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Is Welsh Labour on course to scale back its devolution ambitions?

23 Jul 2023 4 minute read
Huw Irranca-Davies. Picture by Senedd Cymru.

Martin Shipton

Welsh Labour could be on course to scale back its ambitions for further devolution in the short term by dropping its call for policing and the justice system to be transferred to it from Westminster.

Motions are being put forward to local branches that would see the party swing behind proposals in a report from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown on constitutional reform.

Mr Brown has advocated replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber representing the nations and regions of the UK. However, he does not propose devolving powers over policing or the entire justice system to Wales, instead suggesting the devolution of probation and youth justice.

The Brown approach has been enthusiastically endorsed by Ogmore MS Huw Irranca-Davies, who is proposing a motion to branches of his local party which states: “Ogmore Constituency Labour Party welcomes the Gordon Brown report commissioned by the Labour Party and fully endorses its recommendations. The transfer of political and financial powers for Scotland, Wales and the English regions, together with protection in law for the devolution settlements, will create a stronger and more stable union.

“The abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with a second chamber to represent the UK’s nations and regions is vital if we are to secure the union for the future.

“Ogmore CLP calls for the inclusion of the report’s recommendations in full in Labour’s general election manifesto, and in the first year legislative programme of the next Labour government.”

Not everyone in his local party agrees, however. Former Bridgend council leader Jeff Jones said: “This motion is premature, in my opinion. It makes a nonsense of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, which is due to deliver its final report by the end of the year.

“In Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, it has two distinguished co-chairs who are taking the right approach by examining the constitutional choices open to Wales in detail. They’ve been commissioned to do this by the Welsh Government at considerable cost, and it would seem sensible to wait for the report’s publication before deciding what should go in the general election manifesto.”

Obsessive hoarding

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said: “Keir Starmer’s obsessive hoarding of power in the centre is damaging for Wales. The Labour Welsh Government’s Thomas Commission recommended that justice should be wholly devolved, and a Welsh legal jurisdiction created, while Gordon Brown’s begrudging recommendations in a report commissioned by Keir Starmer only offer piecemeal powers over youth justice and probation.

“Any attempt to pre-emptively adopt the Brown report would sideline the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales. That would only confirm suspicions of the Labour Party’s disdain for the only government it currently runs.”

Mr Irranca-Davies told us: “If any motions go forward to the Labour Conference in September, then the aim is to bolt down the significant progress which would be made if the Brown Report proposals are implemented as a priority.

“The independent commission – chaired by Laura McAllister and commissioned by the Welsh Government – is an important piece of work itself and indeed it is referenced in the Brown Report. But it is working to a different timescale and different remit, though its findings will no doubt inform future proposals.

“But for right now it is important that key reforms put forward in the Brown Report are secured: to shrink the second chamber and remodel the Lords as a senate of the nations and regions; to devolve significant areas such as youth justice and probation; to ensure that no matter devolved to Scotland should be withheld from Wales; strengthening the Sewel convention and embedding devolution; and entrenching the constitutional status of self-government across the nations of the UK; plus other matters which would all mark significant progress. If devolution is a process – a journey- then the recommendations in the Brown Report are important milestones in that journey.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

Starmer’s Labour is for the Conservatives of England and Welsh Labour obviously isn’t willing to stand up for Cymru anymore…… it looks like I will be moving to Ireland after all.

wayne
wayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Don’t run away. We must face this head on. An elected assembly to replace the house of Lords will be another waste of money. If the House of Lords is to go, so to should the house of Commons and a federal system be introduced. Scotland has 5-6 million and Wales 3 million if the act of Union is repealed then Wales and the Marches would have a population of 6-7 Million. Based on this simple maths the UK would have 10 federations. Greater democracy for a united Wales and a chance to review the manner we elect our Gravy… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  wayne

A federal system in the UK is pie in the sky. It just won’t happen, and even if it did, it England would still be dominant. Reform is merely change to remain the same. Medium to long term, the only solution is independence for Wales.

wayne
wayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

England can remain dominant in a federation. However the federal areas will have their own identity. The South East strangle hold will have been broken. And Wales can have her Independence. You have to look a few moves ahead, not what’s in front of you! It’s time for change its Time for Gwlad, the day is getting closer to Independence.

George Bodley
George Bodley
8 months ago
Reply to  wayne

Federations don’t work only Independence / Home
rule will work not some quasi wenglish nonsense we’ve had enough of little englanders only Home Rule via an independent wales will suffice .

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
8 months ago

At present the Westminster Government is the UK Government for matters such as defence and foreign policy, the England and Wales Government for matters devolved only to Scotland (e.g., police and justice) and the England Government for those that are devolved to Scotland and Wales. What a confusing hotchpotch of government across the UK! No wonder Whitehall civil servants haven’t much of a clue about devolution. The situation is crying out for a standardized form of devolution for Scotland and Wales (and Northern Ireland), i.e., that which currently relates to Scotland.     

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
8 months ago

Indeed ‘no matter devolved to Scotland should be withheld from Wales’. In the main, that must be the control of, and proceeds from, the Crown Estates.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago

Beware! This follows an article by Mike Hedges in N C last week. In that article he says he is in favour of devo max, but then carefully slips in that what he means is any further powers should be devolved “to the regions and councils of Wales.” Is there something going on? Welsh Labour has always been cool on devolution, locked as they are into the English Westminster system. I have a theory. The growth of dis-satisfaction with the present arrangements – Senedd and Westminster – coupled with the substantial growth in support for independence (which interestingly Mike Hedges… Read more »

Richard
Richard
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

I more often than not share Johns thoughts and views as they are almost always evidence & research based and 100 per cent in the correct ✅ direction his small nation of our needs. Yes a BUT is coming – ✍️ The founders of the Irish ☘️ Free State and the North Ireland Stormont despite all their animosity and disliked BOTH as their first task reduced local civic governance to a pathetic level , reducing local councils to to , “ village pump “ issues taking most planning, housing and development issues for themselves – then after finding they couldn’t… Read more »

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Richard

Thank you for your kind words and comment.
I’d like to clarify my thoughts on this. I’m not suggesting that the powers of local authorities should be in anyway diminished – although I do think that 22 local authorities is far too many.
My concern is that further powers such as those with which you ended your comment – and indeed others – that are properly appropriate to a parliamentary level, would be awarded to local authorities in a cynical attempt to damage the Senedd.

