Labour doesn’t want Wales to ‘take lead’ on world stage, says Minister
Welsh Labour doesn’t want Wales take the “lead over” the Foreign Office on the world stage, a Minister has suggested.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething made the suggestion as he criticised the Tories for wanting to cut spending in a number of non-devolved areas, including international relations, where he said Wales has a “role” to play.
The Welsh Government currently funds 21 international offices across the world to help Welsh businesses export their goods and increase their trade overseas.
It is also going to fund a £65m international learning exchange programme for 15,000 students, following the UK Government’s decision to withdraw from the popular Erasmus+ scheme.
It has been making a contribution to the fight against poverty in subSaharan Africa since 2006 with the Wales for Africa Programme, where it has invested more than £12m.
The Conservatives have pledged to scrap spending in all these schemes, as well as a number of other non-devolved others in cuts that amount to over £200m.
Vaughan Gething defended spending in these areas by saying that the Welsh Government had to “step in” where the UK Government had fallen short.
He added that there are a “range of areas where we think devolution should be strengthened” and warned the UK Government not to “meddle, attempt to interfere and override the choices of democratically elected representatives here in Wales.”
The Minister was asked my Nation.Cymru if it would help clear up “ambiguity” if these areas were devolved, including foreign affairs.
He said: “We actually think that the current range of responsibilities recognise that Wales has a role in international relationships, but we don’t try to take a lead over the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“But who really wants to cut the Wales for Africa programme? Who really wants to end the international support that we provide to Welsh businesses? Well, the Welsh Tories do, and that’s the serious point we’re making today.
“All those people seeing value from them, value in other parts of the world, direct value to people here in Wales, to businesses, but also our highly-motivated health and care staff we have.
“Those people have come here on international exchanges in our health service. Those are things that would end with the Tories”.
He added: “We’ve already set out the challenge in some of the constitutional arrangements and our manifesto makes clear we think that the path of devolution is not yet complete, and certainly the Tories’ attempt to impose what they would like to see in Wales from Westminster is not something I think would be welcomed more broadly across Wales.
“We’ve had two referendums to create devolution and to confirm what the powers are supposed to be.
“This is a point about values, about what you get with different leaderships. In Wales you know that with a Welsh Labour leadership we have a positive forward-looking offer.
“Where the UK Government has failed, where we have been prepared to step in, because of the consequences for people.
“In the future, if there’s going to be a change in devolution then the budget has to flow with the responsibilities.
“The Tories have form for imposing devolution and cutting budgets, as they did with the council tax support scheme.
“We do have a range of areas where we think devolution should be strengthened.
“We want clarity in those arrangements and we just want the UK Government to do what it should do by genuine fair play across the UK and not to meddle, attempt to interfere and override the choices of democratically elected representatives here in Wales.”
Welsh Conservative spokesperson said: “This is desperate from the Labour Party and a blatant attempt to distract from their uninspiring manifesto that recycled over 30 policies they’d previously promised the people of Wales, many of which they’ve failed to deliver.
“Wales can’t afford another five years of Labour’s broken promises and only the Welsh Conservatives have a positive plan to get our economy on the road to recovery and build a better Wales.”