The group, which is being set up by Labour to examine how best to redistribute powers across the UK, will meet for the first time.Read the full story ›
Former prime minister Tony Blair has admitted his government made a "mistake" by failing to do enough to ensure that devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales did not undermine the United Kingdom's national identity.
Mr Blair insisted that he still believes he was right to create national assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff in 1999, arguing that resisting demands for the devolution of power would have stoked up demand for outright independence.
But in a new book entitled British Labour Leaders, he acknowledged that did not understand at the time the importance of maintaining cultural unity between the different parts of the UK.
First Minister Carwyn Jones refused to commit to the idea of a referendum on the Welsh Government levying income tax when he responded to Stephen Crabb's speech. He also rejected the idea that the latest package of powers should mark the completion of what the Welsh Secretary had called the "devolution journey".
Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go. Particularly not just in terms of Wales but of the UK as a whole. There is much work that needs to be done in order to get the constitution right and to make sure that the United Kingdom reflects the four nations that are part of the UK state.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood complained that while Scotland was getting the "going rate", Wales was getting third rate treatment. She said the Welsh Secretary couldn't expect a stable devolution settlement if Wales wasn't treated as an equal partner in the United Kingdom.
I ask for you to offer any justification in your response for why the people of Wales should not be given the same funding per head as the people of Scotland. The same principle applies to responsibilities. Why does the Secretary of State believe that Scotland’s natural resources should be in the hands of the people of Scotland, but Wales’ natural resources should remain in the hands of Westminster politicians? Are we a less able people?It is these Westminster puppet strings that have held Wales back for far too long.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has told AMs that the Assembly is getting "the most far reaching and significant package of powers ever devolved to Wales" and urged them to use those powers rather than spend their time demanding more. He said the Welsh Government using its existing power to call a referendum to win right to levy income tax was a crucial part of that process.
I believe now it is time that the Welsh Government demonstrates its own commitment to the whole package by making progress on the income tax raising powers that are already available to it.
There is no other Parliament in the world that does not have responsibility for raising money as well as spending it.
In 1773 the Sons of Liberty smashed up the tea ships in Boston Harbour with the rallying cry “No taxation without representation”. Here in Wales we have something of a reverse situation: representation and full law-making powers but without responsibility for significant taxation.
I firmly believe the Welsh public are hungry for us to move forwards a nation and for this place – this National Assembly, this Parliament – to become a true forum of debate, resolution and a sense of purpose and action, the articulator of our national ambition for economic growth, wealth creation, educational achievement, first-class health outcomes. For it to provide solutions on all the issues that really matter to the people it serves, not a vehicle for a never-ending conversation about more powers, or the generator of some dull consensus that settles on mediocrity where funding is always deployed as the great national excuse for not achieving our potential.
He added that during the recent election campaign, not once on any doorstep across Wales was he asked about more powers or devolution. But he said that as a first step, the UK government will devolve decision making on planning applications for all onshore wind farms.
Mr Crabb said he rejected the idea of devolution as a never-ending journey. Instead of demanding yet more powers in future, the Assembly should consolidate its role in Welsh national life by becoming "not just a forum for grievance but a cockpit of resolution and action".
Welsh Government sources say David Cameron has told Carwyn Jones that he expects the Queen's Speech to include a Wales Bill devolving further powers to the Welsh Government and Assembly.
The Prime Minister and First Minister had a "cordial" phone conversation, in which David Cameron seemed surprised by suggestions from opposition parties that the bill won't be included in the legislative programme read out by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament.
The two men are said to have spoken about the work they need to do together to secure the future of the United Kingdom, as well as other devolution issues. Carwyn Jones will meet Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb later this week for the first time since the election.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has written to the First Minister, saying he is disappointed by his response to the St David’s Day agreement and fears momentum will now be lost.
It comes after Carwyn Jones said he felt Wales was not being treated with the same degree of respect as Scotland, adding that the process had been "rushed and unsatisfactory".
I was disappointed to read your reported comments in response to the announcement over the weekend. The package represents a significant movement in Welsh devolution, paving the way for a clearer, stronger and fairer devolution settlement for Wales.
My officials are pressing ahead to ensure a new Wales Bill will be introduced early in the next Parliament. However, I am concerned that momentum may now be lost unless there is strong and positive engagement from the Welsh Government.