Regular visitors may recall this blog's utter condemnation of Plaid Cymru for proposing a Legislative Competence Order giving power to the National Assembly of Wales' Government to end right-to-buy. It was stupidity of a high order, and in my opinion driven by the pursuit of partisan opportunism. My warnings were nothing to with the principle of right-to-buy as such. It was the danger inherent in proposing the transfer of a power from Westminster to the National Assembly that MPs would be likely to strongly resist. It was at too early a stage in the life of the Government of Wales Act 2006.
The inevitable disagreement came to pass. And now, after months of shenanigans behind the scenes, the consequence of this foolishness has manifested itself in a dog's breakfast compromise. It drives a stake through the heart of the LCO process. Its a disaster for Plaid Cymru. They have put the devolution 'process' into reverse. Can you just imagine the outrage Adam Price could have generated if it had been a Lib Lab Government which had done this. The yet to be ennobled Lord Wigley would have turned purple, and Ieuan's voice would have gone 'soprano' in apoplexy. But the irony is that Plaid's loud voices will be desperate to play this down, because of their embarrassment, flowing from both failure and foolishness.
Not many people understand the process, so I should try to explain what's happened. A Plaid Assembly Minister wanted to use the Assembly's new law making ability to introduce a new 'Measure' (or new Law) to restrict right-to-buy in some under-pressure areas of Wales. There might have been disagreement over the detail, but this would not have been overly contentious. It was in the Coalition Agreement. But before this 'Measure' could be made by the Assembly, a Legislative Competence Order had to be passed at Westminster to transfer the power to do so. But the clever-dicks in Plaid asked for powers under the LCO to do a lot more than it wanted - including something politically contentious. I reckoned at the time that they actually wanted to create a row, to demonstrate that that the LCO process is flawed (which it is). Sooooo stupid. Do they really think MPs are so easily manipulated ?
Anyway, we now have 'the solution'. A completely new principle has been inserted in the Government of Wales Act by this precedent. The LCO will be passed, and power will be transferred - but parts of the transferred power cannot be included in an Assembly 'Measure' without the consent of the Secretary of State for Wales. What a constitutional nonsense! This completely undermines the LCO process, and re-transfers responsibility for part of the power transferred back to the Westminster Government. The impact of this is not significant, but the precedent very definitely is. And its Plaid Cymru who are responsible. I wonder what those bloggers and critical commenters on my previous posts warning of the dangers in this will have to say now.