Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peter Hain in town

Peter Hain was in Cardiff today. He was presenting the Queen's Speech to the National Assembly. This was an important debate which I greatly enjoyed when I was an Assembly Member. I always tried sought to be called to speak, and I always caught Dafydd El's eye. Its also worth posting that I think Peter Hain is a polished performer. I would like to have been there today. There were two big issues I would like to have spoken about, and in respect of both I would have had some sympathy with the line the Secretary of State was taking.

Firstly, the promised referendum on the devolution of law making powers. Since the referendum on 18th Sept. 1997, my opinion has been that there are only two credible ways forward for devolution to Wales - either full law making powers or abolition of the Assembly. One of the reasons why I'm so committed to the first option is that I see absolutely no prospect of the second option ever occurring. But holding a referendum on law making powers which fails would be a disaster for devolution. I share Peter Hain's view that there isn't a sufficiently wide and deep consensus in favour to win a referendum now - and probably will not be until 2011. And even that will depend on a committed and sensitive performance by Sir Emyr Jones-Parry's Convention. Those calling for an earlier referendum are more intent on creating headlines than creating an effective Wales Parliament.

And the second issue is the role of MPs in dealing with Legislative Competence Orders. When I was discussing this issue as an Assembly Member, I always said that I considered it would be wise to put forward measures as innocuous and uncontentious as possible to begin with - so that the process would become established in a way which enabled MPs to develop confidence in it. The inevitable alternative, if Legislative Competence Orders are put forward that are general in scope will be MPs wanting to discover what they might be used for and seeking to frustrate their progress. And I don't blame them. No-one is elected to the UK Parliament to be a rubber stamp. Every time I hear an 'Assembly' voice declaring something like "This is none of the MPs business. Their job is just to let our Orders through without detailed scrutiny", I hear someone more interested in making a headline rather than making a difference.

But I'm no longer in a position to contribute to the debate - except by writing this post on my blog. I wonder whether as many people will read what I've written as would have heard me speak?

16 comments:

Oscar said...

Don't try and kid us Glyn that you do not have some kind of stat counter on your blog!
pound to a penny you have one, you old fox you!

Anonymous said...

The fact that the LCOs are so broad suggests that many in the Assembly don't really know what to do with extra lawmaking powers. It is clear that the 2006 Act expected specific measures which could be scrutinised By MPs. There is an assumption that lawmaking will automatically lead to better governance in Wales.The danger,however, with lawmaking for law making sake is that we will end up with a series of laws which will be either unenforceable or have finacial consequences which haven't been thought through. Only this week we had Gwenda Thomas arguing for a law to ensure uniformity in home care charges. Nothing wrong with that but no one has thought through the costs and who will pay. If the Assembly sets a maximum charge then local government will expect to be be covered financially for any effect this might have on their budgets. It would be patently absurd for the Assembly to stop Powys,for example, charging what it now does and expect either the Powys council taxpayer or other services in Powys to pick up the tab. Good laws require politicians with the intelligence to understand what is achievable and first class civil servants with drafting experience.

Glyn Davies said...

oscar - Yeeeeeow - as Reynard would say. Actually its an evocative bark, but I've no idea how to spell that.

anon - Good comment. I would take it further. There should not be an assumption that devolution delivers better government for Wales. We all hope it will, its what a majority wanted in the 1999 referendum, and its now a fact of life - so we must make the best of it. While I'm fully signed up to law making powers, I would not be keen to pass new laws. Perhaps we should be looking to use law making powers to repeal laws!. There is something wrong with Gwenda's proposal (although I have not seen or heard the case made). It undermines local government and in the opposite of the 'localism' everyone is so keen to talk about. Paying for 'care'is going to become an increasingly important matter as we live longer and live alone more.

Dai Twp said...

