Why We Are the Weakest Link; with the Richard Commission Set to Report on the Effectiveness of the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday,Ian Parri Finds Wales Bottom of the Devolution League

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), March 29, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Why We Are the Weakest Link; with the Richard Commission Set to Report on the Effectiveness of the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday,Ian Parri Finds Wales Bottom of the Devolution League


SIX centuries have passed since Owain Glyndaer called together the country's great and the good in Machynlleth to create our first national parliament.

Remarkable politician, warlord and revolutionary he may well have been, with his master plan to create an independent church, university and parliament for Wales,but he was still a good 400 years behind the Manx.

The Isle of Man's Tynwald legislature was established in 979, when the island was a Dependency of the Norwegian crown. It was ceded to Scotland in 1266, and to the English crown in 1405.

But it retained its own government through the turbulent years,and Tynwald is today recognised as the oldest surviving national parliament in the world.

The tiny nation -visible from the North Wales coast on a clear day -boasts one of the most highly developed economies in Europe. Although a dependency of the UK,it has autonomy in virtually all of its internal affairs despite having a population of only 74,000.

While ceding control over defence and foreign policy to Westminster, the government in Douglas remains in charge of all other aspects of daily life, including the police,prison service, criminal justice and income tax.

Recently,prominent academics and politicians once again gathered in Machynlleth to call for the re-establishment of a powerful national forum 600 years after Glyndaer's short-livedattempt.

With the National Assembly derided as a failure in many quarters since its establishment in 1999,many experts feel that its obvious lack of success in so many fields could be put down to its inability to decide on anything without having to strain hard against Mother Westminster's apron strings.

Cardiff's toothlessness was rarely made more evident than when Downing Street dismissively threw out the Assembly's unanimous cross-party ``request'' to nominate St David's Day a bank holiday in Wales.

As the Assembly's ministers get the sack cloth and ashes out whenever it has to plead to London to let it actually do anything, they can but help cast envious glances at other devolved administrations such as the Manx model that nominally come under Westminster's control.

On the sleepy Channel Island of Alderney, with its population of 2,000 people -rather less than that of a small Welsh town -their elected politicians just do what they think best for the islanders and wouldn't dream of asking London for permission.

Alderney is in fact a Dependency of Guernsey,governed by the 12-member states of Alderney, with its own president and chief executive officer in charge of the government. While Guernsey is responsible for Alderney's internal security,health and education, all other internal affairs are matters for the island's own government.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey,in turn, is a Dependency of the UK,but other than for defence and foreign affairs its government is free to run its territory as it wishes.

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Why We Are the Weakest Link; with the Richard Commission Set to Report on the Effectiveness of the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday,Ian Parri Finds Wales Bottom of the Devolution League
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