Lords debates Welsh devolution

20 July 2012

Members of the House of Lords including a former Welsh Office minister, the president of the School of Welsh Legal Studies and a former president of Plaid Cymru discussed the progress of devolution being made by the Commission on Devolution in Wales yesterday (Thursday 19 July)

Baroness Randerson (Liberal Democrat), party spokesperson for Wales and former acting deputy first minister, tabled the debate. She opened with a speech on the background to the legislature of the National Assembly of Wales and said: 'Since I entered this House 18 months ago, noble Lords have devoted many hours to Scottish constitutional issues. In putting down this motion for debate today, I am hoping to start to redress the balance and shine a little light on Welsh constitutional issues.'

She then went on the describe the work of the Silk Commission on devolution. Baroness Randerson explained: 'The commission, chaired by Paul Silk, formerly a clerk to the national assembly... is modelled on Scotland's Calman Commission, but, significantly, it has even greater credibility because unlike Calman, all four main political parties are represented on it. So far it has taken evidence on financial accountability and we expect its report on this aspect early next year. It has had more than 40 submissions, the majority in favour of some element of fiscal powers for the assembly.'

Former Welsh Office minister, Lord Roberts of Conwy (Conservative), followed with a speech which covered tax powers for the National Assembly of Wales: 'I am more perturbed by the possibility of new or increased rates of taxes being imposed on businesses and individuals in Wales,' he said.

Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru), former president of Plaid Cymru, expressed his views on Welsh autonomy. He said: 'I want to see Wales as a nation taking all the decisions that can meaningfully be taken on an all-Wales level, and to have an effective voice in other decisions that have to be taken on a wider scale.'

In his speech, Lord Elystan-Morgan (Crossbench), president of the School of Welsh Legal Studies and former deputy opposition spokesperson for Welsh affairs, questioned Wales' power over finances. 'I am not an economist but I am a Cardiganshire man, and in Cardiganshire we are very careful about any decisions that concern money. I can well imagine that there are various pros and cons: there are possibilities and pitfalls,' he said.

Baroness Gale (Labour), member of the Wales Labour Women’s Committee, said that the commission should focus on issues such as high living costs, impact of recession and high unemployment as well as constitutional powers. She said: 'Jobs and growth are our priority. Today's unemployment figures for Wales stand at nine per cent, and an increase of 2,000 more people without jobs means more heartache for Welsh families.'  

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government. He said: 'I certainly undertake to write to Paul Silk, drawing the commission's attention to the fact that the debate has taken place and to the comments that have been made. It is also pertinent to say that not only to the commission but within government. Points have been made in this debate on which I am sure some of my colleagues in government will wish to reflect.'

Further information

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