Monday, 14 June 2010

Half a sentence on Wales

The just love their pageants in Westminster. You'll often see men, and they usually are men, dressed in a colourful uniform more appropriate for a fancy dress party than a parliament. All this is writ large on the occasion of the state opening of parliament.
The Queen turns up with her husband in an up market coach and horses, members of the House of lords in their furs and members of the Commons 'summoned' to listen to the address from the throne. If you were to arrive on this planet from outer space, you'd think the whole thing to be bizarre. Well that's the way it is the English do like their pomp and ceremony.
But far more important, is the content of the speech. Or to us in Wales the lack of content. In the whole speech there was only half a sentence specifically on Wales. The brief reference was to inform us that the government would comply with the request from the Welsh Assembly and grant a referendum sometime within the next eighteen months. Hooray!
Despite the National Assembly deciding by an unanimous vote in the chamber requesting a referendum on more powers it is Westminster's decision in the end. They decide on the timing of the order and as a consequence when the nation decides 'yes' or 'no.'
Interestingly the prime minister said that it was likely that the referendum would take place next year. Why is this of interest? Well because it was as much of a surprise to Cheryl Gillan , the Secretary of State as it was to everyone else.
It was also a disappointment to the Carwyn Jones who heard this, not through the usual channels, but from the press. Embarrassment all round.
Carwyn Jones maintains that it should take place the Autumn. The Secretary of State saying that there was not enough time to consult on the question for this to happen. With the former Secretary of State, Peter Hain, announcing that his officials maintained a few days before he left office that it would be tight to hold a referendum in the Autumn but not impossible. Those very same  officials are now working for Mrs Gillan.
And in truth, with parliament now extending the time that it is sitting by an extra four weeks this summer with political will it would be possible to have things ready for the Autumn.
But with the David Cameron now having expressed his view the hot money is now on the new year being the time when Welsh people will be able to express their views.
The sooner the better. Why? It is not possible for the inquiry on how Wales is funded to be established until  the referendum has taken place.
Wales will be at its loss by delay.

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