The stamp of approval?

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander has announced a consultation with business on whether the Welsh Government should get control of stamp duty

The recent victory of the British and Irish Lions in Australia was an amazing team effort. A team effort, but a victory in no small part down to the Welsh players. At various points in the past the UK Government has made space for people to have a proper debate about identity, governance and powers and has taken the time and resource to address huge questions. This is done with a view to changing our nations for the better, to ensure our relationships are sustainable and workable for all. To be successful these also have to be a team effort and in the case of the Silk Commission this too is in no small part down to the Welsh Players.

In 2010 I came to the National Assembly Finance Committee (the only UK Government Cabinet Minister to have ever done so) and I said clearly back then that I was relaxed about further fiscal autonomy for Wales if there were consensus amongst the parties. This remains the case today. In fact in my 17 days as Secretary of State for Scotland I’m immensely proud that I started the ball rolling on the biggest transfer of fiscal powers ever conducted by the UK government. A change for the good of Scotland¹s economy.

I am announcing today a quick and targeted consultation on the devolution of Stamp Duty Land Tax, to inform our formal response to the Silk Commission’s first report. I am also happy to announce that we will be looking at providing the Welsh Government with early access to borrowing powers to support a funding solution for the M4 improvement scheme. While our response has not met expectations on timing, the key to keeping our relationships sustainable and workable is getting the best outcome for all of the UK. Building on the Silk Commission’s earlier engagement when preparing its first report, I want to make a call today to all businesses to engage positively with this further consultation.

I want to focus a consultation on business ­ we are doing this because we need to understand better the potential implications for the construction industry and the housing market, given the number of towns and cities close to the border between Wales and England. We also want to gauge whether the business community supports the idea and believes that it will benefit the Welsh economy.

Welsh growth and economic recovery is at the heart of a decision to run this consultation. It’s the founding purpose of the coalition and is the ongoing thread of our work as a government in everything we do for all constituent parts of the UK. We are determined to return the UK to prosperity and I believe we all have a role to play in that recovery. We want to build a stronger Welsh economy and our response to Silk will be driven by these aims. To these ends we have already agreed in principle to capital borrowing powers for Wales, we have given the Welsh Government an additional £800million to spend on capital projects during this spending review period, ensured that nearly 200,000 SMEs and Mid-sized business in Wales benefit from the Business Bank and delivered a new employment allowance that will be worth £2000 to 35,000 businesses in Wales. And it won¹t stop there! I believe passionately that power must arise from the people; we are the best judge of our own needs. Furthermore I am delighted with the news of larger turnouts at the Silk 2 consultation meetings. It shows real movement towards change in this direction. In the same sprit I would urge all parts of Welsh business and society to take part in this quick consultation.

The British Irish Lions victory was fantastic to watch, and again worked when all parts came together. I¹m very proud that Richie Gray played his last minute part in the victory. For me, I’ve been leading from the outset. I will lead the consultation and we will respond in the Autumn remaining committed to the very best deal for Wales.

Danny Alexander is Chief Secretary to the Treasury

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