...It is fair to say that it has not been an easy journey to get to this point. There have been a plethora of opinions on when the referendum should be held, and how to word the question that should be put to the Welsh public. I believe that we have reached sensible conclusions on both matters. The referendum question in the Order is the same revised question that the Electoral Commission put forward in its report, based on sound research and written in an accessible way. I believe that it is the right question to put to the people of Wales.
Many Members here today were concerned about whether the referendum would be held on the same day as the next Assembly election. The date of 3 March is, of course, two months before the Assembly election, which will provide sufficient distance between the referendum and the election. It means that the same Assembly Members who voted for a referendum in February can see the whole process through, and it also means that this Government can fulfil its 'One Wales’ pledge to proceed to a referendum as soon as is practicable.
Legislation that affects Wales should be made in Wales. That is the view of the National Assembly, I believe, and it is the view of the Assembly Government. This Order is an essential step towards achieving that aim, and, therefore, I commend the motion to the Assembly.
It is known that I do not always agree with the First Minister; we do not always see eye-to-eye on issues, as the exchange on fast broadband showed earlier today. However, I agree with him totally on this issue, and I think that the whole Assembly is in agreement on it. This is a historic moment, and I am sure that, as before, there will be full support for taking this forward, as it is important. We also support the points that have been made by the Counsel General.
It is important that we all unite behind the campaign, which will soon be up and running, to ensure that we get the 'yes’ vote that we need so that the Assembly can go forward and do the things that we want it to do. We do not necessarily agree on substantive issues, but on that we are in full agreement; we must make sure that that happens. This is a step along that road. I am glad that we have achieved the measure of agreement to which the First Minister referred, and, to be fair, Westminster has also played its part. Let us obtain full support for this, take this forward, and ensure that we are all united in the battle to achieve law-making powers, the success of which we cannot take for granted.
I will begin by saying how much I welcome the motion on the referendum Order before us today. I consider it an honour to be able to speak and, later this afternoon, vote, on a motion that marks the next stage in the devolution process. I hope that giving the citizens of Wales the opportunity to have their say on what the National Assembly can and cannot do will afford us the opportunity to get out there and celebrate collectively what devolution has delivered for Wales and to explore further what new powers for the Assembly could mean in terms of helping to transform our country.
Hopefully, when we vote on the motion today, all of the discussions about motions, amendments, timetables and Orders will come to an end. As the First Minister said, it has not been an easy process to get to this point this afternoon, but we have got there in the end. The date and wording of the question in the referendum Order have been worth all of the effort that people have made to get us to this point. However, as other speakers have said, we cannot rest on our laurels following the vote this afternoon. There is a job to be done in getting out there to explain to people what the referendum is about and, I suspect, what it is not about, and to give them the opportunity to hear what we hope we can do with the new powers should they give us the opportunity to use them in the forthcoming Assembly.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of those from across the political spectrum and from outside it who are beginning work on the embryonic 'yes’ campaign. I am very grateful for the efforts that are already happening in that arena. As the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I am proud to say that our party will be working alongside other political parties and those outside politics to explain to people why we should vote 'yes’ in March next year and give the next generation of Assembly Members the ability to carry out their work in a way that will be less constrained than that in which we have been working over the last four years.
I wonder how much notice rank and file members of these parties will take of their leaders and collectively campaign for a YES vote?