If there is one Labour MP who has stood up for Wales and Devolution it is Newport Westls Paul Flynn and he proved it again last Tuesday attacks Westminster’s treatment of National Assembly legislation in a debate he himself called .
In his speech he decried the constant referral to the Attorney General office of Welsh Bills
But what has happened in Wales has been extraordinary. We have seen the other face of Janus that is looking backwards. That is where the devolution denial is coming from. The Attorney-General’s Office is suffering from an acute case of CPR—it is chronically power retentive in an era of devolution. This is not something that has come about as party propaganda. We have had votes on this. We have been through the whole process. We had a referendum to get devolution in Wales and we had a referendum to get greater powers.
I speak with some pedigree on this because I can fondly recall the day in 1953 when I marched through Cardiff with people from several parties. I had a Labour party banner that said ‘Senedd i Gymru’, ‘A Parliament for Wales’. It did not say, ‘Hanner Senedd i Gymru’. It did not say, ‘LCOs i’r bobl’. It did not say, ‘half-baked policies that can be shredded by a national Government’. It said, ‘A Parliament for Wales’. We still do not have one, sadly. We have a form of democracy, but it is not tax-raising and the limited powers that it has for passing laws have been frustrated at every turn.
We got to the stage where Wales had the chance to make laws on its own soil, not for the first time in history, but for the first time in 1,000 years. Laws were made by Hywel Dda between 942 and 950, and they were very progressive. One stated that if a wife caught her husband in bed with another woman for the third time, she could divorce him and get compensation for the previous two occasions. Women had the right to own land, which was progressive in 942. There was also a law—it is rather better than the bedroom tax and other measures we have now—stating that if a person had passed through three villages asking for food but not been fed, he or she could not be punished for stealing food. That was progressive Welsh legislation, and it should have inspired the Government to realise that, as the great Welsh proverb states: Hawdd cynnau tân ar hen aelwyd—it is easy to kindle a fire on an old hearth. The old hearth was there, because we were law-makers in the past, and good law-makers at the past, and good law-makers
Boldly the Welsh Government put forward their first law, which had the romantic title of the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill. They took it through the Assembly and it became an Act. One would not have expected it to cause an enormous amount of excitement, because it just cleared up a few other laws to allow local government to pass their own byelaws, which they have been doing without trouble for a long time. There was no hesitation and no excitement, but for some reason that modest Bill, the first for 1,000 years to bear the royal Welsh seal, which made it significant, even if its content was not, was opposed by the Attorney-General’s office.
The Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill went through because it was uncontroversial, and there was a little bit of ceremony because we were proud to be making laws in the land of our own country for the first time in more than 1,000 years. Why on earth was it opposed? The First Minister called it a “ridiculous situation that has arisen on what is a totally uncontroversial piece of legislation…The primary policy objective of the Bill is to simplify and rationalise how local authorities make byelaws to deal with nuisances in their areas…So why the UK government has decided to take this to the Supreme Court, at the last minute, is inexplicable.” at that.The Tanned One AKA Peter Hain former Secretary State of Wales who tried to take credit for the referendum that allowed Law Making powers even though he had passed doubt on it and didn't want it called when it did . Tried to deny that the Act that he also claimed credit for was fundamentally flawed
Mr Hain: I am not sure that it is entirely fair for my hon. Friend to put all the blame on officials in the Attorney-General’s office in the way that he graphically described, because it was the Secretary of State in the Wales Office who referred the matter to the Attorney-General. As the then Secretary of State, I was the author of the Government of Wales Act 2006, under which this process took place. I can tell my hon. Friend, and the House, that in no way was that Act drafted and designed to allow for this situation to occur. The drafting of the relevant clause dealt with cross-border issues where there were questions, for example, about rivers that flowed across the border or other environmental concerns about which there might be disputes after a Wales Act had been passed by the UK Government in Westminster. There needed to be a reserve power by which the Secretary of State for Wales could clarify or tidy up anything that resulted from such a cross-border issue. It was never intended to allow the Secretary of State to ride roughshod over the devolution settlement and veto what the Welsh Assembly had decided.But the Secretary of State has done so and seemingly has the powers so you screwed up Peter..
There is no evidence that a Labour Government faced with a Plaid run or lead Assembly would not be as enthusiastic as the Coalition government in frustrating legislation for the spite of it.
And that what these referrals look like to me spite, or perhaps a warning to tjjhe Assembly not to get cocky and know its place.
If the Tories win the next General Election I have no doubt that thetyy will seek to ck=law back powers . What worries me is that apart from Paul Flynn how many Labour Mps from Wales would also like to do this.