Wales and England cross-border progress improved, say MPs

11 March 2010

Working practices between the UK and Welsh Assembly governments in relation to cross-border policies appear much improved, concludes a report published today by the Welsh Affairs Committee.

The Committee says many of the problems identified in its previous cross-border public services for Wales inquiries have been resolved. However, a number of outstanding issues remain.

Transport

The Committee welcomes the planned electrification of the Great Western Main Line. However, the Department for Transport appears to have washed its hands of any strategic responsibility for cross-border roads. The A483 is the clearest example of a road vital for travel within Wales but which is not important to the English region in which it is located, and as a result loses out on funding. The Committee urges regional ministers, the Wales Office and the Secretary of State for Transport to tackle this issue.

Health

It is a serious mistake for ministers to disregard the need for comparative data on which to build solid research comparing NHS performance in the devolved nations. The Committee calls for a rethink of this approach.

More needs to be done to raise public awareness of the differences in services people can expect to receive on both sides of the border. Transparency of information is vital.

Further and Higher Education

Research proposals in the UK Government’s Higher Ambitions strategy make no reference to nations other than England, despite the UK-wide research remit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Committee calls for details about how research funding proposals apply to all four nations.

The Sector Skills Council relicensing process must enable the Sector Skills Councils to give due regard to territorial differences in skills policies and in the configurations and weightings of different sectors.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:

"We warmly welcome the progress which has been made since our original reports. Better communication between Wales and Whitehall is clearly taking place in a number of key areas where previously it was lacking.

"However, we continue to have serious concerns about particular issues where deficiencies remain. The relevant UK government departments must address our concerns and take action to ensure people crossing the Welsh-English border do not receive a lower level of service."

Image: iStockphoto

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