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Calls for Wales to have same powers as Scotland

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has backed the idea that Wales should be entitled to whatever powers are devolved to Scotland. In an interview at the Labour party conference in Manchester with ITV Cymru Wales, Mr Smith was asked if he backed calls by First Minister Carwyn Jones for the Welsh Government to be able to choose which of the Scottish powers it wanted.

Owen Smith has called for more powers to be devolved to Wales. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

"Yes. We've been very clear that we need to make sure that in future we've got a more symmetrical devolution settlement, certainly between Wales and Scotland."

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Scotland already has more powers than Wales and was promised more during the independence referendum campaign. However, Mr Smith suggested that there were not that many more powers to devolve.

He said "the next big step" was tax powers, where there would have to be a referendum. But Wales would be "afforded the same option as Scotland" although a Westminster Labour government would need to be certain that Wales would be better off as a result of a new deal on tax and funding.

  1. Nick Powell

Devolution dilemma for Labour

The pledge of more devolution to Scotland by the main Westminster party leaders is credited with ensuring the defeat of independence in Thursday's referendum. Any doubt that it was made in haste to save the United Kingdom from break-up has been dispelled by events since the result was declared.

Labour leader Ed Miliband faces difficult questions about the constitution when his party's conference gets underway today. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Most attention so far has been on the demand from many English Conservative MPs for what they see as England's poor treatment in the present devolution settlement to be put right in tandem with more powers for Scotland, That led the former Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to insist yesterday that the promises to the Scots must be delivered without delay.

His successor as Labour's leader, Ed Miliband, faces having his party conference, which opens in Manchester today, overshadowed by arguments about the constitution. He wants to take the opportunity to project himself and his party as understanding voters' economic woes and being ready to tackle them if Labour wins the Westminster election next May.

The last few months have been about keeping our country together. The next eight months are about how we change our country together. And we know that yearning for change is there right across our country. Constitutional change matters, but we know that something else matters even more: this country doesn't work for most working people and we, the Labour Party, are going to change it.

– Labour Leader Ed Miliband MP

It's a theme that was taken up by the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, as soon as the referendum was won. Although he welcomed what he saw as recognition that it was better to stick together, he claimed as well that the Scots had sent a message of rejection to the coalition government in Westminster.

The result also shows that the people of Scotland are sick to the back teeth of the Tories. They want a government that both understands Scotland and gets that we need far more equal distribution of wealth and opportunity across Britain. That is a feeling that many people in Wales share and it will be up to a Labour government to deliver on their expectations. That is what Labour intend to deliver, when we win back power next May.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Mr Smith has said that there must be more devolution for Wales but he has not yet endorsed the call from the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, for Wales to be offered everything that Scotland gets, leaving the Welsh Government to decide what to accept and what to reject.

The danger for Welsh Labour in particular is that such a debate could be a distraction at best and runs the risk of re-opening old divisions about devolution at a time when the party needs to be united around its core economic message in the run-up to May's election.

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