Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-Budget Report Reaction

Alistair Darling’s sprinkling of fairy dust from Monday seems to finally be settling and now that we can see the Wizard of Oz’s lips moving, we can get to the nitty-gritty of the Pre-Budget Report small-print, and, specifically, their effects on Wales.

I’ve already explained that I don’t think that a cut in VAT will be enough of a financial stimulus to justify its top billing as part of a recovery package, and also that the introduction of a new higher rate of income tax is more political policy than economic.

Here I examine the various measures that were specifically introduced by the UK Government on Monday.

Public infrastructure works

The second largest part of Labour’s financial stimulus is a public infrastructure works programme, but this isn’t the ‘new’ money that we were hoping to see.

The money being used is being brought forward from that which would have been spent as part of the present three-year spending period.

The idea here is that the financial stimulus would provide jobs now in the hope that the economy will recover by the time that this money would have been spent in 2010-11 so that those employed would be in gainful employment.

It’s a snub in many ways to the devolved administrations as, because much of this spend is in England-only fields already allocated in the spending review, there will be nothing extra available to assist what were in any case tight spending reviews.

Just like the difference between the VAT cut and a genuinely radical proposal, this fails to cut the mustard. If I and my generation are going to be paying for Labour’s failure for most of my life then I’d rather it was going on something that would be useful for generations, perhaps solving many of our coming energy supply problems with, for example, tidal lagoons.

Labour have no vision for how to deal with the problems we’re facing – it’s like they’re reading a textbook, and following it line-by-line, rather than take the opportunity to create something new out of the challenge.

Efficiency savings

Perhaps more worrying, though, are the unintended consequences for Wales of England’s ‘efficiency savings’.

Proof positive of the need for a review of the Barnett Formula is that savings being made in England’s health budget (£3 billion on estates with ongoing savings of £100m per annum) impact on Wales, irrespective of our needs.

That alone could lead to a loss to the block grant of some £200m from Welsh Assembly coffers, or, even if the current grant were to be ring-fenced would slow further growth dependant on funding to the English Health Department.

In coming years, in order to meet new targets set as part of the PBR, further efficiency savings will be made from the Health and Education budgets in England, leaving Wales further short-changed.

Already, in fact, £100m has been lost from Wales in 2009-10 from the figures in the 2007 and 2008 Pre-Budget Reports

In the short term, the UK government tell us that the shortfalls will be closed with money from the End Year Flexibility.

What they failed to explain openly to the Welsh media in their press release was that this ‘end year flexibility’ is, of course, money that already belongs to the Welsh Assembly – but what’s a little bit of spin between friends?

Or did they just think we wouldn’t notice?

Royal Mint

Well buried on page 119 of the Budget report is the news that, amongst a range of government arms-length owned companies, they are considering alternative future business models for the Royal Mint in Llantrisant.

It’s not quite clear what these models might be, but given the still neo-liberal colour of this government, privatisation or out-sourcing will undoubtedly be amongst them.

Llantrisant is a very nice part of Wales, not far from the M4 and the Vale of Glamorgan, but, already dealing with job losses from nearby plants run by Bosch and L’Oreal, anything which endangers the 700-odd jobs at the Royal Mint must be opposed – especially in the current economic climate.

Wales, it seems, whether with a Labour or Conservative government in London, is still in the economic frontline when it comes to jobs under threat.

The Vulnerable Poor

The yah-boo politics of Westminster has reverted back to its tribal nature as Labour reply to any comments from the Conservatives with taunts that they would have done nothing compared to the package announced by Labour.

Yet this PBR is amongst the least re-distributive reports from Labour in recent years, and very probably will have less effect on those most in need that many other budgets in recent history.

A little money has been brought forward for pensioners and children, but nothing life-changing.

Having brought forward child payments that were scheduled for 2010, they announced nothing for the kitty the following year.

The IFS/Barnardos released a report earlier this year suggesting that £3bn pa would rapidly deal with child poverty, supposedly a key government pledge. Yet this was roundly ignored in this PBR.

