the Assembly chamber for their point of view and even if the powers were devolved it is likely that they would get the same short shrift for their arguments as they did in Parliament.

If there is an argument for a modification to the law so as to accommodate local circumstances then farmers and landowners need to put their case to Ministers in Westminster. There is no easy route here, no back door. The hunting lobby need to use the appropriate forum like everybody else.

I also think that it is time for some politicians to move on, particularly those who have a wider responsibility than just their constituency. I resent my party constantly being associated with the pro-hunting case, no matter what its merits or demerits.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are no longer a party of the rural fringes we also have elected representatives in urban areas, the valleys and the North We lead four Welsh urban Councils and are involved in the adminstration of three more. We have set the agenda on housing issues and homelessness, and we have been in Government, where we were responsible for establishing Iaith Pawb and for economic development. We have helped to mould Welsh policies on education, social justice, health, culture, language, local government and transport. Now that we are the second Welsh party in Parliamentary we need to reflect that contribution more prominently in all of our pronouncements and our campaigns.
From an English viewpoint I actually wish this had started off as a devolved issue.

If this had been a devolved issue to begin with (as soon as the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament had been established), and Wales had implemented a hunting ban before the rest of the UK, we'd have know by now how it works in practice over the long term....

Might have saved a lot of arguments!
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