Minister baffled by calls to devolve Crown Estate to Wales – ‘Could someone point me to what the problem is?’
A UK Government minister has said that he doesn’t understand why there are calls to devolve the Crown Estate to Wales, calling on MPs to “point me to what the problem is”.
Greg Hands, the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, was challenged by Labour MP for the Cynon Valley Beth Winter on whether there were any plans to devolve the Crown Estate to Wales.
Wales’ Climate Change minister Julie James has previously said that it is “outrageous” that the Crown Estate was devolved to Scotland and not Wales.
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.
But Greg Hands said that he did not understand why the calls were being made.
“I’m not aware of the – if someone could point to me what the problem is here,” he said.
“I see the Crown Estate delivering right away across the country. I’m not aware of that being an issue in the Crown Estate, and what could be changed or improved by the state of the Crown Estate in Wales being altered.
“I haven’t seen that.”
Beth Winter, who was taking part in a Welsh Affairs Committee Meeting on energy in Wales, said that while there was a good relationship between the Crown Estate and the Welsh Government, the call was that it should be devolved so the funds could be invested in renewables.
“So there’s a distinction that she [Julie James] says yes, the relationship is positive,” she said. “But in terms of the distribution and how the funds are spent, there should be decided by the devolved government.”
But Greg Hands said that from reading Julie James’ evidence “she didn’t see that there was a problem in relation to the Crown Estate”.
“And I think the Crown Estate to be frank I think does a really good job overall, as indeed does the Crown Estate Scotland, and the Crown Estate for the rest of the country.
“And particularly the way they’re approaching the Celtic sea at the moment I think is being very fruitful to them forward in terms in terms of the work that they’re doing with the sector, making sure the Celtic Sea is ready.
“So I don’t I don’t see that being an issue. I think if I may, Julie James I think herself said that she had a good working relationship so she didn’t have a specific problem.”
Speaking in the Senedd in January, Julie James had said that she “completely” agreef that the Crown Estate should be devolved to Wales.
“It’s completely outrageous that it’s devolved to Scotland and not to us, and that, indeed, the returns from the Crown Estate go straight back to HM Treasury,” she said.
“They don’t even go through the Barnett formula arrangement. So, I have absolutely written to say that we want the Crown Estates devolved, and we want them devolved on the same basis as they are devolved in Scotland.
“However, in the meantime, and in the absence of a government at UK level who seems likely to do that in the foreseeable future, in the meantime, we have also sought to develop a very good relationship with the Crown Estates.
“So, both myself and Lee Waters have met with the Crown Estates to discuss the various potential in the Celtic sea and around the Welsh coast, where Crown Estate land is involved, and, also, actually, on land as well. So, Crown Estates own some land in Wales too.
“We’ve also engaged with them to make sure that we have as much of community ownership, community benefit strand in the auctions that they are conducting, although the money goes, as you say, back to the Treasury. So far, we’ve had an engaged and reasonable reception from them, although that’s no substitute, I absolutely agree, for having the thing devolved to us.”
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