1. Wales

Parties urge Welsh business bank

Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru outline competing plans to help small businesses get better and quicker access to government loans.

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Political points from business bank bickering

In Cardiff Bay there's been a minor political spat about the publication of competing proposals for a business bank to be created to channel taxpayers' money to small firms. The Welsh Conservatives are accusing Plaid of attempting to spoil their policy launch by rushing out a pre-emptive call.

It's certainly true that the Tories have been planning today's launch since long before Christmas. It's also true that Plaid's Adam Price championed the idea of a Bank of Wales three years ago. But the Conservatives question the timing of Plaid's decision to make the call again.

The other twist in the tale is that a figure long associated with the Welsh Conservatives, Professor Dylan Jones Evans, has been appointed by the Business Minister to report to her about all these matters. Cutting through the arguing, I think there are three political points to draw from today:

  • Conservatives are promoting the idea of a state-owned bank, an eye-brow raising fact which perhaps underlines growing confidence and independence of thought in the Welsh group. On closer inspection it does meet Tory ideals though: better use of public money and partnership with the private sector.
  • A cross-party consensus is emerging. If the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru are both arguing for a state-owned lending bank AND the Welsh Government's independent review will look at it too, then this is an idea whose time has come. The difference is about details.
  • They're arguing over ideas. Reject the idea or dispute the detail, but this a major, thought-through policy launch from a group which is often accused, particularly by Labour, of having no ideas. And the retaliation comes not with personal jibes but counter-proposals. This seems to me a Good Thing.

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