The same goes for Winter Fuel Payments for the elderly in 2009, after being much touted by the Chancellor and Prime Minister as their solution in 2008.

It’s actually quite shocking that these groups have received so little attention in this Budget – the only positives being the announcement of an End Child Poverty Bill (call me a cynic, but I rather action to legislation and target setting) and announcing an increase in the pension for 2010-11 that will be at least a 2.5% rise.

As these groups represent both our future and our past, they should be treated with a little more dignity and respect.


There’s a lot more that could be said on this Pre-Budget Report, some good, some bad.

The use of green taxes was disappointing, especially the air tax shift back towards per passenger rather than the expected tax per plane, but the help for small and medium businesses was more than some might have been expecting.

Ultimately, though, it was a bit of a dog’s dinner - trying to do lots of things, but failing to do any of them well.

As a financial stimulus budget, it will probably fail to really stimulate the economy, although, whatever happens, Labour will shout and bully to say that it will have achieved the measures they claim it was intended for.

But then, if it really is a Budget for a Spring election, then they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Policing Powers Review

The Home Office consultation on policing powers and protection units is coming to an end shortly.

With rumours that Barry Custody Suite will be closed and that suspects from the Vale will be taken to Cardiff after the opening of the new Cardiff Bay Police station, this is an important topic.

Below are a number of comments on their suggestions:

1. That the power for approving extension of detention is lowered from Superintendent to Inspector and this can be carried out over the phone leaves the process open to abuse. Extending detention is a serious decision and one that should be made by a senior police officer only after carefully examining the case. It should not be trivialised in any way.

2. The use of short-term holding facilities for less serious offences is explained as being separate to arguments about police estate capacity, but you can’t help but feel that this is part of the issue.

The idea of the short-term holding facilities are to avoid the need for taking suspects to police stations when there is no need for an investigation, quickening processing and dealing with issues in a shorter time.

The operation of a short-term holding must be carefully monitored. Where, exactly, are these going to be sited, who will be responsible for their running, and, who, independently, will ensure that these safeguards are properly enforced.

If this policy is adopted then there should be a regular review of the operation of the short-term holding facilities.

3. Taking blood specimens for analysis is a very important issue in cases, especially drink-driving, and it is important that specimens are taken as quickly as possible.

The 2003 amendments to the 1988 Road Traffic Act allows either a medical practitioner or registered health care professional to take these specimens at a police station.

I have concerns that the need for speed and for ‘best use’ of police time lead to a dumbing down of technical responsibility and expertise within the custody area, and that this must be monitored.

4. Finally, forensic scientists have a dual responsibility to their patients and to the police regarding the suitability of a patient to reside in a police custody suite and fit for interview.

There are suggestions that the NHS will have the responsibility for carrying out treatments in future.

If so, who will make these crucial forensic decisions, bearing in mind that up to 60% of those arrested have chronic health problems and 40% have mental health problems.

Another issue here, of course, is the delineation between UK and Wales-spend with policing under UK control, but the NHS under the Assembly. If the NHS are going to have to carry out additional tasks then I hope that the UK Government will be increasing the block grant proportionately.

* With thanks to Cllr Shirley Hodges for her comments and bringing this issue to light.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Referendum Time...

While a referendum on further powers is very much part of the political debate in Wales, it’s going a little further in Greenland, who vote today on a greater level of autonomy.

Colonised in 1721, the island gained basic self-determination in 1979 from Denmark, except in defence and foreign policy and, according to polls, is expected to vote in favour.

The stimulus is the possibility of extracting large amounts of oil from Greenland’s waters – with the US Geological Survey estimating around 31.4 billion barrels of oil.

The new contract between Greenland and Denmark would see them share the profits; Greenland taking the first 10 million Euro and then taking a 50 per cent cut up until 430 million Euro – matching the subsidies that Greenland receives from Denmark under the current system.

I don’t know enough about the Greenland situation to discuss parallels in any depth, but some of the arguments and attitudes seem similar to what happens in Wales.

