- 6 updates
There have been very clear signs today that control over some taxes will be transferred to Wales and sooner rather than later. But there were some other signposts to the next steps in the devolution of financial powers in today's meeting of the Welsh Grand committee that are worth noting:
- It seems pretty much a given that the minor taxes will be devolved to Wales in the near future. The powers could be added to the next Finance Bill and if not, Labour and Plaid are planning to force the issue with amendments.
- Borrowing powers should follow hot on the heels of minor taxes because those taxes are widely understood to be the 'income stream' the Treasury is insisting on.
- Welsh debt will be British debt. In the event a future Welsh Government with borrowing powers defaults, the UK Government would be liable.
- Income tax devolution seems further away. The Silk Commission imposes a triple-lock before it happens: funding reform, administrative devolution and a referendum. Today it's clear Labour is adding a fourth test: 'certainty' that Wales would be better-off if income tax were devolved.
Labour remains highly sceptical about the whole process, with MPs questioning the motives behind launching the Silk Commission in the first place and making explicit their suspicion that it's designed as a 'backdoor' way of cutting funding to Wales.
We also learned that, while Treasury and Wales Office officials have been talking about the Silk Commission recommendations for some time, negotiations between the Secretary of State for Wales and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury begin next week.
Police are appealing for help to find two children who have gone missing from their home in Darlaston.
Sophie Fletcher, 12, and Jack Fletcher, 10, are believed to have left their home in Moxley Road either overnight or early this morning.
Before leaving they packed a bag of clothes and took cash from the house.
There is suggestion that the youngsters may try to travel by tain to a previous holiday destination in Borth, Wales.
Sophie is 5ft 2ins tall, has collar length brown hair and blue eyes.
Jack is 5ft tall, has blonde hair and a half-inch scar on his forehead.
Police are continuing to search for the missing children.
Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy has urged the UK Government to transfer control over some minor taxes as soon as possible.
He said it would trigger the borrowing powers he claimed are vital for the Welsh Government.
In reply, the current Welsh Secretary David Jones acknowledged that the transfer of smaller taxes could be added to other legislation going through parliament.
Welsh Secretary David Jones has said the UK Government would be liable for any future Welsh Government debt.
His comments came as MPs debated plans which could see the Welsh Government given power to borrow money for major construction projects. But he said any Welsh debt would still be the ultimate responsibility of Westminster.
It's emerged that some tax powers could be transferred to Wales sooner than had been expected. Welsh Secretary David Jones told MPs that control of some of the smaller taxes recommended in the recent Silk Commission could be added to legislation already due to be considered in the House of Commons.
He said the transfer of taxes such as stamp duty, landfill tax and business rates could form part of a Finance Bill - the legislation which follows a budget, rather than having to wait for a separate Wales bill. That could mean being added to this year's Finance Bill but next year is more likely.
Welsh control over part of the income tax system - another Silk Commission recommendation - will have to wait, however. MPs from all parties acknowledged that would need a referendum and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said it would have to follow funding reform and be a proven benefit to Wales.
MPs get their first big debate later on proposals to transfer control of some taxes, including part of income tax, to the Welsh Government. Over the course of two sessions, Welsh MPs will discuss the recommendations of the Silk Commission which reported before Christmas.
The Commission recommended that Welsh ministers should be responsible for raising some of the money it spends through a range of taxes. It also said that the Welsh Government should have the power to vary income tax here in Wales.
The proposals will be discussed in detail for the first time in a meeting of the Welsh Grand committee in which all MPs from Wales take part along with a handful of members from other constituencies.