Referendums in the United Kingdom - Constitution Committee Contents

Letter from True Wales

  We write on behalf of True Wales, the cross-party, cross-sector body opposed to the devolution of full law-making powers to the National Assembly for Wales. Our aim is to ensure balance in the debate about Wales' constitutional future, and to campaign for a "No" vote in the promised referendum.

  We understand that Mr Geraint Talfan Davies, Chairman of the Institute of Welsh Affairs has submitted evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee's investigation of referendums, in which he appears to advocate a change in the law relating to referenda and speaks specifically about the Welsh devolution process.

  In the submission, he states his organisation's argument that "the threshold for calling referendums is already too low, and that it should be applied only to major issues of democratic principle". IWA acknowledges that there is now no going back on the next referendum on law-making powers—already enshrined in the Government of Wales Act 2006 and underlined by the One Wales agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru—but argues that the changes proposed in that Act "are not sufficiently significant to merit a second referendum in little more than a decade." and, "Such evolutionary change of existing structures cannot be said to be a point of principle to the same extent as presented by completely new ventures. Evolutionary change is a constant".

  This change is nothing so random or accidental as evolution. These are deliberate steps set out by politicians and establishment figures for which there is no mandate from the Welsh people. The result of the Welsh Assembly referendum in 1997 (50.3% of the 50.1% who turned out to vote) was so narrow as to require that any change as significant as primary law-making powers should be voted upon by the people of Wales. The political establishment had pledged that law-making powers would not be devolved until a further referendum was held to determine whether such change would have a popular mandate. Nevertheless, in 2006, the Government of Wales Act was placed on the Statute Book, conferring legislative powers and making provision for the establishment of a full Welsh Parliament.

  We believe that the people of Wales have deep concerns that further powers will be a prelude to separation from the United Kingdom since Nationalist politicians in the Labour-Plaid Administration have now openly stated their aim of an independent Wales within twenty years. Though we have also been told by politicians from other parties that devolution is a process not an event, no one is prepared to tell us what the final destination of devolution is expected to be. The vast majority of Welsh people oppose the break up of the UK and we, in True Wales are determined to vocalise this opposition. We believe that the United Kingdom is stronger than the sum of its parts and that Wales is better positioned in the world as an important part of that union.

  IWA has mentioned in its submission to your Lordships' Committee that it would be difficult to formulate the question in the referendum. We in True Wales believe that the only difficulty is that the current mooted question as to whether the Welsh Assembly Government should have more powers devolved now in one fell swoop or gradually, is meaningless. There is no provision for people to express a view as to whether or not they want the Welsh Assembly to be a full law-making parliament, or whether they remain unconvinced by the kind of establishment that the Assembly has developed into.

  Currently the real people of Wales are locked out of the political process at every level of government, and this democratic deficit needs to be addressed. Whilst we are in favour of the devolution of power to the people, our vision as to the role of the Assembly differs from that of the Welsh political establishment, and is set out in the enclosed paper entitled "True Wales Devolution Charter" (enclosed).

  Perhaps the Institute of Welsh Affairs believes that a "Yes vote" cannot be attained, and it is for this the reason that it wants the goalposts to be moved. Conversely, True Wales believes that it is absolutely essential that a referendum should be held to determine how far the people of Wales wish to go in the direction of secession from the United Kingdom. We ask your Lordships to give sympathetic consideration to this view.

12 January 2010

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