No real appetite?

In the Western Mail today, Damian Green, the Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice in Englandandwales, said there was "no real appetite" for devolving powers over police and criminal justice to Wales.

He couldn't be more wrong about that.

Two recent opinion polls on the subject show that a significant majority of people in Wales want policing to be devolved. In 2009 the figures were:

For each of the following issues, please indicate which level of government you think should have responsibility for making decisions relating to it in Wales:

Policing

The Welsh Assembly Government ... 50%
The UK Government at Westminster ... 33%
Local Councils in Wales ... 10%
The European Union ... 1%
Don't know ... 7%

YouGov / Prifysgol Aberystwyth, October 2009

And in 2011 the figures were:

Would you like to see the Assembly gain responsibility for police and the criminal justice system?

Yes ... 56.7%
No ... 26.0%
Don't know/unsure ... 17.3%

RMG-Clarity, March 2011

     

Politicians who are opposed to the devolution of policing and criminal justice to Wales are simply following their own political agenda, for public opinion in Wales is in favour of it by a very large margin.

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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read Damian's article. Fine, he has a point that it MIGHT create bureaucracy, although apart from a few extra senior jobs I cannot see how it would. In fact it could cut it, as at the moment the WG do fund some policing roles.

Nevertheless, he had a valid point.

But what I cannot stand about politics in the UK is an Englishman saying that "Wales does not want this and that" based on no facts. In other words he does not think Wales should have it, and says that Wales does not want it. Time and time again we see this so thank you for flagging the % in favour.

Myself- I would welcome devolution of policing more so than the devolution of courts. I think that policing at present could be better run away from London.

Anonymous said...

Damian Green is originally from Barry but lost his Dave Coaches accent after moving to Reading and going on to become President of the Oxford Union.

Anonymous said...

The Damian Green is Welsh point triggers a thought. Although we've laughed many a time at some of the Tories sent to patrol the Welsh Office, since 1979 there has been a surprisingly large number of 'Welsh' people in Conservative cabinets (Howe, Edwards, Heseltine, Howard, Hunt, Gillan, David Jones, Miller). I may be wrong, but I don't think Blair and Brown were able to muster that many (Lords Richard and Williams, Ron Davies, Michael, Murphy and John Morris who attended but was not a cabinet minister). A symptom, no doubt, of Welsh Labour's recent inability to nurture truly talented politicians.

Anonymous said...

The one valid point he has is that piecemeal devolution of some aspect of criminal justice wouldn't make much sense. We'd have to take on the whole system under a Welsh legal jurisdiction. I think this would be a seriously good move and bestow devolution with some much needed credibility.

We could still maintain UK-wide co-operation over serious organised crime, anti-terrorism and borders.

Anonymous said...

"A symptom, no doubt, of Welsh Labour's recent inability to nurture truly talented politicians...."

I don't know how many of the "Welsh" Tories you've listed are truly talented. Most of them seemed pretty bog standard to me. The grandeur of Westminster is very good at allowing well-educated and priveleged people to flourish. A good test is to think how they would fit in as AMs.

Heseltine, Edwards and Howe, fair enough, would dominate the Assembly. Michael Howard could just about scrape it as a Conservative Assembly leader, but would get nowhere.

David Jones hardly impressive when he was an AM. Gillan, Hunt and Miller would be bog standard AMs.

But apart from that I don't want any of them controlling Welsh criminal justice.

Neilyn said...

Who the hell cares what the Welsh want? The Westminster Parliament's "sovereign" don't you know! Get back in your box Taffy, and hand back that leg of beef while you're at it. Not for the likes of you.

No matter that it'll boost responsibility, confidence, prestige and aspiration in Wales. Never mind the transfer of the significant employment opportunities to Wales. Forget the economic benefits to Wales. I'm telling you you don't want it, because ____________________________________________________________________

Fill in the blank Taffy!

Anonymous said...

We don't get wound up enough about things like this.

Criminal justice is a massive opportunity for boosting the nation and allowing the creation of a Welsh justice system. I don't care if Damian Green is from Barry. He has no electoral mandate from the people of Wales. Every time people here are polled about this they want it devolved. How the hell does some obscure Tory MP think he can just ignore this?

The idea that he can make decisions over us is supreme imperial arrogance.

Anonymous said...

As long as the majority of people in Wales vote for unionist parties we can expect nothing other than unionists claiming legitimacy for their refusal to devolve further powers.
The fact that the majority of people in Wales vote for unionist parties tells its own story.

Anonymous said...

"As long as the majority of people in Wales vote for unionist parties we can expect nothing other than unionists claiming legitimacy for their refusal to devolve further powers."

I disagree. That's a defeatist argument. The majority vote for unionist parties sure, but it doesn't mean they want the union to stay exactly as it is. We have to exploit that and build support for nation-building initiatives.

Especially because a majority are likely to vote for unionist parties for some time into the future. We're not necessarily going to be able to take a majority of the vote for a non-nationalist party in the near future, so we have to identify areas where unionist parties will agree to further devolution.

MH said...

I agree with 21:25 that if there were separate ministries of police and criminal justice, it could only result in a handful of additional senior positions. Rank-and-file civil servants would do the same job for Wales as they now do ... but with the crucial difference that they would be located in Wales rather than in London, and therefore that the money they earn would go into the Welsh economy rather than the London economy. In pure financial terms I'm sure Wales would be a net beneficiary, for the cost of the few extra senior positions would be outweighed by both that and the fact that it costs considerably less both to employ and to provide office space for civil servants in Wales than it does in London.

This is quite aside from the obvious political benefits of making decisions that affect policing and criminal justice for ourselves. Police and criminal justice is devolved to both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Why should Wales put up with second class treatment?

