Nick Clegg blames Tories for Wales powers decision delay

Nick Clegg says he understands that time to legislate on more devolution is running out

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The deputy prime minister has accused his Conservative coalition partners of delaying further devolution in Wales.

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said if he had been prime minister he would have already agreed to give the Welsh government the power to vary tax rates.

The Silk Commission, which is examining the future of devolution, recommended some tax-varying powers in Wales.

A UK government source said industry concerns about the devolution of stamp duty prompted further consultation.

Ten months ago, the commission recommended that the Welsh government should be able to borrow money and vary some tax rates.

Mr Clegg originally promised a response from the UK government on the issue by the end of spring, but told BBC Wales it had been delayed by his coalition partners.

Start Quote

I just need to get agreement from people who don't share my view that this would be good for Wales to change their minds and endorse it”

End Quote Nick Clegg MP Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister

He said he supported the Silk commission's "sensible" proposals and admitted he was frustrated by the delay in responding to them.

He added that he could not put a date on when the UK government would reveal its policy but said that if he were prime minister it would have been delivered by now.

"I remain personally a keen supporter of the blueprint for further devolution to Wales but I'm not going to hide from you that that's not an opinion universally shared in government," Mr Clegg said.

"So I'm still seeking to persuade my Conservative colleagues and others that this is a sensible step to take."

He said he admitted that with an election 18 months away, time was running out to legislate on the issue.

"I would like to see us move on this and I would have liked to have done it several months ago," Mr Clegg added.

"I can't put a timescale on it because, as I said, those discussions are not yet complete within government.

This simply lays bare the tensions in the coalition.

We're seeing where, as Nick Clegg sees it, the Liberal Democrats are blocking the Conservatives doing things they want to do and we're also seeing when the Conservatives are blocking the Liberal Democrats.

The Silk Commission report was published last November and Nick Clegg in January promised a response by the end of the Spring.

Since then the UK government has launched a consultation on whether stamp duty should be devolved.

That is something both sides admit has delayed things.

They're the junior partners in coalition but there is great frustration in Liberal Democrat circles that once again constitutional reform is not moving as fast as they'd like because the Conservatives have delayed and blocked things.

"I just need to get agreement from people who don't share my view that this would be good for Wales to change their minds and endorse it."

'Finalising response'

The inquiry by the Silk Commission - which was set up by the UK government to examine the Welsh assembly's powers - was split into two parts.

Part one of the inquiry looked at fiscal powers, and the report published in November last year made 33 recommendations, including some tax-varying powers.

The second part of the inquiry's work has taken evidence on whether there should be other changes to the devolution settlement.

It has looked at what policy areas should be controlled by the devolved administration and what should remain under the UK government in Westminster.

The commission's full report is due to be published in spring next year.

A UK government source said: "The government has responded to industry concerns about proposed devolution of SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) by consulting further.

"We are considering the further representations that have been made."

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