(Still) Waiting for Silk - what's occurin'?


The sun is shining. MPs are sporting various shades of beige and parliament's terrace bar is doing a roaring trade.

It's the last week of term for MPs (peers are here until the 30th) and there are the July traditions to follow.

These include government departments releasing announcements (no fewer than 32 written ministerial statements today) and the usual reshuffle speculation (changes widely expected at junior level this week).

But whenever two or more Welsh MPs are gathered together, the discussion inevitably turns to the government's overdue announcement on what it plans to do about the Silk commission report that suggested the Welsh government should get the power to borrow money and vary taxes.

As you probably know, if you've managed to read this far, ministers promised to deliver their response by the end of spring, which was then replaced by variations of "very soon" and "in due course".

In what appeared to them a good idea at the time, senior ministers decided to link the issue of more powers for Wales with a completely different commission on the consequences of devolution for the house of commons (the McKay commission).

This was designed to re-assure Tory MPs that despite Westminster losing power to Wales (and Scotland), England had not been forgotten. The "Lib Dem win" on Welsh powers would be balanced by the "Tory victory" on the West Lothian question (younger readers, ask your parents).

It didn't work. The delay in the Silk response caused by linking the two commissions has annoyed both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs. Presentation in terms of wins for either side of the coalition also oversimplifies the position.

Tories and Lib Dems have in many cases come to the same conclusion - backing the transfer of more powers to Wales - for different reasons. Generally speaking, the Lib Dems have always believed in home rule and federalism; Conservatives support more devolution because they think it will make the Welsh government more accountable. It's amazing what three years of Cardiff blaming Westminster for Welsh woes can do to change minds.

So spring has given way to summer and we may be on the verge of autumn before we get to see the UK government's full response to the Silk commission. Labour's shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP has added the hashtag #autumnwatch to his tweets.

When that response comes, it is expected to endorse most of Silk's 33 recommendations, giving the Welsh government the power to vary income tax rates (after a referendum), borrowing powers and control over other minor taxes such as stamp duty. Air passenger duty is likely to remain at Westminster.

Control over stamp duty is the one taxation power Welsh ministers really want, partly because it would generate enough income against which the Welsh government could borrow for major schemes such as M4 improvements.

However, within the UK government there is concern about the reaction of businesses - particularly house-builders - to the devolution of stamp duty. Officials and ministers have been working on an option that could yet see the government give an indication of its plans (a consultation to report by September?) in this area through a (written ministerial) statement before the end of term, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    "Funny that its like if there's more just you that has an opinion"

    If you could have that translated into idiomatic modern English, I would be pleased to reply.
    As I understood our recent exchange, you held me over-dependant on Google and suggested reading more books. I asked for a reference to some reliable English-language books. You ignored this. One might doubt your sincerity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Funny that its like if there's more just you that has an opinion

    How's Google coming along? Try UTube as well with John Redwood singing the National Anthem

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Funny that. I made a point, carefully anonymous, about "those who choose to forge a provenance " and guess who immediately stepped in.

    How's the book reference coming along ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    those who choose to forge a provenance to make a political point

    What like Hague and is love of Morris Dancing

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    124. Don't know.. How big is your dad? Mine has had replacment knees and can't lift his right arm very far and he had a triple heart by pass. I dont think that this is a fair fight. Besides, he likes devolution anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    "And when an Englishman - an Englishman! - attacks another nation for indulging in a little bit of pageantry...then the hot weather's already got to some!"
    A very fair point. I have no problems with chaps dressing up on their days off. My taste is more for the Sealed Knot and smell of gunpowder. My problem, as always, is for those who choose to forge a provenance to make a political point

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Re 132


    Lighten up! The Gorsedd is pageantry and theatre, and its main purpose is to celebrate poetry and literature - and to do that with a bit of colour. How could you not like that?!

    And when an Englishman - an Englishman! - attacks another nation for indulging in a little bit of pageantry...then the hot weather's already got to some!

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    You quote me a book that quotes any evidence for druidic robes before the Victorian revival, and the Disnification of the modern Gorsedd and I'll read it. Spare us the comedy of quoting a book in Welsh, and then telling me it proves your point but it's my fault I can't read it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    still less the Disney Druids
    Cultural nationalism is an awareness of and pride in one's heritage. It may be difficult for you to grasp that but there again if you have no affinity with Wales then its understandable. Please avoid using Google and pick up a book I think you'll find not only Wales but the UK is full of different cultures which should be embraced not mocked by liking it to disney

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    an english parliment with english MPS

    makes sense to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    rollback should be offered in a referendum.

    You must go with the majority. Its called democracy. You lost twice!! You can't keep saying lets change every time you have a problem with a policy.
    Otherwise we could say that every time the Coalition make its many U TURNS we get rid of parliament. Or are we looking to UKIP the party who wants an English Parliament with English MPs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I am not so fond of the '1236 and All That' pantomine, still less the Disney

    You mean Robin Hood and St.George are true. Again you come from a background of not knowing Welsh Culture or History and keep using Google or too much sun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    if I was england I'd want to get rid of the joke that is the welsh economy.That would make for an interesting referendum,boot the welsh out or keep em.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    ... we are a single economic country (UK) with a political boundary between two elements (England and Wales), to those who wish for separation it is yet another perfect step to nirvana, to the Union it is a division too far, Silk shouldn't be implemented, independence or rollback should be offered in a referendum.


  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    #121 "He doesn't like anything Welsh, Clon"
    I didn't know you two were on first-name terms.
    Actually, not true. I like lots of things Welsh: St David's Cathedral, Brecon Beacons, Edward's castles, little girls in silly hats carrying daffs on March 1st, penillion, harps on their own, male-voice choirs.
    I am not so fond of the '1236 and All That' pantomine, still less the Disney Druids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Re 102


    Your dad is bigger than my dad, eh?


  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Couldn't think of anything worse than playing poker with a person who detests the Welsh

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    "everyone's grandfather spoke Welsh.. at the turn of the Century over 60% of the pop spoke Welsh... the chances are at least evens.
    Since you had two grandfathers, accepting your figure that 60% of the pop spoke Welsh, the chances that both spoke Welsh is only 36%. Yet you think it is better than evens. [Both because everyone's ].
    We must play poker some time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    He doesn't like anything Welsh Clon

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The problem comes with those invoking a spurious National legend e.g everyone's grandfather spoke Welsh
    Who said that?? On the basis that at the turn of the Century over 60% of the pop spoke Welsh the chances are at least evens. Its more plausible than St. George of England


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