Letter: Londoners deserve to get the same deal as the Welsh

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The Independent Online
Letter: Londoners deserve to get the same deal as the WelshYOUR leading article "Welsh lesson for Labour" (21 September) is right: Labour's devolution plans now need a rethink. But you are wrong to target the Welsh Assembly as out-of-kilter: in truth, it is London that is now the weak link in this game of constitutional dominoes. Londoners will be outraged when they understand how little they are being offered as compared with Wales.

The Welsh Assembly will be administering the pounds 7bn annual Welsh block grant with all the influence that brings over local authority policy and conduct: in London, there is no "block" to administer and no proposals to create a block-grant system. Most government funds will continue to be funnelled direct to the London boroughs. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff will decide planning appeals; the London Assembly will not. The Welsh Assembly will be able to legislate, to tailor all secondary legislation to suit the needs of Wales, in education, health, planning, care-in-the- community: London has no legislative powers at all. The Welsh Assembly is to be given a free hand to reorganise the Welsh quangos, without reference to Westminster: the London Assembly will only be able to double-guess quango nominations made by a toothless mayor, without the power to change any of the underlying systems.

The constitutional disparity is grotesque and cannot survive. In constitutional terms, the Welsh model is coherent, consistent, practical, workable. The Government will be forced to strengthen the Greater London Assembly, both in absolute terms and in relation to the Mayor; indeed, the Mayor should be chosen by a vote of the Assembly, as the Welsh Leader will be.

Londoners must be entrusted with the powers given to the Welsh. Nothing less will do. And that same package could then be offered to the English regions and to Northern Ireland which it would suit far better than the Scottish model - destined to generate conflict.

You are right: something will have to give. But it should not be the excellent Welsh formula.

Roger Warren Evans

Swansea

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