Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 12:53 UK

Call for Welsh laws cut rejected

Inside the Senedd chamber
Both AMs and the assembly government can bid for new laws

The Welsh assembly's presiding officer has rejected calls to cut the number of bids by the assembly government and AMs for more powers.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas dismissed Welsh affairs select committee claims it was in danger of being swamped by requests.

He has written to Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, who has been unable to respond because he is away on holiday.

But Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael said he had "misrepresented" what the committee said.

"I think Dafydd Elis Thomas's comments are both misleading and unhelpful," said Mr Michael, who was the assembly's first leader from 1999 - 2000 before he resigned.

Far from being swamped by more LCOs than expected, the number it has had to deal with has been at the lower end of what was estimated

Dafydd Elis-Thomas

"We didn't say actually that we're being swamped, we said there's a danger of the system being swamped, not just the committee but the assembly, if too many LCOs come forward," he told BBC Radio Wales.

Last month the committee said that eleven proposed legislative competence orders (LCOs) bids in less than one year for the assembly risked swamping the system.

But in his letter to Mr Murphy, Lord Elis-Thomas said this figure was "misleading".

He wrote that only four proposed orders had actually been referred to the Westminster committee and accused it of "raising groundless fears".

Lord Elis-Thomas said since the assembly acquired its new legislative powers in May 2007, seven proposed LCOs were laid before the body, five of which were proposed by the assembly government and two by backbenchers.

But he added: "As the memorandum itself makes clear, only four of these proposed orders have as yet been referred to the Welsh affairs committee.

Lord Elis-Thomas said the figure of 11 was a list of all proposals for more powers which had been announced in the 14 months since the new powers were acquired.

He said that figure included one proposal which hds already been rejected by the assembly itself as well as one whose principle had not yet even been considered.

'Excessive strain'

Two more proposed LCOs - one from the assembly government and another from an AM - have so far only been the subject of announcements and have not yet been laid before the assembly.

"Far from being swamped by more LCOs than expected, the number it has had to deal with has been at the lower end of what was estimated," said Lord Elis-Thomas.

Last month, Lord Elis-Thomas said it was for Parliament to keep up with the assembly and that the system dealing with LCOs would become simpler over time.

In his latest letter, the presiding officer wrote, the assembly's own committees had fully completed consideration and reported on seven actual proposed LCOs, "with no suggestion that this has imposed an excessive strain on the assembly's more limited resources and certainly no claim that the system is being 'swamped'".

In conclusion, Lord Elis-Thomas assured Mr Murphy that he emphasised "my wish, and the wish of the National Assembly, that the new legislative arrangements are made as effective as possible."

But Mr Michael said the presiding officer was focusing on minor detail.

"The most important thing, and this report says it, is that we can gear up for more LCOs but it needs planning and preparation because the quality of the process is important."

"What's happened up to now is that both the assembly committee that has considered the LCO and the House of Commons committee have actually improved the measures that have been coming through."

"Concentrate on the good news that's in the report from the select committee and the constructive suggestions that are made there, because they come from people from all four parties who want to make the system work," he said.

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