UK Government devolution delay halting Welsh economic recovery

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, has expressed disappointment at the timing and content of the UK Government’s statement on the Silk Commission on Devolution, claiming that it is undermining the commission’s work by delaying the transfer of vital financial powers to Wales.

Mr Edwards said that while the Treasury legislated within 13 days in response to the Banking Reform Commission’s report, Wales has had to wait months for Westminster to show any sign of making progress on further devolution and empowering the Welsh Government with vital job-creating levers.

He added that the UK Government’s intention to consult with Welsh businesses on devolving stamp tax would cause further unnecessary delay, given that the recommendation had already been agreed upon by the cross-party Commission.

Speaking in London, Mr Edwards said:

“Plaid Cymru has long insisted that the transfer of job-creation powers from Westminster to Wales is the best way of securing a Welsh economic recovery. The full implementation of the Silk Commission recommendations would go some way to achieving this and so it is very disappointing to receive a statement which delivers no meaningful progress after an 8-month wait.

“The Secretary of State for Wales has promised since the report was published that the UK Government would respond fully in September.  It’s an insult to the people of Wales that they have only published this vague written response on the eve of the break-up of Parliament. 

“The announcement that the UK Government intends to consult with certain businesses at the behest of the Secretary of State for Wales on devolving stamp duty tax will only cause further delay and is an unnecessary step that may be seen as a cynical move to halt the transfer of powers.  When looking at best practice of decentralising taxation around the world, property taxation is seen as one of the most appropriate taxes to devolve.  The Secretary of State’s anxiety flies in the face of global evidence. 

It’s important to note that the Silk Commission had consulted widely in coming up with these recommendations, why is the UK Government second-guessing the careful work of the Commission? 

“It’s obvious that all three London parties are deeply split on the issue of financial powers for Wales,  and the dithering of the Labour Government over  whether it wants the full Silk package or only part of it hasn’t helped matters.   

“Last week we were debating the Banking Reform Bill, in which the Treasury was legislating on recommendations published only 13 days in advance.  The UK Government can move fast enough when it wants to.

 “Silk outlined the 2013 Finance Bill as the legislative vehicle for implementing its proposals. Plaid Cymru tabled amendments to the Bill to implement Silk and we were voted down by the ConDems while the Labour party couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to vote – this just goes to show how seriously the Red Tories take this matter.

“Progress on borrowing powers is to be welcomed. However, the manner in which the Treasury have coupled these new powers with a specific infrastructure project smacks of Big Brother government. Transport is a devolved issue and it should be a matter for the Welsh Government and the Senedd to determine Welsh transport priorities. The Treasury wouldn’t dream of treating Scotland like this and it shows a complete lack of strength by the Labour government that they have allowed the ConDems to bully them in this manner.

“While we await a comprehensive report from an UK Government content with treating Wales as a second-class nation, Plaid Cymru will continue to put the Welsh national interest at the heart of our policies and offer meaningful proposals to get our economy back on track.”

ENDS

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