Richard
Richard
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Over our long time on the political scene John , we’ve seen many strange things in the Wales governance scene and yea I too think that 22 Councils is perhaps 🤔 3 or 4 too many. Kinnock and co saw the old 8 County set up as a bulwark against the Wales governance level – as you i think are alluding to.. However my own thoughts remain that power ( what ever that is? ) is best dealt with at as local level as possible. Town and Community Councils enjoy a massive budget which can engage and involve their communities.… Read more »

Geraint
Geraint
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Agreement breaking out every on this part of the thread. But I’m not sure you are quite right about small rural community councils having ‘massive budgets’. It is quite common for these types of council which I guess are the majority of community councils and cover most of our country to run on very small precepts. I would guess looking at where I live most of these councils run on precepts of around £25 a year per elector. Once the cost of a part time clerk ( who might clerk a few councils), energy bills and running costs of parks… Read more »

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard

I did reply but it seems to have disappeared?
Richard – Thank you for your kind remarks and comment.
I’d like to clarify my thoughts. I do not believe that the powers of local
authorities should be in anyway be diminished, this was not my intention.
My concern is that further powers, such as the ones you suggest and indeed others, are powers appropriate to the parliamentary level and that suggesting that they be awarded to local authorities is a cynical attack on the Senedd.

Wynn
Wynn
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Agree. I’m a Scot. I also see Mr. Brown’s ideas as dangerous as I think they are the ‘regionalisation’ of Scotland and Wales turning them into tartan Yorkshire and daffodil Lancashire. This is not about protecting devolution this is to undermine, to reclassify. Giving more power to local councils is also a way to bypass and weaken the Senedd. Scotland is NOT the model for government it’s England. Full autonomy, nothing less.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
8 months ago

What they are not telling us is WHY they don’t support the recommendations of the Thomas Commission.

I, therefore, have concluded that it is just contempt for Wales and the Welsh people. I have often voted Labour. I won’t again.

Riki
Riki
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

It’s because the “Welsh” are thee British. And the Anglo can only claim to be such as long as Wales is enthralled by/to the UK. This is why Wales will be Englands last ever colony! Wales is far more important to England than Scotland, or any other commonwealth nation.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

This follow’s close behind Suella Braverman’s attack on devolution and warning how we would end up in poverty if we gained independence, because without England we are nothing. A look back to pre devolution rhetoric as spouted by Labour MP’s such as Kim Howells will prove, nothing in the Labour or Tory party’s attitude to devolution and the union has ever changed. Both pro union to the core, and Cymru is at the bottom of the pile.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

I didn’t know about Braverman’s comment. Typical colonial response.
PSSST! Don’t tell her! My analysis of the ONS expenditure/taxation data clearly shows that we are paying our way. Not by much it has to be said, but living off England we are not!
The exciting thing about independence is the opportunity to be a wealthy nation – both economically and socially, like to other small nations of Europe.
Pity to disappoint her.

max wallis
max wallis
8 months ago

Devolution is a process, said Ron Davies. But a process that has stalled. In part because the Senedd/WGovt governance system is a failure. Little check on belief-based decision-making as the party vote pushes things through. It’s failed to give us the NHS different from and more successful than England’s bureaucratic purchaser/provider system, failed to integrate with social care, and failed even to solve the ambulance queues. Over Covid we did worse than England, suspending accountability so Drakeford diverted to frightening people and lockdowns, harming our economy and children’s schooling more severely than England. And then refused a Welsh inquiry which… Read more »

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago
Reply to  max wallis

Max

Plaid Cymru is firmly in hock with Labour and will stay there.
If ap Iorwerth is really going to make a difference he must walk away and act as a proper opposition.
I won’t hold my breath.

Nia James
Nia James
8 months ago

Interesting how Labour is talking up devolution, but by that they mean devolution to the English regions and its major cities. Very soon, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands will have the same powers and authority as Wales. We will be “just another English region” as one Labour MP described our nation to me a few years back.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Nia James

We are already behind places like Manchester when it comes to control over policing and airport duty etc.

hdavies15
hdavies15
8 months ago

Why does any sane person utter the word “ambition” in the same sentence as “Welsh Labour” ? The only ambition ever shown by Welsh Labour members is to climb the greasy pole of UK Labour ranks. Party is wedded to subordination and complete assimilation into the Greater England model.

CJPh
CJPh
8 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

You give them too much credit. Assimilation may be the direction, but only because of a lack of vision, corruption and apathy. That which is not fit will die or be absorbed. Labour in Wales are a bastion for the least impressive people Wales has to offer. Serious people should denounce careerist candidates, seek nomination, stand for office, arrange for like-minded patriots to back you, get in and SERVE THE PUBLIC. Plaid, Gwlad, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, doesn’t matter. It must also be noted, however, that party politics has proven a poor vehicle for our aims (as it has in… Read more »

George Bodley
George Bodley
8 months ago

The minute welsh labour scales back on devolution will be the minute welsh labour loose the support of the welsh people WELSH LABOUR BEWARE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED .

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