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Saturday, March 28, 2009

The tricky relationship between Cardiff Bay and Westminister

In this morning's Western Mail, Assembly Presiding Officer, Dafydd Elis Thomas once more highlights the very real problems that the Government of Wales Act 2006 poses to those interested in making devolution work. In this particular instance it is the delay in processing those private member LCOs that the Welsh Government allow through once they get to Westminister.

Of concern is the fate of Jonathan Morgan's Legislative Competence Order that seeks to give the Assembly the power to pass laws on Mental Health. This has been sitting at Westminster for some time with the result that Jonathan may not have time to actually propose a change in the law through an Assembly Measure before the 2011 Assembly elections. It is a ludicrous system designed to add between 18 months and two years onto the already drawn-out process of law-making with no real productive purpose.

Jonathan wants people with mental health needs to be assessed and treated earlier. He also anticipates that the Assembly would pass a Measure guaranteeing patients independent advocates who will defend their rights. However, his LCO has been left in somebody's drawer in Westminster since last June with the result that no progress can be made on these reforms.

What this illustrates is how unfit for purpose the Government of Wales Act is. We desperately need to dismantle the LCO apparatus so as to remove Westminster from the equation and enable the Assembly to utilise all the powers it has been granted already in the 2006 Act. That is what we will be asked to vote on in a referendum and it is one reason why Conservatives such as Jonathan Morgan are supporting a 'yes' vote.

One of the obstacles to that 'yes' vote are the Conservative Party themselves and in particular their Westminster MPs. They have refused to commit to supporting a 'yes' vote so far but still like to portray themselves as devolution-friendly. Thus we get the faintly ludicrous promise from the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan this morning, that she will work far more closely with the Assembly than the current incumbent.

Does this mean that she will scrap the expensive, wasteful and obstructive LCO system so that the Assembly can get on with making its own laws? No, it does not. Does it mean that she will expedite the passage of LCOs through Parliament so as to remove the delays and red tape from the system? Er...no.

What it means is that she will come to Cardiff Bay from her English constituency and Westminster office three times a year instead of just once, and she will answer questions. It is the rebirth of the old imperial Welsh Office that the Conservatives offered between 1979 and 1997.

We are promised a committee of MPs to oversee the Assembly's administration of services on the border of England and Wales and that is it. That is a job that can already be done by scrutiny committees on both sides of the border. It is joint-working between Ministers that is the problem not MPs and AMs. Effectively, Cheryl Gillan is proposing a clawback of powers from the Assembly to Parliament, presumably as a precursor to emasculating it completely.

This is the same-old, arrogant Conservatism of John Redwood, a party that treats Wales as a second-rate nation to be ruled from England. It is why we set up the Assembly in the first place, to provide a bulwark to that sort of imperialism and to bring accountability and transparency to Welsh Government. If we do not get a referendum and a 'yes' vote by 2011 as promised then Welsh devolution will be sliding downhill for another generation.
interesting writing on an interesting topic...
So why did your party try to bring them into government in 2007?
Possibly because they have a mistaken belief in the power of redemption. I opposed it.
however unpalatable the prospect it now looks increasingly likely the tories will win the next british general election.

With the uk economy continuing to nosedive and Brown seemingly incapable of grasping the terrible enormity of the economic crisis facing us there appears to be little chance of his clueless govt overhauling a tory double digit lead in the next year or so, by which time an election has to be called!

So the prospect of cheryl gillan making her thrice yearly journey down to wales in the manner you have described is a very very real one

If this isnt reason enough for the coalition govt to call a referendum by 2011 then i dont know what is!

why have you taken your tahnks eluned blog down?
I posted it by mistake. I was watching it on YouTube, was logged in and pressed the share button in error.
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