Right to Cry

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this story in the Guardian:

'Right-to-buy' council house policy reviewed to appease Lib Dems

Exclusive: Key Margaret Thatcher policy could be ended by coalition looking for ways to increase available housing stock

Guardian, 16 September 2010

It looks like the ConDem coalition might be about to put an end to Right to Buy in order to increase the stock available for the increasing numbers on housing waiting lists. And of course, if it ever came to a vote in the Commons, most Labour MPs would be fighting among themselves to be the first into the lobby to vote to abolish it.

So what do we have? We have the LibDems in favour of abolition; the Tories probably prepared to give it up, because they don't want to spend a penny more on new housing than they have to; English Labour MPs keen to hammer one more nail into the undead effigy of Margaret Thatcher ...

... and Welsh Labour MPs?

Ah yes, Welsh Labour MPs. They were the ones that managed to hold up the Housing LCO for a whole three years to make sure that we couldn't even suspend Right to Buy in Wales, let alone get rid of it.

They thought they'd managed to pull it off, too: by leaving it all until it was too late to get it through Westminster in the normal course of business—even though they had a large majority, and could have passed it without trouble if they'd wanted to—in an attempt to point the finger of blame at the Tories for not including it in the wash up. Little did they know that the Tories would not only back down on the LCO ... but they'd think about scrapping the whole policy.

Poor Peter Hain, he must be in tears. He does his very best to stop us in Wales getting the powers to do things better ... but then even the Tories show themselves to be less enthusiastic about the Right to Buy than he and his colleagues in Welsh Labour had been. I look forward to him explaining that the abolition of Right to Buy in both England and Wales is what the Labour Party had really wanted all along. There won't be a dry eye in the House.


I can't wait for March. By finally getting over the obstacle to a proper Parliament that Peter Hain has so carefully constructed, we will be able to move on from his dog's breakfast of a Government of Wales Act 2006 to a new Act. One that will give us the same sort of Parliament that Scotland has had from the beginning.

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Unknown said...

Anything that makes Peter Hain cry makes me happy!

And what about he Badger cull? When it was a Welsh policy, it was monstrous and barbaric, and got quashed by the English courts. But, lo and behold - it is now to go ahead in England! Just like that!

Anonymous said...

Hope Hain reads this, but I'm a bit thrown by the last bit: "The same sort of Parliament that Scotland has had from the beginning"... come again, Syniadau...do you mean "some sort of Parliament, even though its powers will be siginificantly fewer than Scotland has had from the beginning"? I'm sure you've made exactly this point yourself on the blog...?

MH said...

The badger issue is quite amazing, Siônnyn. We developed a fully worked out scheme, with proper controls, which was challenged on the grounds that the legal framework to do it was not properly set out (the area wasn't defined in law). The policy and method was worked out, but we got duff advice from the Counsel General. The good news is that Carwyn Jones is no longer doing that job. The bad news is that he's been finally been given a job at his level of incompetence. The Peter Principle.

It's as if England has seen this and decided that the best policy is to just give farmers a free for all ... i.e. make sure it can't be challenged on a technicality by not setting out any policy or method in detail.

MH said...

Perhaps I should have made myself clearer, Efrogwr. After this referendum is out of the way, the road will be clear to formulate a new Act to replace the GoWA 2006 altogether. Let's call this a GoWA 2012 or 2013.

What we've had so far has been Labour's idea of what devolution should be. Something characterized by asymmetry; an ad hoc solution rather than a clearly thought through set of principles. It has been unfair to us in Wales, but in particular it has been unfair to England. Because Labour are now out of power, I expect the new Act to address some of the current weaknesses. This won't be because either the Tories or the LibDems have any greater sense of overall "fairness" but because they will address the issues that matter to them, and that will balance things up.

So far as Wales is concerned, I would expect the big issue to be financial accountability. It would be unfair to implement even the modest Calman proposals for Scotland without giving the same to Wales and NI. It would be unfair to give power to vary corporation tax to NI without giving the same to Wales and Scotland. It is unfair to impose different national insurance regulations on the three regions of SE England without giving Wales, Scotland and NI the same power. And It would be unfair to do any of these without replacing Barnett with the sort of needs-based formula worked out by Holtham, because any transfer of taxation must first rely on a fair baseline to trade it against.

The matter of the extent of executive and legislative powers is more a tidying-up exercise. The basic principle would be that each country has full legislative powers over those areas that are administratively devolved to it. Strangely (or not) enough, that is what will be asked in the wording of our new referendum question, even though it doesn't reflect what Part 4 of the GoWA 2006 will actually give us.

Currently Wales, Scotland and NI each operate on different "lists" of what is and what isn't devolved. I would expect a move to a more common format, even if (to begin with) the devolved powers aren't exactly the same. But so far as Wales is concerned, I would expect the devolution of police and the justice system to be at the top of the list.


What we have had in Wales so far has been "rolling devolution". Because the initial settlement and its improvement have been deliberately set to give us a bare minimum that is below normal democratic expectations, there has been continual pressure to keep moving on to something fairer. This gives the devolution process momentum, and it's much harder to stop something that's moving. If I were a Unionist, I would take this opportunity to devise a comprehensive and consistent constitutional settlement for the whole UK ... and position it well ahead of the foreseeable democratic expectations. It could then become "established", and it would then be that much harder to get it rolling again in the future. That, for example, is what Spain did after Franco.

I can say this quite safely because I know that the UK isn't going to do it. The new GoWA 2012/13 will give us a devolution settlement that is fairer, but still fall short of expectations. That means the pressure will always be there for more autonomy, and the momentum will not be lost.

Unknown said...

Peter Hain to the right of the Tories on this issue. Unsurprising because his New Labour government refused to change the Thatcherite housing rules which made it impossible for local authorities to deliver significant affordable housing.

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