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  1. Nick Powell

First Minister to address Labour Party Conference

First Minister Carwyn Jones and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith are to address the Labour Party Conference in Manchester later.

Carwyn Jones follows Ed Miliband into the Welsh night conference reception but the Labour leader says the First Minister was ahead on constitutional issues Credit: ITV News Cymru Wales

In his speech, Carwyn Jones will welcome what he sees as the adoption of his call for a Constitutional Convention as Labour Party policy. The First Minister had wanted voices from all parts of the UK to be heard before the referendum in Scotland but he's pleased that his idea has now been taken up by Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader has acknowledged that Carwyn Jones was right and "ahead of the game". Mr Jones will use this speech to argue that it has been wrong all along to try to reform the UK through what he'll call a bilateral conversation between Westminster and Scotland.

After all, David Cameron tried that and was so badly out-witted by Alex Salmond that he almost lost the union. We must honour our promise to refound the UK in a way that ensures the strong identities of our nations are recognised within a common bond of solidarity. I don't want to see anymore panicky responses from David Cameron to placate the Ranting Right in his own party, and the narrow nationalism of Nigel Farage.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The Shadow Welsh Secretary will also attack David Cameron's wish to link more devolution for Scotland -and potentially for Wales- to a ban on Welsh and Scottish MPs voting on England-only matters at Westminster. Owen Smith will claim that the Prime Minister is making a "shabby attempt" to expolit English desires for less centralisation of power at Westminster.

Instead of some tawdry trick to buy off backbench critics with the Balkanisation of Parliament and the purge of Welsh, Scottish and Irish influence. David Cameron should heed the words of Carwyn Jones and Ed Miliband and call a Constitutional Convention to forge a new Union for Britain. Because we’re not going to stand by and let Cameron short-change the Scots or deny power to the people of this city [of Manchester] and others across England. And I’m certainly not going let this, or any other Tory Prime Minister, silence Welsh voices at Westminster

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Mr Smith will also emphasise the importance for lower paid workers in Wales of Labour's proposal to increase the minimum wage. The Labour leadership are determined not to let constitutional questions, however important, stop them getting their economic messages to the electorate. But they know that they have to address both issues. Ed Miliband was particularly struck by meeting a Scottish voter on the minimum wage who couldn't decide whetherer or not to back independence

  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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Parties react to poll

Welsh Labour has responded to the slight drop in support indicated by the latest Wales Barometer Poll. A spokesperson urged voters to view next year's Westminster election as a clear choice between two parties.

The 2015 General Election presents a clear choice for people in Wales, between a Tory-led Government giving tax breaks to millionaires, or a Labour Government committed to tackling the cost of living crisis. Welsh Labour, through schemes like Jobs Growth Wales, has made great strides in improving our economy, but we need a Labour Government in Westminster to make sure the recovery is secure and works for families across Wales.

– Welsh Labour Spokesperson

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru welcomed the modest improvement in the party's performance suggested by the poll.

It is encouraging to see strong support for Plaid Cymru following a recent poll showing the highest level of support for Plaid Cymru since 2009. The growing disillusionment in Wales of the same old politics from the Westminster establishment parties and a growing desire for a new Welsh way, in contributing to more and more people turning to Plaid Cymru for an alternative.

– Plaid Cymru Spokesperson
  1. Nick Powell

Poll suggests Labour vote is slipping

The latest Wales Barometer Opinion Poll suggests that support for Labour continues to stagnate, less than a year before the Westminster election. Voting intentions for next year's General Election show a small but significant swing to the Conservatives since the last poll a month ago.

  • Labour 41% (-2%)
  • Conservatives 25% (+3%)
  • UKIP 14% (+1%)
  • Plaid Cymru 11% (no change)
  • Liberal Democrats 5% (-2%)
  • Others 5% (no change)

The shift in support is partly explained by the polling organisation YouGov revising the way it checks that it has a representative sample of Welsh opinion. However, these are minor changes and clearly haven't altered the trend seen in polls over the past few months.

This latest poll was carried out by YouGov for ITV Cymru Wales and the Welsh Governance Centre at Cardiff University. Polling was 26 June to 1 July 2014.

