Springwatch: Whitehall wait for powers deal goes on

 

MPs on parliament's Welsh affairs committee have spent part of this morning grilling Secretary of State for Wales David Jones.

The session was televised and, as with many TV current affairs programmes, it began with a newspaper review. The MPs wanted to know if this story in The Independent is true. The Daily Mail has a similar version.

The UK government is considering its response to a report from the McKay commission on the consequences of devolution for the house of commons. Its report recommended a bigger say for English MPs on laws that affect England alone and today's newspaper reports suggest the UK government - or perhaps the Conservative half of it - is sympathetic.

Any solution to the so-called West Lothian question is fraught with difficulties. What is England-only legislation? Would the same rules apply to the next Wales act passed by Westminster?

David Jones told the MPs that the reports were "speculative" and "unattributed", which in other circumstances might be thought of as a "non-denial denial" although Mr Jones appeared genuinely unsure whether they were true or not.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We think Sir William's work is a positive step forward. The government is going to look very carefully and constructively at it and respond in due course."

Back at the Welsh select, MPs were concerned by the linking - in newspaper copy, at least - of the plans with other proposals to give the Welsh government more power to raise some of the money it spends as recommended by the Silk commission. Mr Jones insisted the two issues were not linked - and the UK government is looking at the Silk report as a "discrete" set of proposals.

Not every MP accepts this is the case and there are growing concerns among government backbenchers that ministers have chosen to link the Silk and McKay commissions in one package.

As you might expect, the committee wanted to know when the long-awaited (in some quarters) UK government response to that report will be delivered, a response various ministers promised would be delivered by the end of spring.

Mr Jones acknowledged that spring had indeed sprung but he hoped (my italics) that a response would be issued "very soon". He also offered the inevitable "in due course". Agreement had been reached on most of Silk's 33 recommendations but remains elusive on a few others.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told MPs yesterday that supporters of more devolution would be "pleasantly surprised" by the UK government's "forthcoming and forward-leaning approach".

The Independent suggested the Welsh government would (eventually) be given the power to vary income tax rates, alter stamp duty and borrow money backed by Treasury guarantees. That reflects what many at Westminster expect will happen - the Welsh first minister has said stamp duty would give him the £200m income stream many think would be enough to borrow the cash to pay for M4 improvements. Air passenger duty is unlikely to be devolved.

What the Independent didn't say was whether there would be a referendum before Wales get the power to vary income tax rates? David Jones gave a pretty big hint that there should be one, as there had been a referendum question on that subject in Scotland back in 1997 (a question that wasn't asked in Wales).

So when will we know for sure? Lib Dem MP Roger Williams tweeted: "Looking forward to the government response to Silk commission before parliament summer recess."

The commons rises for its summer recess a week tomorrow. I may be wrong but it looks increasingly unlikely that a response will come before then. Answering another question, Mr Jones suggested "a few more weeks while Silk is considered" shouldn't make a difference. A slip of the tongue or a clear pointer?

MPs return from their summer recess in September, or late spring as it is known on the UK government's calendar.

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

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 83.

    #81 John, Cythraul obviously doesn't understand economics. To fulfil economic potential requires a large-scale economic project. If one were identified it would then need a highly educated, highly skilled workforce; and capital for investment.
    The idea that a new state like Wales could borrow money more cheaply than the Bank of England is fantasy. Commercial loans would need Gov't guarantees.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 82.

    I have said there is no underlying economic substance to that assertion John. Wales has potential, as does Armenia and any other country. It is not about maximising potential, it is all about realising said potential.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 81.

    ... when Cythraul writes "It seems fairly clear to me that Wales needs far greater autonomy for the reason that it simply isn't possible to maximise economic potential without full devolution."

    He should be challenged to explain how political autonomy would maximise economic potential, to give examples, also explain how further devolution would improve our Minister for Business (etc.).
    .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    #77 I am afraid that if you have got to adult years, and believe the rewards of life are allocated to those that deserve them, then political life is going to be a sad disappointment.
    The Daily Mail might be able to drum up a sentimental campaign to pay enhanced pensions to the Ghurkas. No such campaign would succeed for the Welsh.
    Some might say that Wales has the Institutions it deserves.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 79.

    As things stand, there are all kinds of psychological, fiscal, legal and structural limitations that severely restrict the country's development because of the overwhelming dominance of England in 'England and Wales'.
    ................................................................................................
    No, this is again without foundation, opinion expressed as fact.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 78.

