Barnett consequentials, money and another referendum

Stephen Crabb MP
Image caption Under question: Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb

The cast may have changed but the first Welsh questions of the new parliament brought with it some familiar friends.

Where would we be without "Barnett consequentials" or a "fair funding floor"? It was almost as if we hadn't been away.

So what did we learn? Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb rejected a Liberal Democrat call to commission new research to see if the Welsh government is under-funded and a Plaid Cymru demand for funding parity with Scotland. He also dismissed the idea that Wales should get some cash as a result of spending on HS2 in England.

Lib Dem Mark Williams suggested that Mr Crabb commission new research to investigate how under-funded Wales is. Stephen Crabb told him that he had met the economist Gerald Holtham, author of a previous work on the issue.

"He agrees with me that actually we don't need to commission any independent new evidence," said Mr Crabb. "The work has been done and the thing that we do need to crack on with is introducing the fair funding floor which we are committed to doing."

The funding floor is designed to ensure spending per head in Wales remains higher than in England. Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: "Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have cynically sought to redefine what constitutes fair funding for Wales, with both parties seeing it as a funding floor rather than treating us on an equal footing with Scotland."

She asked Mr Crabb: "Will the government not join with the people of Wales - 78 per cent of whom believe Wales should be funded to the same level per head as Scotland?"

Mr Crabb told her: "There was one single theme and policy that Plaid Cymru had during the general election campaign which was this issue of funding and seeking parity with Scotland.

"The trouble with seeking parity with Scotland is that you have to start dividing up the whole pie. The important thing is that we're delivering on a fair funding floor for Wales that will correct the way the Barnett formula operates for Wales."

'Barnett consequential'

Speaking during question time in the House of Commons, Mr Davies http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/read/unknown/13/d Mr Crabb: "Do you agree that the Welsh government should be held more financially accountable to the Welsh taxpayer for the money it spends and will he consider including in the anticipated Wales Bill the devolution of income tax without the unnecessary block of a referendum?"

Mr Crabb replied him: "I do agree with you about the need for Welsh government to assume greater responsibility for raising money as well as just spending it. On the point about the referendum I hear his arguments and there are other people making similar arguments at this time but in a sense it's all academic. If Welsh government aren't up for the challenge of greater financial responsibility then any discussion about whether we have a referendum or not is academic."

Under questioning from Labour's Carolyn Harris on HS2, the Welsh secretary rejected calls for Wales to get those "Barnett consequentials". He told her: "HS2 is a strategic project that will benefit the whole of the United Kingdom. It will benefit Wales, not least through the new hub station at Crewe, increasing the potential for North Wales electrification. So on that basis there is no argument for a Barnett consequential."

Glyn Davies continued his campaign for the Welsh government to take on more responsibility for raising some of its budget. He asked Mr Crabb: "Do you agree that the Welsh government should be held more financially accountable to the Welsh taxpayer for the money it spends and will he consider including in the anticipated Wales Bill the devolution of income tax without the unnecessary block of a referendum?

Stephen Crabb did not dismiss out of hand the idea of scrapping the referendum, telling his fellow Tory: "I do agree with you about the need for Welsh government to assume greater responsibility for raising money as well as just spending it.

"On the point about the referendum I hear his arguments and there are other people making similar arguments at this time but in a sense it's all academic. If Welsh government aren't up for the challenge of greater financial responsibility then any discussion about whether we have a referendum or not is academic."

Several of the 2015 intake made their debuts, including South Ribble Tory Seema Kennedy, who read out a question about the Welsh government's office refurbishment spending.

You can read today's exchanges here.