[lg policy] Wales: Assembly ’s bid for powers ‘won’t be discarded’ before election

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 5 15:02:31 UTC 2010

Assembly’s bid for powers ‘won’t be discarded’ before election

Jan 4 2010 by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail

Comments (2)Recommend (13)  BIDS for more powers from the Assembly
will not automatically be discarded when a general election is called,
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said last night. Requests for additional
powers from Cardiff Bay – known as Legislative Competence Orders or
LCOs – have to clear several hurdles at Westminster before being
approved. There had been concerns that the LCOs still in the system
would be lost once Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls a general
election, which must be held by June this year. Once the election date
is known the Government traditionally negotiates with the opposition
parties over how much of its legislation it can pass before parliament
is dissolved, a process known as the “wash-up”.

Orders in Council, the legal category in which LCOs fall, are normally
abandoned at this stage, but Mr Hain said LCOs would instead form part
of the wash-up negotiations.
“There is no way they could be dispensed with as other Orders in
Council are,” said Mr Hain. “It’s been accepted that they go into the
negotiations, and we’re doing our best to get them through the
necessary stages.”  Nevertheless LCOs will have to battle with major
Government bills on financial sector reform and child poverty for
remaining legislative time.

Several LCOs, on issues from domestic fire safety to local government,
are still working their way through the Westminster system, and
Ministers at either end of the M4 are keen to ensure the election does
not mean the whole process beginning again from scratch. Much of the
work involves scrutiny of the proposed LCO by the Welsh Affairs Select
Committee, which has seen its workload increase dramatically since the
system was introduced in 2007. he Conservatives will also be in a
position to influence the wash-up negotiations; in the run-up to the
2005 election they forced a significant watering down of the
contentious Gambling Bill.

Mr Hain said: “The Welsh Affairs Committee has got a large burden on
it, and I’m grateful they have agreed to do what they can. “The Tories
will also need to co-operate...I hope that will be the case.”  The
Neath MP said it was vital that the outstanding LCOs were dealt with
before the election. “If you look at Ann Jones’ LCO on fire
sprinklers, or whether it’s the environment LCO, these are very
important and in the interests of the citizen,” he said. In the coming
months and years the Assembly Government would begin to concentrate on
using its new powers rather than asking for more, Mr Hain predicted.

“The Assembly has legislated really sparingly; there have been a flood
of LCOs to give the Assembly the powers it needs. I think in future it
will be focusing on prioritising its Measures rather than putting in
LCOs for consideration.” The fire sprinklers LCO, proposed by
backbench Labour AM Ann Jones, has been approved by the Welsh Affairs
Select Committee and should receive Royal Assent before polling day.
Much debated plans to transfer control of Welsh language policy to
Cardiff Bay have also been approved by the Commons and Lords, and are
due to receive Royal Assent on February 10.

The LCO system has been criticised for being laborious and complex to
follow, although Mr Hain has argued forcibly that the process has
delivered significant extra powers to Cardiff Bay. The Labour-Plaid
coalition in the Assembly is committed to a referendum on greater
devolution by 2011, with a “yes” vote meaning a Scottish-style
parliament and the death knell for the LCO system.

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