  1. Nick Powell

Labour holds Welsh summit

Labour leader Ed Miliband is bringing his entire shadow cabinet to Wales later this morning for a joint meeting with Carwyn Jones and his ministers. Wales' role in next year's Westminster election seems likely to figure large in their discussions.

Labour is anxious to stress its achievements in the one part of the United Kingdom where the party is currently in government but also needs a strategy for fending off Conservative and Liberal Democrat attacks on its record in Wales, especially in health and education.

We have plenty to talk about. The next future Labour Government in Westminster will be grappling with the unbridled chaos that has been unleashed in the NHS in England and the fragmentation of the schools system. First and foremost however, Ed Miliband will need to deal with the cost of living crisis that continues to blight the lives of millions, despite the slow and slight improvement in the UK economy.

Welcoming Ed, and his team to Wales, I look forward to discussing and showcasing some of our policies that have protected our communities from the worst excesses of the Coalition Government. We are delighted, for example, that Rachel Reeves is looking to develop a new offer for young people based on Jobs Growth Wales. Other decisions we have taken in Wales, like the Council Tax Relief scheme and our equitable Tuition Fees policy have shown that even in tough times there are alternatives to the UK Government's austerity measures.

That isn't easy, however, when our budgets have been cut so severely by the Tory-led Government in Westminster. A real terms cut over the lifetime of this Assembly means that we have £1.7 billion less to spend on frontline services. This is on top of the £300 million a year that Wales is losing through the UK's unfair funding system.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The way Wales is funded is one area where Carwyn Jones wants a commitment that a future Labour government at Westminster would offer a better deal. The last Labour Government didn't accept calls to end the system that limits Wales' share of any increase in public spending to its population share.

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Wales values us, says Labour

Welsh Labour have welcomed today's opinion poll that puts them on course for two seats in the European Parliament, with support well ahead of the second placed party, UKIP.

The poll also suggests that if voters were choosing a new Assembly, Labour would slip from 30 seats to 29 in the Senedd, leaving the party outnumbered by the combined opposition.

Today’s poll shows clearly that the people of Wales value the hard work of Welsh Labour standing up against the Tories and Lib Dems in Westminster, and delivering for Wales in the Senedd. It’s evident that the Tory war on Wales has backfired and failed to give them the boost of support they were hoping for. Only a vote for Labour in May’s European election will send a message to David Cameron.

For Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru this poll is not just bad - it’s embarrassing. The so-called party of Wales have stagnated under her leadership. If this poll is accurate only around one in ten people will vote for her party this year and next.

– Welsh Labour
  1. Adrian Masters

Labour's alternative future for Wales

Labour's opposition to many of the devolution measures proposed recently has allowed its opponents to brand it as an 'anti-devolution party.' What we've seen at Welsh Labour's conference this weekend is a concerted effort to set out an alternative set of proposals that deal with that criticism.

Owen Smith's pledge on income tax is another significant part of that. But there was already controversy over the form of devolution when it was proposed by Scottish Labour. Critics say it's even more inflexible than the 'lockstep' model favoured by the UK Government.

Owen Smith said tax devolution would 'increase the accountability of the Assembly,' something he has repeatedly rejected in the past. Coupled with Ed Miliband's pledge to 'extend devolution' it's a clear attempt to wrest back control of devolution from Labour's political opponents.

Labour promises Scottish-style tax power for Wales

The Shadow Welsh Secretary has committed Labour to giving Wales the same income tax powers that the party is proposing for Scotland. Speaking at Welsh Labour's conference in Llandudno, Owen Smith said 'Labour will take devolution forward again.'

He said that, as long as the disputed funding formula was changed and if voters agree in a referendum, a Labour UK Government would 'make sure the Welsh people are offered the same deal as the Scots on tax.' That proposal would see

  • A future Welsh Government given control over 15p of every pound of income tax raised in Wales
  • The power to increase the to rate of tax from 45p to 50p
  • But Welsh ministers wouldn't be able to cut rates below UK levels

Owen Smith said the move would 'increase both the accountability of the Assembly and its borrowing capacity too.' But he also said it would prevent a 'race to the bottom' with different parts of the UK trying to 'undercut' each other

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