Opinion: four party government – Wales and coalitions (part 1)

The Welsh Assembly is in a unique situation. Each of the four parties represented there are in government at some level. Whilst the Liberal Democrats have entered government in Westminster for the first time, Labour and Plaid Cymru are in their final year of coalition government in Cardiff Bay.

This has made for interesting Plenary sessions with both the Welsh governing parties intent on blaming the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives for long-standing problems, whilst we are intent on continuing our scrutiny of their record.

The Coalition Agreement contained three specific provisions relating to Wales. One of these concerned the drawing down of legislative powers over housing. This was left-over business from the previous Labour Government. They had failed to get it through before the General Election and it fell during the wash-up because the Conservatives opposed sections of it. The Tories did not want to give the Assembly the power to legislate on the right to buy.

There are some who believe that this was a tactical failure. Labour could have found time for a vote if they had wanted to but there were Labour MPs who were also unhappy and maybe they thought that they could use Tory opposition to their advantage to brand them as an anti-devolutionary party.

When it came to coalition negotiations the Welsh Liberal Democrats asked for this legislative competence order to be included unamended and it was. However, despite that there was a still a wobble. There are no Liberal Democrat Ministers in the Wales Office and an attempt was made to amend the order. This though, was soon overridden when Ministers were reminded of the terms of the agreement.

Peter Black AM
Welsh Liberal Democrat Housing and Finance Spokesperson

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