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Rene Kinzett

Wales, Power and Clegg’s blindspot

June 9th, 2010 by René Kinzett

This week has thrown up some interesting events in the continuing row over when the people of Wales will be able to decide for themselves whether or not their National Assembly should have more powers.

The Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition Government Agreement (these coalitions are all the rage, you know) pledged to hold a referendum on the proposals of the All Wales Convention to seek more powers to be transferred from Westminster to Cardiff Bay this autumn.

However, on coming into office, the new Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan found that the cupboard was somewhat bare in terms of any serious preparations to hold the poll any time before next spring.

Despite Peter Hain’s huffing and puffing that he, as Welsh Secretary, did everything to ensure that an autumn referendum could be held, this week the National Assembly’s Chief Legal Advisor Keith Bush told the Welsh Assembly Government in a report seen by the BBC said that there was “not enough time for the constitutional process to be completed”.

The Wales powers story has also witnessed the first “clarification” to be issued from Downing Street on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. On Monday the Deputy PM told the Commons that the Government did “support a yes vote” in the referendum. Later on in the day, Downing Street officials had to admit that Mr Clegg’s remarks were a “slip of the tongue” and that what he meant to indicate was the Government’s support for the referendum going ahead in the spring of next year. Hmmmm.

As though matters couldn’t get worse for Clegg as far as Wales is concerned, an Assembly Member from his own party has accused the Deputy Prime Minister of having a “blind spot when it comes to Wales”. Peter Black AM wrote in his blog that this blind spot needed to be “corrected soon before it is misinterpreted and used to undermine the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ longstanding commitment to a full law-making Welsh parliament and reform of the Barnett formula”. Nothing like washing dirty laundry in public, is there Peter?

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