Friday 31 March 2017

Western Mail article titled 'Call to create a federal council of all UK nations'

The following piece appeared in the Western Mail on Tuesday 28th March 2017.

The above is based on a more substantial piece accessible on the Institute of Welsh Affairs website titled
 ‘A Constitutional Convention to discuss future arrangements for the UK’

Wednesday 29 March 2017

A Gang of Four: Towards federalism and beyond…

Lord David Owen, Gwynoro Jones, Lord Elystan Morgan and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones share thoughts on the UK Union and the need for a Constitutional Convention before Carwyn Jones, Gordon Brown and Keiza Dugdale meet at the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff on Wednesday 29thMarch 2017 to talk about these issues.

The extent of disunity within today’s United Kingdom is particularly highlighted by the differentiated politics across the four nations, vigorous debates regarding the EU leaving negotiations, recent calls for a second Scottish independence referendum and questions about the post-Brexit situation of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Glyndwr Cennydd Jones, opening,
suggests: ‘For Wales to continue on the present course is to accept constitutional uncertainty and political vulnerability as illustrated by the recent debates on the Wales Bill 2017 in Cardiff and London, as well as the process for triggering Article 50 in the UK Supreme Court. Devomax may rank as an attractive solution to some, but even this does not address the ambiguity and complexity introduced by the general primacy of Westminster and the inherent challenges presented by the unitary state model—accompanied by the now disconcerting shadow of a potentially hard ‘Brexit’ imposed on all four nations.’

Lord Elystan Morgan elaborates:Despite the Devolution of the last two decades the United Kingdom today remains one of the most concentrated systems of parliamentary government in the democratic world.’

‘Today’s Wales Act is deeply flawed and a blue print for failure particularly because of the fact that there are about two hundred reservations—the very nature of which makes the matter a nonsense. Also, a good proportion of the reserved powers in the new Wales Act have resided in Brussels, not Westminster, for many years. When these powers are repatriated as part of the Brexit negotiations, to where should they be returned?  A joint body between Westminster and the devolved governments should be established to explore exactly how one can bring about a settlement that is fair, just and lasting.’

‘For well over a century the debate as to whether a federal structure be created has ebbed and flowed. All creative efforts however have floundered on the grim rock of fundamental disproportion. The fact that England has the vastly dominant share of the kingdom’s wealth and 82% of its population creates an imbalance which makes any federal structure a daunting task. Indeed, only recently I proposed an amendment to the Wales Bill obliging the Secretary of State for Wales to establish a working party on the issue of the possibilities of Dominion Status for Wales as a land and nation, and to report to Parliament within 3 years. The Statute of Westminster 1931 did not create a rigid model of Dominion Status but rather enunciated a principle of immense flexibility and subtleness.’

Gwynoro Jones asserts that 'The Welsh Assembly has been hamstrung from the beginning and has been devoid of the freedom to act with effective powers. I do not blame Nicola Sturgeon for re-opening the conversation on support for independence in Scotland, nor Gordon Brown for suggesting a federal solution for Scotland in the UK. With the Brexit result I believe that the future lies, at the very least, in a self-governing Wales within a federal UK. We should use the repatriation of powers from the EU to establish a new federal state of equals.’

‘However, I am becoming more convinced that an argument can be made for going further. Surely the last thing the people of Wales should settle for in years after Brexit, where maybe new constitutional arrangements are in place for Scotland, is for Wales to be just an annexe of England. Demographics and economic data should not any longer be the defining considerations. There are several nations in Europe with populations similar to Wales and many dozens more independent countries across the world.’

‘We face new challenges in the coming decade where the old arguments and political stances as to the role and place of Wales as a land and nation will need to be rethought.’

Lord David Owen expands: ‘Those of us who supported Brexit were doing so as part of a much wider agenda of restoring our very democracy which had been distorted by the false claim of post-modernism that the days of the nation-state were over. Far from being over, national identity, whether it be Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English deserves to be treasured as a binding force, not a divisive one. It all depends on whether we can find the correct balance. A Federal UK Council, modelled on the German Bundesrat, may achieve that balance.

‘I suggest a Federal UK Council of 68 members that should involve not only Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but also London and the new city regions with devolved powers. Provision would also be made separately for those who live in areas covered by county councils and unitary authorities. No doubt some of these may wish to develop a regional identity which could lead to separate representation.’

‘In light of the Brexit vote, Theresa May has convened talks involving the leaders of the devolved administrations. The Prime Minister could call together this same forum to start an initial dialogue on a Federal UK Council, involving defining terms of reference, participants, and the timing for reporting back from a convention. There are complex questions about what constitutes federal legislation and the nature of the mediation procedures between a Federal UK Council and the House of Commons, all much better agreed under a government-led convention.’

