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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK
Labour accused of power review 'delay'
Rhodri Morgan addresses Labour Party conferences delegates
Rhodri Morgan is accused of 'lack of leadership'
The Labour Party is facing accusations from opposition parties of delaying an inquiry into the powers of the Welsh Assembly.

The Richard Commission has confirmed a deadline next summer for submission of evidence from parties in Wales - after the May assembly elections.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru president
Ieuan Wyn Jones: 'Running scared'

The Liberal Democrats - Labour's coalition partners - have accused Labour of being split over upgrading the assembly's powers to match those of the Scottish Parliament.

Plaid Cymru president Ieuan Wyn Jones said the commission's credibility had been "seriously undermined" and accused Labour of "running scared" from the real issues.

And leader of the Conservatives in the assembly Nick Bourne said Labour's request process was "extraordinary" and he accused First Minister Rhodri Morgan of showing a "lack of leadership".

The commission was set to draw a close to the submissions process at the end of October, but Labour asked for the delayed deadline, fuelling speculation about party divisions.

Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament: 'Divisive issue'

But Welsh Labour has said it wanted a delay in order to carry out an all-member consultation.

Lord Richard - a former Labour Cabinet minister - will be reviewing exactly how the three-year-old assembly operates and its election process.

The body met for the first time at the end of September, when former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies - dubbed the architect of devolution - gave evidence, claiming the structure of the assembly was "creaking".

The Lib Dems accused Mr Davies of "fudging" the assembly's powers and said Labour was "brushing under the carpet" divisions of boosting the assembly's powers.

Now political parties now have until July to submit their evidence.

'Hiding divisions'

Welsh Liberal Democrat president Rob Humphreys said: "The inadequacy of the assembly's powers is a difficult issue for Labour.

"Some of their MPs are still firmly opposed to any devolution whereas some of their AMs are all for the same powers as the Scottish Parliament.

"No wonder Labour wants to brush the issue under the carpet, hiding its divisions until after May's elections."

In his commission evidence, Mr Davies said 60 members would not be enough for the assembly to be able to handle more powers, and suggested the possibility of 80 constituency-based seats in Wales and fewer MPs at Westminster.

Commission timetable

The letter informing the commission members of the request for a delay came from the commission secretary, Carys Evans.

It stated: "I am writing to let you know that the Commission has received a request from the Welsh Labour Party to submit its evidence after the Assembly elections next year.

"The commission has agreed to this and has asked me to write to the other political parties represented in the Assembly to offer them the same timetable if that is how they wish to proceed.

"I have suggested a deadline of 15 July for submissions to be received in order to allow sufficient time for the Commission to consider it before formulating its conclusions in the autumn of 2003."

A later statement, said: "The Richard Commission has not yet published a consultation timetable.

"It's not the case that anyone has sought an extension to a deadline because none has been set.

"The Commission is not favouring anyone on this - it has offered exactly the same timetable to the other political parties.

Labour AM Carwyn Jones
"Compared to the smaller parties, the Labour Party membership is quite big, it does take time fo consult everybody."
See also:

20 Sep 02 | Wales
19 Sep 02 | Wales
09 Apr 00 | Wales
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