These attitudes vary between those who see Tuesday’s vote and the oil issue as being a step towards independence, those who think that this level of devolution will be the most successful form of governance for the island, and, it seems as always, those who think that being in charge of your own affairs is a poor idea.

Small in population and a long way from the government in Copenhagen, the results and consequences for Greenlanders will be very interesting.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre-Budget Report Pre-Thoughts

If the ideas being trailed in today's press are as far as Labour are going to go in this afternoon's Pre-Budget Report, then it looks to be a very damp squib.

The two main suggestions are an emergency cut in VAT and a new high level of income tax after the next election.

I find it strange to agree with John Redwood, but his comments about the fruitlessness of the VAT change were, in my opinion, spot on.

The intention is supposedly to increase consumer confidence and get people to spend, but with the actual price cut being only around 2%, I cannot see how that will happen.

For example, an £11.99 CD or DVD will be around 25p cheaper. A £40 pair of jeans will have a pound off the current price tag - but with sales offering 20% off already, I cannot see what incentive this will offer, even if high street retailers decide to pass on the savings rather than just make a little extra profit for themselves.

It is only when you reach significant sums of money - £500 for a smart new television that the savings become noticeable, and, by then, who cares?

Plaid have already suggested a serious VAT cut from 17.5% to 5% on labour-intensive industries that would cheapen costs of necessary work such as housing renovations and make the price comparatively attractive - more than 10% cheaper than at the moment.

But if the government wants to make a real difference then they should be putting money in people's pockets and give them the chance to spend it.

For a not-dis-similar figure to the cost of the proposed VAT cut, the government could cut the amount of income tax paid by standard rate tax-payers and let that money filter through into the real economy, helping low-earning families and taking a good few people out of the tax trap altogether.

The headline-grabber this morning, though, is the proposed new rate of income tax for high earners - postponed until after the election.

Let's not pretend that this is anything to do with the current crisis - this is party politicking par excellence, a line in the sand that if the Tories dare to cross will see them hammered by Labour as being the party of the mega-rich.

The amount of money that will be raised by this is minimal. People who earn more than £150,000 per annum already have excellent and expensive accountants who are experts in tax planning and avoidance, so without additional compliance measures this is little more than a gesture.

If Labour were serious about this as a tax-raising scheme to balance a hopelessly overblown Budget, it would be set at 50%, rather than the middle of nowhere 45%, it would start at £100,000, and it would be introduced in the next financial year.

But they're not serious - they just want the Tories to say it's bad so that in spite of leading us into the recession they can claim that they are the party of the people, and the Conservatives the party of the Toffs.

Brown and Darling are fiddling while our economy burns.

Or will there be a surprise this afternoon?

Friday, November 21, 2008

27 Steps to an LCO

Tomos Livingstone and Betsan Powys both make reference to Hywel Williams' recently released list of actions that must be completed in order to make an LCO.

Previous publications have suggested far fewer stages than this.

The Devolution Guidance Note 16 (DGN16) written to assist people at Westminster in Summer 2008 says there are six stages, although the Bevan Foundation's Evolution of Devolution notes that these represent a series of actions, not just one event.

The House of Lords Constitutional Committee report on scrutiny of Welsh Legislative Competence Orders, published in December 2007, suggests there are ten stages, although some of these take place simultaneously in Cardiff and Westminster, in effect meaning there are far more stages actually occurring.

The '27 steps' attempts to unpack the different actions to make a coherent and comprehensive description of the process of making an LCO.

Tomos Livingstone is wrong when he suggests 27 places at which an LCO can fail - there are only certain points where it officially 'falls', but it shows that the process is a bureaucratic nightmare where a secretarial absence or a mis-filed letter, never mind actual disagreement on the LCO, can lead to huge delays in transferring powers to Cardiff.

Just to give an example, I'm pretty sure that most of the Welsh public are unaware that LCOs are scrutinised or checked by four different committees at Westminster, by the two Houses of Parliament (sometimes, but not always, by a delegated legislation committee) and passed through the Welsh Office on several occasions.

