Thursday, 2 September 2010

Yes or no

The Electoral Commission have now completed the statutory ten week consultation on the suggested question that will be put to the people of Wales in a referendum on whether the Assembly should be allowed to make laws without having to ask Westminster. The  date for such a vote has yet to be decided. Although all the heavy money is on it being next March. 
Having looked at the original question and as a result of the consultation the Commission have come up with their own form of words.  
The ball is now back in the Secretary of State for Wales's court. For it is Cheryl Gillanr that has the final say. Although she has said she will consult  with Carwyn Jones the First Minister, on what happens next.  The new wording suggested by the Electoral Commission is:-
“The National Assembly for Wales: what happens at the 
The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as: 
the environment  
local government 

In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not 
others. To make laws on any of these other matters, the Assembly must ask the 
UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time 
whether or not the Assembly can make these laws. 
The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or 
welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote. 
If most voters vote ‘yes’ 
The Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it 
has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament's agreement. 
If most voters vote ‘no’ 
What happens at the moment will continue. 
Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 
subject areas it has powers for? 

Although this is an improvement on the original question it still shows that it's  a relatively technical issue that people are being asked to decide on.
It begs the question why do we need a referendum at all. Surely  over paid politicians could have taken the decision without bothering the voters. Clearly not. 
No, we’re going through this rigmarole because Peter Hain had to appease his back benchers at the time the original legislation was going through the House. As a consequence, we all have an expensive referendum to look forward to. A referendum on an issue that most Welsh people think they voted on last time - a law making body in Cardiff. 
If most people think that the Assembly has the powers already, how will the backers of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sides campaign?
My guess that the yes side will push a case that Wales deserves the same powers as Scotland and Northern Ireland and the ‘no’ camp will say that a yes vote will mean more politicians, higher taxes and its the slippery road to independence.
But as both sides are going to have their campaigns paid for from the public purse will the Electoral Commission allow both sides to use our money to deceive us with such propaganda? Will they intervene, to stop any of the two campaigns deceiving the electorate? Time will tell.

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