Welsh Secretary David Davies peers into ‘crystal ball’ and says Commission will call for more powers for the Senedd
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has mocked the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales by making predictions about what it will say after peering into a crystal ball.
The commission, chaired by Professor Laura McAllister and Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, will be publishing its report on the future of Welsh devolution on January 18.
Mr Davies, who opposes granting any new powers to the Senedd, was happy to be pictured with his personal crystal ball – which in fact is plastic, because he couldn’t find one made of crystal.
He said: “I very rarely make predictions, but what the ball has told me is that when the report comes out, there will be calls for extra powers for the Senedd. They will call for powers for policing, for justice, for broadcasting. They’ll probably stop short of prisons. They’ll basically say that unless we get all these extra powers, there will be a strong drive towards separatism and then independence for Wales. So give us all these powers and then we’ll head that one off.
“They’ll also complain that the UK Government has been thoroughly rude and hasn’t treated this Commission with the respect that it deserves, despite the fact that actually I as a Minister gave evidence to it. This was a Commission that was set up to look at reserved matters which have nothing to do with the Senedd. If I had decided to set up a Commission to look at whether or not we should take powers back over the health service because of appalling waiting lists or education because Wales has the lowest standards in the UK, the idea that Mark Drakeford or any other Minister would have turned up at a time and place of my choosing to give evidence is absolutely ludicrous.”
Asked what his position was on all the powers he claimed the Commission might recommend, Mr Davies said: “My position is that the Senedd has got more than enough powers as it is. It’s a distraction for the Senedd to be getting extra powers for itself. It’s already got powers to deal with the health service, with education, with transport and with river pollution. It has money to do that with 20% more per head to spend on these matters than is spent in England. Yet it’s manifestly failing. They need to address the reasons for the failures before asking for further powers to do better.”
Mr Davies said there were people in Wales who put their faith in constitutional change as a substitute for improving things as they are, He added: “And there are some people who because they fail to resolve problems and get to grips with them are talking themselves into believing, ‘if only we had these extra powers, it would all be fine.’
“I can make one more prediction about that report. At no point will it say that the Senedd has done a great job on the health service, a better job on education and because of the demonstrable improvements and the fact that we have a better health service and better education in Wales, it follows suit that we should have extra powers. Of course, that would be a powerful argument in favour, but my prediction is that they won’t even try to make that one because anyone who looks at the figures impartially will have to acknowledge that the situation in Wales is worse than it is in England.”
Mr Davies said he wasn’t wholly against constitutional reform, and had voted for House of Lords reform in the early years of the Cameron government. He said: “It was leading towards half of the House of Lords being voted for and the other half being appointed. It went by the wayside.
“The problem is that Labour, who say they want House of Lords reform, could see that they could vote it down and beat the government. They took the political opportunity to vote id down anyway, just to enjoy the embarrassment of the government defeat.
“I think it is very hard to defend aspects of the way the House of Lords is, so maybe the question should be directed at some of the people in the Labour Party at the time who voted something down not because they disagreed with it, but because they thought it would be fun to inflict a defeat on the government.”
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