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Monday, June 28, 2010

Welsh Government manufacture another crisis

If ever there was a non-story then it is this example of faux outrage and artificially inflated crisis spread across a full page of this morning's Western Mail.

The paper reports that Welsh Government Ministers are once more complaining that they were not consulted, this time about Iain Duncan Smith's proposals to encourage jobless people to leave housing estates to seek work. They conclude that the UK Government do not understand devolution and yet so unbalanced and uncritical is this piece that not once is the proposition advanced that in this instance it is Labour and Plaid Cymru who have got their knickers in a twist about the correct placing of responsibility.

Welfare benefits are of course not devolved and if Iain Duncan Smith wants to make proposals about enabling English Council tenants to seek work elsewhere then he is perfectly able to do so without once consulting the Welsh Government, who has no business in interfering. Equally, the Welsh Ministers would be the first to sound off if Westminster started to question our right to pass Wales-only legislation in a devolved area.

Of course we do not know if this just affects English tenants because the proposals have not yet been published and that is the point. The Secretary of State has put forward an idea which needs to be worked up and as part of that process, he will undoubtedly consult with Wales if that is needed.

Is that how it is to be from now on? Whatever Westminster proposes Wales questions and puts up a wall in an effort to frustrate them. If the respect agenda is lacking then it seems to be more on this side of Offa's dyke than elsewhere.

And Carwyn Jones and his cabal of Ministers cannot even be consistent. After all when a Labour Minister proposed precisely the same sort of thing as Iain Duncan Smith two years ago there was not a peek out of them. In 2008 it was not an affront to devolution, now it is. Could they get anymore obvious? And why do the Western Mail (and the BBC to a lesser extent) play along with this farce?

When Cheryl Gillan was barracked by Labour backbenchers in the Assembly chamber I suggested that they all needed to grow up. I think that the same applies to Welsh Cabinet Ministers too. Because if they do not start taking a more mature and considered approach to the political situation they now find themselves in then they will begin to actively undermine the whole devolution project. It will certainly be more difficult to secure a 'yes' vote for full law-making powers whilst Ministers are playing these games.
[FX: cheers!]
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