Saturday, September 18, 2010

Carwyn Jones shows signs of active movement.

Pleased to see that Carwyn Jones, First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales began making the case for a Yes vote in the Assembly powers referendum, which we expect sometime in March. And about time too. He's put his name to an article in today's Western Mail (which strangely, I cannot find online). I don't think much of the article, but I do applaud his having written it. At long last he seems to be realising that being First Minister is more than sitting in a swanky office. It involves leadership.

He starts off by telling us that the referendum is nothing to do with tax raising powers. No-one I know thought it was (even if Holtham and others have done their best to muddy the waters about this). If the First Minister bangs on about it, people will think it does involve tax raising powers. Then we have the rather bizarre comment that the referendum is not about creating a Cardiff Bay elite. What on earth is that about. Absolutely no-one thought that - at least until they read today's words from the First Minister.

Carwyn then makes two highly dubious assertions (in my opinion anyway). Firstly he claims that granting tax raising powers will save some £2million. Perhaps no-one has told him how much it costs to train, employ and provide support for drafting lawyers etc.. And secondly, that there will not be more than 60 AMs. Well not immediately I grant him, but in the medium term? Some things I reckon are too uncertain to believe, and the punters are not going to believe them either.

But the worst part is when he begins waffling on about what the referendum is about. I just can't bring myself to repeat it all. It's so childish and confusing. Its quite simple really. A Yes vote is about creating a stable and understandable constitution where full law making powers in all currently devolved policy areas are transferred to the National Assembly 'all in one go', rather than 'bit by bit' as happens under existing legislation. A No vote is about leaving the current process in place. That seems clear enough to me.

Final point that bothered me about this article was Carwyn's casual (but deliberate)reference to organ donation. The Assembly coalition government has decided to seek the power to move from the opt-in position (which currently applies across the UK) to the opt-out position that he and his Government would like to introduce in Wales. Now Carwyn knows very well that this request is highly unlikely to complete its legal transfer process before the referendum in March, and he also knows that a Yes vote would transfer the power in any case. Looks as if he might have in mind using the plight of those in need of an organ transplant organs as pawns in the political process. Lets hope I'm wrong about this.

But having written all that has gone before, I have to admit that I'm pleased there seems to be signs of life in the First Minister's den. Hope he keeps it up.


Wyn Hobson said...

A similar article (but without the reference to organ-donation) appeared in Friday's "Daily Post".

Both Carwyn Jones and Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University gave lectures at the National Eisteddfod about the Assembly Referendum, and both made the point that interesting the public in what is a fine point of constitutional law (i.e. whether or not to move from Section 3 to Section 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006) is going to be difficult. In practice, the proponents of a 'No' Vote have all the sexy lines — about independence by stealth, tax-raising powers etc; watch the Letters Pages, the message-boards and the blogs to see how important it will be to answer these assertions.

The point about savings of £2 million does not (in the "Daily Post" version at any rate) refer to tax-raising powers as such. Richard Wyn Jones made the point more clearly. Every single proposed Assembly Measure that is the subject of a request to Westminster for an LCO costs, on average, £2 million to work its way through the cumbersome Section 3 process; if the Assembly were to acquire its own legislative powers by the activation of Section 4, those costs would be halved.

In my view, that is going to be the strongest argument in the armoury of the campaigners for a 'Yes' vote: the Nay-sayers can be tarred with the brush of wanting to perpetuate unnecessary financial waste — given that the thing they're really after, namely the abolition of the Assembly, would not be achieved by a majority 'No' vote. A 'No' vote would simply perpetuate the status quo and the current level of expenditure.

Dewi said...

From the Daily Post but same article.

Glyn Davies said...

Wyn - I really do not know if what you write stands up. Obviously, dispensing with the LCO process will save money, but developing the capacity in the National Assembly to draft measures will cost money. If this is going to be a major plank of the Yes campaign, someone had best check the figures - or it will backfire. There is a strong case for a Yes vote - but in my opinion this is not it.