The idea that devolution should not always mean increasing policy differences between the different parts of the United Kingdom has been backed by the Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. He has given a first indication of his thinking in an interview for tonight's 'Face to Face' programme. He tells ITV Wales Political Editor Adrian Masters that Wales could get a Scottish-style parliament 'possibly eventually' but that he can see the case for closer decision making between the UK nations in certain areas. He mentions education and social care as examples of where this might happen.
The Shadow Welsh Secretary denies that it would amount to rolling back devolution and he says the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, is 'right in large measure' to call for a constitutional convention to rethink the relationship between the different parts of the United Kingdom. Since recording the interview, Owen Smith has stated that he is explicitly not saying that powers should be rescinded and returned to Westminster. It seems that Labour's thinking about what would happen if it wins the next Westminster election includes how it could more formally recognise the confederal nature of the devolution settlement and enable the different governments to work together on decision-making.
Last year the Welsh Government reacted angrily when Wales Office ministers said the Silk Commission, that's looking at Welsh devolution, could follow the example of the Calman Commission in Scotland and identify areas where powers should be returned to Westminster.
The Welsh Government briefed that the Secretary of State, Cheryl Gillan, and her junior minister, David Jones, were trying to overturn the will of the Welsh people, as expressed in last year's referendum on the Assembly's powers. They were accused of 'crudely attempting to mug the Assembly of its powers'.
Calman's proposals for moving powers away from Scotland were very minor compared with the various increased powers it had suggested. The Commission thought Edinburgh should lose the right to have a separate definition of a charity and to have different rules about insolvency. Apart from some clarification about regulating the health professions and complying with European food labelling and content directives, that's as far as it went. A requirement for closer decision making in education and social care would be a much more significant change to the devolution settlement .