    76
    isn't possible to maximise economic potential without full devolution
    .................................................................................................

    I do not believe there is any underlying economic substance to that assertion

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 77.

    74. Boxer, the Welsh taxpayer also deserves a say. I think your argument is back to front. If the economy in Wales is poor (and that situation and the causes thereof predate the assembly) then we Welsh deserve the institutions necessary to deal with our problems. The best point you've made on these pages is the record of the assembly. It isn't good enough. We need to hold them to account.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 76.

    Re.74

    It seems fairly clear to me that Wales needs far greater autonomy for the reason that it simply isn't possible to maximise economic potential without full devolution. As things stand, there are all kinds of psychological, fiscal, legal and structural limitations that severely restrict the country's development because of the overwhelming dominance of England in 'England and Wales'. Enough.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 75.

    Wooodsey (68)

    QUOTE.."Are you saying suffering atrocities is emotional ?"


    Well I don't know about you sunshine. But atrocities like Senghenydd...Cilfynydd ....Aberfan.... were certainly emotional as far as most of us were concerned.

    Maybe your emotions are restricted to eisteddfods, paint daubing, and clog-dancing....

    Who knows !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 74.

    If Wales were financialy independent, then there would be a good case for DevoMax or reserved powers. Since it isn't, there is a good case for observing that those who raise the money by taxation should have a say in how it is spent.
    As said before, if you pay for your car, you buy what you like. If someone else is paying e.g. employer, then they get a say. It would help if Silk were impartial.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 73.

    Boxer,

    The only thing that needs to be said regarding Silk is that their proposals for Wales should be implemented in full and without delay. Wales deserves a reserved powers devolution settlement as per Scotland and Northern Ireland to give us the maximum opportunity to develop our economy, communities, language, culture, health and happiness.

    Anything else is stonewalling.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    #68 "Are you telling me there is no Robin Hood and Morris Dancing is not English Culture" ??

    I would tell you that Morris Dancing is of no more interest to the average citizen of London than Penillion is to the citizen of Cardiff.
    That said, I rather like it.
    Tales of Robin Hood have about as much historical authenticity as the custom of carrying old men about in chairs.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 71.

    "'Though wise men at their end know dark is right, "
    We must hope that you don't count yourself in that category.
    Third time of asking. If you have anything to say on the topic of the thread, speak on. Otherwise {In case you haven't the IT skills to Google ] 'A period of silence from you would be welcome.'

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    What's reasoned and convincing to Welsh people may not be the same for English people who look to Westminster and who not only chastise Welsh politics but also uses the language for all our ills. 'Though wise men at their end know dark is right, because their words had forked no lighting, they do not go gentle into the good night'

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 69.

    #68 No. I am telling you that you say that you want to talk about Welsh politics. So tsay something worth reading about the Silk report - the subject of this thread or take Lord Attlee's advice.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    64.
    The Irish cause was as much emotional as logical . You are an authority on Irish as well as Welsh History. Are you saying suffering atrocities is emotional?
    Are you telling me there is no Robin Hood and Morris Dancing is not English Culture

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    "I want to talk about Welsh politics "
    Fine. Here's your opportunity. Say something reasoned and convincing about the Silk Commission proposals.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    54.
    You not going to talk about Merthyr and Cardiff merging again are you?
    People must get their facts right on Welsh History and not refer to Google all the time and their History lessons with a more than slight English bias on the facts.
    I want to talk about Welsh politics and not the Empire in all its glory. Its the C21st now where new Countries are evolving throughout Europe

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    #61 "
    The topic here is Silk and the Westminster position/response. "

    The problem, John, is that the current coalition tactic appears to be to kick it into the long grass and, at Westminster, Labour see no votes in it for them and are reluctant to open up the cracks. Westminster Labour is Unionist whereas Carwyn and friends seem to want to out-devo PC. To me, that is the democratic deficit.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 64.

    #63 It shouldn't depend on its past, as you say, but nationhood is emotional as well as logical. The Irish cause was as much emotional as logical 'ourselves apart' and Mr Salmond and PC both (quite legitimately) play this card. All nations claim a national myth. Some of us, possibly yourself, prefer a few facts. The Scots prefer their founders as not greedy Norman knights.

 

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