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  1. Nick Powell

Chancellor pre-empts Welsh Government on Severn tolls

George Osborne's promise of a cut in the tolls on the Severn Bridges suggests that if he stays in office after the election he'll deny the Welsh Government control of the crossings when they return to public ownership. First Minister Carwyn Jones has said that if he had the power, he would reduce but not abolish the tolls, using the income to pay for M4 improvements as wells as maintaining the two bridges.

  1. Nick Powell

Labour should set timetable to end unfair funding says First Minister

First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on the Labour party, as well as his opponents, to set out a timescale for delivering on the promise of fair funding for Wales, made in the St David's Day agreement on further devolution. He told his monthly news conference that it was important to know not just the value of the so-called funding floor but when it would be introduced.

The principle has been accepted and is welcome but then the principle was accepted a long time ago. What we need is a timescale now to see how Wales' underfunding will be addressed and that is true of all the parties, including my own. As a party we need to outline exactly how we will now take forward the issue of Wales' underfunding and that we could do that according to a set timetable.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones added that he expected that the degree of unfairness in how Wales is funded, compared to the rest of the UK, is now less than the £300 million a year calculated by the Holtham Commission. He said adding a minimum proportion of public spending for Wales -a floor- to the Barnett Formula was the best way of stopping any future reduction in the Welsh share of Treasury money.

Meanwhile a survey of 7,000 people across the United Kingdom by Edinburgh shows that 68% of Welsh people believe that Wales receives less government funding than it is due. Only 43% in England think their country's treated unfairly, as do 44% in Scotland. in Northern Ireland, it's 37%. The figures have been seized on by Plaid Cymru, which is calling for funding parity with Scotland and says that could be worth an extra £1.2 billion a year to Wales.

This extensive survey vindicates Plaid Cymru’s unique position in making the case for Wales to have parity with Scotland – in terms of funding and powers. Everyone accepts that Wales is the poor relation in the UK in terms of funding for schools and hospitals, but only Plaid Cymru demands that Wales is treated on the basis of equality. The Barnett Formula was introduced in 1978 – by Labour – and ever since, our funding disadvantage has been entrenched. That’s decades of Wales not receiving its fair share of resources. The Westminster parties have all signed up to retaining that formula. Plaid Cymru says it’s unjustifiable for Wales to continue to be short-changed.

– Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM

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  1. Nick Powell

St David's Day deal won't trigger tax vote says FM

First Minister Carwyn Jones has categorically ruled out holding a referendum on Welsh income tax powers "unless and until the the long term funding of Wales has been addressed satisfactorily". In a letter to Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, he says the St David's Day agreement on more powers for the Assembly does not meet that test.

Mr Crabb wrote to the First Minister yesterday, saying that the momentum for more devolution may now be lost without "strong and positive engagement" from the Welsh Government. In his reply, Carwyn Jones adds to his initial response that the cross-party agreement had been "rushed and unsatisfactory".

I make no apologies for not supporting an announcement that falls far short of Wales' needs. I have no intention of seeking a referendum on partial devolution of income tax to Wales unless and until the long term funding of Wales has been addressed satisfactorily. You will recognise that neither the announcement by the Prime Minister, nor the Command Paper published by the UK Government, provides any such assurance. I am bound to say that the whole process leading to your announcement and Command Paper was deeply disappointing and frustrating. It was slow to start, ad hoc and poorly prepared. The first hint of financial proposals was given to me by the Prime Minister -not you- in a phone call a mere three days before your announcement. I was very clear to the Prime Minister that the proposals he described were unacceptable.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones will be questioned in the Senedd on his attitude to the Saint David's Day agreement, after he makes a statement to AMs later this afternoon.

First Minister on trade trip to America

Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

The First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones will today fly to America visiting Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

He'll spend St David's Day on Capitol Hill meeting the Friends of Wales Caucus, a group of Congressmen who promote Wales in Washington.

From the Welsh settlers who moved to America to build new lives to the companies who now recognise Wales as a fantastic place to do business - we’re proud to have such a strong relationship with the United States.

