Sunday, April 13, 2008

What else would you expect, Leanne?

Busy week. Out with Parkinson's Disease collection tins, a very impressive concert in St Mary's Church, Welshpool by the Guilsfield Singers, a mercy dash to Manchester Airport, Berriew Show's 60th Anniversary Black Tie Ball, an extended Sunday lunch as guests of our next door neighbours, and filling in the blanks with some Council Election campaigning. Blogging demoted to one of the minor placings. But catching up on the week's newspapers tonight. And have started with the Wales on Sunday. Not much outside the sports pages to catch my eye, except the headline 'Welsh Tories in row over right to buy'.

It seems that Plaid Cymru AM, Leanne Wood, who chairs the Assembly's Affordable Housing Legislative Committee is complaining because Conservative MPs are opposing a transfer of power from Westminster to the Assembly, in order that AMs can suspend the 'right to buy' by council tenants. What on earth did she expect. If Plaid Cymru AMs are going to use the new GOW Act to demand the transfer of a power to do something that is strongly opposed by the Conservative Party, they must know that MPs will oppose it. Of course, the truth is that this is exactly what Plaid Cymru wanted when the proposal was put forward. I seem to remember that it was done without any discussion with the Labour Party, their Coalition partners. It does look very much as if the proposed Legislative Competence Order was a political stunt, designed to give Ms Wood and others the opportunity to make the very complaint she is making. So very very predictable! What Leanne and her Party are guilty of is putting 'political' advantage ahead of the development of confidence in the new process by which power is being transferred under the new constitution.


Anonymous said...

The Right To Buy is a significant step on the road to greater financial security for working class people and works to give people on low incomes a place on the housing ladder. It helps people do better on their own terms by taking power from the government.

At hustings for the Cardiff North Assembly Election last year the Labour, Plaid and LibDem candidates all came out in favour of suspending this fine system, a move which would once again preclude council tenants from the housing market. They do not want to help poor people become richer and more comfortable, they want to keep them poor on Labour/Plaid/LibDem terms, trapped on benefits and dictated to by the government.

Parc Derwen said...

It is also a meaningless order because it will be up to local authorities to decide whether or not to stop sales. What happens in those authorities which no longer have any control over social housing because of stock transfer? The whole issue is a red herring because the horse has already bolted. The issue that should concern the assembly is the effect that the credit crunch will have on house building in Wales. Without private development which is the driving force for much new social housing then many people will not be able to obtain in a house in areas such as the valleys. Already a number of brown field sites are becoming uneconomic to develop. The assembly is also making things worse by insisting again for PC reasons that new homes in Wales will have stricter environmental standards than in England. To give some idea of the problem a scheme in Newport which has planning permission and which has already seen all the preparation work including pile driving completed was stopped recently.No one is building flats any more. The assembly wants to stop playing politics and living in the 1980s and start looking at the real issues in 2008.

Glyn Davies said...

nwr and parc derwen - you have both moved to discussion of the principle of right-to- buy, which together with trade union reform were the two great revolutions that Mrs Thatcher changed our country. We are of like mind.

Of course there is a great problem of affordable housing, but it will never be improved by direct Government provision. An effective strategy for new housing would be Government ensuring a planning and business facilitating the harnessing of private sector to sort out the problem.

In the short term, the current failure of the mortgage supply system will make the position worse, and this is something beyond the power of either the Assembly or Westminster Governments to resolve at present - and beyond my ability to comment on with any knowledge or experience.

Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Glyn - will post on this tomorrow (as it is the subject of my weekly article for the Daily Post).

However, the Affordable Housing Commission should focus on the real issues - planning reform, increasing supply of affordable homes, strengthening the housing association sector - rather than outlawing the right to buy (which will, given the points system for allocating council houses, lead to less local people getting access to local homes).

Rather than getting on with the job of delivering policies that make a difference, such political posturing to appeal to the dwindling band of anti-thatcher trotskyists in Plaid Cymru brings her party and the Assembly into disrepute.

