Peter Hain was in Cardiff today. He was presenting the Queen's Speech to the National Assembly. This was an important debate which I greatly enjoyed when I was an Assembly Member. I always tried sought to be called to speak, and I always caught Dafydd El's eye. Its also worth posting that I think Peter Hain is a polished performer. I would like to have been there today. There were two big issues I would like to have spoken about, and in respect of both I would have had some sympathy with the line the Secretary of State was taking.
Firstly, the promised referendum on the devolution of law making powers. Since the referendum on 18th Sept. 1997, my opinion has been that there are only two credible ways forward for devolution to Wales - either full law making powers or abolition of the Assembly. One of the reasons why I'm so committed to the first option is that I see absolutely no prospect of the second option ever occurring. But holding a referendum on law making powers which fails would be a disaster for devolution. I share Peter Hain's view that there isn't a sufficiently wide and deep consensus in favour to win a referendum now - and probably will not be until 2011. And even that will depend on a committed and sensitive performance by Sir Emyr Jones-Parry's Convention. Those calling for an earlier referendum are more intent on creating headlines than creating an effective Wales Parliament.
And the second issue is the role of MPs in dealing with Legislative Competence Orders. When I was discussing this issue as an Assembly Member, I always said that I considered it would be wise to put forward measures as innocuous and uncontentious as possible to begin with - so that the process would become established in a way which enabled MPs to develop confidence in it. The inevitable alternative, if Legislative Competence Orders are put forward that are general in scope will be MPs wanting to discover what they might be used for and seeking to frustrate their progress. And I don't blame them. No-one is elected to the UK Parliament to be a rubber stamp. Every time I hear an 'Assembly' voice declaring something like "This is none of the MPs business. Their job is just to let our Orders through without detailed scrutiny", I hear someone more interested in making a headline rather than making a difference.
But I'm no longer in a position to contribute to the debate - except by writing this post on my blog. I wonder whether as many people will read what I've written as would have heard me speak?