Friday, 27 February 2015

The End of February Agreement

I refuse (like Welsh Labour) to follow the media and call it the St David's Day Agreement, but there is no doubt that it moves forward Home Rule for Wales, something which Liberals have called for since the days of David Lloyd George. The official pdf is here.

There will be more knowledgeable  and considered  commentary on the whole of the Agreement elsewhere, so I will restrict myself to just a couple of reactions:

First, the devolution of responsibility for  larger (but not the largest) energy developments to Wales will reduce the conflict between planning authorities and the Department of Energy in London, which has been able practically to enforce consents.

Secondly, the UK Government is still minded "to consider the case and options for devolving further powers to the Assembly over Air Passenger Duty" in the face of opposition from English regional airports. This power has already passed to Scotland, but it seems to me that this particular devolution militates against an ecological improvement which could be made to APD, namely levying it per plane rather than per passenger as at present.

Finally, there is the fact that Whitehall is happy to give up extensive powers over elections in Wales.

This includes "deciding the electoral system; the number of constituencies, their boundaries and the ratio of regional Assembly Members to constituency Assembly Members; the timing of elections and therefore election terms; matters relating to the requirements of candidates to stand for election and the conduct of the elections themselves; and the circumstances in which a sitting Assembly Member can be removed [...] The Assembly should have control of campaign expenditure by political parties, controlled expenditure by third parties and party political broadcasts in relation to Assembly elections."

This means that unless Labour is dislodged from government in Cardiff Bay, we can forget about fair votes in local elections, which the Scots have enjoyed for  a number of years. There is also the danger of losing what proportionality there is in the National Assembly.

Fortunately, the regulation of political parties, including donations to political parties, will remain reserved.

One good thing is that we may see the lowering of the voting age to 16 in Wales.

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