Nov 18th will be a big day for Wales. That's when Sir Emyr Jones Parry will present his long-awaited report on the future 'pace' of devolution to the Assembly Government. This is the report on which will be based the decision about whether to ask for a referendum on granting law making powers to the National Assembly in all currently devolved policy areas. I sense that the Report will give a green-ish light, but the issue is whether and when the Coalition partners will go for it.
The timing of this has turned out to be interesting, for several reasons. Firstly, it will put the three runners in the race to become Assembly First Minister on the spot. They are going to have to make public what they think - and tell everyone with a vote in the leadership contest as well. It could make a difference - or not. Don Touhig (whom I think of as an anti) is reported to have declared for Edwina Hart (who has already declared as a pro)! Secondly, there's the imminence of a General Election. If the Assembly Government decide to go for it, all Westminster political parties will have to clarify their response. And thirdly, there's the issue of timing. I don't know how long these things take, but I can't see any reason why the UK Government cannot be asked to hold a referendum in very short order. And then once the question has been asked of Westminster, would the decision to hold the referendum, including precise wording, choice of date etc. be taken before a General Election or afterwards.
I didn't make a submission to the Jones Parry Commission myself. Thought about it, and then decided against. It was the pussy footing of the Coalition partners that put me off. If they weren't prepared to commit to a referendum with any urgency, why should I. Actually, I did change my mind two days before the deadline, after an old friend telephoned to press me to do so, but as bad luck would have it, circumstances conspired to prevent me doing so.
Regular readers of this blog would have known what my submission to the Commission would have said. The preamble would have riled some of my commenters, because it would have declared my unshakable belief in the United Kingdom. Even David Davies MP would have been proud of the first paragraph. Then I'd have gone on to discuss my commitment to a stable constitution - leading on to the constitutional instability inherent in the current Act. Its only when I would have moved on to the conclusions I draw that I'd have invited trouble. Seems logical to me that the only way to create the constitutional stability I crave is to grant full law making powers to the National Assembly in all currently devolved policy areas - to Part Four of the 2006 Act.
For two and a half years, this issue has flickered intermittently on our consciences. On November 18th, it will burst into flame. But will this flame be stoked up onto a firestorm of action, or will it be allowed to peter out? I genuinely do not know.