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Tony Blair admits 'mistake' on devolution for Wales and Scotland

Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/PA Images

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.

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  1. Nick Powell

Devolution still has a long way to go says First Minister

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.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

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.

– Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM
  1. Nick Powell

Assembly should become a parliament but then use its new powers, not demand more, says Crabb

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.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

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".

Cameron 'expects' Wales Bill in Queen's Speech

The Cabinet meets for the first time since the General Election, with Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb expected to have a Wales Bill ready for the Queen's Speech Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

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.

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