Wales' First Minister's Questions silence over further devolution

 

There was no mention at First Minister's Questions at the assembly about the Silk report, just 24 hours after it recommended the devolution of policing and a range of other powers.

Should we read anything into it?

Is dust already gathering on its 200 pages?

The big problem for Silk part two, as opposed to part one, is that we have a general election looming.

It means it falls into the hands of the policy makers putting together the manifestos for the parties at Westminster.

The danger, from the commission's perspective, must be that any sense of momentum is lost as a new UK government is formed.

It's probably fair to say that it could be more likely to happen if there's another coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

They, and Plaid, are the ones to have been most positive.

'Quite disappointed'

The response from Labour and the Conservatives was muted. Understandably they were in the business of keeping their options open.

Welsh Secretary David Jones came closest to being critical when he said: "I think that the people of Wales are frankly quite disappointed in the way that the assembly government has actually used its powers in terms of both health and education in particular, and the people of Wales will want the Welsh government to make it absolutely clear that the powers that they may get will be used properly."

Labour was more neutral but it was hardly a ringing endorsement for what Paul Silk and the rest of the commission concluded.

There are Conservative and Labour MPs who publicly and privately have expressed reservations about some of the new powers.

On policing, what was abundantly clear from the commission yesterday was that they were convinced of the argument that it makes sense to devolve policing because so much of the day-to-day work involves dealing with organisations that are already devolved.

Two of the police and crime commissioners in Wales came out in support of the Silk recommendations, but I suspect that one of the main arguments that will be used against the devolution of policing will be the very existence of the commissioners themselves.

The claim will be that much of the decision making is already being done at a local level.

One final thought: one of the intentions of the commission was to offer a definitive settlement that would once and for all end the arguments about process, so that everyone could focus on what can be achieved with the powers instead.

That seems a long way off becoming a reality, particularly when there are recommendations for feasibility studies on devolving prisons and probation, as well as a long-term review into the entire criminal justice system.

These arguments are set to run and run.

 
Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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