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BBC News

August 4, 2004

Summary:  A discussion of the current desire of Welsh politicians to increase the devolution of power to the Welsh Assembly, including full law-making powers in addition to a switch to a PR-STV electoral system.

BBC News
More Power for Assembly Says Hain
August 4, 2004

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain says the Welsh assembly will see its powers increase.

As Labour unveiled its proposals for the future of devolution in Wales, Mr Hain said Labour would draft legislation in Westminster to give the assembly more scope to make its own decisions.

He also pledged to reform the assembly's electoral system and the "ridiculous farce" where candidates can lose in constituency seats and then become AMs through the regional list.

But Plaid Cymru accused Labour of betraying Wales, Conservatives said there was "fog and confusion" and Liberal Democrats claimed the party had done a U-turn.

Mr Hain spoke as Welsh Labour published its plans, called "Better Governance for Wales".

This ridiculous farce whereby people who are defeated in constituencies then get elected on the list system can't happen
Peter Hain

The plan offers the assembly more power in two stages. Firstly, with parliamentary approval, the assembly would be able to vary more widely laws passed at Westminster.

Secondly, and subject to a referendum, the assembly could be given full law-making powers. Other proposals from the Richard Commission - such more assembly members and greater proportional voting - were rejected.

Labour leaders hope their plans will unite party members ahead of a special conference to discuss it next month.

Mr Hain, who is also leader of the House of Commons, told BBC Radio Wales: "We'll have a general election manifesto commitment to take forward these progressive policies to improve the devolution settlement.

"Thereafter there will be a vote on moving by an hour and a half debate by a motion in both houses of Parliament to move towards this framework legislation model - which essentially means drafting primary legislation in Westminster in a way which is more permissive and gives the assembly more power."

He also said he wanted to reform the electoral system so that "losers can't become winners."

"This ridiculous farce whereby people who are defeated in constituencies then get elected on the list system can't happen," he said.


Rhodri Morgan appears to be more concerned with preventing internal warfare within the Labour Party than governing for the whole of Wales
Conservative Nick Bourne

In March, the commission, chaired by Lord Ivor Richard, recommended the assembly should be given primary law-making powers by 2011.

It also suggested an extra 20 AMs and a change in the electoral system to the single transferable vote.

'Fashionable flip-flops'

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Iwan said: "A large section of the Labour Party has always opposed the Welsh language and Welsh devolution.

"This comes as no surprise to us. If the Labour Party fails to deliver on the Richard proposals on primary powers, then this will be the ultimate betrayal of the Welsh nation and calls into question Rhodri Morgan's leadership."

Nick Bourne, leader of the Conservatives in the assembly, accused Mr Morgan of a "cobbled together" compromise in response to the opposition of Labour MPs to further devolution.

But Mr Bourne welcomed a referendum on law-making powers, which they said they had called for repeatedly and had previously been rejected by Mr Morgan.

"Rhodri Morgan appears to be more concerned with preventing internal warfare within the Labour Party than governing for the whole of Wales," said Mr Bourne.

"There is fog and confusion about the position of the first minister and the Labour Party on the Richard Commission and assembly powers. In one minute Rhodri Morgan said the assembly should have full law-making powers then the next said it should not."

Mike German, leader of the Lib Dems in the assembly, said: said Labour was "happy to swim in a series of U-turns", with Mr Morgan "abandoning his clear commitment to primary powers and dropping his opposition to a referendum".

Mr German said: "Sadly, there is no leadership at all from the first minister. He is known to be in favour of primary powers yet he has placed the interests of Labour's anti-devolution wing ahead of the interests and needs of the nation."

Dr Laura McAllister, who sat on the commission, said they tried to create something that was a "blueprint for good governance in Wales."

She added: " Of course I would be very disappointed if that wasn't discussed by the people of Wales because this issue goes beyond the Welsh Labour Party.

"The people who ultimately matter in this are the people of Wales, and we took great heed of their comments.

"I think the report addresses some of the issues they raise about the current system of devolution."

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