Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Western Mail Support for a Referendum

A good start to the referendum campaign

WE WELCOME the appointment of Sir Emyr Parry Jones to chair the All Wales Convention in the run-up to what we hope will be a successful referendum campaign to give Wales a proper parliament. He has impeccable credentials and is of the highest calibre.
We hope that whatever Sir Emyr and his convention colleagues come up with, it will be listened to by the Assembly Government more assiduously than they listened to that other distinguished former UN Ambassador, Lord Richard.
Three years ago the Richard Commission produced a detailed and well crafted report after the most extensive investigation ever undertaken into the governance of Wales. Unfortunately, its recommendations were ignored, largely because of an internal split in the Labour Party.
As a consequence, we have a devolution settlement even university professors find difficult to understand – a recipe not merely for lawyers to make juicy fees, but for constitutional clashes between the governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay.
It is no wonder many people find it difficult to put their finger on where political power lies when the National Assembly has to go cap in hand to Westminster for the power to legislate in particular areas. It is too early to say how this recently introduced system will work in practice, but there have already been worrying hints of disagreements behind the scenes about some of the Assembly’s requests.

What Wales needs is a proper parliament that is fully accountable to its citizens for devolved public services and the legal frameworks within which they operate. But before we can achieve that, there is a referendum to be won.

How Sir Emyr’s convention will operate we do not yet know. The terms of reference will be drawn up by a group of Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs. There does appear to be some substance in the doubts expressed by Professor Richard Wyn Jones and Tomorrow’s Wales, the pro-devolution campaign chaired by Archbishop Barry Morgan. The convention will be consulting civil society, it appears, although we are not sure about what. Presumably the only question will be whether the bodies concerned favour the proposition that the Assembly should get primary lawmaking powers.
In most cases, we imagine the organisations will repeat the submissions they made to the Richard Commission several years ago.
Once that revisiting process is concluded, we can safely predict a majority will favour primary lawmaking powers for the Assembly.
The other element of Sir Emyr’s work will involve monitoring public opinion so the administration can be sure a referendum could be won. A call to Professor Wyn Jones and his researchers should settle that.

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