Wales must stop asking for help and demand the tools to help ourselves

Jonathan Edwards MP

Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson

Tomorrow the Westminster Chancellor will hold up his empty red box to the cameras again before he makes his way to the House of Commons to read out a statement full of very carefully picked statistics and policies.

It’s the British Government’s set-piece performance of the year, showcasing their ability to misdirect, mislead and misinform.

It’s the Chancellor’s chance to convince the public that he has a grip on the economy by finding specific statistics and comparing them with a select group of other countries.

No doubt we’ll hear that “growth is up” and that “debt is down”- up and down, that is, in relation to a very carefully picked, but arbitrary moment in time that will paint a positive picture for the Chancellor.

We’ll then hear the opposite side of the story from the Shadow Chancellor – “growth is down” and “debt is up”, he’ll shout – again, compared to a very carefully picked but arbitrary moment in time that will paint the UK Government in a bad light.

The reality of course is we already know in what the state the economy is, thanks to ongoing analysis by independent experts such as the Governor of the Bank of England.

He has already said that the UK has gone from being the fastest growing economy in the G7 to one of the slowest, since Brexit.

Once the statistical circus is over however, the Chancellor will unveil his new spending priorities and it is this section of his statement that I, as Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, will be paying close attention to.

What will the Chancellor do, for example to deal with the 35% gulf between what workers are paid in Wales and what they are paid in London?

What will he do to make sure businesses are attracted to Wales so that not only are there more jobs created, but better paid jobs are created?

And what will he do to honour those promises made to the people of Wales during the Brexit campaign – that we would continue to receive every penny of existing EU funding after we leave?

Oppressive

Plaid Cymru has already published its alternative budget with a list of solutions to these problems and more.

At the core of our proposals is the principle that we should no longer have to come to Westminster at every budget and ask them if we could have some of our money back.

We shouldn’t have to ask Westminster to modernise our railways, upgrade our roads and build our tidal lagoons – we should be allowed to do it all ourselves.

For how much longer will we put up with being told there’s no money to invest in Welsh railways when our own taxes are being used to fund the most expensive railway in the world, linking London with other parts of England?

The Chancellor must use his budget tomorrow to commit to investing in Welsh infrastructure, or better still, let us do it ourselves.

The same principle applies to taxation. For how long must we keep arguing for fair funding from Westminster before we realise, we shouldn’t have to ask Westminster in the first place.

Every penny of VAT paid in Wales goes to Westminster for them to “redistribute”. Why not keep some of that in Wales for the Welsh Government to redistribute as is the case in Scotland?

Analysis from the Wales Governance Centre has shown that Wales would be better off if we kept this money in Wales.

We could also then finally implement Plaid Cymru’s policy of cutting VAT for the tourism sector, boosting the economy and boosting jobs across all parts of Wales.

The same applies to Income Tax and Corporation Tax as well as Air Passenger Duty.

We shouldn’t accept a situation whereby the British Government prevents the Welsh Government from making our country competitive because it would damage England’s interests.

That’s not how a mature, union of countries works – that is how an oppressive, rejected system of Westminster-rule works.

Change

It’s not just Plaid Cymru making these calls. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said in September this year that the only way to fix the geographical inequality across the UK is through a major package of financial devolution, empowering the member countries of the UK.

Plaid Cymru’s alternative budget calls for these tools so that we can stop asking for help and instead start helping ourselves.

Our proposals also focus on UK-wide measures that the British Government could easily adopt themselves such as:

  • Committing to including with every new policy announcement an impact assessment on how the policy will affect women
  • A fuel duty regulator to ensure fuel prices remain stable and affordable in urban and rural areas
  • The publication of Brexit impact assessments, allowing the public and businesses to understand exactly how the British Government’s proposals will affect them
  • And abandoning the indefensible cut to Corporation Tax which will cost the public £2.6 billion a year by 2020/21.

The Chancellor has an opportunity tomorrow to change course, away from the failed agenda of cutting spending, towards a programme of investment, focussed on those areas that need it most.

He must remember that his job is to deliver for all four countries in the UK, not just his own.

Unless we see a dramatic change of tact from the Chancellor tomorrow, with major investment in all UK countries, with a clear intention of spreading economic growth, we in Wales must begin to change our tact instead and stop asking for help, and demand the tools to help ourselves instead.

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20 Comments

  1. Can you spell pragmatic?

    It wont make any difference come march 2019. Rural wales will be more stuffed than any other part of the uk.

