More Silk and ermine as the Lords debate devolution


It is the time of year when we think of 10-Lords-a-leaping but whenever that many peers gather they are more likely to discuss constitutional reform.

Indeed, almost as many members of the House of Lords turned up for a mini-debate on the Silk commission on Welsh devolution as turned up for some of the commission's public hearings.

Yesterday's 55-minute debate in the Moses Room in the Lords was led by former Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley who sought, more in hope than expectation, a guarantee that the UK government would implement the report in full.

Indeed, Lord Wigley wanted to go further, and devolve corporation tax to the Welsh assembly: "It is one of the tools with which we can tackle our economic problems," he told peers.

A Labour former Welsh Office minister, Lord Rowlands, was worried about the prospect of income tax rates being decided in Cardiff Bay, in particular a potential rise in the basic rate and its impact on low-income communities.

"In constituencies such as the one I represented (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney), we would be swapping - in fact, converting - beneficial public expenditure into a tax burden," he said.

"That would be the effect of implementing additional rates of income tax. We must be honest. Politically it is highly unlikely that a future Welsh assembly government of any complexion will substantially reduce income tax and cut expenditure. The whole ethos of political life, among almost all parties now, would be against such a proposal."

I suspect that Lord Rowlands' concerns about the prosperity of Wales won't have been assuaged by this revelation from the census figures.

Labour spokeswoman Baroness Gale confirmed that her party believed there should be a referendum before income tax-varying powers are devolved.

Wales Office Minister Baroness Randerson closed the debate, giving little away about the government's thinking ahead of its formal response to the report expected next Spring.

Whenever two or more Welsh politicians are gathered together, the talk turns sooner or later to the spending formula that decides changes to the Welsh government's budget.

Lady Randerson argued that Wales is doing rather better under the Barnett formula than it was two years ago. (This may largely be due to the way it increases convergence in public spending between Wales and England when spending is rising, and increases divergence when spending is falling).

Lady Randerson said: "Indeed the figures show - and these are figures agreed between the Welsh and UK governments - that we are within the rough area that the Holtham commission stated in its report was the fair level of funding for Wales."

Things have clearly moved on from February 2010 when the deputy leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Roger Williams, accused the last Labour government of being "content to tinker round the edges, assessing trends in spending rather than actually doing something by acting" and "treating Welsh people like second class citizens".

What Lady Randerson didn't say was what the UK government plans to do about the Silk report. Perhaps the most significant statement on that yesterday came from her boss, David Jones, who told MPs on the Welsh affairs committee that the Treasury would be calling the shots when it came to offering Wales powers over income tax.

David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

Their Lordships do the lockstep

The House of Lords has been debating plans to give the Welsh government responsibility for raising some of the money it spends.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    47.John Tyler

    What price people,culture and community compared to a forest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    ... #46, the common good wooodsey, the common good trumps all !

    I'm sure Cheryl Gillan will be crying into her Gin and Tonic, it's very tough at the very top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    45.John Tyler
    'Mrs Gillan said she couldn't publicly voice her own views on the controversial project while she was a cabinet minister - but that is now going to change.' She must feel like all the Welsh MPs who all voted to stop the flooding Dryweryn. Still least all her constituencies have a house.
    Another assertion crushed by the truth ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    ... if she did wooodsey, your #44, she did a poor job, the route goes straight through her home town.

    Another assertion crushed by the truth ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.


    Didn't Cheryl Gillan have the electrified line diverted so that it didn't go through her constituency. Cost a few million more but that acceptable of course when the beneficiaries are from the SE

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    For all the fuss over Dryweryn how many people were displaced ? How many people were displaced in Port Talbot to push through the M4 ?
    I am not complaining about the latter. The use of compulsory purchase for the public good. But why is it acceptable when the beneficiaries are West of Offa's dyke ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    ... #40, Tryweryn (Dryweryn) ?

    I'm not disputing democracy in the guise of the Assembly or Westminster, I do dispute the power of the Assembly and Westminster in the face of public opinion.

    Both institutions are require the support of public opinion. with Nuclear power Westminster would give stark warnings to the public and gain its support, the Assembly would be impotent, rightly so ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    39.John Tyler
    Where is Tryweryn?? Devolution is a part of history now, it was voted for twice the 2nd with more powers. You must accept the democratic will of the Welsh people. I agree with you we need more clout. We can aspire to get economic growth like Scotland which you pointed out earlier. Example of national outcomes Tution fees far lower than England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    ... I don't need to read more about the Tryweryn issue, its part of history, immutable, but I might refute your assertion that devolution can alter national outcomes, the nuclear power issue.

    Devolution is unable to prevent the decision to grant licences to build such a plant, whereas public opinion could,

    Silk is the prerogative of Westminster, devolution is impotent.

    Two examples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    37.John Tyler You need to read more on Dryweryn and its implications. Point is it wouldn't have happen today because of devolved powers so local needs are more likely to be adhered to like Gloucester. RE: remainder of post.By voting freely and democratically the overwhelming majority of people in Wales voted for a WAG as the UK voted for the Tories and we must accept that as advocates of democracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    ... wooodsey, I don't believe that compulsory purchase (eminent domain) is wrong where there is a need to satisfy a public utility (need), Tryweryn (Dryweryn) fell into this category.

    Similar events happen every year, throughout Britain, for the common good. To apologise today for an event that cannot be undone is valueless.

    I don't understand the remainder of your post ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    35.John Tyler
    Of course its wrong.Don't you think it was? Remember an apology came yrs. later.In previous comments you mentioned People Power and how it can save heritage, communities or forests, (which are more important to politicians than people )Well politicians didn't listen then.Westminister and WAG we voted freely and democracy prevailed WAG democratically elected.Demo sometimes hurts

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I will remind you of your words ...

    "Its a pity politicians didn't listen to locals at Dryweryn"

    ... this statement came across as a sentiment, I took this to reflect your view that the flooding of the village was wrong. I expanded this reflection with other comments and concluded that in your view Wales good Westminster bad.

    A reminder, we also vote in Westminster elections freely ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    33.John Tyler

    Come on now Tyler you don't know what my views are so don't summise. You right we are in the C21st and things like that are preventible because of devolution. If I remember rightly Welsh MPs from all parties voted agianst it. The majority are happy with devolution. So good they voted twice.... Am I a minority voice if Wales voted for devolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    ... come now wooodsey, if you go back far enough into history I am sure we could include the war crimes of certain nobility, but we are in the 21st century looking forward, when politics is in constant fear of public disapproval.

    The problem that you have, without prejudice, is you are a minority voice that fails to attract public opinion.

    The majority are happy with Westminster ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    31.John Tyler
    Good to see
    Its a pity politicians didn't listen to locals at Dryweryn. Even Welsh MPs were powerless all voted against it except one who abstained. Voted in by London Parliament. They wouldn't have the powers these days as its devolved. Apologise years later. So people speaking out doesn't always help and governments don't listen

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    ... Leveson is not "the people speaking", the forest question was very definitely "people speak". If the people were of a mind to protest in support of Leveson as they did to protect the forest Cameron would not have taken the stance he has.

    You confuse people with "interested parties".

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    29.John Tyler

    If the English Parliament accept this report it'll be a first. Leveson comes to mind. Expensive independent committees and then completely ignore them and they'll ignore the Pat Finucane inquiry. Clegg election promise on tutition fees in England Don't tell me they can be trusted more or less than AMs.Isn't it a tory constituency bit like Cheryl having new train lines diverted

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    ... wooodsey, there is proof that MP's do listen, so to refute your prejudice I would remind you of "the forest" :


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