Devo Max

Mike Hedges argues for a long term devolution settlement for Wales

We have had three devolution settlements for Wales and we are no closer to a long term settlement than we were before the first.

In Britain we have seen different devolution settlements for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as different areas devolved to London and some of the city regions of England.

We have what is meant to be a reserved powers model in Wales, following the most recent settlement, but the host of reservations within supposedly devolved areas makes a mockery of such a definition.

On leaving the European Union there is now a new battle to get devolved to Wales those powers being repatriated to Britain in wholly devolved areas. If the settlement had been a comprehensive reserved powers model then this would not arise as nothing being repatriated would be on the current reserved list

Surely the question to be asked is what needs to be controlled by Westminster in order to benefit the whole of the United Kingdom as opposed to what each ministerial department desires to keep under its control.

There are the obvious areas that need to be held centrally: Defence, Foreign affairs, national security, currency, interest rates, overseas aid, immigration, Driver and car licensing, central bank and National Insurance numbers.

If most of those areas are devolved it is called independence not devolution.

There are those it is worthy of discussion over whether they should be devolved or set centrally:

– State pension age and amount should we have one for the United Kingdom or should each jurisdiction set its own. How would that work with movement between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

– Should we have one unified social security system or should each jurisdiction be able to set their own contribution levels and payments. Same question as above.

– Should alcohol and tobacco duty be same to avoid cross border movement.

– Should there be UK taxes to pay for the centrally funded items with all other taxes devolved and collected locally.

How will financial support from the wealthier to the poorer regions be organised and maintained.

Everything does not have to be devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland or the English city regions at the same time. What we need is a list of items which are available to be devolved with each Parliament needing at least 2/3 of members voting in favour before it is devolved. This is what happened in Northern Ireland when policing was devolved.

This avoids “big bang” devolution where control of everything passed on one day but allows for matters to be devolved as the parliaments are ready for them and funding agreed.

The advantage of this is that.

It sets an end point of the devolution journey outside of creating new countries.

It allows each to move at a pace it is comfortable with but with a common end point.

Finally devolution in Wales does not have to end in Cardiff. Devolution within Wales is possible either to the City regions in South Wales or to mid and North Wales. Also what powers would be better devolved to local authorities. The question surely should be where the best decisions will be taken for the local population.

Devolution in Wales is a journey but it must not be a journey that only ends in Cardiff. For true devolution powers will also be devolved to the regions and councils of Wales.


All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Mike Hedges is AM for Swansea East

7 thoughts on “Devo Max

  1. There can be no “long term devolution settlement”, because each ‘settlement’ will eventually run slap-bang into its own inconsistencies and contradictions, and will always need to be changed again due to, “events, dear boy, events”.

    And as for this bit:

    “There are the obvious areas that need to be held centrally: Defence, Foreign affairs, national security, currency, interest rates, overseas aid, immigration….”

    Then that means that the people of this nation will continue – whether they want to or not – to be a party to: aggressive wars waged against civilian populations in large parts of south-west Asia for reasons of greed or geo-political manoeuvering; selling lethal weaponry to some of the nastiest régimes on the planet; spying on, infiltrating and neutering non-violent social activists; speculation and the setting of interest rates for political rather than economic imperatives; the slashing of assistance to the most desperate parts of the world for similar political calculation; and ditto in – if you’ll forgive the term – spades for determining immigration policy on what will play well with the Kippers and the Mail rather than what our society needs.

    And with a mere 40 out of 650 performers in that neo-Gothic theme park called ‘Westminster’, thus it would ever stay.

    I do agree with Mr Hedges on this, however:

    “If most of those areas are devolved it is called independence not devolution.”

    Yes, it is. So why not grasp the nettle now, before our colonial masters and their fanboys in our ‘parliament’ take back what few powers we actually have? As with the ‘federalist’ argument that the IWA seems keen to push, it ignores the reality that there are really only two long-term futures for this nation; independence or total assimilation. It is time that this is addressed rather than wasting our efforts on unsatisfactory short-termism.

  2. Yet another paper in the political battle between Westminster and Cardiff. Where are the papers, and their subsequent translations into plans and actions, about building a sustainable, wealth-creating economy in Wales. Unless Wales builds such an economy, one based on genuine wealth creation and not on public sector services, we will always be dependent on Westminster money and therefore never in a position to have a meaningful discussion about ‘devolution versus independence’. The phrase ‘He who pays the piper, calls the tune’ comes easily to mind.

  3. The ultimate end of devolution isn’t independence that is part of the Abolish Wales Party “project fear”. Actually it isn’t part of their project fear, it is their only part. Independence for Wales isn’t on the cards. Being in a federal state does not mean independence. I believe in Wales and in Britain and most people I know are the same. I would rather have an imperfect devolution in a federal union than the nightmare of direct misrule by Mess-Minster. Wales can be in the old style Yugoslavian union with England or a Swiss style union. The Abolish Wales Party plans will result in two options, the old Yugoslavian style union were Wales was always at the bottom and the last to receive anything or the Spanish option

  4. “The advantage of this is that. It sets an end point of the devolution journey outside of creating new countries.”
    “The question surely should be where the best decisions will be taken for the local population.”

    I can see a contradiction here.
    If the second sentiment is the over riding one then why rule out the creation of “new” countries as a means of achieving it.
    If the first sentiment is the over riding one then there are limits as to how good those decisions taken for the local population can be.

  5. First, congratulations to Mike Hedges for his open-mindedness and welcome brevity. The article rightly points up the glaring weakness of the current system of devolution. Independence is the clearest alternative and would allow Wales to play an honourable role in international affairs.

  6. I see that the small government squad are at it again.

    For every £1 of public investment, we see a £1.5 return. The OBR has been forced to update their own multiplier and any reference to UK economic performance post 2011 clearly indicates the effects of shrinking public spending.

    Meanwhile, whilst Welsh business has produced roughly as many jobs as have been lost in the public sector, over 77% of these pay below real living wage. Strange to note that nobody has yet pointed out how private sector employment is squeezing productivity and crowding out well paid public sector work!

    Tidy jobs require public investment. R&D, universities, infrastructure and a strong technical base. Instead, we are offered a zero hour sweatshop.

    As for the article, I whole heartedly agree. Recently, I met with an old friend (an economist at one of our universities). He reminded me how during the long boom, the UK was modelled as an engine for regional and national redistribution. However, and as with the EU, talk of ‘solidarity’ has all since melted and (in our case) ceased.

    Whereas I detect no great thirst for independance, nor do I see any special affection for the Union. For this to happen, would require a wholly new economic and social settlement upon which to base consent.

    To that end, I chuckle to consider how, whilst Gordon Brown claimed to have saved the world, Jeremy Corbyn might yet recover the United Kingdom.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy