I've just noticed that it was made public this afternoon. That's the much anticipated summary of the 'interim report' put together by Lord Roberts of Conwy at the request of David Cameron, to inform the people of Wales of Conservative policy towards devolution. Cannot make a fully considered post at this stage, because I've not had a chance to read it. But I have read what other's have said about it here and here. This report is a matter of great interest to me. It will also be of great interest to the people of Wales if the Conservative Party forms the UK Government after the next General Election.
The top line that seems to be leading the news on this is Lord Robert's belief that we do not have the right devolutionary settlement. I agree with that. But it seems that we are not yet ready to decide on a definitive way forward. I've just watched Lord Roberts being interviewed on Wales Today and he informed us that he wants a future Conservative Government to hold a 'root and branch' review of how the current Government of Wales Act can be improved. A year ago, I would have been disappointed by this conclusion, but the position has moved on. And because the position is going to carry on moving on, I don't think that Lord Roberts had too much alternative. Its the way I've been going myself.
A year ago, I anticipated that there would be a determined effort by the Assembly's Governing Coalition to create some momentum in the direction of a law making Parliament. I also anticipated that a referendum on whether we wanted law making powers in devolved areas would be held before the next Assembly Election. On both issues, I now believe that my confidence was misplaced. This leaves two major questions just hanging there. Firstly, what approach should a future Conservative Government take to Legislative Competence Orders, the complex system by which powers are currently being transferred to Cardiff Bay. And secondly, what would be the response of a future Conservative Government to a request for a referendum on law making powers across the board to be held, if it were to be made sometime in the future. I suspect Lord Roberts has concluded that this is best left to the 'root and branch' review. This does not so much close down the debate as defer it until post General Election - much the same sort of conclusion I'd reached.
But this is not going to fully 'park' the issue. During the General Election campaign, candidates (of which I expect to be one) will have to answer the two outstanding questions. At present I can see no reason why I cannot inform the voters of Montgomeryshire that I would support the holding of a referendum if it were to asked for, and I would support law making powers if a referendum of the people of Wales supported it. I will also be able to promise that I will do all that I can to encourage the processing of LCOs through the Westminster procedures in an efficient and timely way.