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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

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  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".

Crabb: Devolution bill 'hopefully' in Queen's Speech

The Secretary of State for Wales has told ITV News a bill on further devolution will "hopefully" be included in the Queen's speech.

Stephen Crabb has previously stated he wants a "clear, robust and lasting devolution settlement for Wales".

When pressed on the word 'hopefully' by our reporter Alexandra Lodge, this was Mr Crabb's reply:

Mr Crabb met with First Minister Carwyn Jones today to discuss Wales' future - and said he would work with Mr Jones to get the best deal.

Stephen Crabb: "I'm staying in Wales"

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb told reporters "I'm staying in Wales" as he left Downing Street just after 3pm. His reappointment has now also appeared on the Prime Minister's website.

MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb, is reappointed Welsh Secretary. Credit: PA

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  1. Nick Powell

St David's Day deal won't trigger tax vote says FM

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.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

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.

  1. Nick Powell

Powers for Assembly 'proud achievement' - Crabb

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has told the Scottish Conservative Conference that the UK Government had "seized this unique moment" to take forward devolution and strengthen the United Kingdom.

The very idea of Britain and Britishness belongs just as much to the peoples of Wales and Scotland as it does to the English – if not even more so. Wales and Scotland have a shared stake in this United Kingdom.

Rather than run from the opportunity [the Scottish Referendum] presented, or close the book and wipe our brows with a relieved sigh, we seized this unique moment and sought to put both Wales and Scotland at the heart of a constitutional debate.

And so for the past five months I have been leading a process to establish the next stage of devolution for Wales – to be announced by St Davids Day, in just over a week’s time. I believe one of the proudest achievements of this Conservative-led Government is how we have taken forward devolution to strengthen the Union.

And we haven’t done this just for the sake of it or simply to surrender to nationalist demands. No. It’s about giving Wales and Scotland the powers they need to grow their own economies from the inside up: Powers with a purpose.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

The Secretary of State added that the Conservatives' "long term economic plan" will need to be shared by the Welsh and Scottish Governments. He called on them to "cast aside old dogma" to secure a private-sector led economic recovery. But at the Westminster election there would be a straight choice about who would be Prime Minister.

The choice between a Prime Minister who understands and loves the Union, who wasn’t afraid to hold a referendum to tackle the big issue in Scotland head on, who is passionate about Wales, who understands why Wales is different, who understands why Scotland is different…

Or the lesser-spotted Ed Miliband – who has hardly appeared in Wales, and doesn’t seem to be very welcome here in Scotland.

Yes, while David Cameron has spent the last five years demonstrating just how much Scotland and Wales mean to him: delivering further devolution, pushing forward big infrastructure investment, laying the foundations for stable growth – actually visiting our nations in the process.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have allowed Scotland and Wales to slip out of their sights. And why? Because frankly, we just don’t matter enough to them.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

Mr Crabb didn't name the Scottish National Party but he acknowledged the SNP's political breakthrough in Scotland, where it enjoys a big lead over Labour in the polls.

What many down South haven’t caught on to yet, is that the single most important political development of the last year has had nothing to do with UKIP. No, it is something which is sending shudders of fear down the backs of Labour in London and in Cardiff too – and that is the collapse of Labour in Scotland – where they have lost their grip on those communities they took for granted for so long.

And I believe there is a day of reckoning coming for Labour in Wales too, because they have committed exactly the same sins as in Scotland; taking for granted their working classes: ignoring; patronising, not doing enough to tackle long-term unemployment; turning their back on welfare reform that actually helps the very people they purport to represent; allowing standards of public services to slide, showing complacency. All this is unforgivable.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

Crabb's claims are "smears of smiling assassin" say Labour

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has dismissed as "ignorance" and "smears" today's speech by Secretary of State Stephen Crabb on standards in Welsh education. Mr Crabb has accused Labour of trying to prevent debate after the Welsh Government's furious reaction to his comment in a newspaper that schools in Wales are "a bigger scandal than the NHS".

Stephen Crabb is becoming a disingenuous, smiling assassin of the reputation of our Welsh schools and hospitals. Only a few weeks ago he called on his Cabinet colleagues to mind their language about Wales, lest they create a false and damaging impression of our country with their politically motivated attacks on the Welsh NHS. Yet today he himself declared Welsh schools as ‘worse than Eastern Europe’, in ignorance of the facts and in a naked attempt to score political points ahead of the election – no matter the damage done to Wales’ reputation abroad, nor the morale of our pupils and teachers at home.

In his speech, Mr Crabb recalls his own education – like mine and the First Minister’s - in a Welsh Comprehensive, but the prescription he hints at - for the failings he falsely describes - is for Wales to go down the route of scrapping comprehensive education and creating instead autonomous academies, as in England. He fails to point out, of course, that a higher proportion of these academies are failing than of their local authority run equivalents, but that will surprise no one here in Wales: we are used to Tory Ministers smiling sweetly as they smear.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Crabb hits back at claims of 'gutter politics"

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb is expected to renew his criticism of school standards in Wales when he makes a speech later. His claim that Welsh education "is a bigger scandal than the NHS" led to Education Minister Huw Lewis to accuse the Secretary of State of indulging in "gutter politics". Mr Crabb is due to respond by saying that Wales needs more "heated debate" about the issue.

In England, there has been 20 years of heated debate about how to deliver the best education. In Wales, we haven’t even had that discussion. When Welsh Labour Ministers try to shut down the debate it’s the pupils, parents and teachers who lose out.

It is not just the best performing students that are missing out, the most disadvantaged children in Wales are less likely to get good GCSEs than similar pupils in England. That is just not good enough.

We need an honesty check here in Wales and start facing the facts. The inconvenient truth is that at the moment our education standards our not where they should be if we are to have any hope of getting off the bottom of the league table.,

If we are going to be ambitious for the Welsh economy we need to be far more ambitions for Welsh education.

Simply saying, 'we took our eye off the ball' doesn’t come close to the level of responsibility Welsh Labour Ministers should be accepting.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP
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