At the beginning of the debate on the Welsh Referendum on 3 March 2011, on BBC Wales television it was said that “the Churches are behind the Yes campaign” and then on another broadcast there was a slightly more qualified statement “the Church in Wales are behind the Yes campaign”. Both statements are grossly misleading at best; others would say a complete untruth.
The Christian Church is the body of true Christian believers who adhere to the teachings of the Bible and its revelation and documentation of God’s dealing with mankind from Creation to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and then the start of the early Christian Church.
The Christian Church is autonomous from any denomination, so making sweeping statement that the Church and even the Church in Wales, which is only another denomination, is behind the ‘Yes’ campaign is blatantly false. The Church in Wales has the same legal status as any other denomination in Wales. It has no official link with the State, unlike the Church of England. Neither is it a trade union with a block vote on political matters. It cannot therefore insinuate that it speaks for all of the churches of Wales on political matters.
The political group Tomorrow’s Wales of which the Archbishop is chairman received:
- From the Fairbairn Foundation, in 2008: £50,000 towards the costs of a development officer over two years
- From the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in 2005: £40,000 Engaging Welsh civic society in the debate on the Richard Commission's proposals.
- Also from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in November 2007: £40,000 Core costs for a programme to strengthen the devolution settlement.
- From the Big Lottery in December 2008: £5,000 to update their 2007 booklet, The New National Assembly for Wales - a guide.
The Archbishop of the Church in Wales, Barry Morgan, has been actively campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote and you can read his arguments in his JUSTICE speech (Devolution for Wales, 10 January 2011) and on the Tomorrow Wales website.
However, Len Gibbs, a retired Christian local preacher, tells me “that many members in the Church in Wales who chose to vote ‘Yes’, don’t want their Archbishop being involved in politics on an issue that Church attenders have a differing opinion.”
“The argument is that the leader of the Church in Wales has a big enough ‘job’ on his hands to deal with (such as) declining attendance at Communion, without spending time on civic matters that others can and should do. The Archbishop has stoutly refused to budge from his political activity and defends it in his articles and speeches.” Len is also the leader of the Vote 'No' campaign and manages the website Vote NO Day.
One may ask ‘Where is the shepherd of people’ souls?’ The answer, ‘Out delivering political leaflets for the ‘Yes’ Campaign’”, elaborated Len Gibbs who, when preaching, didn’t get involved in politics because he was speaking to all of society from the pulpit.
Tomorrow Wales misleads with disinformation
Some of the statements on the Tomorrow Wales website are very misleading and even contrary to the content on the Welsh Assembly Website, but this is a consistent theme of the ‘Yes’ campaign.
“True Wales keep on saying that we need (Welsh) MPs to ensure that Welsh laws are properly scrutinised. They couldn’t be more wrong. The opposite is the truth.
Here are the facts:
- MPs play no part in the process of scrutinising Welsh laws
- The idea that MPs are needed to assist in this work is a complete misunderstanding
- Having proper law-making powers would avoid the enormous waste of time that currently goes in getting the powers transferred from Westminster to the Assembly.” (Tomorrow Wales)
So how do they reconcile this statement on the Welsh Assembly Government’s website on the Welsh Language LCO (Legislative Competence Orders) and the reality of LCO progression as described below?
“Assembly Members scrutinising the proposed Welsh Language LCO will meet with their counterparts in Westminster to exchange their views on the LCO.
The chair of the National Assembly’s Legislation Committee No.5, Mark Isherwood AM, has agreed to a joint meeting during a video conference meeting with Hywel Francis MP, chair of the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee in Westminster.
The two committees will now meet, after they’ve both finished taking evidence, to share their findings.
“The Welsh language is an issue that everyone in Wales has a stake in, whether they speak the language or not,’’ said Mr Isherwood.
“That’s why it’s so important that we, the politicians, get the scrutiny process right. That means working closely with our colleagues in Westminster."
“And that’s why Dr. Francis and I have agreed that the National Assembly’s Legislation Committee 5 and the Welsh Affairs Select Committee should hold a joint meeting."
“We need to establish a good working relationship with them on this and on any proposed LCOs we may have to consider in future.”
The Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:
“As with other LCOs my Committee has scrutinised, I am pleased to establish effective working practices with colleagues in the Assembly. My meeting with Mark Isherwood was extremely valuable. We were able to share information about the LCO and planned a further meeting between the members of both Committees to exchange our views after the evidence gathering process has concluded.” (WAG News, 2009)
There appears to be a major inconsistency in Tomorrow Wales’s assertion of no involvement of Welsh MPs in scrutinising LCOs. Judge for yourself. Tomorrow Wales and the Welsh political elite want oligarchy. Not democracy.
Addendum inserted for additional clarity on 27 February 2011
Addendum inserted for additional clarity on 27 February 2011
The granting of an LCO by Westminster extends the scope of the National Assembly’s legislative powers, within the 20 fields (subject areas such as agriculture, education, the environment, health, housing, local government) on matters (a specific policy area) that requires the LCO process. http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-legislation/bus-legislation-guidance.htm
When the National Assembly wants to introduce new policies and associated measures (legislation) say on matters of the Welsh Language or Housing, this may require the proposal and approval of an LCO. The application for the LCO will scope (define the boundaries) of the legislative powers that the National Assembly wants. This enabling process for legislation is scrutinised by Welsh MP’s and approved by the Westminster Members of Parliament and Lords. Once the LCO is approved then the National Assembly and its members can create measures to implement their policies within the scope of the LCO.
The LCO process therefore does have value as it provides scrutiny from the two UK parliament houses on the scope of the policies driving the application for the LCO.
So Yes, Welsh MPS and others are involved in the legislative process on matters requiring an LCO and this has had a beneficial moderating and enhancing impact on the policies and the subsequent legislation introduced by the National Assembly.
This disinformation approach of the ‘Yes’ campaign was exposed again on BBC Dragon’s Eye on 17 February 2011 (from 19:00 min).
When Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams (AM) said as an example of the need for more powers “...the Housing LCO which took three and half years by the LCO process”. This argument was exploded by the UKIP member Warrick Nicholson when he robustly replied, “The Housing LCO was held in the Assembly for 104 weeks, nothing moved, when it eventually got to Westminster it was turned around in 8 weeks. Where was the delay? They are using this as a stick with which to beat the ‘No’ campaign. But sadly the Assembly has failed in every one of it devolved areas.”
Who is telling the porkies?
True Wales ‘No’ Campaign have exactly the right metaphor for the Welsh political elite who want to get their snout deeper into the power trough – a large inflated pink pig.
© 19 February 2011