Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just desserts

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.


MH said...

It looks like the "red mist" has descended, and you're letting your hatred for Plaid show, Glyn.

Tell me. Why has this got anything MORE to do with Plaid than with Labour? It was Labour, in June 2007, while in minority government and before One Wales, that said it wanted legislative powers to suspend the right to buy. So much for your rather distorted "explanation of what's happened".

The Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing is Labour's Jane Davidson. Jocelyn Davies is a deputy minister, not even in the cabinet. Why should she be expected to take the flak for her boss?

This is a disaster for Labour AMs every bit as much as it is for Plaid. And, even the LibDems think this it "totally unacceptable" and "dangerous". In fact it is a disaster for the Assembly. And it makes a mockery of the LCO process.

On practical level, if the LCO has to be redrafted to include this new "veto" clause, it surely would be just as easy to redraft it to retain the ability to suspend right to buy, but not scrap it altogether. Then we don't get the constitutional mess that we're now heading for.

But the simple fact is that this LCO has been "in the system" for some 18 months. And it is not the Assembly that has held it up, but Westminster. It has clearly shown the unworkability of the piecemeal case-by-case system, and why it should be scraped in favour of a single definitive list of areas in which the Assembly can legislate ... i.e. Schedule 7 of the GoWA. It makes the need for a referendum all the more urgent.

Glyn Davies said...

MH - What's this with 'hatred'. No politician hates their opponents. But you may be right about 'red mist', and it being a setback for the Assembly. Perhaps I'm mistaken, and I'm prepared to broaden the base of those I think stand accused - but at present, I put the blame squarely on Plaid Cymru. I thought it was a very silly LCO which asked for trouble as soon as I saw it. I'm surprised you do not see this as particularly relevent to Plaid Cymru, and I do not think many will share your way of seeing it. It will not be seen as a blow against Labour because its principally Labour (albeit at Westminster) that has forced this precedent, this added complexity into an already complex system. Seems to me that its the Lib Dems who are saying what I would have expected to hear Plaid saying. But don't confuse criticism, however fierce, with hatred. I'm always very polite to people that I don't like!

MH said...

OK, I'll change the word "hatred" to "rage". However your words do seem to be a bit of an unjustified temper tantrum, and my point was that you were lashing out in ONLY one direction ... the wrong one!

Of course this is relevant to Plaid. But not only to Plaid. To counter your "surprise", I could express an equal surprise that you do not see the differences between Labour AMs and Labour MPs as the particular source of this friction. The two groups have very different views on what direction devolution in Wales should take. I could say that you, in particular, should know all about that ... since you yourself are on one wing of your party and have markedly different views on devolution from many of your colleagues.

This is not an issue of one party versus another. As I said, the intention to apply for this ELO pre-dates the One Wales agreement. In fact the First Minister went out of his way back in June 2007 to say that the widening of scope sprang from discussions with the LibDems. Thus at least three parties in the Assembly should stand equally aggrieved by this latest development.

You've now said Labour in Westminster has "FORCED this precedent". So, having identified the real problem, please take the blinkers off and focus your rage in the right direction.

Draig said...

Let's face it. It does well for a Tory to fire shots at Plaid over this, because it disguises the bigger truth. There is no difference between Labour and the Tories on this issue. Thatcher brought in the Right to Buy and Labour now support it. Paul Murphy supports the Right to Buy - so much for Socialism eh?

I think this is the real reason why the Labour MPs have chosen to kick up a fuss over this - it embarasses them. Labour never revoked the Right to Buy. And what are the Tories going to say? Labour have conceded ideological ground to them.

Just look at parliamentary debates and it's plain to see there is now no difference between Labour and the Tories on a whole range of issues. There might well be an Incumbent Party and an Opposition - but you might as well be looking at two wings of the same party! In this context, any hint of ideological independence on the part of the Welsh Assembly has to be crushed.

It's an ideological issue but it suits Labour and the Tories to "bash the nashis" to obscure the truth.

Welshman said...

