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

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Grey paper?

The Western Mail reports on the National Assembly's response to the Devolution White Paper with the headline "White Paper? It's more like the Grey Paper". I am sure that it sounded good when the sub-editor thought of it but I could not tell you what it means.

The article itself is much clearer. The sub-committee, which drew up the Assembly's response, makes it clear that there are many unanswered questions about how the proposed new legislative system will work:

Looking at the mechanics of how the new system might operate, the committee fears that too much power may lie with Assembly Ministers rather than with AMs as a whole.

The report says, "It would be preposterous for Welsh Ministers to have more powers to make secondary legislation than their Whitehall equivalents."

As an example of an area where the White Paper leaves many important questions unanswered, the report refers to the uncertainty over how wide an Order in Council might be, "The White Paper sets out 'a range of possibilities illustrated... by examples from Wales-only legislation that has been passed at Westminster since devolution'. These are 'something very specific, such as the functions of the Ombudsmen in Wales... something rather wider, such as the protection and welfare of children... (or) something considerably wider, such as the structure of the NHS in Wales'. But while these examples are helpful, they are examples of specific legislation which has been passed. None of these pieces of legislation gave general and continuing powers to the Assembly to legislate in these areas, whereas this would be the effect of Orders in Council. What would be helpful would be for the Government to use these three examples and to provide mock-ups of what the Orders in Council would have said in each case."

The committee is concerned that doubts over how wide an Order in Council would be acceptable to Westminster could waste a lot of time at the Assembly, "What we would clearly want to avoid is a great deal of otiose work being done in Cardiff only for the idea to be turned down in London, whether by the Secretary of State or Parliament."

So far as future possible conflicts between the Assembly and Whitehall are concerned, the report says, "If proposals for Orders in Council form part of the manifesto on which political parties fight the 2007 and subsequent Assembly elections, then the Secretary of State or Parliament are moving on to tricky ground if they are seen to trump that mandate."

It is clear that many of the sub-committee's members believe that we are being sold a pup and that far from being a step forward, the additional powers the Government wish to give to the Assembly are too weak and will cause huge problems in the future. When these limited powers are considered in conjunction with the proposal that the Secretary of State for Wales will draft the new standing orders for the Assembly, it begins to look as if the whole project is more an exercise in taming a 'turbulent priest' than about enabling a Welsh legislative body to govern effectively.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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