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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Redwood factor

Labour peer Lord Richard of Ammanford, who is the former Leader of the House of Lords, has picked up my refrain from 18th October about the very real problems and conflicts that the Government of Wales Act will bring.

In today's Western Mail he warns that the new settlement could lead to clashes between Cardiff Bay and Westminster. Effectively, he says that there will be "too much scrutiny by Westminster and not enough autonomy in Cardiff." It is worth quoting his comments in full:

He said, "My problem with the Act is really twofold: first, that it does not go far enough in the legislative competence that is devolved, and secondly that the mechanism for that devolution is extraordinarily complicated and does not produce a clear degree of separation between Westminster and Cardiff."

Lord Richard set out the four steps involved in passing new Welsh laws, and said, "I have several problems with these procedures.

"As far as step one is concerned, it seemed to me right and inevitable that the proposed Order in Council should emerge as a result of discussions between the Assembly Government and the Government in Westminster.

"After consideration by the Secretary of State, that Order in Council would then go to pre-legislative scrutiny. What is not clear, however, is the precise way in which, and the extent to which, this scrutiny would actually take place.

"Certainly there was a view expressed by a number of Welsh MPs that they would be able to amend the draft Order in Council and that they would have the power to enquire into the policy of the Assembly on which the Order in Council was based.

"I feel that this provision, if used over-brutally, would result in too much scrutiny by Westminster and not enough autonomy in Cardiff.

"Moreover, the mechanism for scrutiny is again unclear. One is not sure whether all MPs and not just those on the Welsh Affairs Committee will be able to contribute, nor how.

"Nor is one at all clear how there could be joint legislative scrutiny with the House of Lords. Nor am I clear as to the way in which the Assembly's views will remain clear in that scrutiny process.

"The next step also seems to me to be one which is capable of generating considerable friction. The Welsh Assembly Government will have to revise the proposed Order in Council in the light of the comments received from the scrutiny process.

"In a situation in which the Assembly Government is firm on what it wanted and the Westminster Parliament did not fully agree, then the Assembly Government would be put in the extremely difficult position of either losing the Order totally or having to back down on the extent of legislation which it was convinced it needed.

"This procedure could work reasonably well if the Administrations in Cardiff and London were of the same political persuasion. What cannot be dealt with in this way is a situation in which the Government in London and the Assembly Government in Cardiff differed strongly on policy."

Lord Richard believes that the real danger will arise if a John Redwood figure ever becomes Secretary of State for Wales again. However, it is clear that the scenario he paints could well happen as early as next May if a non-Labour Government took the reins of power in Cardiff Bay.
...and how would you feel about that?
I think that a Welsh Liberal Democrat led Government will be good for Wales.
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