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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How many measures?

The Presiding Officer's belief that the newly empowered Assembly should hit the ground running after next May's elections and produce at least 18 primary legislative measures has been widely trashed in the press today.

In the Western Mail, senior Labour figures played down the idea that 18 pieces of legislation would be put before MPs in 2007-08:

"We've been working on the assumption of about four or five," said one. "This is a little bit wide of the mark from Dafydd Elis-Thomas. It's worth remembering that he's quite far away from the process of deciding how the new system will work."

My understanding is that the process of securing an Order in Council may be quite lengthy and will involve public consultation. This will mean that it will take some time for the Assembly to be in the position of implementing new measures, which from the point of view of quality and impact may not be a bad thing.

I certainly hope that we do not start setting targets for the number of measures produced in a year. Government by targets can be very bad government if the right processes are not in place. Arguments about the number of laws are missing the key point. The important thing is that each Order in Council gives Wales the maximum freedom to run its own affairs. The question is not how many new powers Wales has, but how broad they are, and what can be done with them.
Looks to me as though Daf-El probably meant to say 18 OiC's in a full year term (though even that sounds like overkill). Given the complexity of the proceedure and the lead times involved the Assembly may be lucky to get any in 2007-08. Much depends on how far whichever party(s) form the government next May can get agreement on for their legislative programme. It is all very well to have a theoretical mechanism for private members and Subject Committee OiC's, but in practice they will not progress without at least tacit WAG support.

What annoys me about this discussion isc that it gives the impression of legislation for it's own sake - adding more and more to the statute book and causing confusion about the differences between the law in Wales vis a vis England not on the merits of the particular measure, but as some sort of proof of the Assembly's virility. Good government does not necessarily have to be hyperactive.
Only 18 Assembly Bills? Surely we should be aiming for parity with Westminster, which announced 29 new Bills in the Queen's speech. Anything fewer would be an insult to the nation.
Although I support the aspiration for as many Orders & Bills as possible, I remain unconvinced we will be over-run with legislation, at least for the first few years. At the Cymru Yfory conference on Monday perhaps the saddest aspect was the lack of ideas for legislation, despite the general optimism about the new system. A good starting point to make this work would be more thought by civic society on framing Orders in Council as broadly as possible so that, in time, we will have the potential for more legislative opportunity. The challenge to use the new system creatively is immense and the Presiding Officer is right to try and get as many people as possible to up their game, even if many remain unsure about what exactly they really want out of it.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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