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Posts Tagged ‘referendum’

I know you’ve been on tenterhooks to find out what the Welsh Affairs Select Committee has said since I trailed its report last night.  MPs on the committee have been working out what extra powers the Assembly has gained since 2006 when the last big change to the constitutional set-up came in the Government of Wales Act. They think fellow MPs should know exactly what powers they’re offering to give away to Cardiff Bay.

Their answer? A lot. In fact, whilst steadfastly refusing to make a judgement on the merits or otherwise of a Yes vote, the committee says that the end result of the referendum process could mean “significantly enlarging the legislative competence of the National Assembly.”

All of this is by way of an overture to a big week in Parliament for the referendum. MPs vote on the various technical orders making a referendum possible tomorrow and Wednesday. The Lords do the same on Thursday. And if both houses say yes, then the last person to have their say-so is the Queen who’s expected to make her decision in the next Privy council meeting which is thought to take place mid-December.

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It was businesslike, if not actually downbeat, and only lasted 20 minutes.

And yet today’s vote in the Assembly was one of those rare moments when politicians of all parties put aside their differences and voted unanimously. Rare enough to be described as ‘historic’ by several AMs and ‘significant’ by others.

They were voting on a motion which kickstarts the legislative journey of the long-awaited referendum which, in the event of a Yes vote, would streamline the Assembly’s ability to make laws.

There had to be consensus though because today’s vote required a higher-than-usual majority in the Senedd chamber; at least 40 of the 60 AMs had to agree.

And agreement hasn’t always been on the cards as the First Minister Carwyn Jones alluded to when he said ‘I think it’s fair to say it’s not been an easy journey to get to this point’.’

But there has to be a lot more agreement won yet. Both houses of parliament must give their approval and then the Queen must give her gloved thumbs up in a meeting of the Privy Council not expected until mid December.

So how close are we to seeing official Yes and No campaigns up and running? Some distance yet, it seems.

I gather Yes and No campaigners have been invited to meet the Electoral Commission on Friday (in separate meetings!) to find out more about becoming the official campaign on either side of the argument.

Whichever is designated ‘lead campaign’ will get £70,000 from the Electoral Commission to set up offices and hire staff.

But that decision won’t be taken until mid-January, leaving just four or five weeks for the official campaigns to persuade the people of Wales to vote Yes or No.

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