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.
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