Welsh Local Government Association annual conference, Llandudno - Executive Committee Event - 10 October 2008
Date of Event: 10/10/2008
In a session at which the Secretary of State for Wales the Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP, and the Assembly's Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis Thomas also spoke, Emyr shared with the audience his impressions of what devolution has brought, and how this fits into an overall picture of an open and internationally minded Wales. Thinking internationally is crucial, as global issues such as climate change, migration, pollution, terrorism, and energy, have a local impact, and it is often local authorities that bear the brunt of this.
Emyr outlined his view that devolution is more and more accepted by Welsh people. They see and understand decisions being taken by the Welsh Assembly Government in relation to health, education and economic issues.
Yet the process of legislation is complex and not widely understood. Emyr gave 4 examples of points that are perhaps not widely understood among the Welsh public:
- The Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales are now two distinct, separate bodies
- Most legislative decisions, to take forward detailed policy points, are taken by Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government
- Law making powers for the Assembly, to make laws which have the same effect as primary legislation, are currently very limited
- There are different routes available to increase the law making powers of the Assembly, including currently increasing their powers through the LCO process, and the potential, through a process involving a referendum, to transfer a block of powers to the Assembly in Cardiff.
Emyr explained that the work of the Convention is to:
- Bring the issues to the Welsh people and stimulate a debate
- Explain the current powers, and take stock of how the current powers have been used, as it is reasonable for the Welsh public to seek assurance that the current powers have been used effectively if they are considering whether the Assembly should acquire more powers
- Explore whether the public supports the current system for the Assembly to acquire law making powers incrementally, or would support the Assembly acquiring a block of powers (as could happen following a referendum)
- Explore the implications of both the current system and the possibility for acquiring a block of powers following a referendum - for example, in terms of governance or capacity of civil service and legal system
- Capture all arguments and expose to robust scrutiny.
Emyr emphasised that the Convention aims to listen to and consider any view on any aspect from anyone in any part of Wales.
In terms of how the Convention's work is proceeding, Emyr outlined a number of workstreams including:
- Working with 16 stakeholder groups who are disseminating information
- Increasing use of our website and Facebook discussion, with plans to make the website increasingly interactive as the process continues
- Planning work with schools councils throughout Wales
- Inviting interested people and organisations - including the WLGA - to submit formal evidence to the Convention
- An active and multi faceted communications and media strategy to reach "Gwerin Cymru"
- Formal and informal meetings and events on an opportunity basis.
This work is and will be happening throughout Wales, and will continue until July 2009.
Emyr emphasised that it is not his job to argue for a referendum, still less to argue for any particular outcome - that will be for the politicians to consider after the Convention report has been presented to them.
Meanwhile, we want contributions - all contributors can be participants in the Convention.
Emyr also appealed directly to the audience to help stimulate the debate. The Convention wants and needs the involvement and practical support of the WLGA and the authorities it represents, through debates, local authority newspapers, or any helpful occasion.