Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 13:41 UK

Tory MP to campaign for 'No' vote

David Davies
David Davies said he feared independence was the 'next and final step'

Tory MP David Davies has announced plans to campaign for a "No" vote in a future referendum on full law-making powers for the Welsh assembly.

The Monmouth MP and former AM warned a 'Yes' vote would "drag Wales down to Soviet-style poverty".

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne has said party members are free to campaign either way in a referendum.

The assembly government said the All Wales Convention would monitor public opinion on the issue.

But it said a campaign would be needed in due course.

The convention is a key commitment of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition administration intended to prepare the ground for a referendum on powers for the assembly.

'Bitterly divided'

All four party leaders in the assembly are in favour of further devolution.

But Mr Davies told BBC Radio Wales that there would be "absolutely no shortage" of Conservative Party members who would support a 'No' campaign and the same was true of Labour members, including one former MP.

"I would love to have an organisation with a prominent Liberal Democrat, Labour Party and perhaps myself as a Conservative member all jointly running it", Mr Davies said.

He said nobody else appeared to be organising a 'No' campaign and one was needed to balance the influence of those running public sector bodies in Wales who had a "disproportionately large voice" and wanted "full independence".

"I'm afraid that if they succeed in getting full law-making powers for the Welsh assembly then full independence will be the next and final step," he said.

The Liberal Democrats said a 'Yes' campaign was needed urgently

Responding to Mr Davies' announcement, the Lib Dems accused Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs of dragging their feet on the issue and allowing opponents of more powers to make the running.

But Labour AM Jeff Cuthbert said a campaign to increase assembly powers should wait until the findings of the All Wales Convention were published.

Mr Cuthbert also accused Mr Davies of misleading people with claims a 'Yes' vote in a referendum would lead to the break up of the United Kingdom.

A spokesperson for the Labour-Plaid assembly government said the Conservatives were "bitterly divided" on devolution.

"Six months ago they announced that they would review their policy on further devolution for Wales and they still haven't reached any conclusion," the spokesperson said.

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