- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Latest News, Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES CALLS FOR DEVO MAX IN SENEDD DEBATE
Speaking from his Morriston Office, Local MS Mike Hedges said…. ‘ I have long believed that Devolution is a journey and not a destination; it needs to be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances. It also needs to see devolution of powers from the Senedd to local councils. There needs to be a dialogue about the where decisions are best made; it may be in Westminster, it may be in Cardiff Bay, and it may be in local councils.
We should not shy away from discussion and debate – Indeed I welcome it and contributed to debate today, and have written a paper on Devo Max.
We should regard today as the start of a debate on how devolution develops and would urge everyone to join in that debate – it affects us all.
For more information on Devo Max please see –
I welcome this opportunity to debate the devolution settlement. This is something we need to do. Can I make, initially, three general comments? Asymmetrical devolution does not work; Plaid Cymru appear to have a policy of salami-slicing to separatism, and we need a final, defined position on devolution to Wales, and, more importantly, within Wales. 334
I am and have long been a supporter of devo-max, and also of devolution within Wales to both the four Welsh regions and to local authorities. Fifty years ago, local government controlled water and sewage, further education, higher education outside university and directly controlled schools. Prior to 1950, policing was controlled by local authorities. All those and more have been taken out of local authority control. I support devo-max, a movement to symmetrical devolution, but that must include English regions. A model of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot work; England is too big compared to the rest. Any model has to involve the English regions, not just England.335
There are the obvious areas that need to be held centrally unless you have independence. They are things such as defence, foreign affairs, national security, currency, interest rates, oversees aid, immigration, driver and car licensing, central bank and national insurance numbers. Everything outside of the above should be able to be devolved, but doesn’t necessarily need to be devolved. Devolution in Wales does not have to end in Cardiff. Devolution within Wales is possible to be given to the four regions in Wales, and also to local authorities. We’ve had far too much centralism in Cardiff. Taking police, security at Westminster, serious crime—. Taking policing—. Security at Westminster, I think, dealing with serious crime at Cardiff, but local policing returned to local authorities who know what is needed to keep their areas safe. There are those areas that we were discussing whether they should be devolved or centralized. State pension age and amount—should we have one for the United Kingdom, or should each jurisdiction set its own? How would that work with movement between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including people living in Wales and working in England, and the other way around? And many people, and I include myself in that, have worked in England for a short time. Should we have one unified social security system, or should the levels be set by each of the areas? Should there be UK taxes to pay for the centrally-funded items, with all other taxes devolved and collected locally? How will financial support from the wealthier to the poorer regions be organised and maintained?336
Despite legitimate criticism of the Barnett formula, and I’ve been one of those to criticise it, it has provided additional funding to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to England, and it does take into account need—not as much as we might want it to, but we get more than we put in, and we get more than 100 per cent of what’s been spent in England. And I think that looking to throw it out, without anything else in its place, can only do us harm. Everything does not have to be devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland or the English city regions at the same time. What we need is a list of items that are available to be devolved, with each Parliament needing at least two thirds of Members voting in favour before it is devolved.337
Why do I say that? Well, this is what happened in Northern Ireland when policing was devolved to Northern Ireland. This avoids a big-bang devolution where control of everything passes on one day, but allows for matters to be devolved as the Parliaments are ready for them, and, more importantly, the funding is agreed. And I think that many a Member will remember a previous Member of Plaid Cymru who said, ‘Well, if we have policing devolved to us, we’ll get 1.05 per cent of what we—we’ll get 5 per cent more than we currently get to policing because of the way the devolution formula works.’ That’s good news, and Steffan Lewis was arguing in favour of devolution of policing, but I think that if we’re going to do these things, we’re going to have to try and become economically viable as well in terms of what we can and can’t afford to do. It sets an end point to the devolution journey outside of creating new countries. It allows each to move at a pace it is comfortable with, but a common end point. 338
Finally, devolution in Wales—again, I come back to this—does not have to end in Cardiff. It doesn’t come down the M4 and stop. Devolution within Wales is possible, not just to the four regions, but also to the local authorities. What would be better dealt with by local authorities? The twentieth-century saw one-way movement out of local authorities centrally. We need to start moving more things back to local authorities. The question should be, ‘Where is it best dealt with?’, not, ‘How much can we claim and how much can we take from local authorities at one end and Westminster at the other?’ Devolution in Wales is a journey, but it must not only end in Cardiff. For true devolution, powers also need to be devolved to the regions and the councils of Wales. We need to think about devolving in Wales, not, ‘When in doubt, put it in Cardiff