Labour to Be Pressed over Assembly Law-Making; Minister to Ignite Constitutional Debate in Party over Extending Welsh Devolution
Byline: Martin Shipton
THE battle for the soul of Welsh Labour has moved into top gear with Assembly Cabinet Minister Carwyn Jones calling for full law-making powers at Cardiff Bay.
In a major intervention to the debate over Wales' constitutional future, Mr Jones will today go further than any member of the Welsh Assembly Government has previously gone in public.
In an exclusive interview with The Western Mail ahead of the publication of a pamphlet he has written for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, the Bridgend AM and Environment, Planning and Countryside Minister argues that:
Primary law-making powers are necessary because current arrangements are holding the Assembly back;
The Labour Party in Wales needs to become a more genuinely Welsh body, with elected politicians from all levels working together coherently;
A review of quangos with a view to scrapping some; and,
A revision of the Barnett Formula that determines how much money the Assembly gets from the Treasury.
Mr Jones's comments come at a crucial time for Welsh Labour, with the Richard Commission on the Assembly's powers due to report soon. Lord Richard is widely expected to recommend more powers for the Assembly and Welsh Labour will hold a special conference in July to decide its policy on further devolution.
A number of Welsh Labour MPs have stated publicly that it is too early for the Assembly to get more powers, and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has suggested that changes should only take place if tangible benefits can be demonstrated.
Mr Jones's intervention is aimed at persuading grassroots Labour members in Wales that the devolution project must be taken further. If the July conference supports extra powers, a commitment could be included in Labour's manifesto for the next general election, due to be held by 2006 at the latest.
Mr Jones told The Western Mail, 'In a world where you have Assemblies and Parliaments in eight UK territories and dependencies, it makes no sense at all for the Welsh body to be the only one without primary law-making powers. If the Isle of Man can make its own laws, why should the Welsh Assembly not be able to? …