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Plaid 'stitch-up' claim over devolution talks

Jonathan Edwards MP requested minutes of the devolution talks

A refusal to publish the minutes of cross-party talks on Welsh devolution is a 'Westminster stitch-up' according to a Plaid Cymru MP.

Jonathan Edwards made his comments after being refused access to the record of discussions held at the beginning of the year by the Welsh Secretary which are often referred to as the 'St. David's Day Agreement.'

However his attack has been criticised by the UK Government which says that Plaid Cymru had signed up to the consensus reached during the process.

The talks and the subsequent blueprint published by David Cameron and Nick Clegg have formed the basis of the UK Government's draft Wales Bill which will change the powers of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly.

Jonathan Edwards tabled a written question asking to see the minutes and has criticised the refusal of the Welsh Secretary to publish them:

There are gaping holes in the draft Wales Bill, ranging from the devolution of Network Rail functions and funding; devolution of policing; the appointment of a Welsh Crown Estates Commissioner; devolution of S4C; review of devolution of criminal justice.

The refusal of the Secretary of State to publish minutes of the meeting smacks of another back room Westminster stitch-up between the Tories and the Labour Party.

Plaid Cymru will be tabling amendments to the Bill to ensure that the people of Wales get the democracy and accountable government they deserve and we will continue to challenge the unionist parties to put their tribal politics to one side and act in the Welsh national interest in improving this crucial Bill.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

This is the response from the Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb to Jonathan Edwards' Written Parliamentary Question:

I held a large number of meetings as part of the St David’s Day process. These included meetings with the parliamentary representatives of the four main political parties in Wales to identify which Silk Commission recommendations had political consensus to be taken forward. It was agreed that discussions at these meetings would remain confidential, and the Government has no plans to publish minutes.

– Written Answer by Stephen Crabb MP, Welsh Secretary

But a Wales Office source points out that Plaid Cymru took part in the St. David's Day process.

Plaid Cymru played a full part in the St. David's Day Agreement and signed up to the political consensus that underpinned it. They cannot now pretend to have no idea how that consensus was reached.

– Wales Office source


Plans to sack MPs don't go far enough says Welsh MP

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards is one of a small group at Westminster who think that Government plans to let voters get rid of MPs who break the rules don't go far enough. He's backing a rival bill to the legislation promised in the Queen's Speech.

Mr Edwards agrees that voters should have the right to petition for a by-election but disagrees with ministers who want to restrict that right to cases where an MP's behaviour has already been condemned by a committee at Westminster.

Jonathan Edwards wasn't in Parliament during the expenses scandal but says he doesn’t think what he calls "the Westminster elite" have learned anything from the period. He said a genuine Recall Bill could go some way to restoring trust in politics.

I wasn’t in Parliament when the MPs expenses scandal was exposed. But even though I’ve been an elected member for four years, I don’t think the Westminster elite have really learned anything from the period, or how public trust in politicians is at the low level it is.

The [Government's] Recall Bill was meant to be the start of a new democracy – one in which Members of Parliament recognise they are there to serve their constituents, not line their own pockets. But the proposals coming from the UK Government are too weak and don’t scratch the surface of what is needed to keep MPs in check. This week I’ve joined a small committee of like-minded MPs who believe more needs to be done to put powers back into the hands of voters.

If MPs break the rules, then their constituents should be able to kick them out – not be forced to wait up to five years for the next election. Being elected as a Member of Parliament and representing my home communities is a huge honour. I believe a genuine recall process can greatly empower voters and go some way to restoring trust in politics. That’s why I’ll be one of those proposing an alternative Parliamentary Bill to put power in the hands of the electorate. The proposal from the UK Government keeps power in the hands of MPs – that isn’t good enough.

– Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr


'Clear road map' for Assembly powers - Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has welcomed the Silk Commission opinion poll finding, saying that they provide a 'clear road map' for further devolution of power to the Assembly.

The research shows that the people of Wales have far more faith in the National Assembly than the UK parliament and that an overwhelming majority want to see further powers devolved to Wales.

The results mirror the historic referendum victory of 2011.

A clear majority support the devolution of energy policy, policing and broadcasting. This provides a clear road map of the powers that should be devolved to Wales.

All of these were in Plaid Cymru's submission to the Silk Commission as we continue to lead the debate on the political future of our country. The London parties are way behind the curve of public opinion in Wales. The UK government should bring forward a new Government of Wales Act during this parliament to enact the findings of its own Silk Commission.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

Plaid's Spending Review attack on Labour

In its response to the Chancellor's Spending Review, Plaid Cymru highlights recent comments by member of the Shadow Cabinet about spending after 2015 to accuse Labour of falling into a 'political trap' laid by the Chancellor.

Today’s CSR paints a grim picture of further austerity ahead for Wales. The Tory Chancellor George Osborne laid a political trap for Labour that they have fallen into hook, line, and sinker by publicly accepting austerity cuts if they form the next government.

This leaves the people of Wales with absolutely no difference between Tory austerity and Labour austerity.

Austerity has failed on its own terms – it has been self-defeating, with the economy either in recession or stagnant in recent years.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru airport tax bid

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards will table an amendment to the UK Government's Finance Bill in a bid to speed up transfer of control of Air Passenger Tax to the Welsh Government.

Devolving the airport duty is one of the recommendations of the recent Silk Commission Report. Mr Edwards is urging Labour MPs to support his amendment.

The UK Government-sponsored Silk Commission in its first report recommended the full devolution of minor taxes such as Airport Duty, Aggregates tax, business rates, landfill tax and Stamp Duty, in addition to a tax-sharing arrangement for income tax.

There are three important reasons why the Welsh Government should be empowered with fiscal powers as advocated by the Silk Commission.

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