Welsh Assembly closes in on the right to make laws

Reporter:

Helen Davies

A DECISION on the future role of the Welsh Assembly came a step closer yesterday with the reading of the Queen’s Speech.

A commitment to hold a referendum on granting the Assembly primary law-making powers was announced in the first legislative programme of the new UK Government.

A parliamentary order, including the question voters will be asked, must be cleared before the referendum can proceed.

Last week the Leader reported how Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones wants the Wales-wide poll to be held this autumn.

And yesterday Plaid Cymru said there was no reason to delay the poll.

Plaid’s Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd said: “I am of course pleased that the referendum for law-making powers for Wales is finally one step closer to being realised.

“The One Wales Government is committed to having the referendum before the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections and I would urge the Secretary of State to pursue this as a matter of priority now.”

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan met the Electoral Commission to discuss the timetable for the referendum on Monday.

The Labour-Plaid Assembly Government wants the referendum in October but that could be made difficult by the Commission’s call for a 10-week consultation period to gather feedback on the question.

Mark Isherwood, Welsh Conservative AM for North Wales, told the Leader he thinks an October referendum is unlikely but hopes one will be held in November.

He said: “We need the referendum as soon as possible. If it’s not held by November we get into Christmas and then pre-Assembly elections next year, which we don’t want.”

The Welsh Secretary said the Queen’s Speech removed any doubt that the primary law-making referendum was a priority for the Government.

See full story in the Leader

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