Lord Elystan Morgan explains: ‘A second chamber or a Senate can carry a federal structure amongst units of disparate strengths and size given certain imaginative checks and balances. To this end I would personally advocate a Senate of 70 members for the four nations of the United Kingdom. I do not think that this is in anyway an impediment to the natural patriotism of any one of the four countries of the UK.’

Glyndwr Cennydd Jones underlines the point: There is a clear distinction between the existentialist and utilitarian views of self-government. The former demands more autonomy simply because of a belief that it is the natural right for nations, and the latter considering it as a path to a better society—to achieve the most effective political unit to secure the economic growth and social justice that people deserve..’

'On balance, the progressively sustainable model rests somewhere between a Federation and a League or Union of the Isles. In the crudest of terms, the former option has aspects of a safety net deployed with shared mechanisms for core functions and policy portfolios to support the realisation of economies of scale in delivery, and greater projection of joint interests across constituent nations and the world. The latter option allows for consensus building and negotiation between fully empowered member nations, but with some risk of competitive considerations and disputes holding-up relationships. We should not underestimate our shared concerns, as an island community, in defence, social mobility and trade for which an incline towards Federation would provide constitutional clarity, comfort and confidence.'

‘If we are indeed approaching a crossroads of sorts in our island journey, a thorough discussion of the appropriate alternative models of governance is required through a Constitutional Convention.’

Lord David Owen, Gwynoro Jones, Lord Elystan Morgan and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones agree that in consideration of the fact that we are all intrinsically linked culturally and historically in modern times through shared industrial, political and international experiences, the UK constitutional question prompts a range of responses depending on where one places an emphasis on the economic to social measuring scale.

An alternative way of posing the problem might be to ask how we could better set about empowering the people of these isles from Lands End to Cardiff to John o’ Groats and Londonderry to Caernarfon to Newcastle in improving standards of living and personal fulfilment through a political system and ensuing policies which promote economic success regionally, nationally and globally whilst maintaining internal and external security.

This Gang of Four calls for a Constitutional Convention to discuss future arrangements for the UK, particularly in the current context of repatriating powers from the EU to the Isles. 

Thursday 23 March 2017

The Future of the UK Union—will it survive?

What are the Options?
Increasingly over the last five years or so the issue of the future of the UK Union and indeed will it survive—especially following Brexit—has been a topic of academic, political studies and discourses.

I have endeavoured to collate a list of studies, reports and articles as a reference point to inform people of the issues and options.

It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a start

UK’s Changing Union: Towards a new Union
(Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University: February 2015)

Devolution and the Future of the Union
(The Constitution Unit, University College London: April 2015)

A Constitutional Crossroads: Ways Forward for the United Kingdom
(The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law: May 2015)

Federal Britain—The Case for Decentralisation
(Institute of Economic Affairs: 2015)

David Owen—A Federal UK Council
(November 2016)
View the full pamphlet here: a-federal-uk-council-2   3/11/2016

A Federal Future for the UK—The Options
(Federal Trust for Education and Research: July 2010)

Gordon Brown—A Revolt of the Regions  
(New Statesman: November 2016)

Wales Act 2017

Elystan MorganThree speeches in the House of Lords by Elystan Morgan in relation to Reserved Powers and the Wales Bill and also the consequences of Brexit over such powers.

Professor Jim Gallagher—Britain after Brexit: Toxic referendums and territorial constitutions (October 2016)

Constitution Convention report
(Institute of Welsh Affairs: April 2015)

David Marquand—selection of articles

David Melding AM (Institute of Welsh Affairs: 10/7/2009)This is a collection of essays by David Melding AM—an examination of the Welsh nation, an analysis of the response of the Conservative Party and that of all parties to devolution, and concludes with a signature essay, Will Britain survive beyond 2020?

Adam Price AM—Why independence for Wales is not an idle fantasy
(Wales Online: March 2017)

What Might an English Parliament look like—Consultation Document
(Constitution Unit, University College London: November 2016)

Centre for English Identity—The Centre for English Identity and Politics, led by former MP John Denham, is developing a cross-disciplinary programme of lectures, seminars, conferences. To increase understanding of the forces driving English identity and dto evelop ideas for how it can be inclusive and forward-looking.

Open Democracy—Article with numerous links included among them the policies of the three main political parties on English devolution (May 2015)

The Silk Commission—Commission on Devolution in Wales - also known as The Silk Commission - was established by the UK Government in 2011 to look at the future of the devolution settlement in Wales. As part of their terms of reference, the Commission looked at Wales's financial powers and legislative powers and made a number of recommendations in two final reports.

