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Monday, January 09, 2006

Empowering the Assembly

An important event today marks a unique step forward in the process of devolution, it is the second reading of the Government of Wales Bill MKII.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have a number problems with this Bill, not least the politically-motivated changes to the voting system, but also its reinvention of the Secretary of State for Wales as Viceroy, determining whether or not to accept policy initiatives from the Assembly, and the fact that the transfer of powers does not go far enough.

Despite this we intend to support the Bill's second reading in the hope of amending and improving it at a later stage. We believe that this is a constructive way of working and the least that could be expected from a pro-devolution party. The Tories' instincts seem to lead them in the opposite direction.

Although the Conservatives have heralded their about-turn on a referendum to abolish the Assembly today, their reasoned amendment for rejecting the Bill at second reading, effectively marks them out as still anti-devolution. Their demand for a referendum on the Orders in Council process is effectively a wrecking tactic designed to derail the whole devolution process. They are not so different under Cameron after all.
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