This is my report back from last night's meeting of the All Wales Convention which occurred at the Monty Club in Newtown. Less there than I'd expected - about 50 or so. And also more useful than I'd expected. More or less, the meeting grasped what the Convention is trying to do.
The meeting, billed as a 'Question Time' started with a welcome from Gary Wright, Vice-Chairman of Montgomeryshire YFC. Last time I saw Gary, he was competing in the County YFC 'Question Time' Competition, where I was the adjudicator. The subject dropped in his lap was to discuss whether breast feeding should be encouraged. Gary was very enthusiastic, in part because its such an effective practice in his sheep flock. So enthusiastic in fact, that he did not think women should be allowed to breed unless they are able to suckle. Its amazing what people will say when they have to speak without notice. Gary is never going to live it down.
Chair for the evening was the ultra smooth Arfon Haines Davies, and the discussions were kicked off by the even smoother Convention head honcho, Sir Emyr Jones Parry. Lots of negative about the Assembly to start with - mainly because most of us think Mid Wales is treated as some forgotten outpost. Arfon handed out a little hand held voting pad which looked a bit like one of those bowel cancer testing kits that are arriving on the doorsteps of the over 60s at the moment. Almost 90% voted for the proposition that Mid Wales does not get a fair deal from Cardiff Bay.
But I was impressed that everyone seemed to understand that the choice before us is to retain the current 'bit by bit' system of transfering 'primary' law-making power from Westminster to Cardiff Bay, or to transfer it all in one go (conditional on approval in a referendum of course). Because of the initial negativity, I was surprised that the meeting voted comfortably in favour of the latter.
I enjoyed my two hours as a panellist. Thought I'd done OK. But there's always one set of eyes and ears looking to deflate me. A man named David Peter had ventured North from Llandrindod Wells, and has informed the world that I used the F-word in an answer - 'federal' that is. My long held opinion is that in devolutionary Britain, there must be some form of specifically 'English' control over devolved issues in England - if not an English Parliament. My personal preference is that MPs representing English constituencies should sit on one day each week as a Parliament within a P arliament, dealing with devolved matters. I also said that this is, combined with law making powers for the National Assembly constitutes a 'de facto' move towards a 'federal' constitution. Seems kind of obvious to be, but David thought my comment was worth a post. All in all, it was a useful meeting (No curry) which left me more hopeful that a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly might actually be about the question on the ballot paper.