The phrase Kafka-esque springs very much to mind.


For those interested, here are the 27 steps again.

"1. Announcement of LCO or ballot made (there could be other pre-LCO stages in the case of a ballot where it must be submitted or by an Assembly committee as the result of a petition)
2. Negotiation between Cardiff Bay & Whitehall on LCO text
3. Agreement of Cardiff Bay & Whitehall on LCO text (‘Whitehall clearance’)
4. WAG Minister lays proposed order in Plenary and accepted by vote
5. WAG Minister sends copy to Sec of State
6. Business Committee starts legislative committee in Assembly
7. Assembly Committee opens consultation
8. Sec of State publishes draft for pre-legislative scrutiny and invites Welsh Affairs Committee to scrutinise LCO
9. Sec of State invites Constitution Committee to scrutinise LCO
10. Welsh Affairs Committee asks for submissions
11. Assembly committee and WAC meet jointly or consecutively to take evidence – this has usually been consecutively and therefore could conceivably be 2 stages in the process
12. Constitution Committee scrutinises LCO
13. Assembly committee write report
14. Welsh Affairs committee write report
15. Westminster Government responds to WAC report
16. WAG & London Govt agree text after committee recommendations
17. WAG Minister lays draft order before Assembly
18. Assembly discuss and vote on LCO in plenary
19. First Minister informs Sec of State that LCO has passed or that the draft order was rejected by the Assembly, in which case it would fall
20. LCO is laid before both Houses of Parliament
21. Joint Committee of Statutory Instruments Scrutiny
22. Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee Scrutiny
23. House of Lords debates draft Order
24. Delegated Legislation Committee to discuss LCO
25. House of Commons passes draft Order without debate
26. Sec of State for Wales recommends Her Majesty in Council to make order.
27. Her Majesty makes the order

The Welsh Assembly now has the Measure making powers applied for in the Legislative Competence Order and may choose to make a Measure within these powers."

Biomass Plant: Right Idea, Wrong Place

One of the discussions in Barry in recent weeks has been the proposed Biomass Plant to be located on Woodham Road on the Waterfront.

There are clear advantages to the plant, which will be a 9MW wood-fuelled renewable energy plant, according to the plans laid before the local councils.

Most obviously these include an increase in renewable energy supply to around 22,000 houses on the national grid (effectively every house in Barry), fuelled by reclaimed wood from local recycling operations and that would otherwise go to landfill.

I'm fully in favour of the principle of a biomass plant in Barry, but it's the location that needs to be considered.

Residents facing the Docks already have air and noise pollution from the Metal Recycling Plant near them and the whole northern Waterfront area is due to be the site of a significant number of houses as part of the Barry Waterfront Phase 2 development.

It makes no sense then, to site a 24-hour industrial plant nearby, when there is ample space only a mile or two away on the Atlantic Trading Estate or even on the industrialised southside of the Docks.

I also think that any permission for building a plant of this size should include an Environmental and Traffic assessment from the Vale Council to ensure that quality of life is maintained for local residents.

I look forward to further debate between the council and the developers and hope that Barry can play its part in a more environmentally friendly Wales.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Tax Gap

Despite the Labour benches trying to persuade the public that our economic problems are ‘a global phenomenon’, they can’t disguise the fact that it was Gordon’s economic policy failures that have left our finances in such a parlous state.

One of the actions they could have taken over the past decade was to fix the ‘Tax Gap’ – the amount of money that tax planning, avoidance and evasion takes away from the government.

When tax plans are introduced through Parliament they are done with an idea of their effects in mind.

Even under the present administration many of the taxes are progressive and redistributive.

Unfortunately, many of these tax changes don’t work in the way their authors intended due to loopholes in the system, exploited by both individuals and companies.

