UK Government accused of ‘usurping’ devolution with new education programme in Wales
The UK Government have been accused of a “usurpation” of devolution after they said they would fund an educational programme in Wales, without yet having involved the Welsh Government in it.
The Department of Education Multiply project – which aims to improve adults’ numeracy skills – will also be extended into Wales, they said.
Education is devolved to Wales under the Wales Act 2017 but the Welsh Secretary of State told a Senedd committee that the Welsh Government’s views had not yet been sought as part of the programme.
Appearing in front of the Senedd Finance Committee, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, said that £101m would be spent on the project in Wales.
Senedd Member Rhiannon Passmore asked whether the Welsh Government had been involved to date, and was told that they had not.
“Not to date, but it’s been set up and they’d be invited to participate in the UK wide ministerial forum to work with strategic geographies on the development of the investment,” David TC Davies, who is the MP for Monmouth, said.
Rhiannon Passmore interjected: “I don’t quite understand. Obviously, we have devolved areas in Wales. Why are you doing a devolved function?”
David TC Davis said: “Well, there are, there is a feeling that I think we all share that we need to improve mathematical skills.
“And I think the devolved administrations would agree with that. So I’m hoping that they will all be able to be happy to cooperate and bring it forward.”
Simon Hart, who is the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire added in the committee meeting that it would be a shame if it “didn’t happen because of constitutional niceties”.
Rhiannon Passmore said: “It’s a devolved function. We’ve agreed on that I think, and we’ve not participated so far in discussions on a devolved area for this Senedd.”
The move was described by Ed Gareth Poole, a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s Welsh Governance Centre as a clear move by the UK Government into an area that was devolved to Wales.
Wales usually received a population share of spending in England on devolved areas that the Welsh Government can choose to spend as it chooses.
Ed Gareth Poole said: “A straightforward usurpation of Welsh Gov competence which the SoS unconvincingly defends by asking that we move on from whether this is ‘technically within or without’ the settlement.
“But there is no argument; it’s crystal clear in the Wales Act 2017.”
Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Rhun ap Iorwerth also reacted to the discussion online, saying that the UK Government were “chipping away at devolution and our nationhood” and “laughing at Wales’ inability to stop them”.
“But we can. We can be independent and forge new relationships across these islands, based on respect.
“But Labour in Wales are hopelessly addicted to the abusive relationship of this union,” he said.
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