Wales is waiting for Scotland to say no

Gareth Hughes says fewer Welsh MPs are the key to implementation of the Silk Commission proposals

There are always two faces to a politician. Out of one words are uttered for the benefit of the world at large and out of the other what they really think. Devolution is one area where often the two faces have been in play.

Take the response to this week’s Silk Commission report by First Minister Carwyn Jones. One face said the package  could “settle” the issue of devolution for at least a decade. But of course his other face knows that this is highly unlikely. He knows full well that on constitutional issues a snail would overtake the speed that his party is prepared to introduce a settlement that would “close” the issue for a decade.

The six Commissions established to look at aspects of Welsh governance to date have all tried to right the constitutional wrong done to Wales in the original devolution settlement. A settlement that was more akin to Heath Robinson design than a rational piece of constitutional change. It’s only purpose was to keep the home rule and the unionists wing of the Labour party from engaging in open warfare.

The First Minister knows that, for instance, he can welcome the transfer of powers on policing as much as he likes, but the Labour MPs in Westminster will have no truck with it.

It’s sad but true that Wales has only a chance of getting a logical settlement in the wake of what happens over Hadrian’s wall. No, Carwyn Jones can only hope that a comprehensive sort out of the UK constitutional will happen when Scotland decides to stay within the UK, as the polls are predicting.

Within that sort out, Jones might put his real devolutionist face forward and then and perhaps only then, will Wales have a proper devolutionary settlement. A settlement that serves the real needs of the Welsh people rather than the needs of self serving MPs.

Perhaps in such a constitutional shake up Wales will have sufficient Assembly Members to do the job of law making properly. The First Minister knows that they’re needed but also know that the only way this can be brought about is having fewer Councillors and more importantly fewer MPs.

It’s always been a mystery as to why the devolution settlement saw Wales with the same number of MPs. As they lost powers over a range of issues they were unaffected by the changes. Whilst Government press the rest of the country to be more productive, MPs’ productivity goes down and their pay goes up. Nice little number if you can get away with it. And it seems that Carwyn Jones allows them to get away with it. He should exercise leadership and tell them that the feather bedding is over.

MPs are an impediment to giving the people of Wales a National Assembly that really delivers. But they know that to vote for what is right will put many of them out of a job. Turkeys don’t tend to vote for Christmas.


Gareth Hughes is a political commentator who blogs here (

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