English Tory MP complains about devolution "unfairness"

  • 19 November 2013
  • From the section Wales
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It's barely 18 hours since Welsh Secretary David Jones delivered his Commons statement on the Silk commission report, so you probably have Silk withdrawal symptoms already.

Fear not. Conservative MP Jesse Norman has raised the commission's work at question time. Having examined taxation and borrowing powers, he commission is now looking at the devolution settlement: Mr Norman is MP for Hereford and Herefordshire and his constituents include people who are registered with Welsh GPs.

That's the background to this question: "The Silk commission has received ample testimony of a pattern of unfairness by the Welsh government, including the treatment of NHS patients, use of the ambulance service and sharing of water and other resources. Can the deputy prime minister re-assure the House that he will do everything possible to ensure these anomalies are resolved?"

Nick Clegg replied: "The anomaly he rather politely refers to is the lamentable record on the NHS of the Labour administration in Wales." Having joined David Cameron in attacking the Welsh government over the NHS, the deputy prime minister used his time to remind MPs he and the prime minister had recently visited Cardiff Bay. The Silk commission, he said, had been "a very bold step" towards further devolution of powers from Whitehall to Cardiff.

This is the response from a Welsh government source: "Nick Clegg and his Tory coalition buddies bandy around claims on the Welsh NHS without a scintilla of irony. The fact is, the NHS in England - as a direct result of their disastrous policies - is in considerably worse shape than it will ever be in Wales. And it is a bit rich being lectured on fairness by a Tory MP who only yesterday called for an end to all VAT exemptions - a move that would put £120 on energy bills and increase the price of children's food and clothing."

Back in the Commons, there was still time for Mr Clegg to make a point in the Scottish referendum campaign: "It shows by the way, in the context of the debate about the future of the United Kingdom and Scotland's place in it, that you don't need to pull the United Kingdom apart in order to have greater devolution of powers to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom and the Silk commission showed that in practice."

David Jones's statement (catch the highlights on this Today in Parliament download) was not the only Silk parliamentary event yesterday. One of his two deputies, the Liberal Democrat Baroness Randerson, delivered the statement in the Lords. You can read the exchanges here.

Silk anoraks will notice the emphasis Lady Randerson put on the "much higher level of borrowing" the Welsh government would unlock if a referendum is passed in favour of giving Wales some control over income tax, a carrot ministers here hope will see their Cardiff counterparts trigger the referendum.