I'm not sure what to make of Lord Livesey of Talgarth's intervention in the transfer of housing powers from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales. My first sense is that his action is constitutionally 'sound' but 'silly' in practice. Better begin with some context.
When the 2006 Government of Wales Act came into effect in May '07, a process of transferring power from Westminster to Cardiff also came into being. It was horribly complex, and I've always considered it to be a recipe for constitutional conflict between the UK and Welsh Parliaments. I lost my position as an Assembly Member at the same time the new Act became effective. From my new position as an interested observer, I advocated that the first 15/20 proposals for power transfer should be about relatively uncontentious matters - enabling the new system to 'bed in', and trust to be developed between politicians at both ends of the M4. And then Plaid Cymru, with monumental stupidity (in my view) proposed that the power to abolish the right-to-buy be transferred (even though there was no intention whatsoever to introduce such a measure. This blog immediately condemned the proposal as crass and destined to create trouble, and suggested that the creation of dispute might have been the intention. Totally nuts.
What happened was that the Secretary of Wales decided to support the transfer of powers over housing from Westminster to the Assembly - except that his office would retain a 'veto' over any proposal to abolish the right-to-buy. This 'veto' was an added complexity to an already complex process which only political anoraks have the slightest interest in. The reality was that this 'veto' made very little practical difference, because there's no desire by anyone to use the power. The problem arises from it being a significant precedent. My hope was that Assembly politicians would have learned their lesson, and that this precedent would slink quietly into a corner and wither away. But no. The Liberal Democrats have decided that in the midst of the financial maelstrom that has engulfed our world, we need to indulge in a constitutional row over a devolution principle. I've no idea what path this dispute is going to take, except that it's likely to be circular.