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.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Wales says David Cameron's proposals on Welsh devolution are "a step in the right direction" - but said clarity is needed over the so-called 'funding floor'.
I welcome the fact that the Conservative Party now agrees with Labour, that we need fair funding for Wales and further devolution. Clearly, the package on offer does not go as far as Labour would like, on policing or devolution of the Work Programme, for example, but it is a step in the right direction.
It is disappointing, however, that after so many months of dialogue the Prime Minister has not brought forward details of how a funding floor will be applied for Wales, making it impossible to know whether Wales would be better or worse off under this plan. It is also concerning that the Prime Minister appears to suggest that fair funding is contingent on the Welsh people voting yes in a referendum on tax powers.
Following this morning's devolution announcement, our political editor Adrian Masters asked the Prime Minister why he did not go further and give Wales the same sort of powers that are on offer to Scotland.
This is what he said:
Plaid Cymru says it has been left 'disappointed' by the UK Government’s command paper on further devolution.
I thank the Secretary of State for facilitating this process and Plaid Cymru entered into it in the spirit of cooperation.
For reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained, however, Westminster has insisted that the people of Wales settle for a powers package that falls far short of the normal going-rate of devolution in the United Kingdom.
Whilst some inclusions, such as the devolution of powers over fracking, are to be welcomed, this command paper falls well short of the powers that can help us strengthen our communities. And it goes nowhere near getting the funding settlement that Wales is owed after decades of disadvantage.
Responding to the St David’s Day announcement, First Minister, Carwyn Jones said Wales was not being treated with the same degree of respect as Scotland.
The First Minister also said the process had been "rushed and unsatisfactory".
Wales is still not being treated with the same respect as that being afforded to Scotland and this continuing imbalanced approach is damaging to the UK. The proposals only go some of the way to matching Labour’s devolution offer already set out by Ed Miliband, but they fall short in crucial areas - such as on policing. The move towards a funding floor is an important step forward and we have been pushing for this for some time. But we cannot be confident that funding for Wales has been put on a fair and sustainable footing until the detail is agreed at the next Spending Review. This is disappointing and should also be seen in the context of an unprecedented £1.5bn cut to the Welsh budget in this term.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have unveiled proposals for a range of new powers for the Welsh Government and National Assembly.Read the full story ›
Welsh Labour has criticised the proposals for further devolution expected to be announced by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister later. A spokesperson says:
Any progress on putting the Welsh devolution settlement on a firmer footing in terms of powers and funding should be welcomed.
However, this process has shown one thing above all others - that Wales remains an afterthought for the Tories.
There’s no parity with Scotland in the offer being mooted and people will rightly ask why that is.
They’ve slashed £1.5bn from our budget and they have waited until the last days of this parliament to start talking about fair funding for Wales.
The Labour offer in the General Election is clear – an ambitious devolution package, fair funding and a commitment to tackle the cost of living crisis.
Plaid Cymru sources are privately expecting to be disappointed by today's devolution announcement by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. The party has engaged with the talks led by Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb and is hopeful for some of its aims to be realised in the St. David's Day agreement.
Ahead of the announcement, Party leader Leanne Wood said,
Plaid Cymru entered talks with the Westminster parties in a spirit of cooperation and we stated clearly what the next steps for Wales should be. We look forward to reading the command paper upon its publication.