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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A new phoney war

If there were ever such a thing as a political phoney war then the current debate over the Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order must be it.

In this morning's Daily Post Wales Office Minister, Wayne David is at it again. He apparently told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee yesterday that one of the unintended consequences of the LCO, which transfers powers on the Welsh Language to the National Assembly, is that it may impact on the work of the British Legion and the Mothers' Union. How does he know?

To be fair the way that the Welsh Language LCO is drafted inevitably leads to accusations such as these. It is not so much a straighforward transfer of powers as series of caveats strung together to give the appearance of coherence. There is an old political adage that one should never write a leaflet by committee, the same seems to apply to LCOs.

The fact is that what is before the Welsh Affairs Committee is not the sort of legislation that will change anything on the ground. It will merely pass the power to change things to the Welsh Assembly. It will then be up to us to frame legislation as we think fit, to listen to all the stakeholders and to make sure that there are no unintended consequences such as those outlined by Wayne David. Those MPs who are raising concerns now are seeking to pre-empt that process but all they are succeeding in doing is to underline their own impotence.

The present Wales Office consultation and the evidence given by their Ministers in Westminster appear to me to be delaying tactics designed to preserve as much of their influence as possible. They are making a very good case for a 'yes' vote to do away with the LCO process altogether so as to let the Assembly get on with the job it was elected to do.

It is the only sensible way forward if we to avoid the costly and time-consuming process-without-end-or-purpose we are now engaged in.

I think you raise a fair point about the process, but in all fairness, the remit of the LCO touches on many different issues that would surely be of concern to Welsh MPs?

To merely accuse them of political squabbling every time they dare raise any concerns seems a bit churlish.

I think the LCO system is redundant and tiresome also, but the fact is that the WAG has laid out the direction of its proposed legislation – to expect people to nod that through without any questioning of its effectiveness seems naïve.
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