Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Are we Dancing on the head of a pin?

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.


Anonymous said...

Good post Glyn.

As Wales is now, its nation-life blood is draining away. Wales needs to be independent and free of the yoke of London. But I have come to the painful conclusion that the party that claims to be working towards that goal are in fact a stumbling block to achieving that worthwhile goal.

The party that claims to be working towards an independent Wales are actually now part of the problem - unable to promulgate ideas and strategies of turning the Welsh economy around. Only when Wales has a high GVA economy is there any hope of Wales separating from London's yoke.

Anonymous said...

NO what the no campaign wants is to get rid of the arsembly for good

Anonymous said...

LCOs only operate within already devolved areas - hence the disputes over the range of the environmental one.

Framework powers in Bills, on the other hand, would give WAG a chance to widen as well as deepen the settlement and acquire primary law-making powers by the back door

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

An (Thu Oct 09, 09:51:00 AM) > anon (03:27:00 AM) here, I am no fan of the way the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has been run this past decade, so many opportunities to turn Wales from a low GVA economy into a high GVA economy has been wasted. 10 years where Wales's greatest asset: its innovation and IP assets have been published for any non-Welsh company, Tom, Dick or Harry to commercialize.

But I do believe Wales has the potential to be a great smart small country with a high GVA economy - there are so many Welsh people with fantastic skills for this not to be possible. What Wales is hampered with, so we agree on this point, has been a disastrous WAG

Anonymous said...
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Glyn Davies said...

anon 1 - I don't agree that Wales should be independent. But I do think the constitutional arrangements should be based on stability and accountability, whech directs my opinion on it.

I believe talk of independence generates distrust in devolution. People see it as a 'stepping stone' to an objective that they do not support. It promotes antipathy towards the National Assembly.

anon 2 - There may be poeple, and across the political spectrum who agree with you. But I anticapate that any referendum would Yes or No to moving from the current position. This could change of course, but I've seen no evidence to suggest that it will.

anon 3 - Interesting comment. I may have this wrong. I did think that if all sides agreed, the range of devolved powers could be extended by means of an LCO. It may be that you are correct in that it can only happen by the use of framework power. I will have to check up on this. It doesn't make much difference of course because it would require agreement by all sides either way.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Anon #1 here (Chris Wood)> Wales will always be hampered if it is shackled - freedom of movement to react/respond to events in timely fashion is also hampered. As some molecular chemists might say: freedoms of rotation mean greater range of possible conformations and hence greater opportunities to sample conformational space.

There's no getting away from it Glyn, Wales deserves and needs its own space. Ultimately Wales will be independent, I just rather it happened sooner than later and right now Plaid Cymru are busy with distractions that hinder the evolution of a free Wales.

I'm an out and out nationalist so its kind of funny when I read folks who accuse me of being a right wing nut, I'm just pragmatic, Wales can only be free when it has a firm economy to keep it free. I see one (but there may be more) one avenue that can bring Wales the economy it needs to be free: exploitation of its innate talents. That is why I put myself on the road to learning how other countries does it. I have studied hard numbers - the hard numbers indicate that Wales can build a total GVA economy if it exploits its innate talents.

Plaid Cymru is currently on the wrong rail track - they need to understand that confiscating private energy utilities or some dream about a non-existent utopia isn't going to happen and finally realize that it must move to commercially exploit Wales's innate talents. But Plaid is running short on time; it needs to be part of the solution. Plaid will be seen without having cloth to cover its backside - it is high time that its leadership woke up: it really is about the economy, securing a high GVA Welsh economy.

We don't live in the world of Star Trek Voyager where the economy operates a different way. We live in a world where commerce between nations is important, and where a high GVA ranked Wales will mean security and firm nationhood for Wales.

Wales will never truly flourish under the yolk of London.

Wales has to be free.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Got too much on my plate today and typing fast - but no excuse for such bad typos - e.g. "has" which should be "have" etc. Sorry.