Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 12:48 UK

Michael on attack in powers row

Alun Michael MP
Alun Michael said there was consensus between AMs and MPs on the issue

Former Welsh Secretary Alun Michael has criticised the assembly's presiding officer for entering a dispute over new powers to provide affordable housing.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas accused the Welsh affairs select committee of "acting contrary to the spirit of devolution".

The MPs said the assembly government should amend the power request it had made to ensure it fitted the policy.

Mr Michael said the committee wanted to give Cardiff the powers for which assembly government minsters had asked.

The assembly government is seeking the power to suspend or abolish the right of council tenants to buy their homes in areas where there is an acute housing shortage.

The legislative competence order (LCO) giving the assembly the power to make laws or measures in this area has still to be laid before parliament.

But the MPs said the order should not be allowed to proceed unless the power to give assembly members the ability to completely scrap council tenant's legal right-to-buy altogether is removed from it.

Mr Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, criticised Lord Elis-Thomas' intervention because he said there was already broad consensus among politicians.

Mr Michael said MPs on the committee simply intended to give the assembly the power it needed to allow ministers to limit the right-to-buy scheme - exactly what the assembly government was asking for.

"I think it is very odd that the presiding officer, who should be above political debate between parties, should be making observations of this sort," Mr Michael said.

Legislate

"Actually there seems to be a good deal of consensus between AMs and MPs from all parties that represent Wales in parliament about these matters."

However Lord Elis-Thomas has criticised the MPs' decision and wrote to current Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy voicing his concerns.

Lord Elis-Thomas insisted that MPs were attempting to override a key principle enshrined in the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

He said the act intended to give the assembly the scope to decide for itself what to do in a particular policy area, once it had gained responsibility for that area through an LCO.

"It seems to me the MPs on this committee are seeking to limit the ability of assembly members to legislate," he said.

"In that sense I believe their move to be contrary to the spirit of devolution."

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.

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