Glyn Davies said...

Dylan - agree totally. Some people have not grasped that council let housing is not going to what they think of as local people. Most Council houses that have been sold are still occupied by the families of those who bought them. We are up against an instinct that wants to have control over people's lives. Its an unjustified belief in the benevolence of stste control.

Anna Quay said...

"What Leanne and her Party are guilty of is putting 'political' advantage ahead of the development of confidence in the new process by which power is being transferred under the new constitution."

This is such a woolly statement. What on earth does it mean? It sounds a bit like management speak the apartheid regime in South Africa might have used to justify their refusal to hand over power to Blacks.

Are you saying Welsh people are not ready to decide whether or not to keep the right to buy? Your implication is that we cannot run our own affairs. Isn't that the same old Tory thinking?

Anonymous said...

Glyn, are you a Welsh devolutionist or aren't you? As far as I can tell Leanne Woods is saying that if you oppose the suspension of the right to buy, then Tory AMs should vote against the measure in the Assembly, not the LCO.

If you are in favour of devolution you will support the draw-down of powers from Westminster even when you disagree with the way Wales chooses to use it.

I assume that if you oppose this LCO, you oppose full legislative powers for the Assembly over housing as well. If you don't oppose that, then you are a hypocrite.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - you ask a fair question, which exposes one of the main reasons why I describe the current Government of Wales Act as 'a recipe for instability'. Under the present system, MPs are given responsibility to decide whether a specific power should be transferred or not. They are bound to vote against a proposal that they disagree with. Any alternative approach would render consideration of an LCO to be a complete waste of time.

My view is that law making powers should be transferred in all areas that are currently devolved. I accept that this would allow the National Assembly to take decisions that I don't approve of. I would be accepting a package, where the upside is accountability and constitutional stability, and the downside is allowing the odd proposal that I disagree with to become law. If its split up into specific parts, like anyone else I would support proposals that I agree with and not support proposals I disagree with. Hope that's clear.

jemimia said...

"My view is that law making powers should be transferred in all areas that are currently devolved."

If this is the case, you should support this LCO. You can't be pro-devolution and then pick and choose bits and pieces of devolution. Either you support Wales having powers over devolved areas or you don't. Housing is devolved. In principle, you should therefore support devolving powers over housing, whether you support what legislation might or might not arise out of those powers.

If you support a law-making parliament, there can be no caveats.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see you're are a hypocrite after all.

bethan said...

I agree with some of the comments here that Leanne is merely stating that she would appreciate support for the LCO to be passed in principle, and for the Assembly to then have the powers to suspend the right to buy. Westminster shouldn't make a habit of opposing LCOs that they do not agree with-although this complicated system does allow for this to happen.
again, if you support devolution, then you must surely recognise why the Tories need to support the passing of this LCO.

Glyn Davies said...

jemimia and bethan - I just do not agree with you. Sorry about that. My position, and other Conservatives who support law making powers is that we believe the 'upside' of law making powers (accountability, constitutional stability, transparency) is greater than the downside (laws being passed which we disagree with). If the law transfers are broken down into individual LCOs, as they are under the current constitutional settlement, we do not have the upside - so judgements will be made on the individual issue. I very much agree that we do not want Westminster refusing to process LCOs, which is why I believe it would be wise to ensure the first few avoided controversial subjects so that confidence and acceptance of the system become established. When this LCO was proposed, the proposer knew full well that Conservatives would not be able to support it. Regretably, I think it was, at least in part, put forward in order to make the arguments that you are now making.

hafod said...

There seems to be little point in having any meaningful devolution if it can be blocked by MPs and even Lords on a whim or political bias. This will become an even more serious issue if, as seems likely, there are different parties ruling in the Assembly and Westminster after 2011.
Glyn has missed the principle of devolution in order to assert the Tories' opposition to scrapping right to buy. If he had any confidence in his position - and a principled position on devolution - he would argue that case in the Assembly (if he was still there obviously).

