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Report raises crucial questions about Wales' future says Welsh Secretary

The UK Government says it'll now consider the recommendations of the Silk Commission. Welsh Secretary David Jones says any major changes which need new legislation will have to wait until after the next UK General Election.

This Government has consistently reaffirmed its clear commitment to devolution, and we warmly welcome the Commission’s second report which sets out its recommendations for making devolution in Wales work better.

The report raises crucially important questions about the future governance of Wales within the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is only right that we now take the time to consider in full each of the recommendations and their implications.

We will consider implementing some of the changes the Commission has recommended during this Parliament. But there is insufficient time remaining in this Parliament to implement any changes that require primary legislation.

These will therefore be a matter for the next Government and Parliament, and for political parties to set out their proposals and intentions to the electorate ahead of the General Election in 2015.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

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UK Government 'will consider' Welsh flood cash bids

The Welsh Secretary David Jones says the UK Government 'will consider any request' from the Welsh Government for financial help to deal with the cost of recent floods. He'd previously said there was unlikely to be any extra cash.

But in a statement he says there's been no request from ministers in Cardiff for any additional funding from Westminster or for an application for European emergency funds.

I am hugely sympathetic of the difficulties being faced by residents in West and North Wales.

The primary responsibility for dealing with incidents like the recent flooding lies with the local authority: In Wales this means it ultimately comes under the Welsh Government’s remit. I do want to be clear, however, that we, in the UK Government are ready to consider any request for assistance made by the Welsh Government.

The damage is still being assessed and officials in my department are in regular contact with officials in the Welsh Government. I must make it absolutely clear, however, there have been no official requests for additional assistance from Welsh Government ministers, nor have we received any request to access the EU Solidarity Fund.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

'Worrying' figures mean Wales risks being left behind, says Welsh Secretary

Wales risks being left behind the rest of the UK in terms of future employment and prosperity, according to the Welsh Secretary. David Jones was responding to the publication of international figures showing pupils in Wales performing worse than in England and Scotland.

Today’s figures are extremely disappointing, and highlight the important challenge that the Wales – and the UK as a whole – faces to ensure our young people are equipped with the tools they need to shine in the competitive employment market.

We are living in an increasingly competitive world and if Wales is to succeed in the global race, we will need more scientists, engineers, and young people who are equipped with the skills to put them at the front of the queue.

Most importantly, we need to inspire them to pursue their ambitions. Today’s worrying figures do very little to help us achieve that aim.

It is vitally important that the Welsh Government now seeks to address these serious educational deficiencies and give the young aspirational people of Wales the skills they need to succeed.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

'We're determined to get it right' says Welsh Secretary

The Welsh Secretary, David Jones, has defended a delay in making a decision on the transfer of tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government. First Minister Carwyn Jones raised the delay with the Prime Minister at a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in Downing Street.

The transfer of some taxes were recommended in a report by the Silk Commission which was published last November. At the time the Welsh Secretary said the proposals would be 'discussed immediately' and promised a response by the spring of this year.

Earlier this month the Prime Minister refused to commit to a new date saying that a consultation on one of the taxes involved, Stamp Duty Land Tax, needs to finish. That's being echoed by the Welsh Secretary who described today's JMC meeting as 'positive and productive,' before adding:

I fully understand how important the Silk Commission's report is. The Commission's recommendations raise issues of crucial importance to Wales and to theUnited Kingdom as a whole. As a Government, we are determined to make the right response to those recommendations. We listened to industry concerns about the proposed devolution of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) by consulting further. We are considering the further representations that have been made, and are finalising our response to the Commission's recommendations.

The Silk Commission is currently examining the powers of the National Assembly, and the boundary of the Welsh devolution settlement, under Part II of its remit. It is due to report its Part II findings in the spring of next year, and we will consider the Commission's Part II recommendations carefully when published.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

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Cabinet reshuffle: no change at Wales Office?

by Adrian Masters

The news that Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has been sacked in the UK cabinet reshuffle inevitably led to speculation that change could affect the Wales Office too. But several sources say that Moore is the only cabinet figure to be affected which suggests that David Jones' position is safe.

Any further changes are expected to be amongst middle-ranking ministers. Ed Miliband is expected to reshuffle his Shadow Cabinet team too. Those changes could also come today.

Business backing for Stamp Duty devolution

The Welsh arms of both the Federation of Master Builders and the Confederation of British Industry have said that they will support the devoltion of Stamp Duty to the Welsh Government when the UK Government consults on the idea.

We welcome the Treasury’s intention to seek the views of business on this matter and therefore will make our policy clear. We urge UK Ministers to respond positively to the recommendation to devolve Stamp Duty made by the Silk Commission. Our view is that Stamp Duty Land Tax should be devolved to the Welsh Government as a matter of urgency. The Welsh housing industry is in a poor state of health and Stamp Duty could be used to creatively to support the sector, and to offset the accumulated costs of development, which are set to rise.

– Federation of Master Builders Cymru Director Richard Jenkins

The views of the CBI are very clear in supporting the devolution of stamp duty. If used effectively, devolving and reforming stamp duty could be used as a tool for growth, stimulating housebuilding and supporting home buyers. We will engage with the Treasury over the summer and make the views of business known. The lack of certainty and clarity on a deadline for Silk is not helping business - both those in Wales and those looking to invest. CBI will continue to engage with all parties for a swift resolution, in the interests of driving forward the economy - and growth.

– CBI Wales Director Emma Watkins
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