Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

'Yes', but not yet, says Plaid AM

Bethan Jenkins
Bethan Jenkins has been a Plaid Cymru AM since 2007

The All Wales Convention is running a series of public events to consider arguments for and against further assembly powers.

We asked two figures on either side of the devolution fence the same key questions to highlight the major issues as they see them. Here Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins insists there is no evidence a referendum on full law-making powers would be lost but says it is not time for a "Yes" campaign just yet.

Why is your campaign so important to you?

I think it is firstly important to emphasise that a "Yes" campaign has not yet been established, that is something that could only happen formally, once the All Wales Convention has concluded. The cross-party group I've been working on is about bringing people together to discuss how a Yes campaign best articulates the reasons we need a 'yes' vote.

What makes you believe many people will take notice of your efforts?

I believe that people in Wales are growing more frustrated at the laborious constitutional process we have to implement to pass the most basic of policies for the good of our communities, and that we are the only country in the UK with such a process.

If a referendum was carried out now what do you think the result would be and why?

I am heartened by the few opinion polls that have been conducted which show a majority in favour of increased powers and I think that reflects the growing confidence of our people in wanting decisions made closer to home. But despite this clear trend, I want all of us who believe in the need for change to work hard for it. I see it as my job to ensure that we make improvements for the people of Wales.

How democratic is it to hold a referendum only at a time when one side believes it can win?

Welsh coat of arms
Bethan Jenkins argues it takes far too long to make Welsh laws

That in itself is democratic because if there was absolutely no desire for further powers then we couldn't be considering a referendum on that issue. The people of Wales are sovereign and it is they who should always have the final say on constitutional change.

Would you be willing to support a referendum even if the evidence indicates you are likely to lose, in order to allow people's voice to be heard?

There is no evidence to suggest that a referendum would be lost and the All Wales Convention is currently in our communities, gauging public opinion. It would be wrong to pre-empt the work of the convention.

If your arguments were to win a referendum would this settle the matter for a generation or more, or would you want further significant changes sooner?

My party has been consistent on the general principle that the people of Wales are sovereign. They decide on constitutional questions and they decide the pace of constitutional change. No politician has the right to say "this far and no further" to the people of any nation.

What is the best example of success or failure under the current system to back your argument?

Nearly two years ago, a process started to get powers from Westminster which would enable WAG (the Welsh Assembly Government) to suspend the right to buy council or housing association properties where there are not enough to go round. Today, we're still no nearer legislating to implement our policy to tackle this serious issue. Such a system is surely unsustainable?

What future do you foresee for the 40 Welsh MPs?

For as long as important decisions are made in Westminster that have an effect on the people of Wales, we need to ensure our communities have strong representation there. But of course, I hope that more decisions affecting our communities will be made closer to those communities.

What question do you think people should be asked in the vote?

"Do you believe the National Assembly for Wales should have primary law-making powers on devolved matters?"

Should people have a chance to vote to abolish the assembly, in order to reflect views fully, and why?

I personally have always favoured multi-choice referenda, and would have preferred us to have had several options in the original referendum in 1997. But I think it is a positive thing that people have a clear choice ahead of them at this referendum, and its pointless re-visiting decisions that the people have already made.

Should people also be able to vote for independence and why?

This is not a vote on independence and the scope of this referendum is limited by the 2006 Government of Wales Act. Some people want to mislead the people of Wales about the scope of this referendum, which shows their inability to formulate constructive arguments on the issue at hand.

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