PETER HAIN last night delivered a strong rebuke to critics of his plans for the future of the Assembly, telling them - "it's time to grow up".
The Secretary of State for Wales believes the forthcoming Government of Wales Bill will settle the devolution question for a generation, but fears sniping from the opposition parties, which depicts as 'kindergarten poli-tics' may delay its progress through Parliament.
The proposals would see the Assembly, after 2007, draw up its own laws which would then be fast-tracked through Westminster.
A move to full law-making powers would require a referendum, triggered by a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and a vote in Westminster - a scenario Mr Hain believes is some years away.
In an interview with the Western Mail on the eve of the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Hain said the moves were "the most radical piece of legislation any Secretary of State has ever put before Parliament".
He called on Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats to get behind the Bill and head off any Tory attempts to water it down - essentially he's asking them not to throw their dummies out of the pram on the issue.
"I've been looking at the debate on the Government of Wales Bill, and I just think it's time for more grown-up politics," Mr Hain said.
"People have got to decide which side they are on. Are they on the side of a more powerful Assembly leading to full legislative powers in the future, following a referendum, or are they going to muck around playing the Tories' game, thwarting the progress of the Bill through Parliament?"
Mr Hain said he expected the Conservatives to use "every parliamentary manoeuvre" to defeat the Bill, expected to be placed before the Commons in the New Year.
There would not be any changes on the need for a referendum before full law-making powers, he said, nor any shifts on the "principle" of the Bill.
"We are set on a path which, in time, will lead to primary powers, and what we can do is concentrate on policy and the debate in the Assembly. Some of the stuff I've read on this issue is just kindergarten politics, they kind of thing designed to get everyone into a kind of contrived bluster about it all."
He said one concern raised by some Labour figures - that Assembly laws would only be subject to an hour-and-a-half debate in Westminster - was being addressed. Officials are looking at whether a pre-legislative scrutiny stage can be introduced at Westminster, so MPs can examine Assembly bills in detail.
Mr Hain said the "unity" of Welsh Labour MPs on the issue had been "fantastic".
But Plaid's leader in Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd, said,
"We are going to help with the parliamentary process but we are not going to accept a quarter loaf when we could have the whole lot."
Lembit Opik, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said, "Mr Hain surely doesn't think that telling people to grow up is a particularly grown up thing to do. Instead of sulking, perhaps he should be consulting."
David Melding, the pro-devolution Conservative AM, said, "We should move immediately to a referendum on the issue of primary powers and settle the question once and for all.
"The Labour Party's lack of confidence is rather curious and probably demonstrates the divisions within its own ranks rather than a lack of confidence in the people of Wales."