Welsh Labour deputy leader opposition to justice powers shows party still ‘anti-devolution’ says Plaid MP
Plaid Cymru have criticised Welsh Labour’s deputy leader after she said that she was opposed to the devolution of justice powers to Wales.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris said last week that she didn’t want policing devolved to Wales, saying that she would rather the powers stayed at Westminster.
Welsh Labour had promised to pursue the devolution of policing and justice in their 2021 Senedd manifesto, and its pursual is also included in the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
Speaking in the House of Commons today during an SNP debate on independence, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP said that “we can expect little better from the Labour party”.
“Last week, the Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour, the Hon Member for Swansea East directly undermined her own Leader, the First Minister Mark Drakeford on the very devolution of policing. Despite the full devolution of policing being included in Welsh Labour’s winning 2021 manifesto, its Deputy Leader rejected the idea outright, despite evidence of poor outcomes in a structurally broken system.
“Her reason? I quote – ‘I just wouldn’t’. The anti-devolutionists are still in control of the Labour Party, but their arguments have been crushed under the weight of evidence.”
‘Not in Cardiff Bay’
Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris told Sharp End last Thursday “I’m not in Cardiff Bay” when questioned by Sharp End presenter Rob Osborne about the discrepancy between the two positions.
Rob Osborne asked: “Devolution of justice coming in the Labour manifesto to Wales?
Carolyn Harris answered: “I’ve no idea, we haven’t discussed the manifesto. It’s something I would have to give some serious thought to.”
Rob Osborne asked: “Police controlled here in Wales? Criminal justice system?”
CH: “I wouldn’t be very enthusiatic to devolve policing.”
RO: “Why not?”
CH: “I just wouldn’t.”
RO: “Your colleagues in Cardiff Bay…”
CH: “Well, I’m not in Cardiff Bay.”
RO: “Are you in tune with what the Welsh Government’s doing? Do you support what the Welsh Government does?”
CH: “Of course I do. But there are some things I would like to stay in Westminster, policing being one of them.”
Speaking in the Commons, Liz Saville-Roberts said that Westminster’s refusal to guarantee the right to self-determination for all the devolved nations demonstrated the “fundamentally undemocratic and therefore broken nature of the Union”.
“It exposes the well-worn narrative that this is a voluntary association of four nations which somehow choose to pool sovereignty for the flagrant falsehood that it is,” she said.
“There is no doubt that this is a UK Government who are openly hostile to devolution. They have consistently disregarded the Sewell Convention, rendering this supposed constitutional protection almost meaningless; they have shut out the devolved governments of key economic decision making relating to post-Brexit funding; and are more than happy to ignore the Welsh Government’s warnings that their trade deals will devastate key Welsh industries in their pursuit of glossy headlines.
“Unfortunately, we can expect little better from the Labour party. Their former leader Gordon Brown recently put forward proposals described as the biggest transfer of power away from Westminster, yet he clearly did not mean to the people of Wales. In recommitting to the principle of Parliamentary Supremacy, the report reminds us that for Labour, the Senedd will always be subservient to Westminster.
“Not only would the proposals put forward by Brown do nothing to change the fundamental inequalities of the UK, he also backtracked on previous Labour promises to devolve policing to Wales. In addition, despite the Labour-run Welsh Government’s Thomas Commission recommending that justice should be wholly devolved, Brown’s timid proposals only offer piecemeal powers over youth justice and probation. The level of disdain the central Labour party holds towards the only government it currently runs beggars belief.”
When Labour unveiled its plan for the constitutional future of the UK last week, it only included devolving powers to Wales over youth justice and the probation service.
In the Senedd Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price asked why the devolution of justice was not included in the Labour constitutional future report.
“The Brown commission recommendation to devolve just youth justice and probation takes us back 10 years in the devolution debate in Wales,” he said.
However, Mark Drakeford said that the report’s recommendations, if carried out, would be an important first step in transferring powers.
“I powerfully welcome the Gordon Brown report, and I powerfully welcome its very specific commitment that the devolution of criminal justice will begin with the next Labour Government,” he said.
“And let’s be clear, Llywydd: only a Labour Government will ever be able to set off on that journey and complete it. The Tories won’t do it, Plaid Cymru can’t do it, only Labour.
“Only Labour is able to deliver that, and the Brown report commits the party to begin that journey. I think it will be a fantastic thing if, in that next term, youth justice and the probation service are both transferred to this Senedd. That will be the start of that process.
“Of course, we want that process to go further. It’s the policy of the Welsh Government that the whole of the criminal justice system should become the responsibility of this Senedd. But every journey begins with the first step, and those steps are very clearly endorsed in the Gordon Brown report.4
“If you were serious about devolution, Llywydd, if you were serious about the powers of this place, you would welcome that first step.”
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