Monday, 13 June 2011

Parity is about more than borrowing

Betsan Powys notes some extracts from a statement made by Carwyn Jones in response to the announcement of new financial powers for Scotland.  The sentence which caught my eye particularly was this one:
“I say to him what is good for Scotland is good for Wales and the same responsibilities must now be transferred from Westminster to Cardiff.”
I wonder if he’ll live to regret those words – because they can be applied much more widely than simply to borrowing powers.  There are many more aspects of the Scottish settlement where one could – and I would – say exactly the same thing.  No doubt Carwyn wouldn’t want to see his statement interpreted as having such wide-ranging implications, but there is a problem with trying to cherry-pick.
There is no way that the UK Coalition is going to want to give Wales the ‘goodies’ (as defined by C. Jones Esq.) other than as part of a package.  And that package will also include some things which he’s already said he doesn’t want, such as powers over taxation.
‘Parity with Scotland’ would be a good rallying cry for the next five years if he wanted to go for it – and it would probably be a more devolutionist position than that being put forward by other parties.  He might even find himself pushing at an open door in London.  I doubt that he'll push very hard though, just in case.

9 comments:

Jeff Jones said...

I couldn't agree more John. The UK Coalition will only grant Wales extra powers as part of a package which includes some form of direct tax raising powers. You really can't have borrowing powers without some form of taxation to pay for the money that is borrowed. The only problem, of course , is that some politicians are frightened by the implications of anything to do with tax as can be seen by the way in which council tax has become a busted flush. The 60% who don't bother to show any interest in the Assembly might start to take an interest if it directly affects the money in their pockets. It really could be the game changer in Welsh politics. Politicians on the left of centre should also not assume that everyone will be voting for the party or parties that promises to raise income tax . Recent events in Europe suggest that many coild be attracted to parties that promise to reduce public expenditure in order to reduce direct taxation. Tax raising powers rather than direct law making could be the game changer in Welsh politcs because it would increase accountability and reduce the gesture politics which dominates so much politics in Wales. On tax and benefits you might be interested in a table which appears on Page 28 of a new report by CRESC which shows the difference between benefits and taxation on a regional basis. The net gain for Wales which is one of the four winners is £809. Scotland ,on the other hand, is a loser to the tune of £2010. The big winner is the North East where the difference between tax and benefits is £4174.

John Dixon said...

Jeff,

And, although I didn't perhaps make it entirely clear in the original post, I actually think that the UK Government is being pretty sensible in bundling taxation and borrowing powers together to "only grant Wales extra powers as part of a package which includes some form of direct tax raising powers" (although, as ever, I'm not entirely happy about the word 'grant' since it implies that all power 'belongs' to them in the first place).

"some politicians are frightened by the implications of anything to do with tax"

Indeed, so, and at least in part beause of the danger that it would highlight that not everyone "will be voting for the party or parties that promises to raise income tax", as you say. But I don't think that it would be at all a bad thing to challenge the assumption that they would, and to force politicians and parties to justify and explain why they take a particular stance. That doesn't mean that I'd want to oppose a policy of higher taxes, but I'd want to see the case being made in a way which doesn't happen at present.

Having trouble finding the CRESC report to which you refer - is it lurking under a title which isn't obvious, or is it just my failure to navigate the site?

Anonymous said...

Alan Trench's take on Carwyn asking for borowing powers without responsibility for at least some revenue raising powers is interesting on his blog.

He xompares it to a twelve year old without even a paper round asking a bank for a loan.

Sums it up nicely I think!

DaiTap

Jeff Jones said...

John Go to Larry Elliott's column in Monday's Guardian and there is a link to the CRESC website. The report is entitled 'City State against National settlement.'

Siônnyn said...

Wales has grown up, but has the Labour party?

They are stealing the ideas of other parties - like borrowing powers - without understanding them.

As you say, 'what's good for Scotland is good for Wales' is not a very clever slogan for a unionist, at a time when Scotland are hurtling towards independence, or at the very least - Independence lite.

Carwyn does not seem to realist that within the net 5 years Scotland will have left us far behind and out of sight in terms of the concessions that will have been granted by the London government to try and persuade the Scots that the Union is worth preserving.

Plaid needs to get its act together in order to capitalise on the disparity between Labour's rhetoric and the reality unfolding in front of us.

John Dixon said...

Jeff,

Thanks for that. Found that one and will read.

Siônnyn,

I've never understood why parties complain about other people 'stealing' their ideas. Theft is generally a bad thing; but coming round to your way of thinking is surely a good thing?

Siônnyn said...

Fair enough, John - perhaps 'adopting' would have been a better verb to use. However, when they adopt the policies without understanding them, that is not such a good thing, is it?

John Dixon said...

Siônnyn,

Not sure how you test whether someone does or does not 'understand' the policies they're pursuing. I've seen a lot of politicians, from a lot of parties, espouse policies which they don't seem to understand. If not fully understanding what they were saying was a bar to participation in politics, I suspect that there'd be more than a few vacancies!

As long as a political opponent supports what I think is the right policy, do I really care whether (s)he does so from the same perspective as myself, or with the same enthusiasm as myself, or even whether (s)he understands it or not?

Siônnyn said...

My point is that he has failed to understand that Borrowing and Tax raising are one and the same policy.

If he wants to pursue the one without the other, he should be looking at a Buid4Wales style solution, - borrowing at arms length, and so close to PFI (Loved by the Tories), but without the profit element, that they would find it very hard to stand in its way.