  2. Pam nag ydyn yn codi tâl am ein dwr? Gallwn fod yn cenedl annibynol sofren eithaf cyfoethog yn y pen draw…

  3. Jonathan Edwards

    Bron a bod ‘na. At last, some tan yn y bol! Llongyfarchiadau oddi wrth y Jonathan Edwards arall, gynt o Gaerfyrddin a Chaerdydd.
    It should be much better understood that Wales can be self-sufficient if we keep some or all of our own taxes, At last a politician is saying this. We just need more. (That I should have to prod the other Plaid Cymru MPs and AMs in this way shows part of the problem.)
    We ask, they will not give. So Namesake MP says we must “demand”.
    Yes indeed. This is the other part of the problem. We in Wales must find a better way of “demanding” because what ever we’re doing now ain’t working.
    How do we demand? Ask Labour nicely to do it for us? Bit of civil disobedience, Gandhi-style, like blocking the tolls on the Severn Bridge for a shocking 10 minutes? Historically, take North Carolina for example, this is how they did it in 1770s. Public meeting after public meeting. Then area meetings then State-wide meetings which were more like Conventions. Then actual Conventions. Took a while but then the British gave up. They also fought some pitched battles but I don’t think the English will take it that far. Meeting-wise I think Wales can do it in the same way, except that now we have the internet. The key thing is tan yn y bol, and a Movement nationwide. Keep this up Jonathan Edwards MP.
    PS – just a word about tourism. Having left Carmarthen and Cardiff, my base in Wales is in N.Pembrokeshire back in the family patch. Please, please don’t cut VAT just for tourism. It is not the answer. Please put any spare money into an industry with a higher return. Anything’s better than tourism, low wage, part time, seasonal just for starters. How about an Air Wales (again) or a Wales Shipping line, Welsh Retail bank network? Anything but hoovering and cutting hedges and frying chips and pulling pints brewed in Wolverhampton..

    • Yup! Compulsory ‘banging the table’ training called for, backed up with logic and argument, of course. Pretty-please does not seem to be yielding dividends.

  4. Coch-y-bonddu

    A good article. I guess it’s in the interests of British unionists (and others) to keep Wales relatively poor lest we get ideas above our station. Scotland has been able to demand a better devolution settlement and until we organise similarly ,and with an independence agenda at the forefront, then we will continue to be ignored (or at best thrown a few crumbs).

    I don’t agree with cutting vat on tourism (although we should be able to keep any revenue arising in Wales). A separate (additional?) Wales tourism tax would perhaps be a good with all revenues used in the local communities where the money is raised. Communities that are impacted by ever increasing visitor numbers with all the negatives that can bring (traffic, pollution, noise, second homers, low paid and temporary jobs etc, etc). There are some positives of course but I feel visitors would generally be happy to pay to offset some of the inevitable negative consequences of their visits and local communities would get some sort of compensation by way of infrastructure improvement, repairs etc. Surely this would be more sustainable tourism (PC could perhaps see this as a potential vote winner and maybe consult with locals on this).

    Should we ever get wider fiscal powers then perhaps cutting corporation taxes in Wales would help attract businesses and jobs here (with incentives to set up in most deprived areas).

    Diolch.

  5. At last a leading Plaid representative shows a willingness to shed the old begging bowl posture and sow some seeds of financial independence. Da iawn.

    I sincerely hope that this is catching among other leading Plaid representatives who have struck a pretty persistent bleating note for too long about not enough in the handout envelopes. Financial independence will put a stop eventually to the flow of revenues out of Wales. Not just the assorted taxes but the “free issue” water and energy services that leave here at cost and get sold back to us at full whack – nice work if you can get it, but it should be within our powers to put a stop to that nonsense.

  6. “What will the Chancellor do, for example to deal with the 35% gulf between what workers are paid in Wales and what they are paid in London?

    What will he do to make sure businesses are attracted to Wales so that not only are there more jobs created, but better paid jobs are created?

    And what will he do to honour those promises made to the people of Wales during the Brexit campaign – that we would continue to receive every penny of existing EU funding after we leave?”

    Well, the short answer is nothing and the long answer is make it all worse.

    Devolution only works if it is an ongoing process, bringing more and more areas of our lives into the decision making capacity of the Assembly and the Welsh Government. But at some point we do have to address the point of where the money comes from and how it is distributed. Unless I am thoroughly wrong the money raised in taxes from Wales of all sorts goes to Westminster and is then distributed around the UK, some to Wales’ Scotland and Northern Ireland’s governments, some to local authorities, some for distribution via Westminster Ministries and most to Westminster. If this continues then we are bound to a system that relies on us begging for money from the centre.

    What we need in the UK is a settlement that the money follows the “no taxation without representation” model and flows from the people of Wales to our Assembly and from there to the UK. So that we as a nation can subscribe to the UK (or not) and choose what we are willing to pay for. That means and end to the “precious, precious union”. Quite how it is so precious escapes me, unless of course they mean “valuable income stream from a deliberately crippled subject population”.

