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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Undermining devolution?

Former Secretary of State for Wales and ex-First Secretary, Alun Michael MP hits back at the Assembly's Presiding Officer in this morning's Western Mail with the rather bizarre claim that the Llwydd is 'undermining devolution'.

Many of the differences between the two politicians are of Lilliputian proportions, to the extent that it becomes a little embarrassing watching two grown men arguing over which end of a hard boiled egg they should eat from. However, there is one passage in Alun Michael's rant that strikes at the heart of the misunderstanding between MPs and AMs on this issue.

Mr. Michael says that the Assembly should put quality before quantity in its drafting of Legislative Competence Orders:

Anyone with experience of legislation knows the massive temptation to pass more and more laws rather than concentrating on the effectiveness of the laws that have already been passed. Over the centuries, every government and every legislature has been tempted in that direction.

So let’s not go there. Let’s show that Welsh elected representatives, legislating for Wales, can resist that temptation.

As the select committee says, let’s find ways of giving a proper focus to legislative work aimed at producing a reasonable number of high-quality orders each year, rather than allowing volume to swamp the system.

Surely that’s common sense, not an attack on anybody.

And it’s practicalities that count. Improvement is always possible. When I introduced the Clean Neighbourhoods Act, it was based largely on my constituency and local government experience in Wales.

That is all very well but LCOs are not that sort of legislation. They do not need the same level of scrutiny as are accorded to Acts of Parliament or Assembly Measures because they do not change the law as these instruments do.

What they do is to give powers to the Assembly which can then lead to the sort of proper legislation that will have an impact on society and on people's lives in the same way as Alun Michael's Clean Neighbourhoods Act did.

It is those subsequent measures that need the care and consideration that Mr. Michael talks about, not the Legislative Competence Orders.

Nevertheless, we should be grateful to Alun Michael for his views. He has revealed the real agenda behind the Welsh Affairs Select Committee's report. They need the Assembly to slow down so that they can retain control. They want to use their scrutiny of LCOs to dictate what Measures might flow from them.

Unfortunately for him, things have moved on. If there is a problem with the LCO process it is that it is too cumbersome, restrictive and divisive. The more that MPs grumble about the way that the Assembly is using it, the more compelling is the case for an early referendum on full legislative powers.

In the meantime we do not need to be patronised by MPs. We are not children who are trying to run before we can walk. We know what our capacity is for dealing with legislation. We have got processes and support staff in place to make sure that we are thorough and practical in the measures we propose. What we need is the range of powers necessary to be able to implement a programme for government. It would be nice if Alun Michael and Welsh Affairs Select Committee co-operated in that aim.
Well Peter if you will try and introduce LCO's which will give the Assembly the power to alter the way local council elections are conducted, what do you expect.

Rocking the boat, and killing sacred cows will not be tolerated, by Labour or their lackies, the Welsh Nationalists.

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
It always comes as a surprise to me the number of postings associated with relatively trivial issues that are raised c.f. more important matters of state.

The whole issue around the Welsh Assembly having LCO, how many are submitted and whether Wales has Full Legislative Powers or not a highly important issue.

While Labour have had to share power in the Bay on two occations now; I can understand (but strongly disagree) with their motives to opposing Full Legislative Powers, we have heard sweet Fanny Adams (Sis. of John Adams famous American) fron either the Welsh Nationalists or Labour on this matter.

They read your blog on a regular basis (otherwise they wouldn't comment when it suits them) so why haven't they typed anything on this very important item?

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
Still haven't heard anything from either the South Wales Stasi or the Welsh Nationalists - 26th Aug.

"What you doing, sonny, Hibernating?"
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