Saturday, 17 May 2008

What is the point of the All-Wales convention?

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on April 21 2008


I heard Sir Emyr Jones Parry sketch out his ideas about the role of the Convention he’s been asked to Chair last week.

There’s no doubting he’s a distinguished man and he’s been given a difficult task, but I found the plan he mapped out a little disingenuous.

In essence he said he intends to take his committee around Wales to take the pulse of the nation, hear the arguments, take evidence, and then form a view about the way ahead.

But isn’t that exactly what the Richard Commission did?

He plans to fill his committee (not quite sure what makes his model a Convention?) with representatives from all the parties and some independent people. Again, I’m sure I’ve seen that approach adopted somewhere before?

Of course, we can’t expect people to support more powers for the Assembly until it has been proved that the existing powers have been fully used, he said.

And – he added – in the timeframe available it isn’t realistic to expect the Convention to recommend anything that is not already on the statute books courtesy of the 2006 Government of Wales Act. In other words, extra members and further powers are off the agenda.

I sat there scratching my head. I’m sure I remember the Richard Commission spending a Million pounds in an exhaustive evidence taking exercise, reaching a unanimous view (including the Tory representative) for more powers, more members and a new voting system.

So what’s point of this new Constitutional Convention? To fill time until conditions become favorable for a successful referendum campaign – which most likely means a Tory Government at Westminster.

Politics will decide the fate of devolution, not some pseudo scientific consultation exercise presided over by the great and the good. That’s stating the obvious, but let’s be honest about it.

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