Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 13:47 UK

Launch of assembly power debate

Members of the convention in Cardiff Bay on Monday
The convention met at the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay on Monday

The 16 people leading a convention to measure public support for full law-making powers for the Welsh assembly have held their first meeting.

All Wales Convention chair Sir Emyr Jones Parry has called for an open approach with all arguments considered.

But Labour AM Huw Lewis has queried what the process can achieve and warned that people inside and outside his party questioned the need for it.

The convention is a key commitment of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition deal.

It is intended to prepare the ground for a referendum on full law-making powers for the assembly.

Convention discuss new powers

Labour and Plaid, who have been in coalition in the Welsh Assembly Government since last year's election, have agreed that vote should be held "at or before" the next assembly election in May 2011.

The job of the 16-strong convention executive committee, drawn from all Wales' regions and main political parties, is to gauge public opinion and explain the current powers available to AMs.

As well as being a former deputy minister, Mr Lewis is also a likely contender for the Welsh Labour leadership in September 2009, when First Minister Rhodri Morgan has indicated he will stand down.

Sir Emyr Jones Parry
Chair Sir Emyr Jones Parry
Joan Asby, Narberth, Pembrokeshire Chief officer Planed enterprise and development group
Nicholas Bennett, Cardiff Chief executive Community Housing Cymru; Welsh Language Board member
Sally Hyman, Port Talbot Retired head teacher; chair RSPCA Cymru
Shereen Williams, Newport Director of the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisation in Wales
Aled Edwards Faith Forum
Laura Hayes Funky Dragon, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Harry Ludgate CBI Wales
John R Jones Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Anglesey
Paul O'Shea Wales TUC
Shân Ashton Wales Women's National Coalition
Rhodri Evans Young Farmers Clubs
TBA Welsh Local Government Association
Alex Aldridge Labour
Marc Phillips Plaid Cymru
Paul Valerio Conservative
Rob Humphreys Liberal Democrats
The membership is made up of public appointees, nominations from Welsh organisations and main political parties.

Writing for the BBC news website, Mr Lewis describes the convention as an "unprecedented opportunity to reconnect people with politics".

But the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM goes on to say: "There are those inside and outside the Labour Party in Wales who question the need for such a convention at this time.

"As someone who is currently engaged in a backbench bid to devolve more powers to the assembly (on buses and coaches) using the new Government of Wales Act, I have some sympathy with that opinion.

"We are after all talking about changing the Welsh devolution settlement before we've really tested the new powers".

Mr Lewis warns that, unless it is clear what further powers are needed for, it is "reasonable to ask if we are putting the cart before the horse".

He warns that the convention will "have to involve some real examples of why further powers are needed to make Wales a better place to live and do business - only then will popular support be assured in any future referendum".

'Reach out'

In a statement before the executive meeting, Mr Morgan said the process would be "fundamental to stimulating meaningful public debate on the crucial issue of Wales' law-making powers".

"We have succeeded in forming an impressive committee of members, made up of talented individuals who are well placed to reach out to people across Wales," he said.

"They will ask the big questions about the legislative process in Wales and spell out to the assembly government what the people of Wales have to say about law-making in Wales, now and in the future," Mr Morgan added.

Sir Emyr, a former British ambassador to the United Nations, also writing for the BBC news website, said he wanted to hear from "all the arguments and considerations" and stressed that the convention was "open to everyone in Wales".

He urged people to get involved in the debate.

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The All Wales Convention met for the first time in Cardiff Bay.

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