Wales could fall behind while politicians argue about powers warns Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb was speaking at Cardiff University Photo: ITV News Wales

Stephen Crabb has challenged politicians here to focus on Wales' economic future and to 'draw a line under the constant debates about devolution.'

In a speech at Cardiff University's Business School he said that although Wales is 'punching above its weight on the global stage' it also faces 'serious challenges.'

The Welsh Secretary highlighted problems with transport links such as the M4 and a lack of urgency in trying to take advantage of proposals to give Cardiff a range of powers to 'shape its economic future.'

In fact the economy formed the bulk of this speech which was delivered to an audience of business leaders and business experts. As well as the challenges, Stephen Crabb wanted to list the actions his government was taking to meet them as well as to outline the actions he thinks are still needed.

But that was accompanied by outspoken criticism of politicians, media and the political class in Wales for 'the constant debates about devolution which have characterised Welsh politics for too long.'

And he said that posed the risk of holding Wales back from reaching its 'full economic potential.'

You can see his comments in an extract from the speech below.

This was the Welsh Secretary's chance to respond to the barrage of criticism he received when the draft Wales Bill was published last week.

Chief amongst the critics was the First Minister Carwyn Jones said the bill was 'a major step backward' for devolution and warned that the Assembly would block it unless it was improved.

Today Stephen Crabb said he was 'totally open' to ways of improving the bill but condemned 'the rhetoric coming from Cardiff Bay' making it 'their new cause celebre.' That he said was 'deeply misplaced.'

Misplaced or not, the criticism continues. In response to his speech, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said:

The big question is, based on the settlements being offered to Scotland and Northern Ireland with significant job-creating levers, what disadvantage will the Welsh economy face as a result of the meagre powers being offered to Wales?

In their lack of ambition for Wales, the Westminster parties are handcuffing the ability of our Government to intervene in the Welsh economy.

Rather than scapegoating devolution, why doesn't the Secretary of State give the Welsh Government the same job-creating powers which are being offered to Scotland and Northern Ireland and stop treating Wales like a second-class nation?

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

And the Welsh Liberal Democrats weren't any more impressed:

Stephen Crabb’s repetitive jibes that people should stop talking about devolution seems strange considering that fixing Wales’ devolution settlement is one of his few responsibilities. He would be better served concentrating on getting that right, rather than pontificating on issues that are not his responsibility.

– Aled Roberts AM, Liberal Democrat