Friday, 3 July 2009

Compulsive arguments

After giving evidence to the All-Wales Convention last week, I noted that I wasn't entirely sure how to read some of the lines of questioning. Was Sir Emyr merely playing devil's advocate, or were his questions telling us something about the way he's thinking?

As a follow-up, there were aspects of his article in yesterday's Western Mail which left me wondering whether he isn't trying too hard to give the impression of a finely balanced debate. I thought his summary of the arguments for and against the implementation of Part 4 of the Act was a reasonable one; but I do wonder how anyone can really believe that the arguments, in the form expressed, are "equally compelling" on both sides.

His summary of the arguments against which have been presented to him seems to boil down to:

It needs more time for the current system to bed down (a 'compulsive' argument, apparently, although on reflection, that's probably a better description than 'compelling')

• The current system is now starting to work

• Letting MPs scrutinise what the Assembly wants to do is the right way to proceed.

For me, that just shows how weak the arguments for the current system are in reality; they are all readily dismissed. The third, in particular, seemed to amount to an argument as much against the principle of legislative devolution as the timing.


Anonymous said...

the All Wales Convention was always a smokescreen, if you believe that strongly in more powers both Plaid and Labour should have started a YES Campaign and been out into the communities over the past few years making the arguments. Now you are relying on a Tory Government at Westminister too put the fear of God in to people over job and public service cuts which you hope will transalte in to a Yes vote in a referendum rather than doing the spadework, its a repeat of the mistakes the YES for Wales Campaign made. Relying on others is not a good way of encouraging support from the public for the devolution process.

On Sir Emyr Jones Parry himself he seems like a good man, but he’s a diplomat and is trained not to offend, so he wont come down hard on one side or another of the argument i thought that was a given.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...

Interesting post.

I have mixed feelings to be honest.

I am convinced that the enacting of the powers being offered in the referendum could occur without a public vote, as they are already present in the 2006 GoW Act. The real public vote should be delayed to be asking people whether Wales should move towards Scottish style powers.

Now that may well lead to cries of ‘fix’ from opponents, but my worry is that this referendum doesn’t really solve the crux of the debate, and another referendum will need to be called for almost immediately. We cannot keep having referendums to tidy up technocratic holes in the current legislation process.

Gareth Orton said...

The real public vote should also be on the issue of whether people want to get rid of the assembly altogether. I think some politicians would be vey surprised at the high level of public dissatisfaction with the institution.

Spirit of BME said...

I am with Mr Orton.
I have finishesd reading (there a good libery up here)Margery Forester`s book -Michael Collins -the Lost Leader.
The Election of 1918 saw Sinn Fein absent themselves from Westminster,she writes " the departure from Westminster lost an advantage ...,the power to have a voice in Britain`s own affairs .Such privilege is a poor substitute,however,for the right to govern one`s own country".Time to close down HMG in Wales and go for the real thing.

John Dixon said...


I am certainly not relying on a Tory Government in London to "put the fear of God" in people as a basis for winning a referendum, although I have argued that the prospect of a change in the government in London ought to be a reason for entrenching the powers of the Assembly before it happens.

And actually, I agree that both Plaid and Labour should be doing more to sell the advantages of a clearer more workable settlement.


I agree that a referendum on Scottish-style powers would be a more meaningful and constructive process. It would be a great deal eaiser to explain why we were having a referendum at all, as well as spelling out the advantages more clearly.

Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, for reasons which were and remain largely internal to the Labour Party, GOWA 2006 includes a provision that Part 4 cannot be implemented without a referendum. As I understand it, that could not be changed without further primary legislation - and I don't see Westminster (under a government of either colour) being willing to make that change. I'd prefer not to be starting from where we are; but we can't ignore facts.

Gareth Orton,

I accept that there are still a number of people in Wales who would like to abolish the institution. In the Conservative circles in which you move, that may appear to be a large number - but outside the ranks of that party things have moved on a great deal.

I recognise that the majority of members of the Conservative Party in Wales would support your view - but if they believe that the people of Wales agree with them, why not be completely honest and commit to it as a policy?


In the sense that both of you want to abolish one level of elected government, I suppose that I can just about see how you are "with Mr Orton".