A pamphlet published earlier this year by the TUC and the Tax Justice Network claim that around £25bn per year is missing from UK government receipts due to tax planning and avoidance – with individuals with an annual income of over £100,000 costing the exchequer £8.4bn per year due to tax planning (or ‘clever accounting practices’ if you prefer).

Basically, the people who should be paying the most tax because they earn the most money find their way around the system.

But this isn’t a game – it is schools, hospitals and key services that suffer because the better paid can afford someone to look after their returns, while everyone else pays what they are supposed to.

To put the figures into context, the Tax Justice Network estimate that ensuring half of that £25bn went to its rightful place would provide enough money for fifty hospitals.

£25bn, by the way, isn’t far off the year’s expenditure for the whole of Wales.

The House of Commons Public Account Committee agrees with many of the points in the pamphlet.

Their recent report on managing corporation tax of large businesses points to the fact that only 50 of the top 700 large businesses in the UK pay two-thirds of corporation tax, with 181 businesses paying none whatsoever.

The Tax Justice Network estimate that a figure of around £70bn of tax evasion – that’s just not paying it, as opposed to planning a way of avoiding it – wouldn’t be out of the question.

That’s most than £100bn possibly missing to the government every single year.

The scary thing, and this is where you get the feeling that government’s left hand wasn’t aware of its right hand, is the cuts in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) under Labour.

Just think about it – the organisation that goes out and collects money for the government has had to face consistent cuts to the point where it is unfit for purpose. It’s nonsensical.

HMRC need well-trained and well-supported staff so that they can detect tax evasion, so that they can wheedle out those who want to beat the system rather than accept the responsibility of paying tax.

Instead, the government have tried to enforce efficiency savings on them. According to one internal compliance review in an office, highlighted by the PCS union, cutting staff leads to £74m of savings and a loss of £204m in tax yield - nearly £3 lost for every £1 saved.

Wales has suffered heavily on this issue, and is set to lose more jobs in Convergence Fund areas across west Wales and the Valleys, because of the misguided centralising beliefs of the Labour government.

I hate to be the person that tells you that more taxmen would make the world a better place – but if companies and individuals all paid their tax as they should then it would be a smaller tax burden for the rest of us, and with that extra money we go do something decent and socially redistributive – like take the poorest in society out of the tax loop and end child poverty in the UK.

What a thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Evolution of Devolution: A critique

A brief critique on the ‘Evolution of Devolution’ pamphlet published by the Bevan Foundation last week to co-incide with their conference on the enacting of the Government of Wales Act in Cardiff and London over the past 18 months or so. Whatever you might make of the contents of the pamphlet or of the event, it's important for Welsh democracy that these discussions are held - and that their findings are held up to scrutiny.

Firstly, I must say that it’s rather brave (or perhaps foolhardy) to publish a pamphlet with the same name as a conference before the event itself takes place.


I wasn’t there in Cardiff last Thursday, but it might be misunderstood that the common title is representative of the views expressed, and I’m pretty sure there would be some on the panels who might have rather different opinions on the devolution system than the three authors of the pamphlet.

In fact, and to be fair to them, they admit that themselves in the pamphlet’s conclusion.

Why might they need to admit it? Well, quite possibly because the central assumptions of the pamphlet are untenable from several positions on the Welsh political spectrum.

The authors go to great lengths to show that we in Wales have never had it so good in terms of self-governance – backed up by wide-ranging comment on the events of the last year.

It is, for want of a better title, a Hain-ist perspective on the devolution question.

And therein lies the problem with the pamphlet – its starting position is couched in the terms of Westminster’s idea of devolution: that power begins in London and can be devolved (and perhaps taken back), and adopts language accordingly, rather than taking its starting point as sovereignty lying with the people of Wales.

It is a Labour-style document with a top-down power structure that tells us that we should be grateful for what has been offered to us.

The central message of the pamphlet is to point to the significant potential of the powers given by the GoWA 2006, and to suggest that those who believe the settlement to be somehow narrow in its scope take the time or trouble to make better use of the available powers. As opposed, of course, to the powers they actually want.

