ONE of the final remaining threats to devolution in Wales will be removed today as the Conservatives drop their policy of offeringa referendum on scrapping the Assembly.
The Tories fought the last general election offering a multi-option referendum, where voters would be asked to choose more powers, the status quo or a return to rule from Whitehall.
It is understood that shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan will confirm that the policy is to be jettisoned during a debate on the Government of Wales Bill, which begins its progress through parliament this afternoon.
The move is in keeping with Tory leader David Cameron's pledge to "make devolution work", and is likely to delight the pro-devolution camp in the Conservative Assembly group.
The Bill itself, which will significantly bolster the Assembly's powers, will also make it even more impractical to reverse the devolution process.
The Tories will nevertheless vote against the Bill. They still want a straightforward Yes-No referendum on the changes, and are unhappy at plans to change the voting system.
The Bill will allow the Assembly Government to draw up its own laws, which Westminster will pass using the fast-track Orders in Council mechanism.
The Bill also allows a move to full Scottish-style powers, but only after a separate referendum.
In a statement, Ms Gillan said, "The Conservative Party takes devolution seriously. We want to take the Assembly forward for the benefit of everyone in Wales.
"We welcome the decision to separate the executive and legislative arms of the Assembly.
"It is only right that the government in Wales, not the Assembly itself, carries the blame for Labour's six years of failure and broken promises.
"What we also cannot accept is a move to significantly increase the Assembly's powers through the back door. This must only be achieved by first gaining the support of the people of Wales through a referendum on the significant increase in powers for the Assembly proposed in this legislation."
Labour is likely to focus on the Conservative position during today's exchanges in the Commons. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, writing in today's Western Mail, says, "It's a test of whether the Tories have really reinvented themselves. Are they now for Wales, or are they against Wales, as they have been for more than a generation?"
He says the idea of a referendum on the Orders in Council procedure in "bizarre", and calls on the Tories to join Plaid and the Liberal Democrats in an all-party consensus on devolution.
Although Labour is confident that discontent on their own side has been averted and the Bill will pass through the Commons comfortably, problems are likely in the House of Lords, where the changes to the voting system are unpopular.
Assembly candidates are to be prevented from standing in constituencies and on simultaneously on the regional PR lists.
But one senior Labour figure said the party was in no mood for compromise.
"We are willing to fight to the death on this," he said.
Lembit Opik, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said his group of four MPs would back the Bill, despite their desire for more devolution, more quickly.
"We're really not happy with some elements, but we want to give the Government the chance to work with us," he said.
"To write it off at this stage would not be appropriate."