Half a cake

I wouldn't exactly call the Welsh Government's submission of evidence to Part II of the Silk Commission half-baked. It is probably better to say that it is a very nicely baked and decorated cake ... but that we've only been given half of it.


The full document is available here and here. At 33 pages, it's not too much of a read.

I've just read through it once, and some of the initial things that strike me are:

•  The Welsh Government's overwhelming fear that, although it generally wants Wales to have a devolution settlement that is equal to that of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Westminster will not properly fund the costs of any additional transfers. My feeling is that if this issue was properly addressed, the WG would be much more eager to take on additional responsibilities. I fully agree with their suggestion that there should be independent scrutiny of budget transfers from the UK government to the Welsh government.

•  General confusion over the best way to devolve policing and justice to Wales. Previously the WG, and Carwyn Jones in particular, seemed to want Wales to be a separate legal jurisdiction as a prerequisite for the transfer of other aspects of police and justice to Wales. But having been warned by the Counsel General that the case for a separate jurisdiction was weaker unless policing was devolved, the WG's priorities seem to have flip-flopped. Because of a lack of clear thinking, the WG's evidence appears to be an incoherent mish-mash of wanting some aspects of police and justice devolved but not others. This is unfortunate, because I think Theodore Huckle's point was that the whole of police and justice should be devolved together. Surely it makes much more sense to do it all in one go. Nevertheless I welcome the WG's desire for all policing and justice matters to eventually be devolved to Wales, even if only at some point in the future. The principle is right, but their timing needs to be re-thought.

•  What concerns me most is the timescale. As I understood it, the purpose of Silk was to formulate a coherent package of reforms to the devolution settlement for Wales that was broadly accepted by all four political parties. Because Silk's recommendations would be based on broad consensus, the Westminster Government (for it is they who set up the Commission) would then be able to swiftly and uncontentiously implement the changes in a new Government of Wales Act before the next Westminster election in 2015. The new powers and responsibilities would then be available to the new Welsh government formed as a result of the Assembly election in May 2016. The current WG seems to think that nothing will happen until after the next Westminster election 2015, and therefore that the new powers and responsibilities would not be available until after the Assembly election in 2020 or 2021. This must be challenged. We need the new powers to be in place for 2016.

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