Plaid are so into ideology that they don't appreciate the spanners they are throwing into the path of Welsh independence from London. In actuality, Plaid Cymru are the greatest drag on independence for Wales. Their crassly immature attitudes and ill-thought out plans for energy supply, and their Marxist like approach to solving the low GVA economy 'enjoyed' by Wales has made Plaid Cymru a part that actually works against, and not for, Wales.

Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Like you, Glyn, I am both surprised and disappointed at how this whole process has turned out.

You can imagine the howls of protest if the power of veto had been given to the Secretary of State by a Conservative Government at Westminster and yet this critical, and important, constitutional change has been largely ignored by the mainstream press.

As a pro-devolutionist who wants to make the argument for a law making Welsh parliament, you have to wonder why bother if all we have done in ten years is hand power back to Westminster and the vaagries of parliamentary politics. Certainly, any referendum before 2011 is now highly unlikely.

Glyn Davies said...

MH - I admit that I was angry (just to myself because I had no staus whatsoever) when this LCO was proposed - and said so. I was extensively criticised by Plaid Cymru supporters on my blog. Of course there's a difference twixt Labour AMs and MPs (and I'm not going to discuss our position, because there are not enough of us to effect the outcome) - but they are members of the same Party, and my guess is that the lines would have been cleared before the LCO was proposed, if Labour had been involved in it. My interest was and is in delivery, and I think that the way to deliver law making powers across all devolved areas is by working with the grain of MPs thinking, and not against it. This precedent is constitutionally destabalising. Anyway, its only one blogger's opinion.

Draig - Missing the point. I do support right-to-buy, but this issue is about the constitution. Remember that the LCO gives plaid Cymru all the power that they say they want.

Welshman - I certainly think that Plaid have damaged devolution with this issue. But I'm so sure that this was about ideology. I suspected it was a strategy to 'expose' the LCO process as inadaquate, and thus a base to encourage voters to vote Yes in a referendum on full powers. I think you will find this is a refrain by Plaid Cymru supporters over the next few weeks. I thought it has had the opposite effect..

Dylan - Agreed. The big dissappointment for me is that a new complexity has been intoduced into the process, which involves power transfer with a reserved 'lock' on it - a real recipe for instability.

Welshman said...

Agreed Glyn, Plaid Cymru have, once again, overplayed their hand and thence damaged the interests of the nation they profess to support. Plaid Cymru's immature and ill thought out schemes are just that: immature and ill thought out. Plaid Cymru have damaged Welsh interests beyond belief.

Anonymous said...

plaid haven't really done anything wrong nor has labour really it's a messed up system that was completely made up from nothing by Peter Hain. If Peter hain was still the secretary of state for wales which i think he think he would he gave himself the power to veto any welsh law that is just plain wrong and if it takes 2 years since 2007 just to found out we get a piecemeal welsh measure to do with housing then it's ridiculous. it's simple westminster still has the power over everything we do in wales and nothing has changed from before 2006. nothing at all. as for plaid in power they are pretty awful at the moment. it definetly is unworkable and has to be thrown out immediately. the lco system will never work. imagine this system in wales for another 30 years if we font get a referendum in 2011 a recipe for disaster. in a referendum in 2011 we should ask wales not if they want a half way house but whether they want their laws made by westminster or a parliament for wales. probaly not even 1% of the population of wales is know what an lco is and simply the system needs to be scrapped

Anonymous said...

so you are saying glyn that nothing should be proposed in a LCO that MPs disagree with. I thought you wanted to strngthen the assembly

Glyn Davies said...

Welshman - I want to stay with the specific issue in the original post, which is the precedent which has been set. I suspect that this will have been an education about what's possible in Government.

welshfledgling - I agree with a lot of this. I've always taken the view that if there is to be an Assembly, its logical and more constitutionally stable if it has law making powers in those areas devolved. I thought the original Govenment of Wales Bill was dangerously unstable, and that the 2006 Act made things worse in that it created a mechanism for transferring law making power which could be an ongoing source of dispute and which very few people understand. This 'compromise' - to resolve what I thought an entirely predictable impasse - has introduced an added complexity.

anon - Fair point. In my serious discussions about the devolution process, this is what I'm accused of - but I've been consistant about this since the shape of the Act was decided. I thought it was crucial to build confidence in this LCO system at Westminster, and that it would be wise not to propose a highly contentious issue until perhaps 15-20 LCOs have been approved, and some 'measures' have also been passed. I accept that some stage there would be a 'testing of the boundaries' - but that it would be over something specifically important to Wales - about the Welsh Language perhaps.