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In the article, Damian Green also said that the introduction of police and crime commissioners was itself "the largest single devolution in power in policing that one can imagine".

Leaving the obvious limits of his imagination to one side, this is complete rubbish. The creation of police and crime commissioners did not devolve anything at any level. All that happened was that one already local structure for police accountability was replaced with another. If there had been devolution from London to the police force areas (which would not be such a bad thing) then there would no longer be any need for a Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice in Westminster, would there? Damian Green would have to find another job and his department would have been abolished.

It's perhaps worth nothing that Damian Green's current job is only half a job anyway. Previously there was a Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing. But this job was split into two new ministerial posts, one for Security and Counter-Terrorism and the other for Police and Criminal Justice. This was a sensible split in that police and criminal justice are devolved to Scotland and NI, but security and counter-terrorism are not. This echoes the point that 09:37 made.

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I've no desire to comment on how Welsh Damian Green considers himself to be or the general quality of politicians who have a connexion with Wales. The only point that matters is that with devolution of policing and criminal justice to the Welsh Government, decisions that are currently made in Westminster—usually by a minister elected by no-one in Wales—would always be made a minister who has been elected by people in Wales.

DaiTwp said...

Damian Green's comment is just typical of any politician particuarlly when they want to justify their own point of view. If we ask the questions 1. What does he mean by no appitite? Then it would be fair to say that the man onthe street is certainly not anging doors down and placading for these powers nor if you asked most people general questions like 'what are their main concerns?' Would it likely feature. However when directly cosulted on the question as the poll you show demonstrates it would appear that the majority would be in favour of devolution of the police and justice system.
2. Who is he referring to when he says there is no appetite? Is he referring to the people of Wales, as implied, or the Welsh Govt? If it is the latter then it is true to say that Welsh Labour (apa rt from a seperate juristiction for Wales) certainly haven't shown any appetite for the devolution of the police and justice system. In fact I vaguely remember Carwyn Jones rallying against the devolution of policing a year or so ago on the premise that the budget would be squesed and thearby off loading tough decision like cutting back on the number of police officers to the Welsh govt.

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons why the average person on the street isn't placarding for devolution of criminal justice, it's because people see it as a simple and sensible administrative change, and indeed many people probably think it already is devolved.

Labour in Wales has said they aren't against it in principle (see Carl Sargeant most recent comments) but they would have to have a guarantee it would be fairly devolved. With a Labour UK Government in power after 2015, surely they wouldn't dream of shortchanging Wales? But seriously, it would be interesting to see if the Welsh Government asks for that power with the Silk Commission. The Tories would be in a seriously weak position if they are against it but Labour, Plaid and the Lib Dems are for it. We need Labour to get a grip on this and put their weight behind it.

MH said...

I agree, Dai, that his comment was just the knee-jerk reaction of a politician who hasn't got the courage or frankness to say that he doesn't want to police and criminal justice devolved to Wales. I don't think he had the first clue about what public opinion in Wales is. Nor do I think he would even care.

But of course it's the job of the media to know these things, and the reaction to him making the comment he did should have been for Claire Hutchinson to challenge him by saying, "Why do you think there's no appetite for it when the opinion polls show that there is?" It shows how bad political journalism in Wales is.

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As for Labour, they tend to blow hot and cold on it. Devolving the youth justice system to Wales was something that Labour committed themselves to as part of the One Wales agreement. But they reneged on it then, and seem to hope that it's all been forgotten about now.

Ultimately it does come down to money. I think we should all be concerned that when something is devolved, it is accompanied by a suitable transfer of funding in the block grant to cover it, as 14:09 says. It doesn't always happen; for as we've just seen, Council Tax Benefit was devolved but with a £22m shortfall unilaterally imposed by the ConDem coalition in Westminster.

However in the case of ministerial functions there should be enough wiggle room. It costs less to employ and provide workspace for civil servants in Wales than in London, but it costs more to duplicate the most senior positions. So there's got to be room for some horse-trading to reach a deal that's either fair, or at least "equally unfair", to both governments.

I have no doubt that Wales becoming a separate legal jurisdiction is inevitable. The wheels are already in motion, as we can see here. Carwyn Jones is keen on that idea, and I don't object to it in itself. However the real question is whether it makes sense to do this but not devolve police and criminal justice at the same time. Only a couple of months ago, as reported here, Theodore Huckle said that a separate legal jurisdiction alone would be "a cart without a horse". I agree.

I can only hope that this will be included in the recommendations of Silk part two. I am fairly sure it will be, for it is the most obvious and uncontentious next step. However that's no guarantee of it moving forward. Part one of Silk recommended devolution of income tax powers, but the current Welsh Government aren't willing to go along with it. Perhaps they'd do the same with policing and justice as well. For me, the reason for both is that Labour find it much more convenient to be able to point the finger of blame at Westminster rather than take responsibility themselves.

Owen said...

I think, on the funding side of things, it's worth pointing out that Wales will already raise considerable sums towards policing costs through Council Tax precepts. Also, some "community safety" aspects are already devolved AFAIK.

On paper, devolving policing should be quite simple and straighforward, but that would probably need to be backed up with the legal jurisdiction to operate in. If we didn't, we'd have a situation where Welsh police forces are accountable to the Assembly but enforce EnglandandWales laws passed by Westminster.They would have two masters and it would have all the hallmarks of another constitutional fudge like the railways.

The trouble is that creating a legal jurisdiction would have some difficulties, and I've pointed out some of the shorthand benefits and drawbacks myself. The recent Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee report on the issue from the end of last year seemed to be only half-way there in terms of practical recommendations. However, I think David Melding said that a separate legal jurisdiction would be (along the lines of) "feasible, but ultimately a political decision."

As MH says, we're probably going to have to wait for Silk II, but I'd expect policing to be in there at a minimum.

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