The National Assembly Presiding Officer has written a long essay for today's Western Mail about how the constitutional arrangements, under the Second Government of Wales Act, are working out in practise. Its a good essay, and its a pity that I can't find the story on the web pages to provide a link. His Lordship seems terribly pleased that the first Legislative Competence Order has been approved by the Queen and the National Assembly is now able to pass new laws (or measures) in the specific subject area included in the LCO. There is no doubt in this reader's mind that he is in no hurry whatsoever to hold the referendum on law making powers. This was also the tone of his public rebuttal of Archbishop Barry Morgan's controversial radio comments about devolution yesterday. He is busy softening up his party's activists, by making out that everything is tootling along at an acceptable pace, and that the LCO process will deliver a law making capacity to the National Assembly at an adaquate pace - without the need for a referendum, in the short term anyway.
The only part of the essay I disagree with is the assertion that the LCO system is not complex. The Presiding Officer's view seems to be that since Westminster processes are always hugely complex, its OK if the LCO process is the same. I always hesitate before disagreeing with the PO, and I know he gets terribly crouesty whenever anyone challenges his view on this. But my concern is that only a tiny proportion of the population have the slightest clue clue about what is happening, or even that law making power is currently being transferred. And this is not healthy in a democracy. Anyway, what he says suits me fine. I have accepted that there will not be a referendum on law making powers before 2011, and that the best we can hope for is sometime between 2011 - 2015. Lord Elis Thomas must do what he must do to keep onside his Party's activists (who voted for the Coalition with Labour only because of the early referendum). What matters to those of us who believe that the most sensible and stable constitutional settlement is where law making power is vested in the Assembly in respect of all devolved issues, is for the current LCO system to work effectively.