It looks as if the second attempt at getting powers over housing legislation to the Welsh Assembly will again fail. In Westminster at the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the three conservative members voted against the housing Legislative Competence Order[LCO]. Their reasons for voting against was that they did not wish to see the Assembly having the powers to legislate on the tenants right to buy, second homes and any legislation on travellers and gypsys. They were clearly of the view that ‘Westminster knows best’ on these issues. A source of comfort to the Westminster Labour Housing Minister.
Nothing new there you might add. For the three Welsh Conservative MPs have never made any great secret of their antipathy to devolution and have little interest in seeing the Assembly gaining additional powers.
What has caused no end of puzzlement to commentators in the Aseembly is the attitude of Conservative Assembly members. After first seeming to support the LCO Tory AMs are about to vote against it. Why?
Again they declare it is on the vexxed issue of the right to buy. Despite most housing organistations wanting to see the LCOs passed and those exercising the right to buy having now declined to a mere trickle. Despite the Deputy Minister Jocelyn Davies saying that she needs the powers to be innovative in flexible tenure type schemes, schemes that in the past the Conservatives have urged on successive Housing Ministers.They are still persisting in their opposition.
The about turn seems strange when one considers the Welsh Conservatives’ support for the referendum that would allow laws to be passed in fields such as housing without Westminster interference.
Is the right to buy simply a fig leaf to cover their embarrassment at the stance of their Westminster colleagues? For if Conservative AMs had stuck to their initial views of supporting the principle of the LCO then Mr Cameron would have had the dilemma of supporting either his fellow Conservatives in the Assembly or those in Parliament in the ‘wash-up’ process. The device that allows legislation to go through with cross party support when a general election is imminent..
Have the Conservatives in the Assembly resolved the dilemma be ditching their recently found principles that laws on Wales should be made in Wales for the mere expedient of not challenging their own leader to back them?