There are 270 US owned companies in Wales and the value of Welsh exports to the USA in 2013 was over £3billion, that’s a 400% increase since 1999.

The USA continues to be Wales’s top export destination by far. These are figures we want to build and improve on, that’s one of the main reasons for my visit.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister
  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Govt due respect and power says shadow minister

The UK Government should admire and learn from Wales, Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith will claim later. In a speech to the Welsh Labour conference in Swansea, he'll announce that the Welsh Government would be given responsibility for the Work Programme, which is aimed at the long term unemployed, if Labour gains power at Westminster.

Mr Smith will also say that Labour "has got its mojo back" under Ed Miliband, who yesterday pledged a series of new powers for the Welsh Assembly if he becomes Prime Minister.

From tax avoidance to the abuse of corporate and media power an Ed Miliband led government will deliver the fair play and fair rules - the chwarae teg that people expect in Wales - and rightly expect from Labour in particular.

Ed Miliband has also been clear that a new era of partnership and respect must be rebuilt between the governments in Wales and Westminster, after the Tory War on Wales. Instead of a Tory government that sneers at Wales, we need a UK government that admires and learns from Wales. One area where we have already learned from Wales is on job creation for young people. Carwyn's government has done an infinitely better job than the Tories with our Welsh employment programmes. A UK Labour government will recognise that expertise and invest trust in Wales to do even more in future by devolving to Wales responsibility for the Work Programme - currently run from Westminster by the Department for Work and Pensions.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

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Plaid Cymru: No Labour commitment to funding parity

Plaid Cymru have questioned Ed Miliband's pledges over more powers and fair funding for Wales, pointing out that he gave "no commitment that a Labour government would deliver parity with Scotland."

Mr Miliband talked a lot about taking action, but the actions of his Labour MPs over the past five years speak volumes. Time and time again the Labour party has voted against the Welsh national interest, has failed to empower our National Assembly with additional powers and responsibilities, and has instead chosen to keep power in the hands of the Westminster elite. On fair funding, the people of Wales deserve nothing less than full equality with Scotland which would translate into an additional £1.2billion each year. Mr Miliband gave no commitment to Wales that a Labour government would deliver parity with Scotland.

– Plaid Cymru spokesperson
  1. Nick Powell

Miliband spells out new powers for Wales

Labour leader Ed Miliband has told the Welsh Labour conference what extra powers a Labour Government at Westminster would devolve to Wales. In his speech to delegates in Swansea, he referred to the National Assembly as "the Welsh Parliament" and pre-empted the conclusion of cross-party talks aimed at delivering an agreement by St David's Day.

On one of the issues that's believed to have caused the most difficultly during the talks chaired by Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb -the devolution of policing- the Labour leader announced that his party intended to implement a compromise solution.

Under a Labour government the Welsh Parliament will play a greater role in the lives of the Welsh people, with power over ports, elections, energy and a greater say over policing.

My Labour government will enact proposals from the Silk Commission and more. Because I believe the Welsh people should have the power to decide who gets to choose their representatives and how it is that they choose their representatives.

So powers over elections in Wales should be in the hands of the Parliament. This means that Wales will be able to choose to extend the franchise, as they did in Scotland for the referendum. And it also means more powers over public services.

An all Wales Policing plan [would be] drawn up with the Home Secretary, giving the Welsh people responsibility to shape policing in Wales. And the Welsh people should have the power to determine what energy projects are right for Wales.

– Labour Leader Ed Miliband MP

The Labour leader said nothing about the further devolution of tax raising powers but promised that the party would make sure that Wales was not " "unfairly disadvantaged" by the Barnett formula.

Miliband pledges to give Wales more powers over policing

Ed Miliband has pledged to devolve greater powers over policing to Wales, under a Labour government.

Speaking at the Welsh Labour Conference in Swansea, the party leader said Wales would get a fair funding settlement, and more powers over ports, election and energy.

Ed Miliband has promised an 'all-Wales policing plan.'
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