    So my question is this. How can we achieve this in Wales? We certainly can’t fight a revolutionary war of independence. Which means we have to negotiate. Can we work to give us an organisation that we can negotiate with given that Corbyn and May lead statist, unionist organisations?

  7. Erthygl gweddol:

    the thing is how to get the buggers to listen to us.

    J Edwards, just a touch of proofreading required; a change of tack perhaps . . .!

  8. Can anyone justify historically just WHY we have such a rubbishy half hearted devo settlement compared to Scotland in the first place?

    • Benjiman L. Angwin

      Encyclopaedia Britannica 1888. For Wales see England.

      Also, compare the Welsh humanism of William Morgan from Oxbridge with the Scottish Enlightenment built upon the foundations of having in independent political state during the Renaissance, and native classical universities. Sibbald’s medical school in Edinburgh and Hume’s ideas which leading onto Adam Smith.

      You could also juxtapose a map of Welsh and English railways lines between Bath and Sheffield with a map showing concentrations wealth.

      But my guess would be 100 years of Labourite ideologies and a Liberal minded contingency accepting Britishness at the expense of their own admirable rebellious non-conformity, and patriotic Welshness.

    • I think it’s due to the fact Scotland have always has their own legal jurisdiction, i.e. ‘The Laws of Scotland’ vs ‘The Laws of England and Wales’. Further devolution will be difficult and messy unless Wales and England get their separate legal jurisdictions. We need to sort this our asap, because it will really stifle devolution in the future. Plaid Cymru have been trying to sort this, fair play, Liz Saville especially, but it always gets voted down in the UK Parliament, by some quisling Welsh MPs, and by English MPs who holiday in Wales and can’t stand the idea that if something happens to them whilst they’re here the matter would be dealt with by The Courts of Wales, rather than The Courts of England and Wales.

      If we get a separate jurisdiction, then devolving the courts, policing and justice will be much easier, and in fact wouldn’t make sense NOT to do it.

  9. I know why – Welsh Labour.

  10. Tax raising powers would be a good start. As mentioned that tax should stay in Wales. Wales badly needs investment, especially now EU funding is due to stop.

  11. Jonathan Edwards Sir Benfro

    Striking isn’t it. Two things stand out from this discussion. Hard power not soft power. Welsh legal jurisdiction. And a Welsh Treasury keeping Welsh taxes. Neither of these are a stretch because the bureaucracies are there. These are not pipe-dreams. But we all hold back. Because Labour says “No”? As I said “How (exactly) will Wales DEMAND?”

  12. All fine except the proposed VAT reduction on tourism. We need cleverer taxation to benefit businesses which ate registered locally and where the majority of shareholders live within a reasonable distance of the trading address and registered office.

    Deliberately disadvantage the likes of Tesco, large accountancy firms and large holiday enterprises like Haven holiday parks, where the profits and tax receipts go elsewhere over businesses that actually benefit the local area and the owners have a real stake in the local area.

  13. To really prosper, Wales needs its own national bank and money supply. That would really cut the purse strings that bind us to London. We already have the powers. The only thing holding us back is our lack of vision and courage. Plaid Cymru included.

  14. “We could also then finally implement Plaid Cymru’s policy of cutting VAT for the tourism sector, boosting the economy and boosting jobs across all parts of Wales.”

    If Jonathan Edwards, or his party, believe that a successful economy can be built on low skill, low pay, often seasonal, tourism, then anything else they say can be disregarded. If he, or his party, are blind to the damage caused by tourism, then they do not have the best interests of Wales at heart.

  15. I don’t think Jonathan is suggesting that our whole economy will be built on tourism, only that the tourism sector should be supported (I presume he highlights tourism because of the recent tourism tax attacks from the Tories). This article is just about taking our own future into our own hands, to outline Plaid’s route towards prosperity would require another article (or 50).

  16. The most pertinent and pressing question is made not by the author of this article but rather by his namesake.

    It is impossible to answer the question without coming to the conclusion that our political institutions and our political representation is deficient in demanding anything.

    In fact if anything the vast majority of mp’s voted in by the people of Wales are not voting in the interest of the Welsh people, economy, and democracy. The Wales bill which limited the powers of the devolved Senedd in many respects meaning we need permission for power projects such as the tidal lagoon, which embarrassingly we now have to beg and petition for.

    Until we as a electorate stop voting for a party or parties that do not protect our interests any other campaigns, protest campaigns, movements will be lacking in legitimacy.

    Labour in Wales is the problem, the stumbling block, they either by some miracle have an epiphany and unify mp’s and AM’s alike behind the cause of Wales or they are destroyed as a force in Welsh politics.

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