The Welsh secretary of state has had enough of the blame game
The secretary of state for Wales will later this afternoon call for the Welsh Assembly to be transformed into a full parliament with tax raising powers.
Stephen Crabb will make the remarks when he addresses members of the Assembly as they debate the content of the Queen’s Speech.
Crabb, who in 2007 used an article for ConservativeHome to outline his concerns that devolution was leading to separatism and socialism across the UK, will call also on politicians of all colours to end the ‘continuous debate about powers’ and instead focus on ‘delivery and real change’.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of his appearance Crabb warned that failure to ensure that Wales and Scotland had either some or sufficient tax raising powers had had a ‘a long-term corrosive effect’, stoking grievances and a blame game with the UK government.
The secretary of state will also use his appearance before AMs to challenge the Welsh government to use the powers it already has to raise ten pence in the pound in income tax.
Putting aside his previous hostility towards devolution, Crabb admitted to the Guardian that the Conservatives had been wrong to oppose the establishment of devolved bodies in Wales and Scotland in 1997. He explained:
“Strategically we got it massively wrong in 1997 by setting our faces against devolution. There is a strong philosophical tradition within British Conservatism that supports decentralisation and localism and devolution.
“We have rediscovered that in the last five or six years as a government. You can see the fruits of that now with the northern powerhouse and city deals.
“We have got to a place where Scottish Conservatives, Welsh Conservatives – we are very, very comfortable with devolution, we want to make it work.”
The Welsh secretary is also set to to announce that he plans to get rid of the ‘conferred’ model of devolution whereby Westminster provides Wales with certain powers, in favour of the reserved model, used in Scotland, under which all powers are presumed to be devolved unless specified otherwise.
Crabb told the Guardian:
“Blair left Wales with basically a halfway house where the legislation was entirely silent on huge swathes of policy, which created massive scope for vagueness which the Welsh government has not been shy about testing in the courts.
“So you have had this preposterous situation where the UK government and the Welsh government regularly go to the supreme court to argue about who is responsible for bylaws or agricultural wages. The only ones who win from that are London lawyers.”
Ahead of Crabb’s speech, Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood has criticised the UK government’s Wales Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, which contains measures to boost the powers of the Welsh Assembly.
Arguing that the Bill doesn’t go far enough in meeting the wishes of the people of Wales, Ms Wood has argued:
“If the devolution dispensation is to last, it must reflect the will of the people and respect Wales as an equal partner in this Union. Any devolution package that treats Wales as second rate is destined to fail.
“I’m afraid that if the St David’s Day Command Paper forms the basis of the Wales Bill, it has already failed the test of time. It leaves Wales languishing behind Scotland and Northern Ireland and will continue to leave Wales worse off in terms of funding.”
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.