The row over the Assembly Government’s bid for powers over organ donation has taken another twist today.
Following what happened yesterday, the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, was interviewed about the row at length on Radio Wales this morning.
During that interview, Ms Gillan, was asked about her own backing of legislation on presumed consent in parliament some years ago. She denied that she’d introduced any such bill.
But after journalists, politicians and researchers took to Google to check their facts, Ms Gillan has now issued an apology, saying
Unfortunately I made a mistake in the radio interview and now recall that I did introduce a Private Member’s Bill in name only alongside several other eight years ago in my role as an Opposition Whip. This bill was objected to by the then Labour Government and was never debated.
That hasn’t stopped opponents weighing in though. Plaid Cymru AM Dai Lloyd said,
When you do not know your own views on an issue as important as this then it is difficult to expect to try and dictate to others how they should move forward.
And Labour’s Shadow Wales Office minister, Owen Smith MP, said,
We knew that Cheryl Gillan was out of touch with Wales, now it seems she’s out of touch with reality. It is difficult now to trust that the Minister has a full grasp on this sensitive issue, given that she doesn’t even appear to know her own record on the subject.
Meanwhile the war of words continues. A Wales Office source expressed disappointment that the Assembly Government was ‘taking an agressive approach.’
And on the other side of the debate, passions remain equally inflamed. Dai Lloyd said,
It is time the Secretary of State and the Westminster government put aside playing politics with such a vitally important issue.”
Interestingly ‘playing politics’ is exactly what the Secretary of State is accusing politicians in Cardiff Bay of doing.
For further developments, watch this space and Sharp End tonight at 1035pm ITV1 Wales.
UPDATE 1300: Peter Black AM has blogged on the row here. This is his take on the row over the timing of the legal advice.
However, the fuss seems to be over the timing of the UK Government’s response. It is a storm in a teacup. The fact is that this bid has come very late in the day. Not only was it submitted to the Wales Office as late as August but AMs themselves are going to have less than two weeks to take evidence on it and examine the order. That is the real scandal, the way that proper scrutiny is being curtailed in the Assembly because the elections are so close.
Listening to Cheryl Gillan on Radio Wales this morning the last minute e-mail that was sent by the Attorney General outlining concerns came as a result of a request from the Welsh Government for information the day before. They should be praising him for responding so quickly, not a known feature of Government law officers, not attacking him for saying what he thinks.
UPDATE 13:05: Plaid Cymru’s former chair, John Dixon, isn’t sure this row is as helpful to the powers referendum Yes campaigners as they make think.
And he identifies in this dispute the germs of what could prove to be a longer-term source of tension over where the boundaries of assembly powers lie.