Labour should devolve justice powers to Wales if it wins power in Westminster – Drakeford
A Labour UK Government should pave the way for the transfer of policing powers to the Welsh administration and avoid adopting a “King Canute” stance on devolution, Mark Drakeford has suggested.
The outgoing First Minister said colleagues in Westminster would have a “responsibility” to show the “journey has begun” towards handing Cardiff more control of the system across the border if they win this year’s election.
In 2022, a report led by former prime minister Gordon Brown said the next UK Labour government should “embark upon the devolution of youth justice and the probation service”.
It stopped short of backing wider justice devolution, and shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens has indicated Labour does not plan to transfer power over policing and prisons.
Mr Drakeford, who has repeatedly called for justice powers including over policing to be transferred across the border, was asked about Westminster opposition to his proposals during a Q&A at the Institute for Government.
He said he did not expect criminal justice to come to Wales in “one big lump” but that an incoming Labour government could take steps towards devolution, starting with youth justice and probation.
“There are some colleagues in London who regard this as a zero-sum game, that anything that is devolved elsewhere is a loss to them,” he told the event on Thursday.
Mr Drakeford said that some MPs will simply have concerns about how such reforms would work in practice, but that “those questions are, particularly in youth justice, probation and indeed, policing… very easily answered.”
“All four Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales are firmly in favour of the devolution of policing.
“So again, even people who are close to the operational end of all this share our view,” he said.
“I caution my colleagues against a King Canute position on this matter. The tide is only going in one direction.”
Launching the Brown report in 2022, Sir Keir Starmer promised the biggest ever transfer of power to Wales.
But speaking to the BBC’s Politics Wales programme last week, Ms Stevens said: “We have said that we will explore the devolution of youth justice and probation.
“But we will not be looking at devolution of policing and justice.”
Mr Drakeford, who is due to step down as Welsh Labour leader in March, suggested his biggest regret was not to have made more radical changes and said his advice to his successor would be to “be bold”.
“The biggest challenge for Welsh Labour when you have been in power as we have been for nearly 25 years is renewal and a determination not to just rest back on the oars of being in Government,” he said.
“I think the challenge for Labour is always to be looking for those radical changes that are necessary. Maybe I sometimes think what I’ve regretted is that we weren’t bold enough when we had the chance to be so.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.