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  1. Adrian Masters

Cameron's 'Double Yes' for Welsh income tax

David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the Senedd in November

At a reception for lobby journalists last night, the Prime Minister used a phrase I think you'll hear from Conservative politicians a lot more in 2014. The phrase was 'double yes' and is David Cameron's shorthand for his approach to what should happen next with income tax powers for Wales.

A Wales bill is expected to be published before the end of the year (which only leaves next week) paving the way for a referendum to be held. If there were a Yes vote in that referendum, it would give the Welsh Government partial control over income tax raised in Wales.

When I asked David Cameron about the prospects of a referendum he said he'd be pushing for a 'double yes' and added that meant 'yes' to holding a referendum in the first place and then campaigning for a Yes vote in that referendum. And he's urged Welsh Tories to do the same.

Labour is against getting that power without reform of the way the Welsh Government is funded. Only this week, the First Minister said it would be a Tory 'trap' to transfer income tax control with unfair funding. You can see his comments by clicking here.

Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly are in an awkward position. They back the transfer of income tax powers but remain disappointed by the type of transfer on offer. They want the power, as recommended in the Silk Commission, to alter separate tax bands so that they can cut the middle rate.

But the power that will be set out in the Wales Bill next week is what's known in the jargon as 'lockstep' which means that a future Welsh Government would only be able to vary each of the three income tax bands at the same rate.

Sources close to Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies says he and Tory AMs will continue to campaign to be able to lower the 40% band 'because it's the only realistic band to reduce.'

They're clinging onto that in the face of the difference of opinion with the London end of the party because there have been some hints that the Treasury might leave open the prospect of future change to the form of income tax power.

Certainly the Welsh Liberal Democrats would want that to be the case because they want to cut the basic rate by 2p. And they, don't forget, boast of a direct line to the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

That's for the longer-term. In the near future, 2014 looks set to be a struggle between Labour's resolute no and David Cameron's 'Double Yes.'


'Two toothless men fighting over a toothbrush' says Plaid about Labour-Tory spat

Plaid Cymru has weighed into a row between Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives over a delayed decision on tax and borrowing powers. Plaid AM Simon Thomas called the argument between Tory leader Andrew RT Davies and Labour AM Mike Hedges 'a unionist spat' and added:

This is a case of two toothless men fighting over who lost the toothbrush.

Plaid Cymru is the only party that can deliver for Wales. Unionist parties are ignoring the evidence and letting us down.

Only by putting Wales First will a Welsh Government enable our nation to reach its full potential in the community of nations.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru

Welsh Tory leader hits back at 'toothless' gibe

The Welsh Conservatives are hitting back at a Labour attack on their leader Andrew RT Davies over a delayed decision on transferring tax and borrowing powers to Wales. Labour AM Mike Hedges called the Opposition Leader 'toothless' for not putting enough public pressure on his Westminster colleagues.

It follows a delay in the UK Government's response to the Silk Commission which last year recommended the transfer. A Welsh Conservative spokesman had this to say:

Our public commitment to the full implementation of Silk One remains unswerving. Perhaps Mike Hedges’ short memory has also forgotten his running Swansea Council into the ground. It is Labour’s squandering of public money that Silk’s recommendations – when introduced - will properly hold to account.

  1. Adrian Masters

First Minister confronts PM over tax powers delay

The First Minister has confronted David Cameron over delays to a decision on transferring tax and borrowing powers to Wales.

Carwyn Jones met the Prime Minister face to face at a meeting in Downing Street today.

He says the Prime Minister did say he now understands strong feeling about something he's previously called a 'Cardiff Bay obsession.'

'We're determined to get it right' says Welsh Secretary

The Welsh Secretary, David Jones, has defended a delay in making a decision on the transfer of tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government. First Minister Carwyn Jones raised the delay with the Prime Minister at a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in Downing Street.

The transfer of some taxes were recommended in a report by the Silk Commission which was published last November. At the time the Welsh Secretary said the proposals would be 'discussed immediately' and promised a response by the spring of this year.

Earlier this month the Prime Minister refused to commit to a new date saying that a consultation on one of the taxes involved, Stamp Duty Land Tax, needs to finish. That's being echoed by the Welsh Secretary who described today's JMC meeting as 'positive and productive,' before adding:

I fully understand how important the Silk Commission's report is. The Commission's recommendations raise issues of crucial importance to Wales and to theUnited Kingdom as a whole. As a Government, we are determined to make the right response to those recommendations. We listened to industry concerns about the proposed devolution of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) by consulting further. We are considering the further representations that have been made, and are finalising our response to the Commission's recommendations.

The Silk Commission is currently examining the powers of the National Assembly, and the boundary of the Welsh devolution settlement, under Part II of its remit. It is due to report its Part II findings in the spring of next year, and we will consider the Commission's Part II recommendations carefully when published.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales


Welsh Government hits back at 'bluster' claims

A Welsh Government source has dismissed criticism by Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams about the First Minister's campaign for a constitutional convention. Mr Williams accused Carwyn Jones of 'bluster' for not raising it with the Deputy Prime Minister's office which is responsible for the constitution.

But the source said:

The First Minister has led the way on calling for a Constitutional Convention. He has raised the issue many times in face-to-face discussions with both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. As usual, Plaid Cymru are late to the table and have nothing useful to add to this debate.

First Minister: PM failed to explain powers delay

The First Minister says David Cameron now knows how strongly the Welsh business community backs the transfer of tax and borrowing powers. Carwyn Jones also said that the Prime Minister reaffirmed the UK Government's agreement to fund fully rail electrification to Swansea and the Valley Lines.

Before the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, Carwyn Jones said he was looking for an explanation for the delay in a decision on tax and borrowing powers as recommended in the Silk Commission. Our Political Editor Adrian Masters asked him if he got his answer.

Plaid MP: First Minister 'bluster, no action' on UK change

A Plaid Cymru MP says the First Minister is guilty of 'bluster' on constitutional change but not following it up with action. Carwyn Jones has repeatedly said there needs to be a constitutional convention - a formal way of looking at what powers Wales and other parts of the UK need.

But Hywel Williams asked the UK Government department responsible, the Deputy Prime Minister's office, what approaches the First Minister has made. This was the answer from Minister Greg Clark:

The Deputy Prime Minister has not received any recent representations on the topic of a constitutional convention from the Welsh Government.

On the day that Carwyn Jones intends to push the Prime Minister over the delayed decision on tax and borrowing powers for Wales, Mr Williams says that it raises questions about the First Minister's own commitment.

For all the First Minister's bluster, it seems that he's making no real progress on this.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to take him seriously when he claims to be committed to securing a better settlement for Wales. The only thing he has achieved is undermining people's confidence in his abilities.

In January last year, the First Minister called for this Convention to be set up to keep the UK together. After nearly two years of stagnation, we can now only presume that he is in favour of Scottish independence.

– Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru

First Minister to tackle Prime Minister over tax powers delay

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, is expected to tackle David Cameron over a delayed decision on transferring control of some taxes and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government. They'll meet in Downing Street where the Prime Minister will host a session of the Joint Ministerial Committee.

The JMC is a chance for the First Ministers and Deputy First Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to air any grievances with the UK Government. It's usually chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister but once a year the Prime Minister takes charge.

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