The issue of scrapping right to buy is a separate matter. It makes sense in the context of improving and extending social housing - a necessity in most parts of Wales due to the breakdown in relation between house prices and income (the average house in my home town is now six times the average wage).

I'm surprised a One Nation Tory such as Glyn should be so opposed to council housing. After all, Harold MacMillan built 500,000 of them in the 1950s. It's only the Thatcherites that turned against council housing on an ideological basis and have tried time and again to get rid of what remains an important component of housing provision. I don't there's been a new council house built in Wales for a decade... a bizarre state of affairs.

Glyn Davies said...

hafod - you and others seem to be determined to disagree with me over this, when the whole basis of my support for law making powers is to avoid this nonsense. I have long taken the view that Westminster should not have the power - because if it does, MPs will inevitably exercise their opinions. They can do no other. You expect me treat the constitutional settlement as if it were as I would like it to be, not as it actually is.

And I'm not against council housing. Ever since right-to-buy was introduced, when I was a councillor myself, I have supported the principle of more council housing being built to meet need. But I am in favour of those who become tenants having the option of becoming homeowners afterr reasonable time thereafter. The most ardent proponent of the right-to-buy was Peter Walker, and I'm not sure that many would call Peter a Thatcherite. And why do you just attribute this policy to Thatcherites. She lost office 18 years ago and Labour have been in power for 11 years.

bethan said...

I do not understand your stance on this one Glyn to be totally honest. Again, if you support devolution then you must encourage your party to support this LCO.

It is not our system to defend, but if you want the decision making process to happen in the Assembly then surely the powers for this LCO should be granted without hesitation?

Yes, LCOs are discussed on a case by case basis, and vary from area to area, but you cannot say on one hand that you want devolution to work, and then when you don't agree with a certain topic say, well that's safe in Westminsters hands- out of sight, out of mind.

Tories in Wales have to face up to the responsibility of taking decisions that may be hard in relation to policy if that means transferring power to make the Assembly work effectively.

Denying the Tory AMs this right is an affront to them also.

It is not a quick and easy attempt to attack the Tories, but again, it shows the party up for what it really is.

Glyn Davies said...

bethan - I've tried toi explain my view on this - but clearly failed. I'm speaking at an IWA event in Cardiff on 28th when I will probably refer to thsi LCO as an example of what is wrong with the current constitutional position. Not only do I think the LCO was unwise, but I also think its effect, and its use as a way of attacking the Conservatives is extremely damaging to the development of confidence in this complex power transferring process. I'm afraid we just disagree fundamentally about this - even though we may well agree on the principle of the total transfer of law making power in devolved subject areas..

Brychan said...

Bizarrely, Glyn you appear to be out of touch with you Conservative MPs in England, who are currently seeking Westminster legislation to prevent 'garden developments' in the South East of England. Private housing developments during the 1980s and 1990s were typically of high density and one of the key features of 'right to buy' on council estates in England is former tenants seeking to buy their properties with speculative outline planning permission to build extensions or garden sell offs on that property, which usually have a lower density than private dwellings. Tory MPs in England are seeking to limit 'right to buy' albeit for different reasons, and operate in an environment where both building regulation legislation and planning laws are administered by the same body. Not so in Wales, an issue such a LCO could solve. The question arises when your core voters in the Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire (and possibly Powys) start objecting to council tenants, those who have not previously had the capital to do so, buying their council house under right to buy is financed by speculative outline planning permission. You may find yourself in a position where residents of Llanfair Ceireinion, St Brides Super Ely and Monmouth become as equally as disgusted as those in Tunbridge Wells or Basildon. It will be disgust at the fact that Conservative MPs in Wales have failed to provide the Welsh Assembly with a legislative framework to allow such communities to control the housing provision in that community. The laws that would apply would do so in the leafy suburbs as much as in the industrial valleys where Leanne bases her arguements. Surly you are cutting off your nose despite your face in not allowing LCOs on this matter to reside in Wales.