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Mark Drakeford tells MPs ‘Wales is better off for being in the United Kingdom’

01 Dec 2022 4 minute read
Mark Drakeford picture by Ben Birchall / PA Wire.

Siân Williams

First Minister Mark Drakeford has told Welsh MPs that the future of the United Kingdom is at risk and that Wales and the UK are better off together.

Speaking to the House of Commons Welsh Select Affairs Committee on Wednesday ( 30 November) the First Minister was asked by Chair, Stephen Crabb MP, to “reflect” on intergovernmental relations.

The First Minister said: “The future of the UK is more at risk today than at any time during my political lifetime. This is not a conclusion I’ve come to in the last few weeks.”

Referring to the recent publication of the 2021 Census by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Mark Drakeford said:

“The percentage of the population in England who identify as British has really collapsed in a decade to a minority position. There’s a strong growth in people who clearly identify themselves as clearly English. I think that tells us something about the way in which people’s identification (has) changed in the last 10 years. And similar things are reflected in Wales.”

Mark Drakeford went on to speak about his hopes of re-establishing a better working relationship with the UK Government, than had been the case since 2019. It was in July of that year when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

Stephen Crabb wanted to know whether Mark Drakeford felt “encouraged” by how “quickly” the latest UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, had called him and Scotland First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, during his first day in office.

As we know, Rishi Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss failed to phone either one of them during her seven weeks at the helm.

Change in atmosphere

Mark Drakeford said: “I certainly think there’s a change in atmosphere. The fact that the Prime Minister chose to make the phone call to the First Minister of Scotland and Wales on his first day. I was very pleased that the Prime Minister found the time to attend the British Irish Council later that month. I discussed that with him during his call.”

Simon Baynes, Tory MP for Clwyd South wanted to discuss what he referred to as “the British/Welsh/English angle” and got rather personal with Mark Drakeford.

“Do you see that to some extent you, and the Welsh Government, are responsible for not creating as strong an impression of being part of the Union. You seem to me to be in a slight paradoxical situation in terms of how you see the world.

“On one hand you obviously want to talk up Wales, but you overly stress Wales v the Union … Don’t you see we all have responsibility to stress the benefits of the Union?”

Mark Drakeford replied: “The point I made to the Prime Minister when I met him was this: ‘let me be clear’ I said, ‘the UK is better for having Wales in it and Wales is better off for being in the United Kingdom’. I sometimes think the UK Government could make more of that.”

Sewel Convention

The Committee then proceeded to discuss the Sewel Convention. Since 1999, the UK Government has followed this convention which states that the UK Parliament “will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent” of the devolved legislatures.

But the Sewel Convention was broken by Brexit when all three devolved nations within the UK refused consent for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. However, the UK Government carried on regardless.

Wayne David, Welsh Labour MP for Caerphilly, wanted to know “What is, and what is not working about the Sewel Convention?”.

Mark Drakeford said: “For nearly 20 years the Sewel Convention was observed by all governments and all political persuasions. The Convention is there to ensure that when the UK Government has legislature proposals that might intrude into devolved areas, they only take those proposals froward when they’ve secured consent of the devolved legislature.”

He continued by saying: “My position is that the Sewel Convention should always be respected” but the Westminster Government, “was prepared to over-ride this … That has brought the Sewel Convention into a very difficult place indeed.”

Stressing the seriousness of the situation, the First Minister added: “If you can’t repair the Sewel Convention, then one of the major underpinning props of the devolution settlement will be kicked from under it.”


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Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
2 months ago

Those of us who believe in independence continue to present a positive case.
If Mark Drakeford is so convinced that “Wales is better off for being in the UK” perhaps he would like to present the case for such a strong statement?

David Zenati-Parsons
David Zenati-Parsons
2 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

fair point John, words in this context are cheap. I would really like to know in detail why we are better off in this Union, I confess that I am also a Labour Member and have asked MP’s and MS’s without getting a satisfactory answer.

Vengeful revenant of Tywysog Lloegr
Vengeful revenant of Tywysog Lloegr
2 months ago

Kinda makes his tokenistic enquiries about where Cymru is re: independence referendums a bit pointless.
If he could perhaps define “better off”. I believe Cymru would be temporarily poorer and permanently with little influence in the wider world outside of the English empire prison. But we would be better off

George Thomas
George Thomas
2 months ago

The future will see Wales face a number of challenges in terms of climate change, cuts to investment from UK (on top of cuts to investment via coming out of the EU) and what is likely to be a decreasing population seeing as we have a higher proportion of older people living here currently. We get sizeable crumbs from Westminster at the moment, we’d be left to find our own food and might end up with smaller crumbs if we become independent. Both those wanting to stay and wanting to leave have tough questions to answer and should be trying… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by George Thomas
Cynan again
Cynan again
2 months ago
Reply to  George Thomas

So …. there are other problems so stop trying to go independent? That seems to be what you are saying.
Well you enjoy feasting on the crumbs you are fed, in the cold, at higher cost, so the top table may continue feasting on the whole meal if you want. We are perfectly capable of finding our own food thanks.

