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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More control-freakery from One Wales

This morning's Western Mail reports that the Assembly Government has said it will not take forward legislation proposed by green transport charity Sustrans, which is being considered by the cross-party enterprise and learning committee.

Sustrans wants the Assembly to gain new powers to speed the creation of a nationwide network of car-free routes which could be used by cyclists and pedestrians but the Assembly Government says that it already has the powers it needs and warns that supporting the LCO “would divert resources away from taking forward the Assembly Government’s legislative programme.”

Lee Waters, Welsh director of Sustrans, said: “The real reason is the LCO system is log-jammed and they don’t want to send any more LCOs to Westminster.”

He fears this will send a message to organisations across Wales that there is no point investing time and resources to petition the Assembly to initiate legislation.

He said: “It seems to me there is absolutely no reason for anyone to come forward with an LCO because the Welsh Assembly Government are unfortunately saying they are ‘full’.”

Mr Waters hopes the committee will press ahead with developing the legislation, despite the opposition of ministers. Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones will appear before the committee on Thursday.

The Sustrans director said: “My understanding is there has been a bit of a row about it internally. What I’m hoping is the committee will have the courage of its convictions and go ahead anyway.”

Admitting that he “felt a bit let down”, he insisted that the Assembly needed the power to compel highway authorities to create and maintain such networks. He argued these would help cut down on car use and encourage exercise, combating climate change and obesity.

Lee Waters has a point. There has been a marked reluctance on the part of the One Wales Government to support any legislation that does not originate from their own side. I can certainly understand their frustration at the logjam that is building up at Westminster and the incredibly lengthy, unwieldy and unworkable Legislative Competence Order system but that is no excuse for not trying to maximise the powers of the Assembly over all areas of our legislative competence.

Of course it does not help that the Assembly Government's own Environment LCO has slipped into some kind of limbo and nobody knows what has happened to it but that is no excuse for Plaid Cymru Ministers to go native. Once more we have to pose the question if Plaid Cymru are not going to fight to bring more powers to Wales when they are in government then what are they for?
This charity are certainly going the right way in wanting to give people more opportunity to walk or safely cycle.
Peter your spot on again! Even if getting LCO's through the Assembly is complicated and bureaucratic this is what Assembly Members should strive for as it vindicates the existence of the Weslh Assembly and more relevant policies to the people of Wales.
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