Sunday, October 19, 2008

Told you so.

Sometimes its very satisfying to see one's warnings vindicated. It depends how much you care. I watched the National Assembly's Presiding Officer on the Politics Show today, with a growing sense of despair. I care about how Wales is governed. Ever since the Government of Wales Act 2006 was passed, I warned that it is 'a constitutional crisis waiting to happen'. In order to limit this danger, I wanted the Assembly Government to avoid submitting contentious proposals to Westminster for power transfer to the Assembly - at least until the new system of power transfer was well bedded in. Any contentious proposal would inevitably undermine trust and lead to a constitutional stand-off between the National Assembly and the Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. This was why I strongly criticised the submission of an Assembly Government proposal which would enable the suspension of right-to-buy by the Assembly. It was like scattering gunpowder on the floor of the 'smoking room'. This sort of interview was inevitable.

The Presiding Officer is wholly correct in his interpretation of the Act. But that's not the point. If the Act is to work well, there has to be a measure of pragmatiism, common sense, and mutual trust. This proposed Legislative Competence Order was provocative (perhaps deliberately so) and the opposite of an attempt to build trust. I'm not going to accuse the Deputy Minister who proposed it of trying to provoke a row in order to demonstrate that the current act is not working - ergo everyone will demand full law making powers immediately. But there will be plenty who will so accuse. The consequence may not be quite so predictable. Problem is that when a fire takes hold, there's no knowing where the winds of change may take it. This issue is damaging the relationship between The UK Parliament and the National Assembly. Its going to take some very cool heads with strong water hoses to put this particular fire out.


bethan said...

This is not a very strong reason for you to oppose this LCO from its inception, Glyn. You knew full well that your party would oppose it and tried to find a way to get yourself out of a hole- by deeming the LCO to be too contentious.

Where do we stop if one is to say that we should be more 'pragmatic'? What defines this? The MPs have no interest in tranferring powers, full stop- even the least contentious issues have been a cause for concern for the MPs (ie banning the smacking of children)

We shouldn't have to pussyfoot around the MPs, or hold back on key legislation so that Westminster has an easy time. Its clear that they had no intention of making this system work, which means that a parliament for Wales is even more urgent.

DaiTwp said...

After seeing the interview it seems to me that "the Lords" real objective is to get the Welsh Select Commitee out of the way and get their role replaced by the constitutional commitee in the house of Lords. He's been shaping for this for a while and looks like he's pushing it again as a "solution" to the latest round of penis waving

Glyn Davies said...

Bethan - You make a perfectly fair point, except for the motive you attribute to my opposition to this LCO, which as you righty note, I expressed from the first time I heard of it. I was not concerned by my party's opposition to it, because that, on its own, would not have created a constitutional problem. I was afraid that a majority of the WASC would oppose it, which they duly did. Now we have the problem.

The fair question which you ask is when would such an LCO have been acceptable to me. Well, its difficult to be precise about this, but I thought at the time that if 12-20 LCOs had received Royal Assent, it would have been unlikely that one on housing would have met with this sort of response. I personally have felt the same way about a Welsh Language LCO. Our disagreement here is about tactics rather than principle. In general, I think your approach is a lot less likely to achieve what you want.

Daitwp - The Presiding Officer can see the problem very clearly. He refers with approval to the way the House of Lords deals with LCOs, and tells us he had expected the House of Commons to do the same. Well I didn't expect it. My guess is that Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Wlaes, gave reassrances to Welsh Labour MPs beyond what was written into the Act. In my opinion, his most recent suggestion, that the Welsh Affairs Select should be sidelined in favour of a 'Justice' committee (which would more accurately follow the precise wording of the Act) will be as a red rag to a bull. I have no idea where this rumpus is going to end.

Draig said...

If we needed further proof of how out of touch our MPs are with what's affecting people in the real world, then this is it.

I think you'll find that what you define as "provocative" Glyn will make a lot of sense to people who are struggling to get a foothold on the housing market.

It's only contentious to people who are desperate to maintain their privilaged position on the grvy train, while the rest of us wonder whether we'll have a job or a home next week.

Glyn Davies said...

Draig - My post was not about the issue itself. We could have a seperate discussion about that. My post was about the most productive way to establish a stable constitution. This row is not good at all.

Anonymous said...

still on about the assembly time to move on to westminster glyn