More powers announced for Wales as Secretary of State meets St David’s Day deadline

Jessica Blair looks at Stephen Crabb’s St David’s Day announcement.

‘A clearer, stronger, fairer’ devolution settlement has been promised to Wales today in a key announcement made by Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg.

The announcement which has been published in a new ‘command paper’ by the Wales Office, has been labelled ‘a significant constitutional moment’ for Wales by the UK Government, and follows on from recommendations made by a commission on devolution in Wales, chaired by Paul Silk.

Some parties such as Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour are already saying the offer doesn’t go far enough and has left out major powers such as those over policing and justice and failed to fully reform the way Wales is funded.

The main themes of the announcement are a ‘reserved powers’ model of devolution for Wales, significant new powers and a new funding proposal. But what exactly does this mean?

A reserved powers model for Wales

A new ‘reserved powers’ model of devolution for Wales will be introduced, as it is in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many have complained that the current ‘conferred powers’ model is complicated. This new model will mean that anything that isn’t explicitly reserved to the UK Government will be devolved to Wales.

There will still be an extensive list of powers reserved to Westminster, but the UK Government say that this model will be clearer.

Funding for Wales

The UK Government will introduce a ‘floor’ on the way Wales is currently funded, meaning that the budget cannot go below a certain level. This, they say, removes any barriers, paving a way for a referendum on income tax, which they expect from the Welsh Government in the next Parliament.

This is a controversial announcement as many say that it does nothing to address the current funding gap between Wales and Scotland.

Size of the assembly

“The size of the National Assembly should be increased so that it can perform its scrutiny role better” says the UK Government and it will also devolve the ability to make this decision to the Assembly so that it can decide for itself whether its current 60 members is sufficient.

The National Assembly for Wales will also be able to change its name to the ‘Welsh Parliament’ if it wishes to and will be recognised as permanent as long as it supported by a majority of the people in Wales.

Elections

The Assembly will have powers over its own elections, and will have the right to chose whether it introduces votes for those aged 16 and 17 for these elections.

Further powers

The Welsh Government will receive powers over energy projects up to 350 MW and fracking licensing.

Wales will have new powers over transport including ports, bus regulation, the Wales and Borders rail franchise and speed limits. The Welsh Government will not receive powers over drink drive limits and air passenger duty with the UK Government committing only to look at this in the next Parliament.

To see all of the announcements made about new powers to Wales, you can see the full command paper here.

Below are thoughts from some political figures. What do you think? Why don’t you let us know below by commenting?

Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru discuss her reaction to the announcement:

Daran Hill, MD of Positif shares his reaction:

Steve Brooks shares his views:

Jessica Blair is the Policy and Projects Manager for the IWA and the Co-Editor for Click on Wales

2 thoughts on “More powers announced for Wales as Secretary of State meets St David’s Day deadline

  1. A pathetic joke, and those in power at Westminster know that it is. The UK Government would never get away with this wet rag if it was offered to Edinburgh or Belfast. They are ridiculing us, as we’ve come to expect.

  2. We used to talk about a gap between Welsh funding and what Wales would get if it were treated like an English region. The gap was estimated back in 2009 at £300 million at least and probably around £450 million. Wales was getting a 2 or 3 per cent smaller bedget than was “fair”. The evidence seems to be that the gap has closed since then for reasons that are not entirely clear but imply that austerity has hit English regions harder than Wales. I do not think we have an accurate figure but the gap has shrunk and is small enough for the Treasury to argue it is negligible. Some Welsh politicians have therefore moved the goalposts and are talking about the gap between Wales and Scotland. The work in 2009 suggested Scotland was wildly over-funded and got several billion pounds a year more than it would get as an English region.. The Scots keep this not because it is fair but because of brute politics; they have an oilfield and 45 per cent of them are prepared to vote for independence. They get too much money to keep them and the oil in the Union. Wales has no claim in fairness to get what Scotland gets and does not have the political assets that would enable it to bludgeon its way to an over-generous settlement. So I think we should drop talk of the gap with Scotland.. It was fine to ask for fairness; it is unworthy and undignified to plead for unfair special treatment.

    The floor we want s a different matter. It is not a floor under the money Wales gets. It is a floor in the ratio of our spending per head to spending per head in England. It is a floor on a relative, not absolute measure. The Barnett formula means when public spending grows it grows at a slower rate in Wales than in England so our spending while going up is falling as a proportion of English spending. There is no justification for that. A floor would give Wales the same percentage increases as in England so the ratio of our spending to theirs would stay constant. That is a big deal. Suppose public spending in England grows at 5 per cent a year. The floor means after ten years Welsh spending would be over £1 billion or some 7 per cent higher than it would be without the floor. Even if public spending grew at just 2 per cent, the floor would be worth over £400 million to Wales after ten years. This is an entirely justifiable demand and if the Cameron Clegg announcement means we have got it then we shall be as near as dammit to fair funding for Wales.

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