As First Minister I would seek more powers for Wales, and share more powers within Wales
Thursday, September 18, 1997 is a night that will always stay with me.
After months of going door to door, leafleting and speaking with voters, I was in the Park Hotel with my fellow Students Say Yes campaigners, waiting to hear whether our efforts had been enough – whether a majority had voted Yes for Wales to create a Welsh Assembly of our own.
I will never forget the explosion of excitement, pride and gratitude we felt when the Yes result was announced. It was proof of what we can achieve together, and how every vote matters. It had been a very close-run thing until Carmarthenshire came through at the end.
And now I’m honoured to be standing to be Prif Weinidog in the Senedd that I, and so many others, campaigned long and hard to establish.
The reason I led Students Say Yes in 1997 is the same reason I’m fighting for more devolution today – it’s about fairness and putting power into people’s hands so we can all have more of a say in our own lives and communities.
It’s also about creating a platform that means decisions about Wales are taken in Wales. From the language and culture to industry and sport, devolution allows for distinctive approaches for Wales based on mandates that should never be trampled over.
That’s why as First Minister I would seek more powers for Wales, and share more powers within Wales.
Now is the time for more powers to the Senedd, and we should start with the Crown Estate.
Green energy is central to tackling poverty and climate change together.
Well-paid, highly-skilled jobs in renewable energy industries have the potential to lift people across Wales out of poverty with secure work that helps secure the future of the planet.
If I am elected Welsh Labour leader and First Minister, responsibility for the Crown Estate is the most important set of new powers our future Welsh Labour Government would seek for the Senedd.
It is the single area of policy that, if devolved, would bring the most benefit to people’s pockets in Wales – and to the planet.
Renewable energy from Wales must bring benefit to people in Wales, and devolving the Crown Estate to Wales is crucial to achieving that.
Our Welsh Labour Government would also push for the devolution of youth justice and probation services – as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s landmark report recommends – followed in time by justice and policing powers in their entirety.
We’d also press for devolving greater borrowing powers to Wales so we can invest in infrastructure and get more for each pound of public money we spend.
As First Minister, I would also back creating an independent secretariat to ensure the UK Government cannot continue to mistreat devolved nations.
Over the last 14 years, we’ve seen the Tories attack and undermine our democratic devolution time and again.
HS2 is clearly an England-only project that has been classified as England-and-Wales to deny us funding to which we are entitled.
This is why it’s so important we turf out the Tories in the upcoming General Election and replace them with a constructive UK Labour Government.
That’s why we have a bold, progressive vision for the next 25 years of devolution to Wales.
The Gordon Brown report and the report from the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales are both essential contributions to that debate.
I’m also pleased I’ve already secured an agreement from Keir Starmer that EU replacement funding and powers will return to Wales under a UK Labour Government, having been hoarded in Westminster by the Tories.
My manifesto is clear that we would use this funding to reinvest in apprenticeships and establish Gwaith Teg, a new fair work fund for Wales.
But my vision for devolution is not just more powers for Wales; it’s more powers shared with communities across Wales too.
We cannot and should not be content with replacing centralisation in London with centralisation in Cardiff Bay. That isn’t the Welsh Labour way, and it isn’t my way.
We can go further again and put power into the hands of people across Wales.
The Welsh Government can’t just work for all of Wales; it needs to be seen and to be felt to be working for all of Wales.
That’s why our Welsh Labour Government would beef-up the role of the Minister of North Wales, with an office in North Wales and a team of officials based in North Wales from across key Welsh Government departments.
We would develop a package of powers to be devolved to local government across Wales.
Devolving power has to come with funding to match, so we would work with the regions to drive investment into good, well-paid jobs and opportunities around the country, and we would create a stronger role for councillors.
For 14 years, local councils across Wales have been at the coalface in dealing with the harsh realities of Tory austerity as services and communities suffer.
As a former councillor myself, I know our local elected representatives get involved to help people in their communities.
The bleak reality of what this means under the Tories can be draining – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Our government would work in a partnership of equals with Labour councillors to tackle shared challenges we face.
In 1997, we took the historic opportunity to set up our own Welsh Government. This year, we have the opportunity to ensure we have two Labour Governments working together for Wales for the first time since 2010.
While I have only ever stood for a Senedd seat, I understand the vital need for Labour administrations in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster.
We must make the most of that opportunity with a bold vision for the next 25 years of devolution: more powers for Wales and shared within Wales for a future built by all of us.
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