Introduction to the All Wales Convention by Sir Emyr Jones Parry
So what is the All Wales Convention about? Well it’s an opportunity for the people of Wales to tell us what they think about law making, and who they think should be making those laws. I understand that this may sound a little abstract or 'academic' but it’s important that we understand how our laws are made, as they are being made in our names.
There’s no getting away from the fact that law making is complicated. It is not easy to understand fully the different terms and processes involved, but we can begin with the basic principles.
So how are laws made now? In a nutshell the National Assembly for Wales can only pass laws, called Measures, in certain devolved policy portfolio areas, called Matters. The list of Matters is quite short at the moment, but new Matters can be added with the agreement of the UK Parliament. So, at present, there is an incremental approach with the Assembly gradually increasing the policy portfolio areas where it can pass Measures. This approach is what is set out in Part 3 and Schedule 5 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.
Alternatively, there is the potential for a process by which the National Assembly would gain full law making powers in a package of devolved policy areas, which would pass automatically to the National Assembly, if the people of Wales, in a referendum, voted for that transfer. This would mean Parliament's agreement would no longer be needed on a case by case basis. So this can be thought of as a more of an "all at once" approach; it is set out in part 4 and Schedule 7 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.
It will be for the Convention to stimulate and facilitate a debate in Wales on the two different approaches, and to advise Ministers on the arguments which the people of Wales consider relevant to each.
The Executive Committee of the All Wales Convention comprises 16 people plus me - eight from key organisations across Wales, four from the main political parties and four chosen from those who volunteered. It was a pleasure to be involved in recruiting the committee members, the candidates were exceptional and it was very difficult to select the final 16. The final result seems to me excellent; the committee members come from all walks of life, have a range of experiences, qualities and talents - they are a thoroughly interesting bunch! I think we've achieved good balance and I am confident that we have the right mix of people who will be able to engage with all sectors of Welsh society. We are all looking forward to getting to know each other and to working together.
Whilst it will be the committee's responsibility to steer the work of the Convention and write the final report, participation in the work of the Convention will be open to anybody who wishes to engage in the debate. My aim will be an open approach, open to all the arguments and considerations, and open to everyone in Wales. It’s your opportunity to tell us what you think about Wales’ future. We want to hear your views and opinions - please get involved!