Labour remains suspicious about the UK Government's Wales Bill which is being debated for the first time by members of the House of Lords. But the party's frontbencher in the Lords, Baroness Morgan, says the borrowing powers the bill would give to the Welsh Government are significant.
Peers are to debate plans to give the Welsh Government more powers, including the ability to borrow money and some control over taxes. They're discussing the UK Government's Wales Bill which would introduce the changes.
Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Wigley says that, despite its flaws, the bill is a step forward.
The National Assembly should be able to hold referenda on major issues that are legally binding, according to Plaid Cymru. It'll try to alter the Wales Bill to include the move when in its final Commons stage today.
Plaid MP Hywel Williams says 'it would make government better and more legitimate' by leaving it to 'the people of Wales' to decide which powers should be transferred to the Assembly and when.
Labour wants to alter the UK Government's Wales Bill to make it clear which powers have been devolved to Cardiff and which remain the responsibility of Westminster. MPs have their last chance to amend the bill when it reaches its final stages in the Commons today.
Shadow Wales Minister, Nia Griffith, says Labour's amendment would force the UK Government to make the division clear to avoid disputes and costly legal battles.
MPs will get their final chance later to try to alter UK Government plans to change the powers of the Assembly and Welsh Government when the Wales Bill completes its journey through the House of Commons.
The Bill's main aim is to give the Welsh Government the power to borrow money and responsibility for some taxes. You can read more about the proposals by clicking here. Today's debate is the bill's final stage in the Commons before it moves to the Lords.
The Welsh Secretary has called it 'a major milestone in devolution.' But opponents say it doesn't go far enough and there's been widespread criticism of the form of income tax devolution which is being proposed for Wales.
MPs will make last-ditch attempts to change the UK Government's Wales Bill when it reaches its final stages in the Commons later. Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards says his amendment would give the Welsh Government power to underwrite major infrastructure projects.
Plaid Cymru is urging other parties to support its bid to rename the Assembly as 'the National Parliament of Wales.'
Plaid has tabled an amendment to the Wales Bill, which is being debated by MPs and which would introduce financial powers and other changes.
Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Leader Elfyn Llwyd, who is behind the amendment, describes the proposal as 'common sense.'
This amendment, if passed, would enforce a simple change - that the Assembly be officially named the National Parliament of Wales.
The Wales Bill already makes provision for officially changing the name of the Welsh Assembly Government to the Welsh Government. It is only right and proper that the institution's name also reflects its status as a full law-making body, as it has been since the 2011 referendum on further powers.
– Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru
The leaders of other parties in Wales have already spoken in favour of this change. We hope that our straightforward and common sense amendment attracts them and their parties' support.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Kirsty Williams, has welcomed the introduction of the Wales Bill which would transfer tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government for the first time since devolution.
This is a proud day to be a Welsh Liberal Democrat. We have consistently supported greater financial powers for the National Assembly and today is a big step towards that goal.
I have been pushing for the Wales Bill to be published before the Queen’s Speech to ensure that it would pass before the next General Election. I am pleased this will now happen.
Tax varying powers will bring much needed accountability to Wales’ political system. It will sharpen minds in Cardiff Bay and bring the same level of accountability to Wales that exists in almost all other national parliaments. For too long the Welsh Government has been able to simply spend money without having the responsibility to raise it.
– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrats
Stamp duty devolved to Wales could help lower the cost of buying a house and promote growth in the construction sector. If used effectively, devolving and reforming stamp duty could be a tool for growth and stimulating house building in Wales.
Wales must have a proper functioning parliament with additional fiscal responsibilities to help create a stronger economy and a fairer society.
Finance Minister Jane Hutt says business rates will be fully devolved to Wales from April next year with Stamp Duty and Landfill Tax following by 2018. Welcoming the UK Government's Wales Bill she said the two governments had agreed an 'ambitious' timetable for tax devolution.
In recent months I have been leading constructive discussions with the UK Treasury on our new financial settlement. I am glad that that we have secured agreement to set ambitious target dates for tax devolution, starting with non-domestic rates, which will be fully devolved in Wales from April 2015. This move will bring Wales into line with Scotland and will ensure that we benefit from the growth in this tax base over time. It will also make it easier to set business rate policy in a way that meets the needs of Welsh citizens and firms.
– Jane Hutt AM, Finance Minister
Full devolution of stamp duty and landfill tax will take longer, since these require passage of the Wales Bill by the UK Parliament. The Assembly will also have to legislate to introduce replacement Welsh taxes, which will come into effect when the UK taxes are ‘turned off’ in Wales. An April 2018 date for introducing the new Welsh taxes is ambitious but achievable. I will continue to develop my plans to ensure that those taxes are simpler and fairer, while supporting jobs and growth.
Plaid Cymru will try to change the UK Government's plans to give Welsh Ministers some control over income tax. The Wales Bill, introduced into Parliament today, would give the Welsh Government power to vary income tax after a referendum, but only if all three rates are changed simultaneously.
This is what's known as 'lockstep' and it's been criticised by politicians in all parties. Plaid MP Hywel Williams says the party will table amendments which could give a future Welsh Government more flexibility to vary individual rates and also to devolve Air Passenger Duty. Hywel Williams said:
We welcome the publication of the Wales Bill that will seek to implement some of the recommendations of the cross-party Commission on Devolution chaired by Paul Silk.
However, our goal from the start has been to preserve the integrity of the Commission's original recommendations and it is disappointing to see that they have been cherry-picked in this way.
– Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru
We will aim to put this right by tabling amendments to the Wales Bill with a view to scrapping the lockstep - a roadblock that would limit the Welsh Government's income tax-varying powers and was not part of the original recommendations. We will also seek to amend the Bill so that Air Passenger Duty is devolved to Wales as per the Silk Commission report.
He went on to challenge Labour MPs to support Plaid's amendments:
– Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru
Having labelled the lockstep a "Tory trap" and having bought Cardiff airport, it would be a huge embarrassment for the First Minister of Wales - as the most powerful member of the Labour Party in the UK - if he fails to convince Labour MPs in Westminster to support these amendments which are so crucial to boosting the Welsh economy.
The Wales Bill will therefore be a test of Labour's priorities.