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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Labour nonsense on referendum

The First Minster has just issued a statement on the referendum. In it he says that he has written to the Secretary of State for Wales to claim that it is his understanding that the drafting work on the Order in Council to be laid before Parliament will have been substantially completed by the end of this month.

He has also provided a suggested question in both English and Welsh for the Secretary of State to consider. This requires a simple yes or no answer and asks:

Do you want the Assembly to have the power now to pass laws on all the subjects which are devolved to Wales?

He then goes on to say that the Welsh Government have expressed a strong preference for a referendum to be held in late October of this year.

In many ways this is helpful, however the timetable he has laid down appears to be unworkable simply because the preparatory work he refers to has not been done. The Electoral Commission says that it needs ten weeks to consult on the question and the order cannot be laid until this is resolved.

This means that realistically it now looks as if the referendum will be held early in the new year. Perhaps if the Welsh Government had been this proactive immediately after the Assembly passed the motion in February we would be in a better place.

Equally, if the previous Secretary of State had not shelved the proposal until after the General Election an October referendum might have been possible.

It seems to me that it does not matter whether this referendum is held in October or later providing that it is held before the Assembly elections and not on the election day. After all, whether it is held in the autumn or early 2011 we will not practically be in a position to use any of the powers until after a new Assembly is elected.
The most important thing is that it's not the Liberal Democrats' fault
Surely if the referendum is a 'Yes' then the Assembly can start to use the new powers immediately. Why would they need to wait until after the next election?
Because the lead-in time for measures is too great. It can take about six months or more to get them on the statute book once they have been published. It takes many months before that to prepare and draft them.
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