Silk road "constitutional neurosis" warning in Lords


To the House of Lords, where their Lordships have been discussing - what else? - the UK government's response to the Silk commission on devolution to Wales enabling the Welsh government to raise some taxes and borrow money.

Seventy two hours after David Cameron and Nick Clegg journeyed to what the prime minister calls "the bubble in the Bay" to confirm that spring is finally over, and that "in due course" moment had finally arrived, Plaid Cymru's former leader, Lord Wigley, raised the subject at question time.

He asked the Wales Office Minister Lady Randerson: "Would you accept that the Silk report represents a balanced package and that cherry-picking that package would unravel it? Will you therefore state by when the other 20 or so recommendations that weren't covered on Friday will be announced? Will they be in the statement you're making this afternoon and in particular will you give an assurance that the legislation necessary in order to enact all the commitments that have been made on Friday will be on the statute book before the next general election?"

She replied: "The Silk commission made 33 recommendations. The announcement on Friday did not go into the detail on many of those and there will be a full response to the Silk report in the next couple of months, so that we're dealing with this by the end of the year and the intention is that there will be a draft Wales Bill that will incorporate Silk recommendations that the government has accepted where legislation is necessary and the the government intends that that will be possible therefore to pursue that if possible in the fourth session of this parliament."

A Labour former Welsh Secretary, Lord Morris of Aberavon, questioned the commitment of his latest successor to devolution. Lady Randerson told him that David Jones had "worked extremely hard to ensure that this report has had a positive response from the UK government."

Lord Morris, who was in the UK cabinet which created the Barnett formula, used to this day to calculate changes in the Welsh budget, also queried the way Wales would be expected to fund major projects under the new deal. Lady Randerson reminded him there was an agreement between the UK and Welsh governments to review that process at each spending review.

Liberal Democrat Lord Roberts of Llandudno wondered when the referendum on the devolution of some income tax powers would be held. The minister told him: "We will provide for the referendum by primary legislation here in parliament but it will be the responsibility of the assembly to trigger the referendum. It is right that timing should lie in their hands."

For Labour, Lady [Eluned] Morgan of Ely wanted an explanation why the devolution of long haul air passenger duty wasn't included in last week's announcement. "The government," Lady Randerson told her, "is not yet persuaded of the case in relation to this."

Former judge Lord Elystan-Morgan, a crossbench or independent peer, suggested the current "piecemeal" approach to Welsh devolution could be replaced by a Scottish-style "reserved powers" model that would offer more cohesion and simplicity. He joked that a reserved powers model would have the bonus of "saving a whole generation of Welsh lawyers from constitutional neurosis".

Lady Randerson told him that was an issue for part two of the Silk commission's brief - "something on which they're already working". Constitutional neurosis may still be affecting Welsh legal minds for some time to come.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Tredwyn , no referendum NO tax raising - that's good by me.

    Celtic fringe, we need those jobs replacing but not by the public sector and definitely no more AMs or 2nd chamber, if we need a 2nd chamber use the MPs we already pay them, they can work from a westminster committee room and video conf if need be, no costs involved

    As for long haul air tax , are there any long haul flights from Cardiff

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    22 - The WAG's think tank the so called IWA is now questioning wisdom of having a UK prison in Wrexham Their thinking is that the prison project will be detrimental to devolving Policing and Justice to Wales WAG and IWA seem to be at odds with each other as Carwyn went to Wrexham as a part of his PR to salute new jobs and economic benefit that prison will offer to Wales Have your cake and eat it!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Thank you all, as ever, for your comments. 98. GlasnostOrgUK - you might want to double check the job description
    and your spelling! You may owe Nick an apology on three counts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    ... Silk might have suggested a "national interest" test, where national is the UK, so that there wouldn't be a divergence between the UK constituent parts; the test is part of the German constitution regarding the relationship between Federal and Lander, is there any benefit to the whole having two distinct property taxes in the UK for example ?

    Only where divergence is the intention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Whilst suggesting changes to our much-loved site..
    How about leaving the totals For and Against rather than the Net.
    If someone proposes ,say, aboloshing S4C, a Net score of Zero suggests no interest: whereas +30 and -30 suggests interest and controversy, evenly balanced views.


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