Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Carwyn Jones accused of 'dithering' on power referendum

First Minister Carwyn Jones AM.
First Minister Carwyn Jones will be sending the letter on the referendum

First Minister Carwyn Jones has been accused by Conservatives of "dithering" on preparations towards a referendum on further powers for the Welsh assembly.

Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne made his claim when it emerged that Mr Jones had not yet sent a letter asking for the process to begin.

That was a week since the assembly voted to trigger the process.

But the assembly government has now said the letter will be sent to Welsh Secretary Peter Hain "within 24 hours".

A spokesperson for the assembly government declined to comment on why it had not been sent within the previous seven days.

This letter should have been sent immediately... the National Assembly gave a clear and unequivocal decision last week
Nick Bourne, Welsh Conservative leader

Before the confirmation that the letter would be sent, Mr Bourne said: "I'm beginning to think there are some shadowy figures within the Labour Party who want to stop this referendum from happening at all.

"Carwyn Jones told me that time is of the essence on this issue, yet the government he leads has had three years to sort this out.

"This letter should have been sent immediately. The National Assembly gave a clear and unequivocal decision last week.

"The first minister needs to stop dithering and get on with it."

Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said an efficient and pro-active government would have had the letter drafted and ready to send immediately following the vote.

She added: "In the spirit of cross-party co-operation, my office is more than happy to draft the letter to the secretary of state if it means things can get moving."

Tight timescale

AMs voted by 53 to zero on Tuesday, 9 February, in the so-called "trigger" vote to start the formal process towards holding a referendum on further law making powers for the national assembly.

Under the Government of Wales Act, the first minister must, "as soon as is reasonably practicable after the resolution is passed", ensure that notice in writing of the resolution is given to the Welsh Secretary.

The Welsh secretary then has 120 days from the day after the letter is received to draw up the order which will enable the referendum to go ahead.

This order includes all the details of the referendum, including the date, the exact question, and the funding that will be provided for the official Yes and No campaigns.

The timescale for organising a referendum by the autumn is tight, with a general election falling during the 120-day period.

This means the order will have to be put through the next parliament by the incoming Welsh secretary.

Given the difficult timescale, Wales' former top civil servant Sir Jon Shortridge has warned that "the omens" for securing further powers for the Assembly by 2011 "are not good".

Sir Jon led the civil service in Wales from 1999 until 2008.

The Labour-Plaid assembly coalition government's One Wales agreement commits it to "proceed to a successful outcome of a referendum for full law-making powers... as soon as practicable, at or before the end of the assembly term" - or by May 2011.



SEE ALSO
Wales 'poor under English rule'
16 Feb 10 |  Wales politics
Assembly referendum deal agreed
05 Feb 10 |  Wales politics
Vote to trigger power referendum
02 Feb 10 |  Wales politics
Assembly referendum vote date set
12 Jan 10 |  Wales politics
Coalition partners ease power row
24 Nov 09 |  Wales politics
Is a powers referendum unstoppable?
17 Nov 09 |  Wales politics
'Most want' more powers for Wales
27 Oct 09 |  Wales politics

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Wales Online Tories accuse Welsh Assembly Government of dithering over referendum - 14 hrs ago



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