Labour and Plaid Cymru stage Westminster love-in
- 16 May 2013
- From the section Wales politics
It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Traditionally, when Plaid Cymru's 3 MPs succeed in forcing a vote at Westminster, it is followed by a Plaid press release registering "shock" that Labour MPs refused to vote with Plaid even where they agree with them.
So when Plaid Cymru tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill to devolve air passenger duty to Wales, and Welsh Labour MPs didn't vote for it, Plaid duly condemned Labour, not that Labour votes would have changed the outcome of the vote.
But last night, something extraordinary happened (and I'm not just talking about more than 100 Tory MPs voting to criticise their own government's Queen's Speech). Plaid took advantage of a new approach by Speaker John Bercow to force a vote on an amendment regretting the absence from the Queen's Speech of a commitment to implement that (Silk) commission on devolution in Wales report with its recommendation that Wales acquires its own tax system.
For once, Labour MPs joined them in the division lobbies, even though Labour MPs have been cooler about the National Assembly for Wales acquiring income tax powers than their counterparts in the assembly have. Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, who has previously been cautious about Wales acquiring income tax powers, said Labour wanted a new law to implement the Silk commission to give the Welsh government "desperately needed" borrowing powers.
Mr Smith said: "A deal to give borrowing powers and devolve of a number of minor taxes was agreed by the UK and Welsh governments in October last year, and subsequently endorsed by Silk in November. We don't understand why Welsh Secretary David Jones isn't getting on with it.
"The Silk Commission Part One recommendations are a complex set of proposals, and some are contingent on others. For example, we agree with Silk that any future devolution of income tax powers is contingent on a period of assignment, reform of the Barnett formula and a referendum to test the will of the Welsh people. This remains our position and we have repeatedly called on the government to allow a debate on these issues on the floor of the House."
Two of the amendments voted on last night have something in common. Neither the EU nor constitutional reform is a top priority for most voters, but that may not be the point.
Plaid and Labour lost the vote by 316 votes to 237, a government majority of 79, but, again, that may not be the point.
Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd said: "I do hope that this presages and era of co-operation across party lines in order that we can deliver for the people of Wales and assist them to improve the economy in these most pressing of times."
The Silk commission report has largely united all four parties in the Welsh assembly; such cross-party unity may not be reflected when the UK government delivers its response, with some Tories at Westminster sceptical about giving Wales more control over taxes.
David Jones told MPs yesterday: "We have always made it absolutely clear that we will announce our response to Silk this spring, so we will issue that response in the next few weeks. Summer solstice starts at 05.04am on June 21 if you have yet to enter in your diary the UK government's self-imposed deadline.
If you are have read the Silk report and are hungry for more, the London equivalent of Silk was published yesterday.
Among other things, the report notes that one third of all the stamp duty raised on UK homes is paid in London and calls for the city to be able to keep all property tax revenues. London Mayor Boris Johnson gives his take on the report here. It's reminder that the Welsh government isn't the only devolved administration looking for more say on taxation.