Monday, 18 February 2013
The journey to Home rule for Wales has been a very slow and tortuous affair. Another small step was taken by the Welsh Government today when they published their vision of Wales’ long term constitutional future. In other words, what powers they want devolved to Wales.
In his government’s submission to the Silk Commission Carwyn Jones see’s Wales not as an independent country but part of the United Kingdom, all be it with more powers over its own affairs.
Basically, Carwyn’s no separatist more a Home Ruler in the fine tradition of Lloyd George. Until of course LlG got the big job of running the roost in the UK and Empire and quietly forgot his commitment to the land of his fathers. Oh, I suppose he did disestablish the Church in Wales. A big deal in its day.
But back to Carwyn. The Jones boy wants to go back to first base with a new Government for Wales Act. Instead of powers being handed to Wales at the whim of Westminster he wants the default position that Wales has all the powers. But acknowledges that some areas should be ‘reserved’ to the UK parliament. He wants Westminster to continue to have their sticky paws on the lever of power in the areas of constitutional affairs, defence, foreign affairs, social security and macro-economic policy.
A political leader would never voluntarily give up powers over areas they already have control over and Carwyn Jones is no exception he wants to retain these and add considerable more to his fiefdom.
He wants control over the Police and other law and order services, but the criminal justice system has a whole should be devolved a lot later. Cash being the problem. To devolve them now would be to costly. It begs the question when will they be affordable. But once these were passed to Wales the establishment of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction would follow. A case of we want more powers. When? In the fullness of time.
One thing he definitely wants control over is water. He know that with his current powers he could not prevent another Tryweryn. So he wants control over all laws relating to water matters within the geographical boundary of Wales.
Other areas include : Vulnerable adults and children - to clarify and extend competence including in relation to taking children into care, fostering and adoption (public child law); Road safety and powers to improve public transport – including powers over speed and drink driving limits, bus and taxi regulation; Ports - to ensure that we maximise the economic development potential of Welsh ports; Licensing of alcohol and late night entertainment – in order to promote public health and community safety; Administrative Justice in relation to devolved areas, including arrangements for complaints and redress;The administration of elections in Wales - including Elections to the National Assembly for Wales and local authorities; Taxation – powers consistent with the Silk 1 recommendations to enable the Assembly to legislate on devolved taxes.
So quite a shopping list. If granted the Assembly would become powerful indeed. According to the First Minister no new constitutional principle is involved, so need for a referendum. Despite addition powers he still things that any new laws stemming from these could be passed without increasing the size of the current 60 seat Assembly. Assembly Members would just have to work harder for no additional rewards or anyone to share the burden. Oh dear, poor things.
And when will all this come to pass if ever, I hear you ask? Well, the Welsh Government believes these responsibilities should be devolved to the Assembly by 2020/21, as part of a wider reform of the UK Constitution following the Scottish independence referendum. So we might get them when the Scots have had their say on their future. It was always so.