Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Sunday, 19 October 2008 12:59 UK

Tensions rise over housing powers

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The assembly government has special concerns about lack of rural housing

A row between the assembly government and Welsh MPs over affordable housing powers in Wales has deepened.

The assembly presiding officer Lord Elis Thomas has revealed he has written to Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.

He has expressed concerns and accused the Welsh affairs select committee of MPs of "anti-devolution sentiment".

The MPs said the Legislative Competency Order (LCO) from the assembly government should be redrafted to be much narrower in scope.

Lord Elis Thomas said constitutionally, it was not a matter for MPs to not go back over policy implications of the proposed orders.

Tensions surfaced last week, with the publication of a report by the select committee in Westminster.

The Welsh Assembly Government wants the authority to suspend the right-to-buy option for council tenants, saying this will help with the supply of social housing stock.

But its bid for legislative competence in this area included acquiring the power to go further and abolish the right-to-buy option.

Assembly ministers say they have no intention of abolishing the right to buy but the MPs say the proposed LCO should not be allowed to proceed unless the abolition power is removed.

MPs have a role in ensuring the request for extra powers does not overstep the bounds.. beyond that, they should get out of the way
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mike German AM

Their report said: "We recommend that the proposed order be revised so that this power is specifically excluded from its scope. We further recommend that the proposed order should not proceed unless this proposed revision is made. "

The MPs said: "The ability of the Welsh Assembly Government to abolish the right to buy/right to acquire should therefore be specifically excluded from the scope of the proposed order, as the committee has received assurance that abolition is not Welsh Assembly Government policy."

They want the ability to suspend right to buy to apply in only areas "of extreme housing pressure".

Lord Elis Thomas told the BBC Politics Show it was a constitutional issue and he believed it was a "product of anti-devolution sentiment among Welsh MPs".

"Measures are clearly a matter for the national assembly and for Welsh ministers to propose."

After the report was published, a spokesperson for deputy minister for housing, Jocelyn Davies, said the assembly government would give a full response but she was "obviously disappointed" the committee "appears to have taken a more restrictive approach to the transfer of powers".

The assembly government said suspending the right to buy will help with the supply of social housing homes.

"Thus far, the LCO has progressed through the UK government with the approval of the relevant Whitehall departments and the Wales Office," said the spokesperson.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mike German said he wants First Minister Rhodri Morgan to take the matter up.

"Dafydd [Lord Elis Thomas] is absolutely right in what he says - 100%.

"It is not the job of the Welsh affairs select committee to restrict the powers requested by the Welsh assembly government. Particularly not on the grounds that they don't like what we may or may not do with these powers in some future time."

"MPs have a role in ensuring the request for extra powers does not overstep the bounds laid down in the Government of Wales Act. Beyond that, they should get out of the way, and let the powers come to the assembly."

The Labour-Plaid assembly government has an aim of trying to build 6,500 new affordable homes by 2011, with particular concerns about rural areas.




SEE ALSO
Council bid to stop right to buy
10 Sep 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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