Sunday, 15 November 2009

What has Sir Emz got up his sleeve?

Posted on This is My Truth on November 15th

So Emz (as he's known to his friends) will deliver his big report this week.

I've set out my own views on the All Wales Convention Convention, and on the points they've been considering. More important is the question of what will flow from the report. The worst kept secret in Cardiff Bay seems to be that the Convention will encourage AMs to trigger a referendum. I'm sure it will flesh out what the latest YouGov poll showed, that the referendum is winnable but not yet won. But might Sir Emz go further?

The former UN Ambassador teased us with his comment that people will be surprised by the "extent of its recommendations". What's he got up his sleeve? I wonder if he'll suggest that the devolution settlement go beyond the 2006 Government of Wales Act?

The One Wales agreement commits Labour and Plaid to "proceed to a successful outcome of a referendum for full law-making powers under Part IV as soon as practicable, at or before the end of the Assembly term".

A Yes vote based on the powers in the Government of Wales Act would improve the devolution settlement, but it would still be messy. By moving from Part III to Part IV the Assembly would have the power to pass laws without recourse to Westminster in areas devolved to Wales. But there would still be 'jagged edges' (to use the words of the Richard Commission). There would still be gaps and some ambiguity over what AMs can and cannot do.

A far more sustainable model would be to replicate the Scottish model where the areas reserved to Westminster are clearly set out and the rest is for Holyrood. But that does not seem to be an area where the Convention can examine - if it sticks to its terms and conditions. But if I am corresctly interpreting Sir Emyr's hint, it may be something that they have decided to do anyway.

And why stop there? Even the practiced fence sitter Glyn Davies suggests that the range of devolved powers should be extended.

If we are going to have a referendum it should settle the question for a generation. Much as Peter Hain tried to claim that his clever fix did that, I suspect it was said more in hope than expectation.

I fully expect Sir Emyr's report to be nuanced, but that doesn't preclude a measure of boldness...

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