Thursday, May 15, 2008

More Powers ? - Fewer MPs ?

Just watched the Conservative's Assembly Group Leader on Dragon's Eye. Very polished performance. Nick Bourne was right to claim that we've just achieved a very good result in the local elections, and that this was an extension of a steady trend of improvement over the last 6/7 years. But the interview became much more interesting when Nick said he was in favour of Primary Powers for the National Assembly, in favour of more Assembly Members and fewer Members of Parliament. Now this is a strong and entirely logical position to take. And I think I heard him say that all of the current Conservative AMs agree with him.

I've been in favour of Primary Powers being granted to the National Assembly in those subject areas that are already devolved. And I've argued this case publicly for many years now. But I've never called for an increase in the number of Assembly Members to 80. The public will accept this increase only when it is clear to them that the current 60 are overworked - and I've heard very few people express this as their opinion yet. More work to be done on this one.

But it is the case that the only way in which the creation of another 20 Assembly Members would be acceptable would be if the number of Welsh MPs were reduced. At the last General Election, Conservative Party policy was that the number be reduced from 40 to 26 Welsh MPs, were law making powers to be granted. This was a dramatic and controversial proposal, but as far as I know was universally accepted within the Party.

I'm a bit disinclined to take up a strong opinion on this at present, even though I've made public my submission to Lord Roberts review on what Conservative policy should be. This very important review for the Conservative Party in Wales may well not extend into the relative number of AMs and MPs - and I don't want to distract attention from the main point which is what our policy should be towards law making powers and the timing of a referendum. At present, not even the Jones-Parry review on Assembly powers is scheduled to look at the 'numbers' issue.

7 comments:

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

Definitely believe that any growth in the assembly MUST be accompanied by a corresponding reduction in Welsh MPs, although that does seriously run the risk of a giant single Powys constituency, but seeing Glyn as you coped so well with representing all of Mid Wales as an AM, being the Powys MP wouldn't pose any problems for you! I have two views on devolution, either make Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland AND England separate legislative and fiscal units with a 'federal' senate in London - removing all the West Lothian questions; OR scrap the lot and go back to a single chamber in Westminster. Five years ago I would say scrap the lot, but that no longer seems feasible (esp. in Scotland) so I would now advocate a federal UK, outside of the EU. I would add that each constituent part of the federation could only spend what they raised in internal taxes, no cross-border subsidies via the Barnet forumla.

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - since the establishment of the Assembly, the Powys MPs have both carried on pretending that they have responsibilities which have, in fact, been devolved - such as health and education.

I don't agree with your assessment that there are only two options for the way Wales is Governed. I do agree that to 'scrap the lot' is a rational position to take - but it simply is not going to happen, and so I've discounted it since 1997. It may be that eventually, some form of federal structure will come into being (its a sort of unbalanced federalism that we have already) - but I don't think the people of Wales will vote for that at present. A gradualist approach is what I believe the people of Wales support.

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

I think the time is right for definitive black and white policies. There are too many fudges and grey areas these days were political arrangements are lop-sided and unfair. Give the English their own assembly, then they will be less resentful to us on the better side of Offa's Dyke.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of interest, has the part-time MP Let-me Grope-it had anything to do with either of your meetings? Bearing in mind his disgraceful non attendence of the Post Office vote a few weeks ago, has he actually managed to do anything locally recently? Too busy partying perhaps??

DaiTwp said...

A valid point about redction/increase in Am's/MP's - one which is a bit of a hot potato for Labour in particular. Since they're having enough trouble keeping the "sceptics" in westminster under check without the threat of them losing their jobs. (although the way thinbgs are going for Labour, they;ll lose their jobs at the next election come what may).
One point I would like to add though is about proportions. As although by gaining primary powers more "work" will move with those powers to Cardiff, the situation will still not be the same as Scotland since the areas over which Holyrood has primary powers is far more extensive than what the Assembly will have. So it still won't be a like for like case with Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Er...Powys MPs? I'm aware of Roger. But who else actually works as a politician on behalf of Powys? There's a celebrity addict called Gropeit, but he just appears on tacky shows and in the pages of Hello. Surely you can't mean him? As far as Powys goes, there's just the ONE MP.....

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - I accept that there is a strong case for an English Parliament - though I personally favour an 'English Grand Committee' of all English MPs meeting on Thursdays at Westminster to decide on English devolved issues. This is an issue in great need of resolution.

I very much agree about the lack of transparency - which inevitably results in lack of accountability. This is the main reason I've supported law making powers for the Assembly in devolved subject areas. If a matter is devolved, it should be fully devolved.

anon - Montg. MP, Lembit Opik has been to all of the Post Office meetings in Montgomeryshire that I've been to, and has always been placed on the top table. Mr Bruce Lawson, whom I think of as being the local face of Ukip has also attended and spoken at most of them.

Daitwp - Crucial point you make. The main area of difference would be Crimainal Justice, which dominates much of the Scottish Parliament's work. Some bloggers disagree with my opinion that the National Assembly is not ready for this huge leap in responsibility. After all, Scotland had a lot of experience in this area before devolution. No way could 60 AMs cope if Criminal Justice were to be devolved.