Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Welsh Language LCO

Tomorrow, the National Assembly Coalition Government is going to inform us of the content of the Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order. The media have already had copies. I expect most of my visitors will read no further. Constitutional issues are a minority interest. But Lord Elis Thomas, the Assembly's Presiding Officer is very excited about it. His excitement revolves around whatever new measure (new law) the Assembly Government might introduce later this year. But first, the Legislative Competence Order has to complete its passage through the bizarre process prescribed by the 2006 Government of Wales Act. This is the constitutional process by which power is passed to the Assembly to enable the creation of the new measure that is causing Dafydd El so much excitement. Lets consider this.

To go back the beginning. When the 2006 Act was passed, AMs and MPs looked upon this new creature from different perspectives. I believe we were sold different stories. At the time, my perspective was that of an Assembly Member. I believed that the Act envisaged proposals for the transfer of power to the National Assembly (LCOs) being considered by both Houses of Parliament only to ensure that the proposal fell wholly within a devolved field. If it did, there would be no discussion about what it might be used for. I accepted there was scope for disagreement arising from differing interpretations. For example, is a ban on smacking an education issue, or a law and order issue? This is how the House of Lords saw things as well. But not the MPs. They want to know what the Assembly Government might do with the new power, and to make a judgement about whether or not they approve.

I've seen much criticism of MPs for their approach. Matt Withers has really gone to town in today's Wales on Sunday, and called for the abolition of the Welsh Affairs Committee. I do not agree with Matt about this. I cannot know it, but I strongly suspect that MPs were reassured that they would have the right to debate the content of LCOs during the passage of the Bill - even if its not written into the Act. From the MPs perspective, they are only doing their job - the job they were told that they would be required to do. I've always described the position as a recipe for conflict - a constitutional crisis waiting to happen. My concern about this issue is a major part of the reason that I want to become an MP myself. And we've had one 'disagreement' already, relating to a housing LCO. I did not agree with the way it was resolved - which involved a reserved power being retained by the Secretary of State, granting an involvement in the measure creating process which no-one had envisaged. I thought that the LCO should have been rewritten, rather than the principle of a reserved power concede - but its too late now. The precedent has been set.

I'm looking forwards to reading the LCO, and learning what powers the National Assembly is asking for. And I'm looking forwards to the discussions on it in the Welsh Affairs Committee as well. Lets hope it can be sorted without any recourse to more reserved powers. Even more, I hope that the people of Wales don't become contemptuous of politicians arguing over incomprehensible policy details about imposing additional costs and responsibilities, while Welsh jobs and businesses are going down the pan.

9 comments:

Christabelle Di Baggio-Hunt said...

"From the MPs perspective, they are only doing their job - the job they were told that they would be required to do."

This statement is not correct Glyn.

You are making it sound like MPs wre merely interested by-standers when the Government of Wales Bill was progressing through Parliament.

They were patently not. They voted on this Bill at every stage, like every other Bill in the Commons.

Glyn Davies said...

Christabelle - On the face of it, you are right. But I suspect, without actually knowing it, that MPs were told that they would have an input via the Welsh Affairs Committee. I suspect that Peter Hain may have given that assurance. Anyway, it makes no difference. The reality is that MPs are taking, and will continue to take a real interest in the content of an LCO beyond ensuring that all of its proposals fall within a devolved field. And the power over housing reserved to the Secretary of State in reality.

Mendelevium said...

This is really not the time to be using up valuable Parliamentary and Assembly time to discuss the merits of a Welsh Language LCO.

With the country facing serious economic challenges along with the rest of the global economies, we need this "legislation" like the proverbial "hole in the head".

Dafydd Elis Thomas says today is a hugely important day for Wales. I say it is a very sad day, and shows the narrow perspective of supposedly wise politicians.

The current Welsh Language Act is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the small minority who continually agitate for more power, as thousands of families up and down the country worry about making ends meet, whether they will have an income next week and to put food in the mouths of their children.

Really, I despair at the judgment and sense of reality of this group of politicians who put their language zeal and dreams above the existential needs of the people in Wales.

Both SME's and larger corporations up and down Wales are deeply uncomfortable about the way this is going.

It seems so ironic that on a day that the Prime Minister is in serious discussion with the Chinese Premier, looking to boost trade and pull us out of this recession, the Nationalists are more concerned about imposing more potential trade barriers on Wales.

