Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, has at last taken the initiative on the referendum. Better late than never, I suppose. He has issued a statement, as follows:
I wanted to inform Assembly Members that I have today written to the Secretary of State for Wales reiterating that it is our understanding that the drafting work on the Order in Council to be laid before Parliament will have been substantially completed by the end of this month.
Secondly, we have provided a suggested question in both English and Welsh for the Secretary of State to consider.
Thirdly, we have expressed our strong preference for a referendum to be held in late October of this year.
It is now a matter for the Secretary of State to consider the question and the date.
I understand that the proposed statement and question are as follows:
At the moment the Assembly can make laws about some, but not all, things which only affect people in Wales. Parliament has decided that the Assembly should be able to pass its own laws for Wales on all devolved subjects. But this can only happen if voters in Wales support this in a referendum. The devolved subjects include health and social services, housing, education and local government. The laws could not be about social security, defence or foreign affairs.
Do you want the Assembly to have the power now to pass laws on all the subjects which are devolved to Wales?
This is an early and important test for what the Conservative-Lib Dem government’s ‘respect agenda’ really means. I’ve already argued both that an early referendum is in the UK Government’s interest (HERE) and that it should respect the National Assembly’s preferences about the timing of a referendum (HERE). Assuming that the Assembly supports the statement that the First Minister has now issued, the Secretary of State should move with all despatch to ensure the referendum takes place in the autumn.