Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Much ado about nothing

Not commented much of late on the transfer of law making powers to the National Assembly for Wales - except on the specific Legislative Competence Order relating to the Welsh Language. I think the reason the subject has dropped off my agenda is because its dropped off everyone else's. Its just going nowhere. The two parties which form the Assembly Government have reneged on their commitment to hold a referendum on the issue before 2011. And we have this rather ridiculous Commission, spending lots of public money for no discernible purpose except to provide an escape route out of his promise for the leader of Plaid Cymru. And I'm told that even Sir Emyr seems to have lost a bit of interest in it. So there's a bit of an effort by their bloggers and researchers to cover up the embarrassment this creates for Labour and Plaid by pointing fingers at the Conservatives. We've been open that we don't all agree about this, and my understanding is that there will be a 'Free Vote' for us.

My opinion has been clear since 1997. When the Welsh people voted in favour of a National Assembly for Wales on 18th September, I accepted the result (no option), and after careful thought, concluded that the only way to make any sense of the constitutional dog's breakfast we had created was to vest in it law making powers in those subject areas already devolved. The 2006 Act then made the position worse. Since 1999, we'd had 'a constitutional crisis waiting to happen' - and then we added a system of granting law making powers which has the capacity to create little squabbles twixt Westminster and Cardiff Bay on an ongoing basis.

Now I genuinely don't know what David Cameron said on his CameronDirect visit to Barry. I've heard differing reports. Party contacts seem totally unconcerned, but others are trying to make a lot of it. What I do know is that despite my finding all this interesting, its just not an issue where I live. I would be disappointed if my position ever becomes outwith party policy, but I suppose it wouldn't be the first time I've been out on a limb. If David does a similar CameronDirect meeting in Montgomeryshire, I wonder whether anyone will ask him questions about the constitution in Wales. I suspect not..


DaiTwp said...

If you want to know exactly what he said go to the Politics Cymru blog they've got an actual recording there you can listen to.

The question put to him was about a full parliment with tax raising and law making powers. While he flattly said "no" he didn't support this (which wouldn't be a suprise as powers over tax has never been on the table) the language he used as he went on did imply that he was also against devolving primary law making powers also. although being the typical politician he left himself just enough wriggle room with his terminology not to completely rule out him supporting devolving primary powers in the future.

The main reason whether you like it or not that the Welsh press interest continues with this, is that it puts him at complete odds with his party leader in Wales which makes for easy headlines.

Anonymous said...

Bearing in mind Montgomeryshire is now a target seat, I do hope David Cameron will see fit to visit the constituency. What are the plans?
It's vital the big names come to Mid Wales. I do hope the Cardiff HQ is lobbying?

Patriot said...

Not a bad effort Glyn but a fundamental point glossed over here. If there is a 2/3rds majority in the Assembly for a referendum on primary law making powers (very likely following any Tory victory in Westminister, as non Tory AMs seek to protect Wales) would a Tory Parliament vote in favour of the Assembly's request? Based on Cameron's answer it would not. Trying to spin out of this with the 'free to campaign as they wish' argument just doesn't wash. The real issue is will Cameron approve the referendum? I think as a Parliamentary candidate you need to be able to answer this and should write to him for clarification. Otherwise how will voters know what they are voting for on the devolution issue.

As to interest in devolution I think that is a product of the Powys demographic i.e older than average and more immigration from England than average. The true interest across Wales will soon be shown in a wide ranging opinion poll, when I think you will be in for a suprise. Welsh identity is strengthening hugely amongst the young and there you will find strong interest in a Parliament for Wales.

People like yourself and Cameron who constantly play the devolution question down are just trying to create a self fulfilling prophecy in order to hide the splits in your own party.

Incidently if you think no one would ask Cameron about this in Montgomery, why not ask him along and find out?

Jeff Jones said...

