Friday, 21 October 2011

Let us collect the money


No surprise at all to see David Cameron suggesting that all Wales’ problems are down to the Assembly Government not following the English lead on policy in education and health.  There is much about Cameron’s arguments which is open to more detailed scrutiny; in particular, the extent to which the change of policy in London since he was elected in May 2010 can have made quite as much difference as he seems to be claiming is surely questionable.
He is, though, being entirely consistent.  He genuinely believes that letting private enterprise and market forces loose in the fields of education and health will improve standards and reduce costs.  Whether that is true or not is another matter; there’s certainly nothing as self-evident about the assumption as its supporters claim.
But the underlying argument he puts today – that Wales would be better off if only we followed England – is one with which most of his party would agree.
Rather more surprising – and much less helpful – is the suggestion from Labour’s Baroness Morgan today that Wales runs the risk of a cut to its funding if it does not fall into line with England on tuition fees and prescription charges.  As reported, it almost seems to be suggesting that devolution is fine as long as Wales doesn’t actually use the powers it has to do anything different.  What, in essence, is the difference between that position and the position of Cameron?
The underlying problem is that the Assembly is still not a proper parliament, however often some might claim that it is.  Yes, it can make laws in a limited range of fields (although as the smacking debate showed earlier this week, the extent of those law-making powers remains shrouded in uncertainty); but without the powers to control and take responsibility for its own income, it will remain at the mercy of London.
The proposed review of taxation powers by the commission led by Paul Silk is hardly going to scratch the surface; allowing the Assembly to vary some elements of some taxes will still leave it overwhelmingly dependent on a block grant from London.  Dependent, in short, on a decision taken in London about what proportion of the tax revenues collected in Wales will be returned to Wales.
Better by far for all tax revenues collected in Wales to go to the Assembly’s coffers first, with an agreement about how much of that must then be passed to London for those services which continue, for the time being at least, to be provided centrally.  That’s far from being a soft option of course; it would force the Assembly Government into some hard decisions in the short term.  It would also, though, destroy any argument about Wales’ right to do things differently within our own resources.

6 comments:

maen_tramgwydd said...

It's a model of devolution on a short leash, which can be jerked in at any time.

Appearance more than substance.

Boncath said...

John
Now you are talking but the problem is where do we begin
At present there appears to be no way in which the people of Wales can make payments into the Welsh Goverment coffers We could for example mitigate the Barnett deficits in this way The Air Ambulance and RNLI both show our determination to self finance these services so why not others and if so how
The University of wales was funded by penny donations from the desperately poor who saw education as a way out of poverty and the release from total control of their lives by others

Spirit of BME said...

Administrating any occupied country the golden rule is to ensure (what the English Government demanded of the Boer States in South Africa in 1898) was “Paramountcy”- or else.
That is still embedded in the English ruling class, it is an ethic that declared “English Paramountcy is Good, its overthrow is Bad”.
Chamberlain backed this up at the height of the South African crisis by saying “I believe that the English race is the greatest of governing races that the world has ever seen”
What is sad is that the Welsh people reinforce this belief every time they vote for the English parties in Wales.

Cibwr said...

A bit like the old days when the Welsh Grand Committee was allowed to take some stages of uncontentious Welsh Bills... the appearance of devolution without the substance.

Do we really want the level of debt that the English NHS finds its self in with PFI? I think not...

You mean there's more??? said...

The idea of all the tax being collected in Cardiff then we decide how much to send to London is such a Tory idea. Placing power close to community. In Wales we might go further chop VAT to 10% for example.

We certainly need to be getting any revenue raised by geeratig wind power going through the Welsh Treasury to make sure this is not coal and water all over again.

Siônnyn said...

Eluned morgan, it appears, is carrying the torch for the Kinncok/Geroge Thomas wing of the the Labour party. I welcome her every incursion (howsoever rare) into Welsh politics, as they make evident the extent to which Labour cannot understand devolution!