Should Home Office let policing be devolved to Wales?

  • 2 March 2014
  • From the section Wales
  • comments

There's already a divide on whether to devolve policing to Wales, and the second report by the Silk Commission hasn't even been published yet.

Without being overly dramatic, there is something hugely symbolic about policing.

It is, after all, the most visible form of power and authority that any government can have.

And what we're talking about here is removing the ultimate control of that authority from the Home Office, where it has been since the 19th Century.

We talk about transferring powers all the time, in recent months about highly technical areas like different models of income and property taxes.

But there is something very basic and tangible about giving the Welsh government control over policing which will strike a chord with people.

Voices heard

When it comes to the arguments, the main point put across by people like Alun Michael, the police and crime commissioner for south Wales, is that officers already work closely with devolved agencies on a daily basis in areas like community safety.

As a result, they say it makes sense for the police to follow the other emergency services in being devolved.

They also say it'll be easier for the four forces in Wales to get their voices heard if it's controlled in Cardiff, rather than London.

The main argument against will focus on the potential problems from separating the police with the rest of the criminal justice system like the courts and prisons.

The recent creation of the police and crime commissioners could also be used to argue against the move, as it has already established a strong element of local-decision making and accountability in the running of our forces.

Chief constables have operational independence enshrined in law, which means no one can interfere in how they run their force on a day-to-day basis.

Safer place

But budgets and strategic decisions covering particular priorities for a force are made by the police and crime commissioner (PCC).

So the question that those behind any devolution of policing will have to answer is what difference a Welsh government can make for Wales to become a safer place.

The PCC for Dyfed-Powys, Christopher Salmon, believes it will just add expense and complication into the administration.

On another issue. There will inevitably be plenty of debate as well from the expected recommendation to increase the number of assembly members.

It will be the latest in a number of reports to have called for this.

In response, the first minister has always said it would be a difficult sell to the public and there's nothing to suggest he's changed his view.

Although the two matters are inextricably linked.

If the Welsh government at some stage in the future gets control over policing and consent for large energy projects, then that bolsters the argument for more AMs.