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There was a strong Welsh presence in the House of Lords today (Monday) as former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley took his seat in the upper chamber.

From my vantage point in the press gallery I counted at least eleven Welsh peers if you include the new Baron Wigley and his sponsor Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

It’s a Welsh presence that will increase further this week when the former Labour MEP Eluned Morgan takes her seat and next week when the Liberal Democrat AM Jenny Randerson is also welcomed to the red benches.

Outside the Lords’ chamber was a gathering of senior Plaid figures who had joined the party’s three MPs and the new peer’s family to mark the moment.

It’s a sign of how Plaid has changed its mind on the Lords – from boycotting it to engaging with it, in fact celebrating the long-awaited moment.

That’s because the party decided a few years ago that it needs to be involved at every level of government and that staying out of the Lords was counterproductive.

If he felt any unease at being described as the Queen’s ‘right trusty and well-beloved counsellor’ Baron Wigley didn’t show it.

He swore his oath in English and Welsh, prompting a journalist in the press gallery to remark to me that it made more sense to hear that spoken than it did the Norman French which is occasionally bandied about.

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Last night the House of Lords held a vote which could mean that next year’s referendum on voting reform for Westminster elections might not take place on the same day as the Assembly election after all. Details here, here and here. The upshot is the legislation now allows the AV vote to be held any time up to next October. Of course there’s every chance the UK government will be able to overturn the Lords ruling when the legislation returns to the commons. But Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards for one is hoping that it sends an important message. He said

“The Governments of the devolved legislatures have requested a change of date in the interest of democracy – and now the Upper House have supported those calls.

“The UK Government should now urgently re-think its plans and come forward with alternative proposals and a different date for the AV referendum so that the bill can move forward with a greater degree of political consensus when it returns to the House of Commons.”

UPDATE 11.33 7/12/10 I’ve just asked the First Minister for his response to last night’s vote. He said “Our view has always been that it’s better to have the AV referendum on a different date to our elections. That view hasn’t changed.”

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