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Saturday, January 10, 2009

What are Plaid Cymru for?

And so we turn inevitably to the latest chapter in the saga of the Affordable Housing Legislative Competence Order.

For the uninitiated an LCO is an order that enables the Welsh Assembly to draw down additional law-making powers. It does not in itself actually change anything but enables us to legislate for changes in the law on its particular subject matter once the order has been signed off by the monarch.

More details about the impasse that developed over this order between the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and the Assembly Government can be found here. As I predicted a compromise was reached. The problem is that this compromise has set a precedent that could undermine the very basis of devolution and which could easily be applied to future LCOs, not least the one on the Welsh Language.

As Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Kirsty Williams said: "It must be particularly humiliating for a Plaid Cymru Minister having to accept this imposition from a UK Labour Minister. If these are the actions of a party that Plaid Cymru are in a coalition with and who are supposedly in favour of further powers, what happens if the next Westminster government is opposed to devolution?"

To be fair the Deputy Housing Minister does make a good attempt at defending her actions in accepting this compromise. She told the media that “As a Plaid Cymru AM I am very frustrated with this system and want us to have a proper Welsh Parliament – something we’ve wanted for 80 years. As an Assembly Government Minister I am pleased we have at last reached a position where we will get all the powers we were committed to in the One Wales agreement. We have no intention of scrapping the right to buy – all we wanted was the flexibility to grant requests from councils to suspend the right to buy temporarily."

In pure policy terms that may be right, but how is this standing up for Wales and the devolution process? I accept that one of the disciplines of government is that you have to make compromises but the problem is set out quite starkly by Jocelyn Davies' own words. Plaid Cymru allowed the terms of this LCO to be defined by what they wanted to do rather than by the powers that the Assembly may need over housing in the future. They are in danger of making the same mistake on the Welsh Language LCO.

In other words, whatever the limitations of the LCO system, this One Wales Government have never really used it to push at the boundaries of what can be done. They have not thought beyond the exigencies of the coalition agreement so as to try and accumulate powers for the Assembly that can be used in the long term. Instead they have taken us a step backwards and allowed a veto by a Westminster politician over an area of devolved policy.

We now find ourselves in the position of Plaid Cymru being in government but failing to meet many of their promises:
In the circumstances I think we can be justified in asking if this is what they do when given some semblance of power, then what is Plaid Cymru for?
Like you Peter, I think that a very important constitutional principle is involved in this cvompromise - and have just posted a blog on it, before catching up with what you have written. We're coming from somewhat different positions, but our conclusions about the implications for Plaid Cymru are much the same.
What are Plaid Cymru for?

I've been wondering this for months.

Seriously though, I really do think that Plaid need to shape up in the Assembly. They have been given a unique opportunity by the electorate and at the moment they seem to be squandering it.

The Welsh electorate are far from stupid and will remember this. I think Plaid might be in trouble in future elections as a result of their recent performance (or lack thereof) in Government.
My Grandchildren all attend Welsh medium education schools and are still waiting for the LAP TOPS that Plaid Cymru adamantly said that every Welsh school child would receive. Plaid Cymru are in Government Office now at the Assembly that provides our Education funding. So where are the Lap Tops? No excuses. Were they lying? They also promised a moratorium on further Wind Turbine developments yet they support these subsidised monsters to the hilt.They childishly said they'd get rid of the Oath to the Quesn at the Assembly but still swear it avidly to get their hands on an AMs salary and its perks. Add these to your list Peter. The rest of YOU OUT THERE can surely add to this list. Also let's have lists of local promises their Councillors have broken.
Green Man >> are they teaching Chemistry in the school your grandchildren go too?

Good point about abolishing the oath, perhaps this could be a LCO that the opposition could propose, see which way Plaid jump!
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