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Policy Review Section

J. P. Bradbury, Robert Deacon, A. Thomas and J. Bradbury

Regional Studies, 1996, vol. 30, issue 7, 689-712

Abstract: At the UK Political Studies Association Conference, held at the University of Glasgow on April 10-12 1996, the British Territorial Politics Group of the Association held a panel on New Labour and Devolution. Regional Studies subsequently invited panellists to submit their papers to the Policy Review Section in two parts. Part One in the last edition of the Section featured papers on the Labour Party's approach to devolution in Scotland. Part Two in this edition examines Labour's proposals for devolution in Wales and regional reform in England. In the first article, Russell Deacon of the School of International and Policy Studies, University of Wales Institute of Cardiff, discusses recent changes in the context of the devolution debate in Wales. He examines Labour Party policy development, concluding that it has been informed by a cautious approach and the compromises necessary to gain party unity. This means that policy amounts to a limited form of executive devolution. The issue of the electoral system for a Welsh Senedd has been controversial and has become a major focus of policy change, but overall policy has primarily involved updating the 1978 Wales Act. In the second article Alys Thomas of the Business School, University of Glamorgan, places the current approach of the Labour Party to Welsh devolution in a broader historical context. She reviews policy in terms of Labour's potentially contradictory commitments to class and nation, as well as through comparison of previous assumptions of centralized power and recent arguments for subsidiarity. Whilst acknowledging significant developments in Labour Party politics, she concludes that devolution is still being planned within an assumed framework of centralized power. Jonathan Bradbury of the Department of Politics, University of Wales, Swansea, examines Labour's English regional reform proposals. He argues that reform is driven much more strongly by considerations of how England should be governed, and that Labour's proposals are more realistic and doable, than was the case in the 1970s. The proposals make some contribution to decentralization and democratization, as well as bolstering the case for Scottish and Welsh devolution by providing some basis for suggesting that England would not be disadvantaged. However, the English proposals remain flawed according to all of these criteria. Overall, Bradbury concludes that New Labour has had little impact in terms of the policy content of the party's various devolution proposals. The advent of New Labour may have created a much greater level of commitment in the Labour Party to carry reform than was the case in the 1970s, but even so this does not significantly reduce the problematic nature of legislating for or implementing asymmetrical devolution.

Date: 1996
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DOI: 10.1080/00343409612331349978

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