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Law-making referendum winnable, says Carwyn Jones

Carwyn Jones with his cabinet outside the Welsh Assembly Government offices in Cardiff
Carwyn Jones announced his first cabinet after being sworn in

New First Minister Carwyn Jones says a referendum to hand full law-making powers to the Welsh assembly is "undoubtedly winnable".

Speaking after appointing his first cabinet, he said he was keeping "all options open" when it might be held.

He said he was determined to protect public services as a spending squeeze takes its toll on his administration's annual budget of more than £15bn.

Mr Jones is hoping for an early meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Mr Jones was sworn in as first minister by a senior judge on Thursday taking on the job from Rhodri Morgan.

After appointing his first cabinet he said he was committed to the One Wales assembly government coalition agreement with partners Plaid Cymru, which includes the offer of a referendum on primary law-making powers to the assembly.

He said the assembly government had to "look at how we move the process forward".

"I'm committed to the One Wales agreement and we will be working now together to examine the way forward in terms of ensuring that the referendum happens," he added.

Carwyn Jones
I think it's undoubtedly winnable, but obviously the first thing we have to do is to look at the timetable and keep all options open in terms of when the referendum might be held
First Minister Carwyn Jones

"I think it's undoubtedly winnable, but obviously the first thing we have to do is to look at the timetable and keep all options open in terms of when the referendum might be held and that's certainly something we will be doing over the course of the next few weeks."

The All Wales Convention, established by the assembly government, reported last month that a Yes vote in favour of more law-making powers in devolved areas through a referendum was obtainable, but not guaranteed.

'Tough decisions'

Opinion polling for the convention indicated 47% of people would vote Yes in a referendum and 37% No.

Ministers are committed to holding a poll, if it is winnable, by May 2011.

Mr Jones also admitted there were difficult economic times ahead but said Wales would be in a strong position to benefit from the recovery when it came.

During his leadership campaign he promised to increase spending on education by at least 1% above Wales' block grant from the treasury.

"It's going to be tough, but people expect their governments to take tough decisions when times are a lot tougher," Mr Jones said.

Over the next year he said he wanted to "explain to the people of Wales what we will be looking to protect".

Cabinet changes

"That means public services in health and education and while we will have to take some tough decisions over the course of the next year I want to make sure the people of Wales understand the rationale behind those decisions," he said.

Mr Jones revealed two new faces in his cabinet on Thursday.

His Labour leadership campaign manager, Leighton Andrews, joins the cabinet at education, and Carl Sargeant takes on social justice and local government.

In other changes, Jane Hutt moves from education to become minister for budget and business.

Huw Lewis, who ran against Mr Jones for the first minister job, becomes deputy minister for children, while another leadership candidate Edwina Hart remains health minister.

But Andrew Davies and Brian Gibbons are out of their jobs at finance and social justice respectively.



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