One of the first issues tackled is whether or not the post-GoWA 2006 Assembly is a parliament, based around a number of unassailable criterion to note that the similarities outweigh the differences.

But this is rather like comparisons between vehicles with four wheels and a gearstick.

What’s under the bonnet? We all know the Assembly is not a shop or a church, but we also know there are significant differences in the powers that are held in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, in the power relations between the two governments and in the ability to legislate on many different issues.

Framework powers and LCOs

Where the authors discuss ‘framework powers’ (pardon me for using the Westminster term, but it’s where I work), I think they underestimate the difference between these and the LCO and their origins. Part of the reason for the LCO system (as explained in the Better Governance for Wales White Paper) was to prevent a logjam of parliamentary time taken up by Wales-only Bills, such as, say, the Transport (Wales) Act.

It naturally makes more sense to use a Bill that will be passed through Parliament to insert clauses relating to Wales, providing they are appropriate, where they will be scrutinised in the same way as other Bills rather than to create additional parliamentary bureaucracy through the use of the LCO system.

Bearing that in mind, it seems strange that there appears to have been no automatically activated procedure in which UK Bills are discussed at either civil service or ministerial level between Westminster and Cardiff Bay – especially as Whitehall mandarins may well have expected to be dealing with at least the same party at both ends of the M4.

This was especially clear, I think, in the Education and Skills Bill, which has been singled out by other committees at Westminster for its’ strange take on devolution (creating new powers for England, but making Wales ask for an LCO so that they can make a Measure for the same powers).

It also brings to mind the difference in scrutiny levels and time associated with these two different routes – ‘framework powers’ and ‘LCOs’.

In discussing the stages of an LCO, that authors adopt the language and terminology of Westminster’s Devolution Guidance Note 16, DGN16. This argues that there are six stages to an LCO, although the authors note there are perhaps several sub-stages to some of these.

Certainly, the Lords’ Constitutional Committee claim ten stages, many of which take place simultaneously. Taken independently of each other, it is clear that there are far more separate actions than this in the progress of an LCO from its first announcement from the First Minister (or however it comes into being from a backbench AM, Assembly committee etc.) until finally being approved by Her Majesty in Council.

I must also point out that the term ‘Whitehall clearance’ used in DGN16 to define the agreement on the subject and contents of LCOs, has a wonderful way of sticking in your throat as you tug your forelock.

The authors rightly point to the very mixed picture regarding the pace of LCOs through this process, although I am wary of their pointing to the apparent success (so far!) of the Red Meat LCO as being ‘proof’ that the second wave of LCOs will show that the lessons of the first wave have been learnt – not least as many of the first wave of LCOs haven’t actually got through yet.

Perhaps it’s worth bearing in mind that unlike large Bills in Parliament, most LCOs are relatively unproblematic (in Cardiff at least!) and are also rather short, barely a page or two.

They are also right to say that everyone is learning – although again what this says for forward planning of the process, I’m not sure. Certainly, the fact that DGN16 wasn’t written in the first year of the system suggests that the proposals had been little considered at the time of the 2005 White Paper.

Meanwhile, the various ‘teething problems’ regarding finding adequate parliamentary time and ensuring joint scrutiny of LCOs, or even ensuring that scrutiny of the LCO to be considered was done in both places, suggest a work in progress that some might hope to have been solved, or more clearly evolved, at an earlier point.

Increase in lawmaking powers

If there is a genuine bonus in the 2006 GoWA then it is the widening of access to lawmaking powers. In Westminster, the overwhelming majority of Bills that reach the statute book are government sponsored, but the hope is that the Assembly will provide LCOs and Measures from a variety of sources, including as noted backbench AMs and Assembly committees, (even if some of them, such as Peter Black’s local government LCO get shot down in flames before they start).

Unfortunately (and you knew there was a but!), should the Welsh Affairs Committee in London decide that they don’t want to do as much work on LCOs, then we can guess which ones will suffer.

