Government of Wales - still a muddle

In December 2001, Alun Pugh AM made a speech to the Federal Union, which called for a law-making Welsh parliament:

Differently from our fellow workers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Assembly was not given essential powers to make basic laws. The ability to legislate in this way is a characteristic of regional governments throughout the world. It is used very effectively in the United States, the Länder of Germany and the provinces of Canada and Australia.

I want to see a Parliament for Wales.

In the course of a surprisingly fluent argument, Mr Pugh highlights the tensions between Westminster and the Assembly arising from the Government of Wales Act 1998:

Ticking away quietly at the heart of the devolution settlement is a constitutional time bomb. It is timed to go off shortly after the election of two different parties to Government in London and Cardiff.

Although you could have endless fun with different permutations, the most likely scenario is a Conservative Government in Westminster and a Labour one in Cardiff. This is not fantasy politics. Indeed such an outcome would have been the norm for much of the second half of the 20th century had we had an assembly then.

Requests for Welsh legislation would receive a polite - or a not so polite - rebuff and as the formula based budget of the Assembly operates in such a way as the Assembly's only real discretion is deciding where the inevitable Tory cuts in public expenditure would go. Hardly an inviting prospect.

He makes some good points, and most importantly, good points which still apply, with Peter Hain retaining the power of Viceroy in the latest Government of Wales Act.

The Assembly and the Government of Wales operate under the Government of Wales Act of 1998. That Act was the product of a compromise within the Labour Party -between enthusiastic supporters of devolution and colleagues who were less enthusiastic.

The compromise was to transfer the powers exercised by the Secretary of State to the Assembly. Neat at first glance - but flawed in practice.

Soon, the Assembly will operate under the Government of Wales Act 2006 - the product of another compromise, and still flawed.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:32 pm,


At 2:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a "fluent argument" would have done.

Best Wishes



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