As Gordon Brown reaches out to the largest emerging economy of the world, Plaid Cymru look inward and want to delight in weighing us all down with more restrictions, so that there will be more mountains of paper for translation, more jobs for the translators (but nobody else), and a bigger carbon footprint to boot!!

What a tragedy, and we all sit here and let it happen!

Glyn Davies said...

Mendelevium - There will be many who feel the same as you do - and while I support the transfer of responsibility for the Welsh Language to the National Assembly, I think it would be madness, and self damaging to the Language's prospects, if new financial burdens were to be placed on the private sector at this time.

kairdiff West Kid said...

Mendelevian has been posting this NuLab pseudo-apology all over the blogosphere and it's just Welsh-hating mouth-frothing bilge.
Th equestion is this: didn't you, the Tories, and the CBI also oppose the minimum wage and extension of maternity rights and paternity leave on thegrounds that it woudl harm business and create unemplyment? (answer is yes you did). It didn;t in fact do any of the things you claimed it would.
Now you're trying the same trick with the issue of limited equality for Welsh.
Unbelievable!
And as for Mendelevian and the rest of the minority-haters, they ought to actually check the terms of the proposed LCO before they spout deceit and inaccuracy about, and display such contempt for those who happen to speak Werlsh.
because that's all it is, if you scratch the surface: fear and hatred of Welsh-speakers.

Glyn Davies said...

K W Kid - Strong stuff. There is a difference between impositions on the private sector which impact across the UK, and those which might impact on Wales alone. Personally, I do not think that this LCO includes powers that would enable the Assembly to impose hugely damaging requirements - and anyway I don't think there would be a majority in the National assembly to do that.

kairdiff West Kid said...

Glyn, you didn't answer my question about Tory opposition to minimum wage, paternity leave etc.

As a non-Welsh speaker I'm happy to have the debate about extending language rights, and quite happy to deal with people who disagree with me in terms of what the LCO actualy contains and not the madhouse view of peopel like Mendelevian and co.

I am bored with the lies and deceit and anti-Welsh claptrap (check the Daily Mail: 'stone age' language , 'Welsh fascists' - this from the paper that supported the Blackshirts and liked Hitler! - and so on.) I'm also bored with the kind of comments you see on blogs like Betsan Pwys's about Welsh-speakers being inferior, 'backward' and 'spraying spit all over you when they speak'.

Who are the language extremists in reality? There's a distinct correlation between welsh-bashing and BNP-style extreme right-wing assertions of anglo-supremacy, and I find it disgusting.

I think of myself as a centrist Welshman, with left-wing views on personal iberty and fiscal conservative views on the economy. But I never believed the minimum wage woudl spell (as the tories put it in 1997) 'economic disaster', and I don;t believe the Welsh LCO will either.

But I am fed up with sharing cyberspace with bigots, smear-mongers and care in the community escapees.

Brian Barker said...

As native-born English speaker, living in London, I am so glad that, at least potentially, the Welsh language will gain equal status with English, in Wales.

As the "International Year of Languages" comes to an end on 21st February, you may be interested in the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO's campaign for the protection of endangered languages.

The following declaration was made in favour of Esperanto, by UNESCO at its Paris HQ in December 2008. http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=38420&URL_DO=DO_PRINTPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html

The commitment to the campaign to save endangered languages was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations' Geneva HQ in September.
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eR7vD9kChBA&feature=related or http://www.lernu.net

Glyn Davies said...

KW Kid - Conservative policy was indeed to oppose the introduction of the minimum wage, and I recall answering questions on the subject in public at the time. I did not share the opinion of some of my colleagues that it would do great harm to business if it was set at a reasonable level - which it has been so far. If wages fall significantly as a result of the current financial storm (which is possible) the position could change I suppose. Same with paternity leave. Its ok up to a reasonable level. This does carry a cost, and several businesses have raised the issue with me, particularly when Nick Clegg talked about his not being able to take the 9 months off that he thought all fathers should be entitled to. Personally, I think that's too long.

In respect of the Weslh Language, I find the content of the LCO to be reasonable, and it could be that I would want to support a measure which reflected its proposals - though I would want to participate in the debate first.

You'll have to explain what you mean about 'left wing views on personal liberty'. I consider myself to be libertarian - and thus right wing! And if you cannot live in the same space as bigots, you should not enter cyberspace. Hold your opinions, express them politely, and don't be drawn into anger or childishness by your opponents.

Brian - I'm with you all the way.