Devolution of Crown Estate a ‘total red herring’ by ‘cynical nationalists’, Tory MP claims
A Welsh Tory MP has claimed the devolution of the Crown Estate is a “total red herring”, which is being used by “cynical” nationalists.
Stephen Crabb, who represents the constituency of Preseli Pembrokeshire, hit out at the idea that the Senedd should control the royal profits generated in Wales instead of Westminster, suggesting it was “anti-United Kingdom”.
The Conservative politician was speaking in a debate on the issue in the House of Commons, which was called by pro-independence party Plaid Cymru, who are pushing for the power over the resources to be held in Wales.
In his reply to Crabb, the Westminster-appointed Welsh Secretary Simon Hart criticised what he described as “nationalists who just wish to look at everything through the prism of their own power base”.
In the debate Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams argued that Wales has the “right to reap the benefits” its “own natural resources”.
The Arfon MP argued that it is also “simply a matter of fairness” for the powers to be devolved to Wales because Westminster has already devolved the power to Scotland.
The Plaid politician suggested doing so would provide much needed revenue for the Welsh Government to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
He also pointed to a petition, which has almost 10,000 signatures, in support of Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts MP’s Crown Estate (Devolution to Wales) Bill.
The Crown Estate is a collection of lands and holdings in the United Kingdom belonging to the British monarch. It holds the rights to seabeds around the British Isles.
The Crown Estate in Wales generated £8.7 million in revenue last year, which went into the coffers of the UK Treasury because it is still controlled by Westminster. It’s marine portfolio in Wales is valued £549.1 million.
Control of the Crown Estate in Scotland has recently enabled the Scottish Government to reap a £700m bonanza in a ScotWind leasing auction. It attracted more than 70 bids from energy companies, utility firms and investment funds from around the world.
Crabb said: “Devolution of the Crown Estate is a total red herring, and it so cynical of nationalists to turn every issue into an anti-United Kingdom process row.
“Does my right hon. Friend agree that floating offshore wind represents a hugely important opportunity for Wales, particularly for the port of Milford Haven in my constituency—Milford Haven is shared by his constituency—and will he assure the House that he and his colleagues at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are doing everything to ensure that Wales and Pembrokeshire benefit from the opportunities of renewable marine energy?”
The Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said: “My right hon. Friend is right; I met the Crown Estate last week and had exactly that conversation. I have to say that it was an exciting, interesting, innovative conversation about all the possibilities that he mentions, which exist across the whole UK but particularly in the Celtic sea.
“I repeat what I said earlier: the emphasis and impetus come from investors, members of the public and port authorities, not from nationalists who just wish to look at everything through the prism of their own power base.”
‘Our own natural resources’
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said: “The Secretary of State has just said that there is no public interest or appetite at all for devolving the Crown Estate. By this morning 10,000 have signed a petition asserting Wales’s right to reap the benefits of our own natural resources.
“The Scotwind auction raised almost £700m for Scotland’s public finances, and to reassure the Secretary of State, this is not a new tax. In the heat of the cost-of-living crisis, Scottish renewable natural resources generate revenue for the benefit of the Scottish people, providing a better welfare service than that in Wales.
“Is it not clear that devolving the Crown Estate to Scotland has improved government’s ability to respond to the cost-of-living crisis, and so it would in Wales?”
Simon Hart MP responded: “Shock horror that that petition was going to be raised. It represents a tiny, tiny proportion of the people of Wales.”
Hywel Williams added: “‘Parity with Scotland’ is possibly not be the catchiest of slogans, but here, it is simply a matter of fairness. So will the Secretary of State now commit, in this Parliament, to the devolution of the Crown Estate to Wales?”
Simon Hart responded, “No, Mr Speaker.”
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