Anonymous said...

"there is now no difference between Labour and the Tories on a whole range of issues"

Typical hypocritical tosh from Draig. The reason that this whole mess has arisen is because there is NOW NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LABOUR AND PLAID in the Assembly.

As usual, the Nats are quick to attack anyone who disagrees wsith their views but, in the good old words of Corporal Jones, don't like it up them.

As for hatred, MH should read blogs such as Welsh Ramblings and Guerilla Welshfare to see real hatred from PC supporters for the tories.

DaiTwp said...

I don't know who is to blame for this mess but the anti-devolutionists in westminster have won a major victory. They have effectively thrown a few pennies to the Assembly and charged them a pound. If Plaid or anyone else was spoiling for a fight with this LCO then they have been soundly beaten. Not only does the real power over abolishing the right to buy stay at Westminster but they have managed to introduce a new road block to further devolution, basically the ability to take back everything that they devolve.

Anonymous said...

and this is just the start, a few other lcos are i believe flying around and are in deep trouble, and this precedent is likely to pop up a lot now.
The LCO system is a mess, and i have to say it must have been done to create problems between mp's and am's.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I think we should air our disagreements without hatred - and that's speaking as one who likes a bit of rough and tumble in debate.

Daitwp - Its not a victory for anyone and every effort should be made to avoid it happening again. I'm told that the lesson has been learned and that there has been agreement on the much delayed Welsh Language LCO. We'll see - quite soon I think. I sense that a fundamental problem with the 2006 Act is that it was perceived differently in Cardiff and Westminster. Cardiff think that it is inappropriate for MPs to look in detail at a proposed LCO, (a view I believe is shared by the Upper House) while MPs take a different view. I too think that the Assembly has lost this little battle, even if pwer to everything the Coalition Government claimed it wanted to do can now be included in a 'Measure' unhindered.

anon - I'm not at all sure about this. But I don't think we'll see silly-bu***rs being played with the LCO system again. But in general I do agree the system for transferring law making power to the Assembly is constitutionally unstable.

Anonymous said...

why blame Plaid Cymru, Labour should be taking all the flack for this because if anyone needed proof that devolution in Wales to keep Labour in power then this is it. Rhodri bowing to Labour in London yet again so that they will remain united for the upcoming European Elections.

As for Plaid they are a spent force under Ieuan Wyn Jones and in need of urgent renewal, i hope Adam Price is planning his Senedd entrance asap because we need somebody to take the fight to Labour because its not the Tories at present with all the nonsense going on in the Bay with Nick Bourne's leadership or Kirsty Williams and her pizza.

Anonymous said...

Sifting through all the anti-Plaid stuff, you're right that this whole situation is unworkable.

But it's probably significant that even you plainly don't understand the LCO system Glyn from the glaring factual errors you've made in reporting what happened.

Apart from the constitutional mess, one thing seems beyond question - that is that the minister can now go ahead and do what she was elected to do. Interestingly, it's difficult to see how she could have achieved that any other way.

More generally - what's this obsession you seem to have developed with Plaid? Are they really such a force in Montgomeryshire that you feel you have to attack them?

Anonymous said...

Ah the Conservative and Unionist party - defenders of Welsh democracy.

But I think it's worth pointing out here that the Tory Party is the only party that doesn't recognise that the Right to Buy should be suspended in some areas. That is no doubt because the Tories don't give two hoots for the people who can't get a home in their own community.

Looks to me like the Plaid minister has just found a way to combat another Thatcherite policy. Which explains your hissy fit..

Glyn Davies said...

anon 2 - Let us know what these supposed 'factual errors' are - so that I can explain to you how the LCO works, and why this is significant.