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Thursday, November 13, 2008


If the BBC is right then an major impasse has developed within the Labour Plaid Cymru One Wales Government over the Affordable Housing Legislative Competence Order.

They claim that Rhodri Morgan has agreed to the emasculation of this order in line with the Welsh Affairs Select Committee report without clearing it with Plaid Cymru Ministers first, including the Deputy Housing Minister. It is reported that Plaid are refusing to accept this decision.

No doubt some compromise will be reached but it will involve one side having to accept a humiliating climbdown and if it is Plaid who have to give in then that does not bode well for the Welsh Language LCO nor for a pre-2011 referendum.

Although some have labelled this a constitutional crisis, it may not qualify as such on the grounds that technically we do not have a written constitution. What we do have is a hotch potch of arrangements, some enshrined in law, others set up as protocols. This row has illustrated that these arrangements are not working and in particular that the 2006 Government of Wales Act is not fit for purpose.

Members of the Welsh Affairs Committee have argued that the Assembly is getting what it asked for but that is not the case. The Assembly asked for what is contained in the LCO and although Ministers may only wish to use those powers in a limited way in the first instance, they may have other plans in the near future.

In particular, although nobody wishes to abolish the right to buy altogether, the Legislative Committee set up by the Assembly to look at this order established that there is a case to amend the way that the right to buy operates so as to keep more properties in the public sector and to enable capital receipts to be used to build more social housing. If the LCO is scaled back then those powers may be lost to the Minister as well.

Would an emasculated order allow the Minister to remove the right to buy on new build properties for example? Will the Assembly still be able to legislate in relation to stock transfer? The Assembly Government is in the process of drawing up a ten year housing strategy, they may well need additional powers to deliver this.

The problem with the Welsh Affairs Select Committee approach is that if Ministers need to go back and produce a new LCO every time they want to do something then that could build a two year delay into each policy change. It would be like government in slow motion. That is why each LCO needs to have the widest possible powers so that Government can respond quickly to circumstances.

When this LCO was first conceived the UK Labour Government were denying that a credit crunch could ever happen. We are now in the middle of a recession and in need of urgent government action. Surely MPs can see the merits in Welsh ministers being able to legislate quickly in response to events. Their actions only put obstacles in the way of effective action on the part of the Welsh Assembly Government.
You could argue that if Plaid was to climb down then it would bode well for the welsh language LCO and referendum as i would assume they would not do so without getting guarantees and/or a deal out of it. Having said that I would not expect Plaid to stand down on it. It isn't about the LCO per se but about the principal.
I think Plaid and the Libdems should make a coalition, they seem to have the only politicians who talk sense. Both Labour and Tory are both locked to London, always will be. They are parties of the early 20th century, their ideas and approach are archaic and out of touch. Too many dodgy deals in back rooms, too much destruction instead of construction, too much "phoning London" before.. well, doing anything really.

(No idea if this is the case, but I'm a member of the public, and such is public perception)
plaid are surely working their way toward ditching labour in the assembly now that they can see that brown won't be pm after 2010 (Glenrothes proved nothing) - they'll suck up to the Tories next. whether the LDs should, and could, form a new colaition I just don't know. I can't see that there's much to be gained from yet another tail-end lib-lab arrangement which will exist just to keep labour in power and to tarnish their most vibrant opponents in urban wales, the LDs.
Surely Plaid must have seen this coming. They went into this with their eyes open. I can't believe everybody else knew that Labour would never deliver and they didn't. I think it is a case of believing what you want to believe. Plaid's days of running Wales are numbered. They can't carry on propping Labour up if Rhodri backs Paul Murphy.
Plaid can't be happy with this. Rhodri is supposed to have bowed to pressure from Westminster WITHOUT even running it past Cabinet??

I don't buy this idea of a deal though... What would Plaid get in return?

If Westminster are reluctant to give the Assembly powers over the right to buy, just on the off-chance that they scrap it (which none of the parties want to do) - then are they really going to hand over full powers over the Welsh Language knowing that Plaid want to do things that Westminster would never agree to?

I would say Plaid are being royally screwed. If they think they're getting a good deal out of this, they are very much mistaken.
I love how all the Plaid Cymru supporters are whinbging about the Affordable Housing LCO - its their government too. Collective responsibilty still exists.

What is the point of having a Deputy First Ministter if he has no role in running strategic Government policy. He's not even good at being a country solicitor anymore.
Although some have labelled this a constitutional crisis, it may not qualify as such on the grounds that technically we do not have a written constitution

One does not need a written constitution in order to have a constitutional crisis. One only needs a constitution (however constituted) that can be subject to crises.
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