WAG should have ‘full powers’ in devolved areas

19 Nov 09
Giving the Welsh Assembly full law-making powers over the 20 devolved policy areas would substantially improve the current system, a landmark report has said
By Paul Dicken in Cardiff

19 November 2009

Giving the Welsh Assembly full law-making powers over the 20 devolved policy areas would substantially improve the current system, a landmark report has said.

The findings of the All Wales Convention, a 16-strong committee set up to investigate the appetite for further devolution in Wales, said that a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum on the issue was obtainable in the right circumstances.

Polling research showed 47% in favour of full law-making powers. Convention chair Sir Emyr Jones Parry told Public Finance that the consultation process – which began in January – had been ‘evidence-based throughout’ and a united report had been easily achieved.

‘It is not for me to be arrogant enough to say is it conclusive. [But] I’m a scientist, and I think the evidence leads very clearly to a conclusion that getting all the powers at once is better for a whole range of reasons. That’s what the people of Wales have told us and we believe that.’

The convention found that full legislating power over the 20 devolved areas for Wales would be more efficient, allow a more strategic approach to legislating, provide greater clarity and be more consistent with democratic tradition.

Jones Parry told PF that ‘democracy should be based on people understanding what their responsibilities and rights are, how they’re governed and how these processes work – and at the moment there is a fog’.

Under the current system, proposals by the Welsh Assembly Government to legislate in a certain area have to be scrutinised and passed in Cardiff and Westminster.

These include ‘framework provisions’, where sections on Welsh powers are included in Westminster Bills.

The convention’s report also looked at the workings of the current system and has made a series of recommendations.

Jones Parry said: ‘Policing in Wales covers many areas that are devolved, but the Home Office, to whom the authorities are responsible, needs to better take account of devolution in looking at policing in Wales.’

The convention found that moving to the full devolution of powers would be, broadly speaking, ‘financially neutral’ in terms of current budget allocations.

The report was handed to First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones on November 18.

Wyn Jones said the report was a ‘tremendous piece of work’ and that a response would be made by the WAG to the Assembly next week.

Morgan said the findings were a ‘little bit short of an open and shut case’. But they did show in ‘certain circumstances the appetite is there and level of understanding is there to hold a referendum that can be won.’

If the WAG decided to proceed with a referendum it will have to be voted on in the Assembly, before the Welsh secretary decides whether or not to carry out the request. A question would be formulated with the Electoral Commission, and the specific order for a referendum would then be voted on in both Houses of Parliament and the Assembly.

The current Welsh secretary, Peter Hain, recently said he believed that a referendum held before or in 2011 would be lost.

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