Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the Welsh assembly government is to be offered taxation and spending powers, subject to a referendum.
Speaking in Cardiff Bay with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after meeting with First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, Cameron outlined plans for a Welsh referendum which would allow the people of Wales to vote on giving the Welsh Assembly landfill tax and stamp duty powers to raise living standards. They also would be allowed to borrow money to invest in Welsh infrastructure.
The move follows the silk commission report from autumn 2012, which recommended borrowing powers to improve the economy and landfill tax and stamp duty to ensure the Welsh government had an independent funding stream to pay back the money it borrows. The move has been compared to the Calman commission of 2009, which resulted in new powers been giving to the Scottish government.
In 2013, the Welsh assembly currently has powers in a number of areas including the environment, tourism, transport, housing and education. But if the electorate votes in favour of devolved financial powers to the administration, Wales could have new income tax laws by 2020. It is seen as a move that will not only strengthen devolution but gives Wales more economic responsibility.
Prime Minister Cameron said that it will allow politicians in the assembly to make improvements to an economy that has been slow in recovering:
“Today we are announcing more power for the Welsh people and the Welsh government. Power that’s about building this country up, power that’s about making sure we have real accountable government here in Wales”.
“[Wales] needs more businesses coming here and creating jobs. It needs taxes that reward hard work. It needs better infrastructure: roads, homes, rail and broadband. All of these things are the building blocks of a stronger economy and fairer society – it’s how together we build a recovery that everyone can share in”.
Cameron acknowledged that giving economic power to Welsh Assembly members could be a huge benefit to Wales as decisions will now be made closer to home instead of in Westminster:
“Too long decisions about Wales’ future have been directed by bureaucrats hundreds of miles away in Westminster – and it has suffered as a result”.
If passed, the Welsh government is understood to be intent on improving the M4, which was described by Cameron as a “foot in the windpipe of the Welsh economy”. Emergency services across the country are also expected to receive funding along with the construction of a new Menai Bridge in North Wales.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said that it was a hugely important move for Wales and allowed the country to be “treated like equals in the UK”.
The Prime Minister also announced on his visit to Wales that the hugely prestigious NATO summit will be held in the Celtic Manor in Newport in 2014, following cities such as Lisbon, Rome and Prague in recent years. Cameron said that it would provide a great opportunity for Wales to showcase itself as an economic force with 60 heads of state and thousands of journalists in attendance.
The Manor, which hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup to critical acclaim, is like to help inject a huge sum of money into the Welsh economy. Last year’s event in Chicago saw an estimated investment of $123 million into the local economy.