Is the AWC describing the Referendum options clearly?

Cymru Yfory yesterday issued a press release to make public a letter they had sent to the All Wales Convention, taking issue with the way it was presenting the options in the Referendum on primary lawmaking powers to the public:

     Cymru Yfory Letter
     Cymru Yfory Press Release

Please read both in full, but the central point at issue is this:

Sir Emyr told the audience that if a referendum was held, the people of Wales had two choices. The first, he said, was to do nothing and wait for extra law-making powers to gradually devolve from Westminster. Alternatively, voters could decide to transfer extra powers in one go.

BBC, 21 April 2009

He is indeed technically right to portray the choice in this way, but in practical terms what he describes as "gradual" devolution of lawmaking powers will take decades, if indeed it ever does, to deliver the range of lawmaking powers that we would get if we vote "Yes" in the referendum.


To add to Cymru Yfory's criticism, another point that I would take issue with is the AWC's reference to "full" law making powers. Even their most basic statement of the choice involved says:

Options for devolution

The options are either to retain the current powers or to move towards full law making powers, which would require a referendum.

AWC Website

To use the term "full" implies that voting "Yes" in the referendum would give the Assembly the ability to legislate on any matter it chooses, but that is very far from being the case. In the first instance it would only give the Assembly the power to legislate in the twenty areas for which it already has devolved administrative responsibility, but (and more importantly) even within those twenty areas there is a huge raft of exceptions and exclusions set out in Schedule 7 of the GoWA 2006.

In my opinion it would be better to use the more accurate term "primary" law making powers (within limits already agreed with Westminster) rather than "full" law making powers.

So although Cymru Yfory has rightly pointed to the AWC using language to imply that the status quo is delivering more than it actually does, it also seems to be using language to imply that what we will get if we vote "Yes" in the referendum is more far reaching than it actually is.

Bookmark and Share

Recycling Targets ... the power to enforce them

In the news today is the very welcome announcement of higher recycling targets for Wales.

     Wales Online, The green land of no waste by 2050
     BBC, Recycling target of 70% by 2025

Of course this is a complete no-brainer. I doubt if there's anybody who thinks we can continue to dump so much waste on landfill sites. The only issue is what to do instead.

Then I read my regular email update on the progress of LCOs from the Assembly. (There's a page on the Assembly website that shows the current state of all LCOs, and there's a link at the bottom to register.)

Right at the top is the LCO on Environmental Protection and Waste Management, which is described thus:

The proposed LCO would confer further legislative competence on the Assembly in the field of Environmental Protection (Field 6 within Schedule 5 to the 2006 Act). New powers in this Field will enable the Welsh Assembly Government to bring forward proposals for Measures with the aim of creating sustainable communities. Three specific areas in which these powers will be used are: improving local environmental quality, increasing recycling and improving waste management; and strengthening pollution controls.

Just to the right is a timetable of progress. This LCO was part of the very first batch of LCOs announced in June 2007. It chugged slowly through the system until November 2007, and then just got lost in the long grass. Only now has Paul Murphy finally agreed to refer it to Westminster ... and it's anyone's guess how long it will take to get through the various committees there.


It's a simple fact of life that most people do things either because they're easy or because they're cheap. It is easier to simply dump waste than recycle it. Any government needs "teeth" in order to get local authorities and commercial operators to change their behaviour. The reason we are seeing a number of proposed waste incineration schemes is simply down to one factor: Westminster decided to raise landfill tax by a huge £8/tonne to £32/tonne. But incineration is simply the next easiest/cheapest solution. It isn't good, it's just slightly better.

And sadly, by concentrating on the wrong things, a more widespread use of incineration is actually likely to reduce the amount of recycling, as reported in the Wales Online story:

Friends of the Earth campaigner Haf Elgar said the [70%] 2025 target was “totally achievable”.

She said: “It’s already been reached in some regions, such as San Francisco and Flanders, and surpassed by community projects such as the zero waste village of St Arvans in Monmouthshire. However, we’re very disappointed that the toxic bottom ash from incinerators will be counted towards the recycling target in Wales.

We’re deeply concerned about the Welsh Assembly Government’s support for incineration, and the proposals for large-scale regional incineration in Wales. Incineration is not climate-friendly, and it’s well established that building incinerators can negatively impact recycling rates.”

Recent proposals to build incinerators in Cardiff, Barry and Merthyr Tydfil have attracted controversy.

I would say that one of the main reasons the Welsh Government has had to look to things like incineration is because they wanted, but didn't have the ability to legislate on, better targets for recycling.

One more example of the LCO process failing to deliver something totally uncontentious that the Assembly could have passed legislation on back in 2007. We've had to waste (sorry) all this time trying to persuade Labour in Westminster to allow us to do it.

Bookmark and Share

Where I stand on the EU Profiler

Thanks to Simon Dyda on Ordovicius, I have just tried out the EU Profiler. As this blog is new, I thought it would be good to share where I stand politically with my new readers ... at least I hope I'll have some new readers!

Things came out pretty much as I expected:





Someone once described me as Plaid Organic, and I'm happy with that description. If I didn't vote Plaid, I would vote Green.

As you can see form the first graphic, the EU profiler puts Plaid and the Greens almost equally to the left. I wouldn't describe myself so much as left wing ... Plaid describes itself as a "decentralist socialist" party, and I put slightly more emphasis on the first word than the second.

According to the profiler, the big difference between Plaid and the Greens is the attitude to Europe. I don't see it so much that way. I am very firmly pro EU, but I also want its member states to be the level at which most legislation is decided, and I want Wales to be one of those member states in its own right. I believe in a Europe of distinct nations which have come together because we share broad common values. There's not much point in Wales being independent if it is subsumed into the EU instead.

Bookmark and Share

Alun Davies puts himself up for Blaenau Gwent

From the BBC website and Betsan Powys' blog we have two angles on the news that Alun Davies intends to fight to become Labour candidate for his home constituency in 2011.


I find this a very interesting story. Because Labour do badly in first past the post elections in Mid and West Wales they are nearly always guaranteed a couple of top up seats for their 20% of the vote there (Plaid's vote is up in the mid-30s). So Alun Davies is perfectly safe where he is.

Yet it is also true to say that Labour is in a mess in some of its "taken for granted" strongholds, and nowhere was this more eloquently demonstated than in Blaenau Gwent. Labour's greatest problem is its local structures and heirarchies. In too many instances they are a carry-over from the days when Labour reigned supreme in the Valleys .... with the result that timeserving, rather than ability, was the way to get to any position of power. Blaenau Gwent was more "Old Labour" than most, and therefore had the guts to rebel when New Labour started to try and reform the party by imposing a "new broom" candidate.

The problem is that Peoples Voice have shown themselves remarkably unable to come up with an alternative. Apart from the mantra, "we are fresh, new, exciting and the voice of change" (which is how ANY group will portray itself) PV have come up with nothing new or radical. It's very hard to figure out what their policies actually are, and the only one that I remember reading of was their plan for free public transport ... something which they lifted from the Scottish Socialist Party, probably their closest political equivalent.

What they certainly could not do is make any headway at local level. At the local elections last year, PVBG won only 5 seats. Labour won 17. All the signs indicate that the seat is there for Labour to win back, but Labour must get its act together in order to do it.

And that of course leads to this question: What Labour? For there are two very different versions on offer in Wales, one in favour of more devolution, and one very much against. All the signs are that the local party is in disarray, so someone like Alun Davies could be just the person that is needed to give the local party a new sense of direction ... one that is focussed more on Wales than Westminster. That would be good.

But on the other hand Labour does have a habit of swallowing its victims. When Alun Davies defected, he probably did so with a 50/50 mix of hunger for power and a sense of disillusion that people in Wales could ever get more self-government than the Labour Party in Westminster was willing to give us. However the clear indication from the polls is that the people of Wales now want far more devolution than Labour in Westminster is prepared to give us:

• a 13% margin in favour of primary law making powers
• a Senedd with law making AND tax setting powers is the most popular of the various models for governing Wales
• an agreement that the Senedd should have more influence over our lives than Westinster by a margin of nearly three to one

If Alun Davies still has enough conviction to fight for these things then I'll put his defection to one side and wish him well for the sake of Wales. Of course I'd prefer to see Plaid elected, but in Blaenau Gwent that's probably a long shot.

Bookmark and Share

RWJ, the Tories and the Referendum

I have a great deal of respect for Richard Wyn Jones, and I'm certain that we both share the same enthusiasm for a successful "Yes" vote in the referendum on primary lawmaking powers. But I do want to take issue with him on what was reported as saying in the Western Mail

Assembly referendum could force issue for Tories

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, told a conference organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs that he expects the required two-thirds majority vote to be passed by the Assembly in December next year.

Wales Online, 25 April 2009

The crucial issue is timing. He has said before that he regards 2012 as an ideal time to hold the referendum. Fair enough. I'm sure part of his reason for saying that is because of the likely make up of Westminster. It is almost certain that there will be a Tory government following the next election, and they are almost certain to pursue policies that the majority of people in Wales will not have voted for. In 2012 they will be in mid-term. Most governments are at their most unpopular in mid-term ... the honeymoon period will have worn off, but they won't want to put out their "sweetners" until closer to the next election.


So let's look at what happens if the first part of Dicw's scenario comes to pass. All three parties, Labour, the LDs and Plaid will come together to vote the referendum through in the Assembly with the required two-thirds majority. The reason will be simple. The Tory Secretary of State for Wales will be able to veto any requests for legislative power that the Assembly might make. On top of that, the Tories will be able to make life hard for the Assembly in other ways. Of course Labour could have done that too but they had no need to ... they could just have a quick word in Rhodri Morgan's ear and get the desired result without appearing to be heavy handed.

But what will the Tories do? I have no doubt whatsoever that they will say no to a referendum. Why on earth would they say yes? The Tories are certain to have their own ideas about what is good for Wales, and so they will do all they can to ensure that their policies are carried out in Wales. That means keeping as much control as possible at Westminster.

