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Port Talbot public event, 14 January 2009

Welsh Assembly Government

Port Talbot public event, 14 January 2009

How do you see your Assembly working in the future? Get involved, the time is now.

The big public debate on the future direction of the National Assembly, whether to stick with the status quo or to seek changes in current law-making powers, takes to the road next week with the first of a series of 22 open public events organised by the All Wales Convention. The launch event will be held at Port Talbot’s Seaside Social and Labour Club on Wednesday 14th January, between 6.30-8.30pm.

The All Wales Convention, chaired by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, is a totally independent and politically neutral body.  It was established to analyse the arguments for and against extra powers and in turn stimulate debate, encourage engagement and raise awareness amongst the people of Wales to the nationwide consultation which runs until August 2009. Following the consultation period, the All Wales Convention, made up of 16 Executive Committee members alongside Sir Emyr, will present their findings by the end of 2009.

Sir Emyr Jones Parry said:

There exists a unique opportunity between now and August for the people of Wales to ask if the current powers available to the National Assembly are enough or whether it is the right time for Wales to take the next step towards full law-making powers.

Everyone’s view is valid. We as the All Wales Convention are not arguing for, or against, any particular standpoint with regard to the Assembly’s powers, or as to whether a referendum should be held.

However, there is a strict time limit on this debate – between now and August.  If people chose not to get involved in the debate once fully aware of its implications, then that is of course their privilege – I will be happy that they have been consulted and given the opportunity to get involved if they wish. 

Our mission, therefore, is to meet, talk and reach out to every corner of Wales and inform people in a clear fashion of their chance to join in the debate, and to explain the options to them in a way which resonates with everyday life.

However the situation is not an easy one to grasp and is genuinely very complex – what isn’t often realised is that, in those areas where policy is decided in Cardiff rather than in London, it is the Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government who take most of the decisions. There is a very limited power for the National Assembly to make its own self standing laws – that is, law which starts in Cardiff, is considered in Cardiff, and applies to Wales, but doesn’t result from any other legislation.

While, currently, there are only limited powers for the Assembly to pass laws, it can acquire more powers with the agreement of the UK Parliament.  So, there exists a mechanism for the Assembly to acquire law-making powers bit by bit, and the transfer of each new power has to be agreed with Westminster on a case by case basis.

There is another option – which would only come into play if a majority of the Welsh population agreed to it in a referendum.  This is that the Assembly would acquire law-making powers in a range of 20 policy areas, which are already defined in an act of Parliament. All those powers would come straight to Cardiff, all in one go, so that the Assembly could make laws in those areas without recourse to anyone else – but only if a referendum is held, and a majority vote in favour.

These are essentially the options we are seeking to discuss through these public events and many other means of communication, the basis of what we hope will be an informed and engaging debate in Wales.

Information on attending the public events can be made via the events hotline on 02920 694997.