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Friday, January 30, 2009

Devolution settlement not fit for purpose?

More from Plaid Cymru in this morning's Western Mail about the inadequacies of the current devolution settlement and in particular the system of drawing powers down from Westminster, which all the evidence shows remains unfit for purpose.

This time it is former MP and AM, Cynog Dafis who rightly questions why the draft Legislative Competence Order that would give the Assembly law-making powers over the “collection, management, treatment and disposal of waste” as well as over “environmental protection, including pollution, nuisances and hazardous substances” has been stuck in the system for 19 months.

This LCO has become bogged down in behind- the-scenes disputes involving the Assembly Government and four Whitehall departments – the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Wales Office and does not look like surfacing anytime soon. Its non-appearance is hampering the Assembly's efforts to tackle climate change and to promote sustainability.

On the same theme, I might as well throw in the question as to what has happened to the promised devolution of power over building regulations? This power is essential if we are to build more environmentally-friendly homes, offices and factories in Wales.

Cynog Dafis is quoted as saying: “The system is clearly not working in the way intended and is now breaking down.

“The claim that the procedure would work for the benefit of Wales by enabling the Assembly to carry through its strategies and policies depended on a positive and collaborative approach by Westminster and Whitehall.”

“We were led to believe that the Assembly’s requests for legislative powers would only be turned down in circumstances that were very exceptional.

“Clearly we now have a situation where both Westminster and Whitehall are being obstructive. What lies behind that is the notion that they should have a significant voice in what legislation the Assembly passes – and that’s just not acceptable. The fact that this process is breaking down makes the case for moving towards full lawmaking powers for the Assembly very soon overwhelming.

“I hope AMs will take note of what is happening. This incredibly obstructive and grossly inefficient way of doing things is bringing the whole devolution project into disrepute. It is appallingly time-wasting and, because of the waste of human resources, an enormous waste of money.”

Hmmm... perhaps I should go to the bookie's and see what odds I can get on a Plaid-Lib coalition next time...
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