Who speaks for the Lib Dems?

Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP has called on the Lib Dems to clarify their position on the Holtham Commission’s final report and especially their policy over devolving tax varying powers to the Welsh Assembly Government.

Mr Edwards seized on contradictory comments made by several Lib Dem voices in Wales and London, which he said pointed to a ‘completely confused’ policy.

Mr Edwards said:

“While the Lib Dems are well known for being the party that pretends to be all things to all people – this is ridiculous.

“The Holtham commission’s final report had been out for less than 24 hours before the confused Lib Dems already began contradicting each other.

“The Welsh Lib Dem leader claims that the party is all in favour of powers over tax variance to be devolved, when meanwhile, her colleagues in London claim to have little or no knowledge of this policy.

“The party’s own Deputy Leader even claimed that UK taxes were not within the party’s policy of ‘self-government’ for Wales.

“Are they already ruling out the recommendations of the Holtham report which has yet to be fully digested?

“Who speaks for the Lib Dems? Have the Welsh Lib Dems been yet again undermined by their London masters?

“In failing to implement the recommendations of the first Holtham Commission report, including a ‘Barnett floor’, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have let Wales down, just as Labour failed when they had the chance to get a fairer funding system for Wales.”


Nodiadau / Notes:

Lib Dem 1 – Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, ‘not read it yet’

Jonathan Edwards: On geographical fairness, does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the recommendations of the final Holtham report, published today, which

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calls for an immediate Barnett floor to protect Wales from further convergence, the implementation of transition mechanisms towards a needs-based formula, and a place at the table for the Welsh Government in discussions on fiscal autonomy for Scotland?

Danny Alexander: I am grateful for that intervention. I have not yet had a chance to read the second Holtham report, which is published today. However, in the course of a meeting with the Welsh Finance Minister, I undertook to meet Mr Holtham once he had published his second report, and I look forward to doing so and having a chance to discuss it directly with him. At this stage, I will not make any commitments of the sort the hon. Gentleman wants, except to note that on the path of public finances as they are at the moment, further convergence is not forecast over the next few years.

Lib Dem 2 – Kirsty Williams, Welsh Lib Dem leader, Western Mail quote ‘definitely in favour’

“Welsh Liberal Democrats have long-argued for this institution to have more [powers] and tax-varying powers.”

Lib Dem 3 – Lorely Burt, Lib Dem front bench finance spokesperson, ‘UK taxes inappropriate to regionalise’

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Jonathan Edwards: Does the hon. Lady agree that the regionalisation of corporation tax would be a more helpful way to assist the most disadvantaged parts of the United Kingdom?
Lorely Burt: The hon. Gentleman asked me about the regionalisation of corporation tax, but these are UK taxes so it is inappropriate to regionalise. He makes an interesting point that I have not considered before, but I am sure that my hon. Friends will take an interest in the idea if it has merit.

Lib Dem 4 – Simon Hughes, Deputy leader of Liberal Democrats ‘powers yes, tax no’

Simon Hughes: My hon. Friend is right. I just wish to say to the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) that, as he knows, my party has been supportive of increasing autonomy and self-government in Scotland and in Wales. That has happened in Scotland and it is on the agenda for Wales, and he knows -[Interruption.] It is on the agenda for Wales; it is not agreed and it is not committed, but it is under discussion in relation to Wales. He knows that my party has always been positive towards the idea of allowing greater self-government, both in Scotland and in Wales, but that is different from the regionalisation of UK taxes such as corporation tax.

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