Wales politics

Nick Clegg: More AMs 'not matter for UK leaders'

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Media captionNick Clegg said Wales needed its own "bespoke" solution to address under-funding of the Welsh government

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he could see the case for more assembly members in Cardiff Bay, if more powers are devolved to Wales.

But he said it should not be for him to decide whether there should be an increase in the number of AMs.

Mr Clegg's Liberal Democrats back the implementation of the Silk Commission's second report, which suggested devolving more powers to Cardiff Bay.

It also supported increasing the number of AMs.

The commission stopped short of specifying a figure but said an increase from the current 60 to 80 "would balance enhanced scrutiny capacity with restraint in public spending".

Mr Clegg said while he could "see the case" for more AMs, he did not think UK party leaders should specify a figure.

'Talking shop'

He also rejected suggestions that England should have its own parliament.

"The last thing we need is an additional talking shop for politicians," said Mr Clegg.

"But nor does it seem to me right for myself, as an English MP and as the leader of a national party, to say to all the parties that signed up to the Silk Commission and agreed to the principle there should be an adjustment in the numbers of the assembly as more powers go to the assembly, I'm not going to say 'that's not allowed'.

"I don't think that's in the spirit of grown-up partnership and devolution, which is so important."

He added: "I can see the case... that as you devolve more powers to the assembly, that needs to be reflected in an adjustment to the numbers.

"The principle is important; it's not really for me to determine what the precise numbers should be."

'Wales short-changed'

Mr Clegg also said Wales needed its own "bespoke" solution to address under-funding of the Welsh government.

The three largest UK parties have pledged not to reform the Barnett formula, which distributes money around the UK nations and is widely seen to benefit Scotland.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed a 'top-up' system to address concerns Wales is left short-changed.

"What we want is to make sure that the issues Wales have confronted in terms of the imbalance of the current system are addressed, but do so - how can I put it? - without unstitching all the rest of the arrangements," said Mr Clegg.

"That's the balance."

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