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Thursday, November 22, 2007

MPs lose the plot again

It is not often that I feel sorry for Jane Hutt but even she must be feeling a bit frustrated at having to explain the Legislative Competence Order process to a Committee of MPs, some of whom seem intent on undermining the spirit if not the letter of the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

The Western Mail reports that MPs have demanded to know why the process for transferring powers from Westminster to Cardiff Bay is “too vague”; why the Assembly LCO committee finished its scrutiny of the Orders in Council before the Welsh Affairs Select Committee had begun their own inquiry; and why the whole Order in Council process was kicked off by First Minister Rhodri Morgan in the summer before any consultation with Whitehall.

I can understand the desire for joint scrutiny but I also know that this is not always possible and as the volume of LCOs increases it will prove to be more and more difficult. I can understand also that early on in this process MPs will want to be more thorough in their questioning as both they and we build up a better understanding of the potential and limitations of the Act. However, some of the questioning seems designed to try and restrict the Assembly's room for manoeuvre within the area of competence they are legislating for.

The Conservatives in particular appear to want to keep as much of the process as possible at Westminster. They want to be able to define and possibly also pre-approve how the Assembly legislates. Conservative MP, David Jones for example is quoted as saying: “It is still too opaque. I am still concerned that what the Assembly intends to do with the powers is not clearly defined. I don’t believe it’s any role of parliament to make laws that are not capable of being understood.”

The fact is that although the Government of Wales Act was not clear enough on this matter it did establish a clear principle that it is the Assembly which passes the laws not Parliament. It is MPs' role to enable that process. This may be a new concept for many MPs but the sooner they accept it the better. They should not use their position to undermine the Act as some are seeking to do.

If this carries on then the only conclusion left to many of us is that our initial judgement that the Government of Wales Act is not fit for purpose was correct.
I am sure the Conservatives are really worried what you have to say.
you can not have much to do,else you would not have time to blog such drivel all day long!
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