Crowther/Kilbrandon Royal CommissionThe Commission was appointed by Royal Warrant in April 1969. The first chairman was Lord Crowther and on his death in February 1972 he was succeeded by Lord Kilbrandon. The Commission's terms of reference were: to examine the present function of the central legislature and government in relation to the several countries, nations and regions of the United Kingdom, to consider whether any changes are desirable in those functions or otherwise in the present constitutional and economic relationships between the various parts of the United Kingdom and in those between the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The report of the Commission (Cmnd. 5460) was published in November 1973 (HO 221/294). Two members of the Commission produced a minority report, the Memorandum of DissentHO 221/295

Minutes of evidence before the Commission, published and unpublished written evidence, circulated abstracts of evidence, research papers, warrants of appointment, majority and minority reports, minutes of meetings of the Commission and constitute specialized groups of members and staff, together with policy papers—can be viewed on the following link:

In chapter 9 the report discussed the dissatisfaction with government which is common to the people of Great Britain as a whole. The link below to chapter 10 considers how, in some parts of the country, the nature and extent of that dissatisfaction are influenced by national feeling and by the existence of national institutions. We start with a brief enquiry into the nature of national feeling and the different forms that it may take. We then trace the development of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist movements in favour of political separation from the rest of the United Kingdom and assess their significance. Finally, we consider the ways in which less extreme forms of national feeling affect people's attitudes to the present system of government.

Continuing Gwynoro's life story 1967 - 69

Video 17 - 1966 By election aftermath

The Labour Party in Carmarthen was devastated and lost heart for quite a while;
First task after being selected as candidate in Aug 1967 was to change all that - as will be explained in Video 18;
But the Labour Party in Wales was despondent and shaken;
Realised that they had made a mistake on two counts - not replacing Megan Lloyd George of the March 1966 General Election and also chose the wrong candidate in Gwilym Prys Davies to contest the by-election;
Also had been complacent for too long - ageing membership and elderly MPs;
S O Davies, Arthur Pearson, Ness Edwards, Elfed Davies, Cliff Williams and others;
Bad results were to follow in the party's heartland soon after Carmarthen

Video 18 - How did Labour react? and how his career moves on

Of course other disastrous by elections results followed in the Rhondda and Caerphilly and they were in many ways far more devastating on the morale of the party. Its heartland and stronghold was being seriously challenged. 
Explains how Labour - responded tactically;
Made moves towards indicating devolved administration was a possibility - hence the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission, noises etc;
Describes working in his frirst job with Ina Needle Bearings in Llanelli and the Wales Gas;
Refers to Mervyn Jones 'Jones the Gas' who later became chair of the Tourist Board;
Then the period in the summer of 1967 how he was approached about suggesting he should be a Labour candidate - 'but you wont win of course';
In between time in the process of getting married;
Explains how the campaign to win was planned and pays tribute to his agent Ivor Morris;
Describes the level of campaigning that was involved including Noson Lawen's with the young Max Boyce, Triban and 'Ifan' performing. 
By 1969 became Research and Public Relations Officer for what was then the Welsh Council of Labour.

Friday 10 March 2017

Gwynoro’s life story moving on - early days in Cardiff University 1962/3 and recollections of Carmarthen By-election 1966

Cardiff University 1962/3

Big change: describes how going to Cardiff in early 60’s was like going to London now! Took almost 3 hours to go by bus! In fact in the first instance his father had to take him by car to catch an N & C bus to Cardiff from Briton Ferry

Friends from the village in digs and University - Eric Hamer, Arwel Davies and Mel George; Very enjoyable times.

Describes the digs and being near Ninian Park. The days when John Charles and Ivor Allchurch were there as they were coming to the end of their playing careers;

Playing rugby for Tumble RFC and missing a cup final game through his own fault

Carmarthen By-election 1966

Talks about his involvement in the Labour Party in Cefneithin and at constituency level in Carmarthen.

Present at the selection meeting in 1966 when Gwilym Prys Davies was chosen instead of Denzil Davies.

Denzil was incomparable better but Gwilym Prys had the votes of the unions - miners and transport workers.

The problems during the campaign itself where people did not understand Gwilym Prys with such a North Wales accent.

The story of Lady Megan's illness ( altho' Gwynoro got his dates mixed up between 1965 and 1966!!)

If only the Labour Party had not only chosen the right candidate for the by election or what was more important the March '66 General Election - Gwynfor Evans would not have been heard of in Carmarthen politics other than on the County Council - he would have been just another 'also ran' as in Meirioneth and Aberdare.

The twists of fate.

Monday 6 March 2017

Why are elected Welsh politicians - in Parliament and Assembly - very silent on what happens to so many powers that currently reside in Brussels when we leave the EU

Thankfully in the House of Lords - led by the legal mind that is Elystan Morgan’s -  Dafydd Wigley and Jenny Randerson have also been raising the point forcibly
Years ago, a very famous Welsh statesman said, “Why look into a crystal ball when you can read the book?”. We know exactly what happens when Wales and England deal with each other in that way. It is not the basis of partnership and equality at all.
The cobwebs of colonialism still exist in the relationship between Wales and England, I am afraid.

