Today, Sir Emyr Jones Parry presented the Report of The All Wales Convention to the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales. Regular readers will know that I thought the establishment of this Convention to be no more than a 'device', which enabled the Labour Party to consign a coalition promise to the long grass, and provided Plaid Cymru (particularly its leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones) with a fig leaf of an excuse to cover any decision to renege on the promise he made to his party activists that a referendum on law making powers in all devolved policy areas would be held before the next Assembly election in May 2011. None of this is to suggest that Sir Emyr and his group haven't done a thorough job. They have. Today, the ever urbane and diplomatic Sir Emyr delivered a sensible 'conclusion' - but pretty well exactly what I expected from Day 1. Its pretty well what every Labour and Plaid Cymru Assembly Member would have expected on Day 1 as well.
The 'conclusion'. - "We are convinced that Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (an Assembly with law making powers) offers substantial advantages over the present arrangements in Part 3. It would offer greater efficiency, permit a strategic approach to the drafting of legislation, provide greater clarity, be more consistent with the rule of law and democratic tradition, and reflect the emerging maturity of the assembly. This appears to be a view shared by the majority of the Welsh people." I agree with his every word.
So where now? There will be a formal 'Statement' from the outgoing First Minister, before he 'goes out'. There could be a bit of knockabout when Peter Hain presents the Queen's Speech to AMs next week - assuming he comes out of hiding by then. But Peter's too cute to be embarrassed - and most AMs won't see the point in doing so anyway. All this is 'going through the motions stuff'. The big step, (that's the one that's been avoided for as long as possible) will be the debate on the floor of the Assembly. And I mean a decisive debate, tabled by the Coalition Government, proposing that the UK Government be asked to hold a referendum of the Welsh people to decide whether we should move to Part 4 of the 2006 Act. I've been 'chewing over' whether it would be sensible for an opposition party to use a 'Minority Debate', if there is no promise of an early Government debate. It would certainly cause political chaos, especially for Plaid Cymru. But its our constitution we're talking about here, and that's not a subject for political opportunism. It should be done properly. It could easily be that Labour will not support a decisive debate before the General Election, and it may well be that Plaid Cymru will accommodate this desire. This is not crucial.
But what if there is no 'decisive' debate by June, a date helpfully provided by Sir Emyr today? The Coalition Government must fall. Labour would have to limp on until the next Assembly election as a 'minority' Government, unless the Lib Dems stepped into the breach again. Labour's breach of trust would become Ieuan's new fig leaf. Whatever, following David Cameron's announcement last week that a Conservative Government at Westminster would not veto a referendum, I reckon that there will probably be a referendum in October. Another reason why I really really REALLY do want to be elected as the MP for Montgomeryshire.