I had decided not to blog yet again on the possibility of a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly for Wales. But the subject is of passionate interest to me. I promise that this is definitely the last time (until the next time that is). I begin by stating that I have absolutely no idea what is in the 'Roberts Report'. I'm not even any longer totally certain about what I want to be in it. I do know what I want as a final objective in the constitutional position of Wales (until there's another final objective of course!) I want to see a National Assembly with law making powers in all devolved matters. What I'm not so sure about is the best way to reach it. Because the context is constantly changing, I find my personal judgements shifting as well. From my perspective, it looks a very difficult ask for David Cameron to come up with a policy that does not have a degree of flexibility built into it.
Lets look at the alternatives (and again I emphasise that I've no idea what's in the Robert's Report.) Or more accurately, the realistic alternatives. I do not think rowing back from the current Government of Wales Act is realistic. There may well be individuals who favour this, but the only reference to a referendum which would precede change that I've seen, assume that a No vote would mean retaining the status quo. This involves the transfer of power from Westminster to the National Assembly for Wales by means of Legislative Competence Orders. Horribly complex, but likely to accelerate over the next few years.
The only other alternative I believe is realistic is transfer of law making power over all devolved matters in one go - following approval by referendum and passage through the both Houses of Parliament. I have seen reference to transfer of law making powers in respect of matters not currently devolved. This seems to me to be a separate issue. And in any case extension of the list of devolved matters can be achieved by the LCO process - so for the purposes of this post, this aspect of the debate should be ignored.
It seems to me that what we are disagreeing about, at the realistic level, amounts to little more that a question of timing. And how big an issue is that? For quite a while I've been predicting that it will be those opposed to transfer of law making powers who will be calling loudest for a referendum. Those who favour full law making power in all devolved matters are beginning to realise that their objective might be more certainly achieved by not holding any referendum at all. When the Government does not give any leadership, the vacuum creates a changing context. Which is why I'm deeply grateful that I don't have to decide on a long term policy myself.