Jenny Randerson:-
Many of the powers that will be repatriated from the EU, relate directly to the powers already devolved to these Governments, Parliaments and Assemblies, including agriculture, health, environment, consumer rights—a long list. So there should be no assumption that the UK Government will inherit these European Union powers. Many of them will more suitably sit at devolved level, and that discussion will have to be taken.
The Government have a perilous path to tread in a very sensitive situation. If they do not tread that path carefully, they will find they are on the slippery slope to Scottish independence and could be on a slippery slope to further turmoil in Northern Ireland

A very sensible Government would use the repatriation of powers from the European Union to establish a new federal state of equals, and a new UK could emerge out of this division and turmoil

This is Elystan Morgan at his legal and political best

Image result for Images of Elystan Morgan‘In order to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom, the reality of devolution and the  harmony between the various constituent parts of the United Kingdom, respect should be   shown by the mother parliament to the parliaments of Wales, Scotland and Northern  Ireland.

Those are political and social considerations; the matter that I wish to propose is in no way contrary to that but runs parallel. It is a constitutional point. It is a marvellously simple constitutional point, and I think I can deal with it in very short compass. It concerns the reserved powers constitution that Wales achieved under the Wales Act which became law a few weeks ago. The purpose of that Act was to change the whole pattern of devolution for Wales from a conferred pattern of devolution—bit by bit over the years, a confetti type of development—to a reserved powers constitution.
It is axiomatic as far as a reserved powers constitution is concerned that two matters should be dominant. The essence of a reserved powers constitution, as we appreciate, is that there is a transfer in the first instance of the totality of power from the mother parliament to the subsidiary parliament, but that at the same time there should be a reservation of a strict number of exceptions and reservations. It is axiomatic, therefore, that two conditions must prevail. First, the mother parliament must be seized of all the legislative power and authority that is relevant to the situation. That is obvious.
Secondly, the mother parliament must be cognisant of the powers that it has and must be in a position to know exactly where to draw the line between that which is transferred and that which is reserved. Neither of those conditions exists in this case.
Why is that so? I remember a piece of dog Latin that I learned many years ago when I was a law student in relation to the sale of goods: “nemo dat quod non habet”—no man can give that which he does not have. Nobody can transfer that which they do not have. When it came to the question of deciding what powers Wales should have, the mother parliament did not have a mass of those powers that are relevant to the situation. There is a huge area that is missing. It may be 25%; it may be 30% or 40%. It is massive in relation to the totality of legal authority. That authority was missing from 1 January 1973, ever since the European Communities Act 1972 came into force.
It never was with the mother parliament to dispose of. It could not possibly give it to Wales, or to Scotland for that matter—in Northern Ireland, the situation was entirely different, because its constitution goes back to 1922.
What, therefore, is to be done?
The following matters have some relevance, broadly. Of course, there is the question of the Sewel convention, which has been written into both the Scotland Act and the Wales Act. That will have its effect gradually over the years. There is also the question of the joint ministerial committee, which meets in confidence and is able to discuss in a situation of total secrecy matters which are of the utmost importance to the mother parliament and the devolved parliaments.
There is also the question of protocols, which was greatly promised in the late 1990s when legislation in relation to Scottish and Welsh devolution went through but has been as dead as the dodo, I am afraid, and should be revived.
That is why I have proposed that the Prime Minister and the First Minister for Wales should be responsible within a period of two months for forming a body that will look carefully at the situation to determine:
first, what is the scope of legislative authority that is missing here;
secondly, what is the nature of that authority;
thirdly, what entrenched rights—what established rights—have come into being in relation to that since 1 January 1973; 
 lastly, what situations are there where there has been legislation under the 1972 Act which has been deemed to be incompatible with the European instruments. That is a very substantial job, and I suggest that the period that I have nominated of 12 months is not unreasonable in the circumstances.
Many people will say that this is not necessary and that Wales from Cardiff and the Westminster Parliament from here can negotiate at arm’s length. I do not believe for a moment that that is possible.
We have seen exactly over the last few months when we were dealing with the Wales Bill how almost impossible it was to persuade Parliament that much of what had been reserved was utterly trivial and was an insult to the Welsh nation. Things such as sharp knives, axes, dogs, licensing, prostitution, hovercrafts—all those matters which scream for domestic consideration—had been reserved.
Years ago, a very famous Welsh statesman said, “Why look into a crystal ball when you can read the book?”. We know exactly what happens when Wales and England deal with each other in that way. It is not the basis of partnership and equality at all.
The cobwebs of colonialism still exist in the relationship between Wales and England, I am afraid.’ 
In her address to the Scottish Tories the Prime Minister indicated that she has every intention of retaining the key powers to Westminster and not the devolved Parliaments.

So over to you Welsh MPs and AMs - have you got it in you ? For the sake of Wales