The authors draw attention to the ‘rules’ attached to LCOs by DGN16, and then use some case studies to show how these are variously interpreted in Cardiff Bay and Westminster, but I won’t be discussing them in depth here as I’ll be commenting on my concerns with the LCO process separately.

Finishing off, one of the more heartwarming points made towards the end of the pamphlet is the increase in Measures in the second year of the One Wales government than LCOs. Well, yes, it’s helpful to have a government that wants to govern and not spend all its time just trying to get its hand on powers.

Now we just need to push that forward to its logical conclusion and give the Assembly the powers to do its job without having to check it’s ok with Westminster first.

Post Office Card Account - So what changed then?

Alistair Darling 14/12/2006 col.1028

"European Union procurement rules leave us with no option but to tender competitively for this product, and we must ensure that best value for money for the taxpayer is achieved"

James Purnell 13/11/2008 col.965

"I can announce today that the Government have now decided to cancel the current unfinished procurement exercise and to award a new contract for the continuation of the Post Office card account directly to Post Office Ltd, within the terms of the relevant EC regulations"

So does this mean that Labour were lying in 2006 about the need to tender or couldn't find a loophole, or that they are desperately trying to wriggle out of a hole right now - and are likely to face court action from the competing bidders?

Don't get me wrong for a second, I think it's excellent news (and well deserved) that the Post Office have the rights to the POCA until 2015, but how much has this ultimately pointless tendering exercise cost the public purse, private companies' faith in government promises and business and stress to sub-postmasters and the whole Post Office?

Why couldn't they have got it 'right' first time around?

And let's hope that Darling fellow doesn't end up doing something important like running the country during an economic crisis...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Adam says "Yes!"

Adam Price uses his column in Golwg today to urge supporters of a Welsh Parliament to get out there and start campaigning in favour of a referendum.

Having watched last year's consensus over support for a referendum slowly dissipate - the Tories' Roberts' Review has fudged big-time and Labour in the Bay have seemingly become content to let their London masters tell them how it's done - there is a need for an energetic and vigorous 'Yes' campaign to re-invigorate Welsh politics before we all get bogged down in the tedium of Peter Hain's LCOs.

Any 'Yes' campaign must be cross-party and involve everyone across Wales.

Wales is too important to let people outside Wales take our decisions for us.

Kirsty Williams and the Cardiff Bay Bubble

Lib Dem leadership candidate Kirsty Williams yesterday criticised Assembly politicians for being caught in a 'Cardiff Bay Bubble', suggesting that they should listen to constituents rather than interest groups.

Presumably she means something like the Enterprise and Learning Committee's meeting yesterday where the committee listened to petitioners from Pride in Barry's calls for a continuation of funding for Phase 2 of Barry's Waterfront development (which, incidentally, they did very well).

One problem - Kirsty's on the committee, yet couldn't be bothered to attend to listen the concerns of constituents.

As usual, the Lib Dems have shown that they only care when there's an electoral advantage for them.

With such brazen hypocrisy, it's unsurprising that the Lib Dems are seen as a party whose message changes with the wind and why they are spectacularly ignored in Barry and the Vale.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lib Dems & Devolution

More evidence today that the Lib Dems don't quite understand how devolution works.

The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill creates a Fund that will give money to the UK government and devolved administrations from dormant accounts, with the money to be used for 'good purposes'.

The Lib Dems, on the other hand, have put down amendments to tell the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish administrations how they should spend their money.

What a Difference Ten Days Make...

The difference ten days make...


Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001; and if he will make a statement. [231374]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 29 October 2008]: I have been contacted by the Welsh Assembly Government and by other hon. Members on behalf of constituents.The Government have announced its intention to allow the voluntary display of national flags on vehicle number plates in England, Scotland and Wales. We are looking at how this change can be brought forward as soon as possible.


Vehicle Number Plates

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he proposes to amend the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Mark) Regulations 2001 so as to permit the display of the Union Flag and the national flags of Wales, England and Scotland. [224689]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Regulations have not yet been amended and the matter is currently under review.