Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Assembly to Senedd

In Cardiff yesterday, at a conference arranged by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and an organization called Tomorrow's Wales. It was held at the All Nation's Centre under the title 'Assembly to Senedd' - The Convention and the Move to Primary Powers. My slot was part of a 'roundtable' discussion at noon, but I took in the whole morning. It started off with the opening/welcome from The Most Rev. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, Chair of Tomorrow's Wales, which campaigns for strengthening the National Assembly.

Next up was John Osmond, Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru candidate at last year's Assembly election. He focused quite a lot on changing the basis on which power is devolved to Wales - so that everything is devolved except what is reserved to the UK Parliament (as applies in Scotland), rather than what is specifically prescribed (as applies in Wales) . He seemed to think that this change (which is very significant) could occur within the current constitutional arrangements. 'Hope blinding Judgement' in my opinion. Its not that I disagree with what he wants - just that if its included in a referendum, the people's answer will be No. As ever, I play the role of pragmatic gradualist.

And then it was Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, diplomat extraordinaire, and Chair of the Convention that is being set up to, um..... I'm not absolutely sure. The official purposes are to facilitate a thorough debate throughout Welsh society about the granting of law making power to the Assembly, to assess the level of support for this, and to raise awareness of the current arrangements by which power is being transferred. Sounds impressive, but I'm not sure what it amounts to. It will depend on the way Sir Emyr tackles the job. But he does use the English Language with such elegance. For some reason he launched into a mini dissertation on the divisibility of 'sovereignty' which justified the ticket price.

He was followed by the consistently splendid Prof. Laura McAllister, sharing her experiences as a member of the Richard Commission, which produced a comprehensive report on Assembly devolution development, which is languishing somewhere in long grass. And then on to the Roundtable Discussion - Alun Davies from Labour, Mike German from the Lib Dems, and Helen Mary Jones from Plaid, plus me, representing the Conservatives. It became increasingly clear to me that the idea that a referendum will be held before May 2011 is as dead as a dodo. Alun Davies, who must have the top command's licence to say it, said "I would rather win a late referendum than lose an early one". Quite! Even Helen Mary was tentative. Something like 'It's still a possibility' - which technically it is. I wonder when Ieuan Wyn Jones will admit the demise of the main plank he walked when he shuffled his troops into the support positions which kept Rhodri Morgan in his job last May.

Not much came out of the roundtable. Interesting to note that I was introduced by discussion Chair, Emyr Lewis from Morgan Cole, as a blogger. Still think I had the toughest job of the day, outlining Conservative policy in this area. Don't worry devosceptics - I kept my own opinions on a short (ish) leash. And outside in the real world, the people of Wales carried on living their lives, completely unaware that such important discussions about their future's were taking place in the All Nations Centre.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that you enjoyed yourself yesterday but can anyone explain what is the point of these conferences? All that happens is that the usual suspects fork out £40 for the day meet their friends, listen to the same old arguments and then read a short piece in th Western Mail the following day.Meanwhile in the real world people worry about the really important issues. The great and the good should understand that winning a'yes' vote in any referendum isn't going to be easy. 2011 is already off the radar for most sensble politicians. The interesting thing about all this of course is that if you give the average AM a blank sheet of paper sent them away for a week and ask them to write down a new law which would make a difference the would give you back a blank sheet of paper. There is this automatic asssumption that new lawmaking powers will automatically lead to an improvement in the quality of life in Wales. Look at Scotland which has those powers. Many would argue that all it has led to is lawmaking for its own sake. Many of the new laws which have a financial element attached also could cause major headaches for Scotland if the Barnett formula is reformed. Lawmaking also requires more AMs has the Richard Commission pointed out and some form of direct revenue raising powers. Emyr Jones-Parry making interesting speeches is no real subsitute for the politicains of wales actaully engaging in a meaningful debate with the people of Wales. If the quality of debate in the last four weeks is anything to go on then the political class of Wales seems to be lacking both the intellect and the ability to lead us any where. Like the Isrealites we seem destined to wander in the politcal wilderness for years to come.

Anonymous said...

"Tomorrow Wales", will this version of Wales finally be the small clever country that Wales ought and needs to be? Not the current WAG defined version that is bottom of the prosperity league table in the UK, lowest GAV, school system that has attracted very low scores on a recent OECD review, hopeless at turning Welsh universities inventions into assets and jobs for Wales? "Tell me it ain't so."

Anonymous said...

we could have the law making powers by now but given our First Minister's long run in to retirement he has no incentive to take the bold steps needed or you can argue the will, say compared with Scotland's First Minister who seems in a real hurry to get Scotland moving.

Anonymous said...

You always go on about name recognition Glyn! Read a letter in today's Western Mail sent by a Mont constituent. This is exactly how people around here feel about our joke of an MP. The writer has brilliantly summed up what the majority of us feel about him and why we won't vote for this fake ( I was, until he started embarrassing us all, a lifelong Liberal voter )
Perhaps you should pin it up in your kitchen to inspire you. Who knows, it might even stop you focusing unecessarily on name recognition. Yes, he's known, but as this letter points out, for all the wrong reasons. Buy a Western Mail.....and rejoice!

Glyn Davies said...

anon - top class comment, most of which I would have been happy to have written myself. So happens that Martin Shipton of the Western Mail has been on the phone today about this issue. I support law making powers for the Assembly over currently devolved issues for two main reasons - to strengthen accountability, in that everyone would know which tier of Governemnt is reponsible for each policy area - and create greater stability, in that there would no longer need to be the constant bickering between Westminster, Whitehall, the Wales Office, the Assembly Government and Cardiff - which is only going to get worse.

anon 2 - Tomorrow's Wales is what we make of it, ourselves. If we carry on voting for 'socialist' politicians, we will continue to get the sort of thing you hope ain't so. That's democracy.

Welsh lobbyist - agreed - which is why 2011 is as dead as it it so obviously is.

anon 3 - I have not seen the WM letter, but it sounds as if it chimes with what we've been hearing as we've been campaigning over recent weeks. Whenever I'm asked for my opinion about what will happen in Montgomeryshire in a General Election, I say that I will do my best to win, that I need a huge 13% swing to win, and that name recognition is usually a strong plus factor. I will add that if there were to be a General Election now, I believe I would be in with a very good chance.