Is Cameron disrespecting Wales?

When David Cameron visited Wales last week, he came armed with the message that he wanted a relationship based on respect - yet that may now have changed.

When David Cameron visited Wales last week, he came with a message that he wanted a relationship with Cardiff based on respect. Following exchanges in the House of Commons yesterday, the respect agenda has been blown out of the water. In the Queen’s Speech yesterday, Her Majesty announced that the government remained “committed to a referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly of Wales”.

Just last week, Left Foot Forward reported concerns the Coalition Government was about to delay plans for a vote on extra powers for Cardiff; it now appears those fears were justified.

In his initial statement following the Queen’s speech, first minister Carwyn Jones made crystal clear he wanted a vote in October, and earlier this year, the Tory leader in Wales Nick Bourne was unequivocal in his calls for “a referendum in the autumn” for fear that leaving it any later could make a cross party ‘yes’ campaign increasingly difficult as they enter a period of electioneering for next year’s Assembly elections.

With concerns over the timing of a referendum, Labour’s MP for Wrexham, Ian Lucas, pressed Mr Cameron on the issue, to which the prime minister replied:

“A date will be named for that referendum and I believe it should be held next year.”

Reacting to the prime minister’s announcement, the Assembly Government issued a blunt statement:

We are disappointed about the issue of timing, as we understood the Electoral Commission could amend its timetable to accommodate a referendum this autumn. We are also dismayed to have been told of this announcement via the media and not through the formal channels of government.

“Indeed, we are surprised this announcement was made before we had received any communication from the Secretary of State. When we correspond with the Secretary of State, we ensure she has received the letter before Assembly Members are made aware of its contents.”

And, responding for Plaid Cymru, the party’s deputy leader in the Assembly Helen Mary Jones was equally equally angry:

We shouldn’t be surprised at Cameron’s behaviour, trying to dictate the date of a Welsh referendum from Westminster but we need to be clear that it isn’t for him to decide. It’s become clear that Wales and what is best for Welsh communities is not a priority for the ConDem government and this is just another example of that.

“It is also another example of how little influence the ConDem leaders in Wales, Kirsty Williams and Nick Bourne, have over their London bosses. Both have stated a strong preference for an autumn referendum. This preference has been ignored by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.”

Despite all his calls for a new relationship of respect for the devolved bodies, on his first test, David Cameron flunked it. His failure to notify the Assembly Government of such a fundamental policy announcement, and his disregard for the wish of all parties to hold a referendum in the autumn will cause a bitter taste for many in Wales.

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