Wales

Labour's Lord Touhig to vote No in assembly referendum

A former Labour minister has used the last full day of campaigning in the assembly powers referendum to announce he will vote No.

Lord Touhig said he opposed "piecemeal chop and change" of the constitution.

A Yes vote would give the assembly direct law-making powers over devolved policies.

With a day until voters decide, Yes for Wales chairman Roger Lewis said people recognised it made sense for laws affecting Wales to be made in Wales.

At present, the assembly must first ask for parliament to transfer powers on a case-by-case basis before it can pass laws.

Opinion polls have suggested a comfortable lead for the Yes campaign.

The latest ITV Wales/YouGov tracking poll, published on Wednesday, found 61% would vote Yes and 28% would vote No, with 12% undecided.

Lord Touhig, who retired as MP for Islwyn at the last general election, criticised the assembly's record and said it needed to be more positive about Wales.

"Too often I get the impression the assembly thinks it's the collective chip on the shoulder for Wales," he said.

"It's our vehicle to complain - we haven't got enough of this or enough of that."

In an interview with BBC Wales' AMPM programme he also criticised the assembly government's scrapping of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and the Wales Tourist Board.

He said the WDA was the most successful development agency in Britain and its promotional films were seen on aircraft by would-be investors in Wales.

Lord Touhig, a former Wales Office and defence minister, said that if you saw some of the current Visit Wales adverts "you wouldn't want to come and live in Wales, let alone come here for your holidays".

He added: "This is serious stuff. Some of the other decisions have been pretty poor indeed.

"I am opposed to this piecemeal chop and change of the constitution. I just think that the assembly at the present time isn't going to be geared up to handle additional powers.

"There are 60 members of the assembly. Almost one third are either ministers or chairs of committees. That reduces the number of people to do the scrutiny, to exercise control over the executive. I think that needs to be looked at in a wider United Kingdom sense".

Lord Touhig said he hoped there would be a big turnout on Thursday.

'Crunch time'

On the eve of polling day, Yes for Wales chairman Roger Lewis said: "This is crunch time.

"We've taken our message to thousands of people across the country and the response on the ground has been very positive.

"People recognise that it makes sense that laws which affect the people of Wales are made in Wales."

He added: "But we're not taking anything for granted. It's vital that people make the effort tomorrow to go out and vote Yes for a stronger voice for Wales."

Nigel Dix of the campaign group True Wales, which wants a No vote, said: "I welcome Lord Touhig's timely intervention on the referendum.

"It will give confidence to Labour members to go out to vote no with confidence.

"I've known Lord Touhig for a number of years. He is a very honourable man and a clear thinker.

"I feel he would not have come to this decision had it not been the right one."

The Conservatives' leader in the assembly, Nick Bourne, admitted there had been a problem getting the message across because there were no officially designated campaigns.

Campaigning for a Yes vote with other party leaders in Cardiff on Tuesday, he said: "But when you speak to people and explain the issues I think the Yes vote is going to be very, very strong."

"We can't be complacent. People have got to come out and vote, and that's why we are out here together to encourage people to vote on Thursday to make sure they do turn out so we get the vote that we need to make sure that we can have the streamlined process that's quicker, more effective and more cost efficient."

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