What action and by whom?

I was disappointed by Leanne Wood's reaction to today's announcement that the Welsh Government is setting up a commission under John Thomas, the retiring Lord Chief Justice, to look at justice in Wales, and in particular the need for Wales to be a separate or distinct legal jurisdiction. She said the Welsh Government was

"... in danger of talking Wales to sleep with endless commissions".

"Plaid Cymru has argued for many years that Wales should be granted control over its own legal system. The case in favour of devolving policing, probation and justice is already overwhelming. The support of the legal profession for these changes is also growing and their expertise should be heeded. We need action, not another talking shop."

BBC - 18 September 2017

That's all very well, but who does she expect to take what action?

I'm sure she intends to imply that Welsh Labour don't have a policy position on this, but they do. In March 2016, when the Tories were busy pushing through the Wales Bill, Labour published an alternative version which included the commitment to a distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction to be brought in by 2026.

So, if it were up to the National Assembly, Plaid and Labour could have voted this through last year. But of course it's not up to our Assembly, it's up to the UK Parliament in Westminster.

Carwyn Jones then managed to win a considerable internal victory by getting the UK Labour party to include this commitment in their manifesto for the general election in June this year, as I noted here. But, unfortunately, Labour didn't win that election.

So what action does Leanne expect? Clearly, the only ones at the moment who can give Wales what Plaid Cymru and Labour both want are the Tories, so all we can do prior to another Westminster election is put pressure on the Tories to change their mind.

The simple political reality is that the Tories in Westminster won't listen to either Labour or Plaid Cymru. So I find it hard to think of a better way of applying pressure than to get an undoubted legal heavyweight like John Thomas to chair a commission. It's a smart move. And for him personally, it will neatly fill in the gap between his retirement as Lord Chief Justice and becoming Chancellor of Aberystwyth University next year.

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4 comments:

DaiTwp said...

Your point the Tories in Westminster are the only party that can grant Wales a separate legal system is of course correct. I'd agree it is also a strong move by Carwyn Jones to put pressure on them (and the naysayers in his own party) by recruiting a heavyweight to lead the commission. But although Carwyn Jones has been somewhat emboldened of late I'm not convinced he's totally won the argument in his own party yet. Corbyn was quoted quite recently of being unconvinced of the need for separate legal systems while in Scotland, obviously not realising that one already exists there. Regarding Plaid Cymru, it might not be a bad thing for them to distance themselves from the commission so it won't be seen as a nation is the thing for want of a better expression

Michael Haggett said...

I'd agree that there are some in Welsh Labour, particularly the MPs, who aren't fully convinced. And there's no guarantee that what was in the last Labour manifesto will still be in the next one. So, the Commission might well help strengthen Carwyn's position in Labour.

In don't think Plaid should keep their distance. The Commission will obviously invite evidence, and Plaid should offer their perspective. If if they don't, others will.

DaiTwp said...

I think Plaid should definitely submit evidence and would like very surprised if they didn't. But that doesn't stop them from expressing their view that all this should be a done deal by now and the argument should have moved on. As you point out, that may well not be the case and Labour are relatively powerless to do much more about it other than what they are about to do with the commission, but that's politics isn't it? And it might strengthen Carwyn's hand, albeit very slightly, if Plaid are viewed as not playing a major part in the commission

Anonymous said...

Once Labour are returned to power in Westminster the enthusiasm for further devolution will die down, especially now with 'English votes for English Laws' or 'English & Welsh votes'. Welsh Labour MPs will not want to lose their veto rights & UK Labour may depend on Welsh MPs to get their E & W only legislation passed through.
Its a shame that the reduction of MPs for 40 to 29 isn't going ahead anymore.

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