I've never understood the argument that law making powers will some how "protect" Wales from a Tory government in Westminster. Devolution as a political concept is not about protecting someone. It is about decentralising power from the centre.The problem that any devolved administration without some form of revenue raising power faces is that it is reliant on a block grant from another legislature. As a recent report in Scotland pointed out allowing devolved administrations revenue raising powers,however, might not be compatible with the continued existence of a United Kingdom. The Assembly has been lucky over the last 10 years in that it has operated in a very favourable economic environment in which the amount of money given to Wales by the UK government has increased substantially.It enabled politicians to avoid difficult decisions and produce the policy of free services in order to curry favour with the voters . That period as Andrew Davies quite rightly pointed out last week is coming to an end whoever is in power at Westminster after the next UK general election. Most commentators now believe that public expenditure growth in many areas could be at a standstill until at least 2016. It could be even longer if the economy does not improve and tax revenues do not increase.Even with law making powers the Assembly will not be able to raise revenue and it will not be able to borrow. Far from protecting Wales ill thought out laws which have revenue implications particularly for local government could make the situation worse. In the debate on lawmaking powers there is far too much emotion and not enough rational argument. For Nationalists it is a no brainer on the road to an independent Wales evne thought an independent Wales has never existed. For others it is about the slippery slope to the destruction of the United Kingdom. It should be about improving democracy and accountability and producing policies which will improve the lives of ordinary people.

Glyn Davies said...

Daitwp - I try never to criticise the media, but I just don't think that the public are that interested - because nothing's happening. Easy headlines which no-one's reading! Nick has gone out on a limb on this - and I admire him for it. What's the point in being the leader if you can't say what you think. Neither do I see a problem with a difference of opinion at the top of a political party. Ken Clarke's views on European issues in a good example - as was Gordon Brown's refuasl to take Britain into the Euro.

Anon - David has told me that he intends to visit Montgomeryshire, and I'm hopeful it will be a CameronDirect meeting where the audience will not be made up of party members. I've just set up a group in the office to prepare the ground.

Patriot - You ask very fair questions, which I'm not in a position to answer. If two thirds of AMs ask for a referendum, (and I'm confident the Yes vote woould win) I would hope that a referendum would be called. It may be that a Cameron Government would rule out all referendums for a while, which is why this blog has been predicting it would happen around 2012/2013. At present it is the No side which is gagging for it. I do not think that a Conservative Government (or any other) would refuse to implement the result of a referendum.

Why do you accuse me of playing the devolution issue down. Until I realised that the Assembly Governmnet intended to renege on their promise of a referendum, this blog was reaching the stage of boring on about the subject. Several of my visitors used to be most insulting about it, and a few told me they were not going to visit again. Why don't you direct your fire on the Coalition partners, who have let the whole thing drift.

alanindyfed said...

Shame of them in Montgomery, if they do not ask a question on the constitution, or display a complete lack of interest in it.
Apathy continues to reign with the "British" public.

Tory Swing Voter said...

Glyn this is poor. Only a few weeks ago you were slating Ieuan Wyn Jones because he was in favour of a nuclear power station in Angelsy that would bring his constituents jobs because it was against Plaid policy. Now you are saying it is fine for the Tory leader in wales to have compleatly contrasting views to the Tory leader in the UK and for there to be no policy on the issue whatsoever because it is too boring for Cameron to look at. Its irresponsible for politicians of any party to try and get elected without making it clear what their party stands for.

Glyn Davies said...

Alan - You should aim your fire at the Coalition partners. It is they who have allowed the whole thing to drift. Like everywhere else Montgomeryshire people were interested, but it wanes when nothing significant is happening.

Tory Swing Voter - Actually. I was supporting Ieuan's position. What I was saying was that Plaid Cymru cannot be an anti-nuclear party when their leader takes up the opposite position (rightly) in his constituency. The same would apply if David Cameron was taking up a position which was totally opposite to Conservative policy. He isn't, because we don't claim to have a settled policy on this, beyond wanting the Assembly, and the LCO system to be a success. Even Lord Roberts report is presented as a work in progress. And anyway, Nick is not the leader of the party - but the leader of the Conservative Group in the Assembly.
I'm not sure what David Cameron feels about this at the moment (I wasn't there last Friday) but what I do know is that the Westminster position on this is merely a responsive one - "What would you do if......" While the Assembly Members hold back from holding a referendum, the ball is very much in their court.

Anonymous said...

"The same would apply if David Cameron was taking up a position which was totally opposite to Conservative policy."

No but you and Nick are. You say that the lord roberts report was presented as a work in progress but it wasnt. It was presented as a way for the issue to be settled once and for all for the Tories. DC actually said that.