Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Assembly 'argy bhaji' on the menu

Sir Emyr Jones Parry
Sir Emyr Jones Parry chairs the All Wales Convention

A group considering the future of Welsh devolution invited people out for a curry as they launched a major examination of public opinion.

Wednesday night's All Wales Convention open meeting in Port Talbot was the first of 22 events across the nation.

Its members are considering arguments for and against further assembly powers ahead of a possible referendum.

The panel, chaired by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, is due to report to the Welsh Assembly Government by the end of 2009.

14 January - Neath Port Talbot: Seaside Social & Labour Club, Port Talbot
15 January - Bridgend: McArthur Glen, Bridgend
5 February - Caerphilly: Castle Cwrt shopping centre, Caerphilly
25 Feb - Conwy: Venue Cymru, Llandudno
26 Feb - Gwynedd: Deiniol Centre, Bangor
26 Feb - Isle of Anglesey: Newborough Community Centre, Anglesey (1830 GMT)
4 March - Ceredigion: Venue to be confirmed
5 Mar - Carmarthenshire: Venue TBC
6 Mar - Pembrokeshire: Venue TBC
10 Mar - Swansea: Venue TBC
24 Mar - Powys: Venue TBC
1 April - Torfaen: Venue TBC
2 Apr - Rhondda Cynon Taf: Venue TBC
22 Apr - Denbighshire: Venue TBC
23 Apr - Wrexham: Venue TBC
23 Apr - Mold, Flintshire: Venue TBC
13 May - Merthyr Tydfil: Venue TBC
14 May - Monmouthshire: Venue TBC
4 June - Newport: Venue TBC
10 June - Vale of Glamorgan: Venue TBC
11 June - Blaenau Gwent: Venue TBC
25 June - Cardiff: Venue TBC

The group used the lure of one of Britain's favourite meals, famous for its bhajis, poppadoms and spicy flavours, to inject a little heat into the debate on the future governance of Wales.

The invitation on the convention's website read "join us for a curry and tell us how you think Wales should work in the future". About 80 people accepted.

The Welsh assembly's law-making powers increased two years ago under the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

The act allows for primary powers after a referendum.

Sir Emyr called the meetings and other evidence gathering sessions "a unique opportunity between now and August for the people of Wales to ask if the current powers... are enough or whether it is the right time for Wales to take the next step towards full law-making powers".

He stressed that the convention's "mission" was to "meet, talk and reach out to every corner of Wales and inform people in a clear fashion of their chance to join in the debate, and to explain the options to them in a way which resonates with everyday life".

The first meeting was at Port Talbot's Seaside Social and Labour Club, although the venue has no links to the Labour party, despite previous reports.

Ordinary voters key to convention

A convention spokesperson said it was arranging "a wide range of different types of public engagement events at a diverse range of venues".

"Whether it is a social and labour club, out-of-town shopping centre, rugby clubhouse or a meeting of a local mother and toddler group, our aim is to simply go where the people of Wales go," the spokesperson added.

Curry and rice (generic)

Why curry? "We wanted to offer something that would appeal to the majority, spice up the event and warm people up on a cold January evening."
So who's making it? Jags Catering in Swansea
What type and how spicy? Jags' own recipe - and medium hot
What will it cost? It will be free for those who stay for the meeting, and is costing the convention 6 per head (including rice and poppadoms)
Source: All Wales Convention

The man who took the legislation through the House of Commons, former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, expressed support for the commission's work but warned that the role of political parties was crucial to the success or failure of a referendum campaign.

"It will be won or lost on whether there is a political agreement between the pro-devolution parties... to actually believe that they can win a referendum, " he said.

Mr Hain said there was "not enough support to win a referendum now, or for the next few years, in my view".

"I want to see a referendum win, there is no point in calling one to lose it.

"And I will not support a referendum unless I'm clear we can win it, which we can't do for the next few years".

All Wales Convention open meetings will continue to be held in all Welsh counties, ending in Cardiff in June.


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