Have Wales and Rhodri Morgan Been Betrayed by His Party's Rank and File? Labour Members Reject Additional Powers for the National Assembly

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Byline: CARL BUTLER

LABOUR Party members have rejected calls for absolute lawmaking powers for the Welsh Assembly.

They also do not want to see more Assembly Members created.

The biggest ever Labour consultation, on the pounds 1m all-party Richard Commission, rejected its main recommendation.

Plaid Cymru warned it could be the ``ultimate betrayal'' of the Welsh nation.

Labour will today release details and recommendations from its consultation of 1, 800 party members Last night a spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny a reported leak that the rank and file had rejected increased law-making powers by two to one. She said the claim was ``over simplified''.

First minister Rhodri Morgan supports more law-making powers -- but not tax raising powers. Many Labour MPs, however, are hostile to the idea. He has now suggested giving the Assembly more power to vary legislation passed at Westminster as an alternative.

Labour wants Westminster to agree all future legislation on devolved matters should be of the ``framework'' type, giving the Assembly maximum discretion to make its own laws in health, education and the Welsh language.

The Labour government in Westminster would then publish a white paper outlining future options. One would extend framework legislation so the Assembly would also have the ability to amend previous laws in devolved areas. A second option would be for full primary lawmaking powers in those fields already devolved.

And it wants no weakening of the strength of Wales' representation at Westminster.

``To do so would weaken our voice on key issues such as criminal justice, foreign affairs and pensions. Nor would it be in the interests of North Wales to weaken our representation at Westminster when many of the services that many people use are on the English side of the border, '' says Labour.

In March, the commission chaired by Lord Ivor Richard, which took two years to report, recommended the Assembly should be given primary law-making powers by 2011.

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd I wan said yesterday: ``A large section of the Labour Party has always opposed Wales, the Welsh language and Welsh devolution.

``This comes as no surprise to us. If the Labour Party fails to deliver on the Richard proposals on primary powers, then this will be the ultimate betrayal of the Welsh nation and calls into question Rhodri Morgan's leadership. …