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Monday, February 14, 2011

Making laws for Wales

This morning's Western Mail asks the question of Assembly Members of what laws they would make if the technical change to do away with the legislative competence order system to be put before voters in the referendum on 3rd March is passed?

All of Plaid Cymru's 14 Assembly Members put forward proposals, as did three of the five Welsh Liberal Democrats, but Labour and the Conservatives resisted the invitation, with only one AM in each group responding positively. They took the view that they would publish proposals as part of their manifesto and did not want to preempt that process.

That is their prerogative of course, but not all of my ideas would be in the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto and whereas the plebiscite on 3rd March is not about what we will do with the powers, surely it is helpful to those going to vote on that day if suggestions are put forward so they have a better understanding of what is otherwise a fairly abstract and technical change.

Personally, I found some of the proposals put forward by the other parties a bit paternalistic and nanny-statist. If faced with such measures after the next election I would certainly oppose some of them and seek to amend or mitigate others. However, that is what the election is for, to put a manifesto before the voters and let them decide on the competing programmes.

The referendum is about providing the tools for the job and to enable those manifestos to be implemented fully and with the appropriate level of scrutiny and challenge within the Assembly itself. Even under the present system Measures are not scrutinised by Parliament, despite the propaganda put about by True Wales. MPs only deal with the granting of general powers and are not meant to question what they are used for.

For the record, these are the proposals I put forward to the Western Mail:

1. Introduce fair voting for local government elections so that the make-up of Councils reflects the way people vote and Councillors are consequently more receptive to public opinion
2. Reorganise local government to reduce the number of councils down to 8 or 10 with responsibility for health, regeneration and strategic transport amongst others so as to advance devolution beyond Cardiff Bay and to properly democratise public services. Such a reform would also cut the number of Councillors by a third and ensure that through the use of fair voting they
are more representative and accountable than now.
3. Protect youth services by making them a legal requirement.
4. Allow Councils to penalise the owners of long term empty homes, which are blighting local communities, by increasing the Council tax payable on them if they resist efforts to bring them back into use.
5. Reform local business rates, so that Councils can retain the proceeds in the area where they are paid and can use income and projected income from these rates to borrow so as to fund regeneration projects that will create jobs and wealth.

Note: not all of these are Welsh Liberal Democrat policy.
Wholeheartedly concur on point 4 specifically - we're really feeling it here in Ceredigion on this issue.

Point 1 goes without saying.

Point 3 is a good and valid issue in my opinion.

Point 2 would be an interesting one for us - it is often mentioned but in which way would Ceredigion face? South with the old Dyfed structure of east with Powys for a mid-Wales authority (heaven forbid)?

Point 5 - agreed also.
Some of the Lib Dem ideas for laws in that article are sound.

PR in council elections and doing something about disabled access to train stations especially.

Easily deflects the scare stories about "more laws" that True Wales are peddling.
When you say "as did three of the five Liberal democrats", you should note that the LibDems had six AMs elected at the last election. Are you already planning to loose seats this time round?
Mick Bates has been expelled from the party and is currently sitting as an independent so we are now a group of five.We fully expect to exceed 6 after May 5th.
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