The Welsh Referendum (Part 1) – What’s it all about?

There’s much talk about the House of Lords on-going ‘go-slow’ with the legislation for the AV referendum. The latest obstacle thrown up being the 40% voting turnout threshold. Meanwhile, the ‘Yes 2 AV’ campaign continues with its ground campaign in readiness for the expected d-day of May 5th.

But here in Wales of course, we have another referendum on our mind – the referendum on further powers to the Welsh Assemby in Cardiff Bay.

Referendum Day – March 3rd!

The referendum was promised by the ‘One Wales’ Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition government within the 4 year life-scale of the current government. With only two months of that government to run to we finally get to have our say on the future of Welsh legislative powers. The ‘Yes for Wales’ campaign was officially launched in January as I blogged about here at the time.

At present the Welsh Assembly is able to pass primary legislation (called Assembly Measures) in the 20 Policy Fields for which it is responsible such as health, education and agricultural matters. However, it must first have the power to do so conferred upon it by the Westminster Parliament. Once the power to legislate in certain matters has been conferred, the Assembly has that power permanently.

The LCO (Legislative Competence Orders) process which currently exists to deal with this situation and which Labour brought into being with the 2006 Government of Wales Act, is protracted, bureaucratic and long-winded.

As an example, it has taken three years for the Assembly to get powers transferred from Westminster to reform the organ donation system to give a lifeline to people waiting for a new kidney. Even though the policy is widely supported in Wales the Assembly is still waiting for permission to act.

Why’s it taken so long? Because this is the current drawn-out mechanism that it and other measures have had to go through…

  • Internal discussion on the terms of a draft Order with the Wales Office and Whitehall
  • Draft LCO published
  • Pre-legislative scrutiny by committee at the Assembly
  • Pre-legislative scrutiny at Westminster, usually by the Welsh Affairs Committee in the Houses of Commons and the Constitution Committee in the Lords. Each committee prepares a report and can propose amendments to the draft LCO, as can the Secretary of State if s/he wishes
  • The Welsh Government considers the various responses, and prepares a formal LCO
  • The proposed LCO is considered by the Welsh Assembly
  • If approved by the Assembly, it is then considered at Westminster. It may be considered again by the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, and will also be scrutinised by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
  • Both Houses of Parliament approve the LCO, or not. If approved, it then receives Royal approval.

Fallen asleep yet? Because it’s this kind of ‘cap in hand’ government that this referendum hopes to do away with.

As First Minister Carwyn Jones said on Tuesday this week:

“The Assembly’s present lawmaking system is like Warren Gatland having to send a letter to Martin Johnson asking if he can put Shane Williams in the Welsh team, and then having to send 14 individual letters for the other players as well”.

So why do the Welsh Lib Dems Say ‘Yes’?

Red Dragon / Tick logo on green background with text "Yes for Wales" and "Ie dros Gymru"The Welsh Liberal Democrats, ably led by Kirsty Williams, are supporting and campaigning for a positive result because it has been the long and proud tradition of Welsh radical liberals since the age of Lloyd George to support a full devolutionary settlement for Wales.

As a UK-wide party, we believe in federalism – a strong Wales playing its full role in a strong and united British framework. This doesn’t mean independence for Wales – it if did, I wouldn’t be supporting it and neither would Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Liberal Democrats! It means greater autonomy for Wales to deal with its day-to-day issues in the same way as we would wish local councils to deal with matters that are relevant to our communities at the ground level.

So we’re busy campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in two referendums this spring! I will report back on the progress of this particular campaign in a few weeks time.

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6 Comments

  • Harry Hayfield 14th Feb '11 - 2:08pm

    And (if everything goes to plan) I am hoping to be at the Ceredigion count gathering information from the other 21 counts and would be more than happy to give a blow by blow account of the day (if LDV was at all interested)?

  • “There’s much talk about the House of Lords on-going ‘go-slow’ with the legislation for the AV referendum. The latest obstacle thrown up being the 40% voting turnout threshold. Meanwhile, the ‘Yes 2 AV’ campaign continues with its ground campaign in readiness for the expected d-day of May 5th.”

    I do not see the 40% rule as an obstacle; I do see it as a safeguard
    If the 40% rule is not used in the AV referendum it will be a disgrace and the government/Liberal Democrats should be ashamed, and would show just how hypocritical you have become.

    I am quite shocked… as for Liberal democrats…well to be expected I suppose

  • @Jim

    Trolling much? Just because a vote takes place with less than 40% of the eligible electorate taking part doesn’t make it invalid or illegitimate.

    For example – the latest EU elections had below 40% turnout, council elections routinely have turnout lower and some by-elections have had turnouts below 20%! (http://www.ukpolitical.info/by-election-turnout.htm) These elections are all valid and perfectly democratic, the turnout just represents the number of people with a strong enough opinion to vote. If that’s hypocrisy then I’ll eat my hat.

  • @Chris

    What referendums? I’ve never heard of this and short of independence referendums (or things similar in magnitude) I think any thresholds for referendums undemocratic.

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