Daf
Daf
1 month ago
Reply to  George Thomas

Wales wouldn’t take on any UK crippling debts under international law.
That is reason enough

Phil
Phil
2 months ago

There are things more important than being ‘better off”. England may well have fared better under the Third Reich. Not a good reason for hooking up with them though. Are independent national pride and self-determination not available to Wales, too?

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Phil, whilst I can see where you are coming from it might be worth looking at the Tories. They got the ‘Soverignty’ that they so desparately wanted by achieveing independence from the EU but it has clearly made the UK a great deal worse off as well as fermenting nationalism in the member countries. Surely the ideal would be much greater devolved powers and funding for the devolved nations and England too with the UK becoming a member of the EU again. If we are unlucky enough to get a government that does not realise that that, then a financially… Read more »

Windy
Windy
2 months ago

If the so called sewel convention can be turned on and off as seen fit therefore it cannot be worth the paper it is written on

Cynan again
Cynan again
2 months ago
Reply to  Windy

Glad it wasn’t just me who heard that. What use is a binding agreement that is not binding?

Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

How are we be better off? small countrys the world over survive without giving a large % of GDP to maintain a nuclear arsenal, they save millions by not having royalty living off the state, they do not fund neighbours infrastructure, and do not do trade deals that punish their agricultural industries. In my 60 odd years, all I have seen is Cymru underfunded by billions, and then have to read about it, when independent reports confirm we are losing out. Cut the crap, get a grip, get us out of this lopsided false union of unequal partners.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
2 months ago

There is something radically wrong with Cymru if we are better off within the UK. For at least the last 50 years we’ve been amongst the worst performing countries (we’re often referred to as a region) in practically every socio-economic indicator in the UK and western Europe. By Mark Drakeford’s logic if we were outside of the UK we’d be even worse off. It would be a real challenge to be worse off than we are. If there was a referendum on Welsh Independence, the opposition would struggle to create a ‘project fear’ narrative – “you’ll be even worse off… Read more »

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
2 months ago

‘ ….. Wales is better off for being in the United Kingdom’. I like, and respect, Mark Drakeford very much. He has been a fantastic leader. However, I cannot agree with him on this. How are we better off in a union where we are treated with utter contempt (e.g. St David’s Day holiday – that constant refusal from Westminster is not for our benefit; refusal to devolve APD as it might negatively affect Bristol Airport etc. etc.)? Also, how are we better off when young, and many other, Welsh people can’t afford a home in their own communities, can’t… Read more »

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
2 months ago

In the 20th Century most small European countries that gained independence have surpassed the prosperity (GDP per Capita) of the imperial power that formerly controlled them considerably. This fact can be easily verified for Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Republic of Ireland and Norway via Google. This evidence strongly suggests that the well-being of Wales would very likely improve substantially post-independence, though not overnight, of course.   

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

How? The World believes we are At best a Province!, and at Worst a part of England. We have virtually no investment from outside and we can’t have a seat at the UN like every other self respecting nation. You can’t claim in one breath one nation’s Sovereignty is of the highest importance and then claim ours isn’t. These people are so self damaging to our Image and future of the very existence of our nation. They don’t realise what they are playing a part in. God help Us!

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago

A’n gwaredo? Pam, Mark? Rho un reswm da imi?

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

More Unionist claptrap from Mark Drakeford.. Say one thing in the Senedd another outside Wales. He’s a deluded sychophant. He & Welsh Labour are begging bowl BritNats.. Wales will never prosper as part of this false British Union so long as Labour are in power and we are used & abused by Tory Westminster.

#YesCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 #Ymlaen 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
2 months ago

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

huw~nant
huw~nant
2 months ago

set aside the word “independence” for a moment – there are things needed there is a need for a better, fully competent Senedd, developing and enacting policies in and from Wales, to our benefit, with a view on all aspects of policy that affects us also we live on an island, sharing it with the others – but collaboration to that end needs a better formal and equitable relationship, – a better framework for sharing actions collectively I don’t think that a single catch-all settlement works because of an inherent conflict – one part having 85% of the power the… Read more »

Daf
Daf
1 month ago

So he finally admitted to being an English imperialist.

A few people in London ruling us is not very Western European in values

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