Regular readers will be aware of my opinion that the most appropriate constitution for the government of Wales (starting from the unsatisfactory place that we are now, that is) would be the granting of law making powers to the National Assembly, in those subject areas that are already devolved. As the current discussions about the power to ban 'smacking' in Wales demonstrates, there are separate arguments to be had about the scope of the subject areas. Some are moved to comment on my posts, registering their disagreement, and dismissing my views as being 'non-Tory'. Usually these comments don't go into much detail, but I've always thought the gist of it to be that, along with some Conservative AMs, I have in some way 'sold out'. If anything, the criticism has become more aggressive since I lost my position as an AM - and became a Parliamentary candidate, but did not change my mind on this constitutional issue.
In summery, I believe the devolutionary settlement to have been unclear, unstable, and a recipe for conflict between Wales and Westminster since the First Government of Wales Act was implemented in 1999. I believe that the Second Government of Wales Act that came into effect last May has made the position worse. I accept that returning to the pre 1999 position by abolition of the Assembly altogether would be an entirely logical response - but I just do not believe it is a realistic possibility. Thus far, this post is preamble.
So now to come to the point of it. Since the current GOWA passed into law, I have argued that the National Assembly should do everything possible to instill confidence into the process of transferring powers as it is legislated for in this complex Act - by reassuring MPs about what measures might be introduced if and when the power is so transferred (via Legislative Competence Orders). To date, there seems to have been an unhelpfully dismissive attitude (almost contemptuous in at one case) by Assembly Government Ministers. I was hugely impressed today when I read an extract from Hansard which notes an entirely different, positive attitude by an AM, and a Conservative AM at that. It reads as follows.
'Hywel Francis: I would like to end by paying tribute to two Assembly Members. The best example of what I call Owenite co-operation on harmony has come from the Conservative Assembly Member for Cardiff North, Jonathon Morgan. In bringing forward his proposed order on mental health in Wales as a back bencher, he has built cross-party support in the Assembly, gained Welsh Assembly Government support, held productive informal meetings with me, as Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee,and with my committee staff, and built new political and governmental links in Westminster. I think it is a model to be followed.'
Now this is the way to do it. I thought this proposed LCO did have the potential to lead to constitutional 'turbulence'. Its just a question of respect, being grown up, and a commitment to making the best of an unsatisfactory process. Lets hope that this sort of cooperative approach spreads. It would certainly reduce my worries about conflict bwtween Cardiff Bay and Westminster.