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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hain in Cardiff to slag off the Tories

Peter Hain took time out of his busy schedule to come to Cardiff Bay yesterday to try and restore confidence in the shaky Legislative Competence Order procedure that he built into the Government of Wales Act so as to keep Labour MPs happy.

Mr. Hain told us he would not block any transfer of power, or insist on detailed explanations from the Assembly Government as to what it would do with any new powers. But he said a growing mindset which saw MPs as merely a hindrance also had to go:

“The mentality that sees Parliament as an inconvenience will itself act as a roadblock to devolution’s progress,” said Mr. Hain.

Mr Hain said, “Let me be clear that there is no case whatsoever for the Assembly to be required to supply every detail of future, perhaps unforeseen, Assembly Measures [laws].

“But, by equal measure, Parliament cannot rubber stamp or let anything through on the nod. Each request for legislative competence will be subject to scrutiny, as the Government made clear during the passage of the 2006 Act.”

He added, “The Governments and legislatures in Cardiff and London need to work amicably and collegiately to make these new processes work as intended, with informed and on-going discussion the basis for our effective collaboration.

“Just as the National Assembly is now maturing as a legislature, the relationship between our two Governments and with Parliament will need to be mature as well.”

Mr. Hain, who is of course a constituent of mine, blamed the Tories for all the problems that LCOs were facing in the Houses of Parliament. Even though this is largely true it was not very amicable or collegiate of him to point it out. In fact, as Mike German said, if the Secretary of State had established these parameters for the consideration of LCOs at the time the Government of Wales Act went through, then things might have been considerably smoother subsequently.

Everybody is getting frustrated at the length of the whole process and nothing was said yesterday that reassured me or others that it is a workable one in the long term. In fact the more we try to do with it, the more the Government of Wales Act seems unfit for purpose. The clear implication in Peter Hain's speech was that as long as the Welsh Government agree everything with him beforehand then all will be fine. That is no way to run a devolved government.

Further such a process is only practical as long as there is a good relationship between the two sets of Ministers. Once there is a different government in either Cardiff or Westminster with ideologically opposed views then things will get very spikey indeed. We are all waiting to see how much of the Welsh Language LCO survives this mechanism.
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