I have to agree with both anon and yourself there Glyn. In an ideal world a Law Making Parliment for Wales would mean less laws not more. A block if you like to the over centralisation and nanny state forced on us by Westminster. However my fear is that the opposite would be true. The urge will be for Cardiff to justify it's existence by spurning out a load of needles new laws which deliver nothing but more red tape and expense.
There is little point in devloving more power down to the Assembly if it conversly results in more centralisation (albeit in Cardiff rather than Westminster).
I think the convention must play a crucial part here in addressing these fears.

Glyn Davies said...

dai twp - I've been checking up on this. In fact, the Assembly would be free to remove regulation as the result of what is effectively a transfer of competence. What an LCO does is enable changes to be made to the law within areas of responsibility - for ever. I hope that the Conservative manifesto for the Assembly Election in 2011 will be proposing the removal of regulations in Wales - which would not apply in England!! This seems to me a good way of winning support of many of those who are against law making powers.

Anonymous said...

This thread is clearing a bit of the fog that surrounds this process. Only a handful of people from the political village has got a clue about what it all means. I'll visit this blog again. You should rename it as 'Clarifying the View from Rural Wales'.

Dai Twp said...

It would certainly be a breath of fresh air for a party to propose using powers to reduce regulation as opposed to imposing more.
I would hope(!) that an Assembly with greater powers would be mature/confident enough to pass on powers further down the ladder (where appropriate) - so ultimately it lies as close to the person in the street as is practical.
I agree that idea of using greater powers to de-regulate in Wales could be a strong tool to use to convince some of the devo-sceptics in your party, although I'd imagine they would be pretty sceptical whether the extra powers would ever be used in that way and not the opposite.

Matty said...

That's seven comments Glyn - more viewers than S4C's Assembly coverage any day of the week!

Glyn Davies said...

matty - I would like a lot more comments. This particular issue is hugely important to many of those who I know visit my blog. I particularly enjoy comments which disagree. I suppose that I don't post in a way that encourages chatty one-liners

Anonymous said...

give us an example where a new power could reduce regulation glyn

Glyn Davies said...

I'll choose something really controversial that has already featured in discussion. If an LCO to allow the National Assembly to legislate on hunting with dogs was passed, AMs could abolish the limit on the number of dogs that can be used to flush out foxes to guns. It would remove a stupid regulation that helps no-one - and would enable shepherds to deal with foxes much more efficiently.

Valleys Mam said...

What would be Westminster’s response to that Glyn? I watch with interest the way the chess pieces position them selves.
We hear a lot from Hain, what about the other Welsh Office ministers - Huw Irranca Davies and Nick Ainger.
My concern again is the level of competency to handle LCOs within the Civil Service and the government
You comment on DET penchant for Bubbly, Parch Glyn is not far behind him you know.

Glyn Davies said...

VM - you make an important point about competency to legislate. I share your concern - which is why I do not like this rush in producing LCOs. Instead of progressing quickly with entirely non-contentios proposals, and working with MPs, it looks as if there is going to be a battle between AMs and MPs over it. If they are not careful, it could end in tears.

But I do have a lot of confidence in Dafydd Elis Thomas. He is sometimes ecentric - but he has delivered. I had not intended to imply anything in relation to drink. In fact, I don't mind how much someone drinks. I'm just not impressed by anyone who is drunk in public.

Valleys Mam said...

I don't mind how much someone drinks. I'm just not impressed by anyone who is drunk in public.
Agreed totally you are a very fair and sensible guy.
If you were Tory leader I would think seriously about joining you

Anonymous said...

Problem is that Tory MPs won't want to hand power over to the socialists in the Welsh Assembly. And who can blame them? The surprise is that people like Bourne and co are so much in favour of it, even though they have no hope ever of exercising those powers.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - where I disagree with you is that I believe that the Conservatives do have hope of power in the Assembly. We came within a whisker last May. Since by 2011, the Assembly will probably be, de facto, a law making body as a result of the LCO process, it would be letting our supporters down if we were not to consider seriously how we can secure power in order to influence the way Wales is governed