And to think that the Tories would repeal or amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 to allow us to move to Part 4 and the list of powers in Schedule 7 is, to put it bluntly, cloud cuckoo land thinking. They could do it in theory, but they won't do it in practice ... and Dicw knows it, why else would he say they would just "muddle on"?

The mistake he is making is to think that the Tories could be "forced by the Assembly to allow a referendum." There is no way the Assembly could force Westminster to do anything. The only pressure that we could influence would be to try and shame them into saying yes. But does that tactic work? Of course not ... they will be as impervious to being shamed into doing something as Labour were when people tried to shame them into granting a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.


Politics is about power. No political party will willingly give up power. The only way we in Wales get the referendum will be at the point when the party in power realizes that it is about to lose the next election. Labour must act while they are still in power. They must pass the legislation for the referendum before May 2010, although the date of the referendum itself will be later.

If Labour miss this chance we won't get the referendum for a long time. This Blair/Brown government will have been in power for 13 years. The Thatcher/Major government was in power for 18 years. So there is every possibility that the next Tory government will last for two or three terms.

Bookmark and Share

76% want goods and services advertised bilingually

An interesting piece of research on attitudes to bilingual policies is in the news today.

Mae arolwg yn awgrymu bod mwy na thri chwarter pobl Cymru (76%) yn credu bod cwmnïau'n hysbysebu eu gwasanaeth neu gynnyrch yn ddwyieithog yn bwysig.

Holodd cwmni Beaufort fwy na 1,000 o bobl dros 16 oed ar gyfer yr arolwg.

Dim ond 11% oedd yn ystyried eu hunain yn rhugl yn y Gymraeg. Ond roedd 82% yn dweud fod y Gymraeg yn rhywbeth i ymfalchïo ynddi.

Dywedodd 81% eu bod yn credu bod hyfforddi staff i ddysgu Cymraeg yn bwysig.

BBC, 27 April 2009

In a nutshell it says that:

76% ... consider it important for companies to advertise their products or services bilingually

82% ... said Welsh was something to be proud of

81% ... said they believed training staff to speak Welsh was important

The survey was conducted by Beaufort, who asked a sample of 1000 people over 16. As 11% considered themselves fluent in Welsh (compared with Language Use Survey data of 12.12%) it would appear to be a properly weighted survey.

At the end of the report Meirion Prys Jones of BYIG is quoted as saying that, in the last few months, both HSBC and Nat West have introduced some web pages in Welsh. I've just checked that, and have to admit that I can't see anything. Entering searches for "Cymraeg" and "Cymru" brings up no results.

Does anybody who uses either of these banks know any more about this?

Update - 22 May 2009

Although there was no link in the BBC story, the survey is almost certainly from November 2008, and is available here.

It might be worth noting that the actual wording of the questions was:

•  If an organization wants to offer customers bilingual services, how important do you think it is that an organisation should ensure their marketing materials and advertisements are bilingual?

•  How much do you agree with [the statement] Welsh is something to be proud of?

•  If an organization wants to offer customers bilingual services, how important do you think it is that an organisation should ensure that staff training is available so that staff can learn Welsh?

There were many more questions in the survey, which I've written about in more detail here, here, here and here.

Bookmark and Share

Caernarfon Criminal Justice Centre

The new Criminal Justice Centre at Caernarfon has just opened.


    BBC 23 April 2009

Obviously the old courts were hopelessly inadequate so this, and of course the expansion in size, is going to enable Caernarfon to function properly as the main centre of justice for North West Wales. That's something good.

It is also, I think it's fair to say, one of the main reasons why the outskirts of Caernarfon were chosen as the location for the new prison in North Wales, as talked about here.



It's easy to be pleased with any new building just because its new, and it certainly seems to have all the right facilities. Yet it does strike me that this is by no means as good a building as it could have been. The interior in particular seems very bland; the exterior, although not so bad in abstract terms, doesn't appear to sit very happily on the site.


Judging from this shot, it is enormously bulky. The architects have done what they can to break up that bulk, but the top section and rear extension, which must both surely be visible from miles around, is a jumble.

However my main disappointment is that there is no sense of civic "presence". It's a building on one of the main roads out of the town, but it's just sitting on the street like any office building would. The chance to create its own focus as a public place which is simply nice to be in has been lost.

Some of this will obviously be down to the fact that it's a PFI building (CityHeart), but most of it is simply down to trying to squeeze too much onto a site that isn't really big enough for it. For that reason there's no room for any proper external public space: a square or courtyard with some sort of landscaping, a fountain or sculpture.

It's just one big ramp to get you up to the front entrance, which just faces the road. But the only reason why anyone needs to get up that far is probably because there's so much that had to be put into the lower floors.


Whatever, it will be a fixture in Caernarfon for many years to come and, in case anyone thinks I'm being too critical of it, it's obviously far better than the County Court building on the other side of the road.


Sirol, but sadly not Siriol.

Bookmark and Share