'Foundations Laid for More Powers'

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Byline: David Williamson

FIRST MINISTER Rhodri Morgan last night declared the foundation stones for more powers for the Assembly are in place.

The Labour leader's remarks in a major speech in Aberystwyth come a week after Welsh Secretary Peter Hain warned against holding a referendum on law-making powers before the 2011 Assembly elections.

But Mr Morgan - whose successor as Labour leader will be named on December 1 - said a decade of devolution had transformed the confidence of the Welsh people.

His speech comes ahead of the November 18 report of the All Wales Convention - established by the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition to assess support for new powers - which is expected to give the green light to a referendum.

Leadership contender Carwyn Jones will today pledge to consult with "AMs, MPs, grassroots members and trade unions" before backing a public vote. Rival AM Huw Lewis has said it would be "reckless and wrong" to focus on a referendum before the general election.

But speaking in last night's Politics Archive lecture at the National Library of Wales Mr Morgan was due to say: "In some ways, this is not the best of times to be considering this question. Public respect for politicians is at a low ebb, and some people argue that times of economic difficulty are not conducive to debate on constitutional issues. So it would not be surprising if we hear siren voices saying 'No, not yet'. But there will be others who offer a more optimistic vision.

"A decade of devolution has laid down the foundation stones for more powers for the Assembly because the people of Wales have developed confidence about Wales' capacity to run its own domestic agenda without making a mess of things. And the support for further powers will be based on our confidence too, about the way we are using existing powers.

"If the citizens of Wales think we are using our powers now to do a good job for them, they will willingly support further powers. …