Welsh Secretary: Devolution ‘does not mean simply transferring power from Westminster to Cardiff’

Devolution does not mean "simply transferring power from Westminster to Cardiff", MPs have been told.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said that it instead means getting decision-making made at the "closest possible levels to where it actually matters".

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire over reports he told MPs that devolution had been "a disaster" in Scotland and that it had been "Tony Blair's biggest mistake".

Responding to Plaid Cymru MP, Liz Saville-Roberts’ question about respecting Welsh devolution, he said: “Of course, I thoroughly support devolution. But devolution does not mean simply transferring power from Westminster to Cardiff.”

“What it actually means is getting the decision-making made at the closest possible levels to where it actually matters, which is across Wales.”

“This is why, as far as the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) is concerned, I have had conversations with local authorities, I’ve had conversations with the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) and others including Welsh Government because, in fact, it is they who should be playing a much more active part than they have so far in the decision-making and prioritisation over SPF funding.”

The Welsh Secretary also claimed that the First Minister Mark Drakeford "decided to press ahead with plans" for the firebreak lockdown knowing flexibility over wage support schemes "could not be met by Treasury in the timescale available".

The Welsh Government responded to say there is "no reason" for the UK Government's decision to reject a request for flexibility over wage support schemes when Wales entered its firebreak lockdown.

Liz Saville Roberts asked Simon Hart if he respected Welsh devolution. Credit: Parliamentary TV

Speaking afterwards, Liz Saville Roberts said, “It is utterly unacceptable for the Secretary of State to suggest bypassing the Senedd on regional funding. This undermines the wishes of the people of Wales, who have at every opportunity voted for more devolution, not less.

 “The pandemic has exposed the pervasive cronyism of Westminster, with billions of pounds directed to the Conservatives’ friends without competition. We simply cannot trust the UK Government to manage these funds under these circumstances."

Welsh minister David Davies also spoke about devolution at the Commons saying that he was a “changed man” on the issue, having opposed it in the Welsh devolution referendum of 1997.

This came after Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake said that the minister was ‘a strong supporter of devolution’.

He added: “With that in mind, can I ask what concrete steps the Government is taking to develop the capacity of the Joint Ministerial Committee so that it fosters greater trust and transparency between the four nations?”

Mr Davies responded: “Well, (Mr Lake) is being quite kind to me because, of course, I was on a slightly different side of the argument in 1999, but I have reformed, I am a changed man.

“I recognise, of course, that the people of Wales voted twice for devolution in referendums and I believe that when the people of Wales vote for something in a referendum, that choice should be respected.”

“So, I respect devolution, I will support devolution. I welcome the suggestion that (Mr Lake) is making of closer co-operation between the UK and Welsh governments over important issues such as agriculture.” 

David Davies is 'a changed man' having opposed the devolution referendum in 1997 Credit: Parliamentary TV

Following the Prime Minister's comments about Scotland, Number 10 has not denied that he made the comments but has attempted  to clarify his position.

"The PM has always supported devolution but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland," a UK government spokesperson said.

"And leaving the EU means we must strengthen and protect the UK economy with the UK Internal Market Bill. Devolution is great - but not when it's used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK."

Read more: