ONE of the leaders of the Yes campaign in the 1997 devolution referendum has warned that failing to give the National Assembly the power to make its own laws will fan the flames of Welsh nationalism.
Richard Livsey, the former MP for Brecon and Radnor who led the Welsh Liberal Democrats at the time of the referendum, has issued the warning in response to Labour's proposed changes to the devolution settlement.
Labour's White Paper proposals fall short of granting the Assembly primary lawmaking powers. Instead, the Assembly would be able to seek permission from Westminster to legislate in narrow areas on a piecemeal basis. Plans for a future referendum on primary lawmaking powers would require a two-thirds majority of AMs and could be vetoed at Westminster by the House of Commons or the Secretary of State for Wales.
Lord Livsey, his party's spokesman on Welsh affairs in the House of Lords, states in his formal submission, "The proposals in the White Paper do move matters forward, but eventually are likely to result in deadlock and dissent between the National Assembly and Westminster. Ultimately, this will fan the flames of Welsh nationalism.
"There will never be a better time to reform the Assembly and replace it with a Parliament similar to the Scottish model. MPs should show far more vision and realise that the granting of primary legislation to the Assembly does not undermine their roles.
"They would have a chance of standing for the Assembly, or concentrating on the affairs of the UK state at Westminster. Surely there is plenty of scope in foreign affairs, the Treasury, defence and other areas of the state to carve out a parliamentary career. There will be a vibrant alternative in the Assembly with parliamentary powers. This will provide a clear and strong Welsh voice with an effective Welsh Parliament.
"There may be fewer Welsh MPs in Westminster, but more power would reside in Wales for the benefit of all our people. The reduction in the number of Welsh MPs should not occur unless and until primary legislative powers are vested in the Assembly.
"The post of Secretary of State must remain right through the establishment of primary powers. The two issues of block grant negotiations and the reform of the Barnett Formula make it imperative that the position of Secretary of State for Wales continues. A possible review of this position would only be made if these two latter issues become resolved."
Lord Livsey expresses serious concern at the lack of Welsh Bills passed at Westminster since devolution.
"I am dismayed that only six 'all Wales' Bills have passed through Parliament between 1999 and 2005. This, I know, has also been very disappointing for the Assembly, and demonstrates the legislative logjam at Westminster.
"In contrast, the 17 England and Wales Bills which have passed through at the same time have highlighted the different priorities in Wales and England. Welsh clauses have littered these Bills, where an 'all Wales' Bill would have been far better.
"The case has now been made for 'all Wales' Bills and has been accepted. Primary legislative powers in the Assembly would, however, produce good Bills, tailored in Wales for Wales.
"Moreover, the throughput of Bills would be much higher, and would meet urgent needs in Wales. In comparison with the new Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly has only been able to pass a fraction of the number of Bills in the same time frame.
"The model of democratic governance proposed in this White Paper is an unsustainable compromise, and would perpetuate the production of hybrid England and Wales Bills.
"There may be a modest increase in 'all Wales' Bills, but the reality would result in the Assembly being unable to produce clear, coherent legislation for Wales. The original 1998 Wales Act (setting up the Assembly) was a compromise. These proposals incorporate yet another.
"Time is not on our side, and Wales deserves better."