Report calls for greater powers for Welsh Assembly

Published on Monday, 03 March 2014 10:51
Written by Daniel Mason

The Welsh Assembly should be handed greater power over policing, the youth justice system, transport and energy policies, a report on the future of devolution has recommended.

The Commission on Devolution in Wales also suggests that the Welsh Assembly be increased in size, with more backbench members and research staff, and more flexibility around the number and size of committees.

Paul Silk, the commission chairman, said the proposals would "provide a stable and well-founded devolution settlement fit for the future" and would "give Wales a lasting settlement that allows political decisions to be made in a democratic and accountable manner".

The current settlement is too complex, governments and institutions need to work better together, and there is broad support for further devolution, the report concludes. It argues for changing the model to one, like in Scotland, which defines the powers that are not devolved – as opposed to one that lists the powers that are devolved.

Among the recommendations are devolving the youth justice system immediately, then studying the feasibility of prisons and probation following suit. Other justice issues would be reviewed by 2025. Meanwhile most aspects of policing, as well as power over energy and public transport regulation and specific topics such as teachers' pay should also be handed from Westminster to Wales, according to the report.

Today's publication, consisting of 61 recommendations, marked the second part of the Silk commission, which was set up by the UK government in 2011. The first made proposals for the devolution of tax and borrowing powers and formed the basis for the draft Wales bill.

David Jones, the Welsh secretary, said the coalition administration had "consistently reaffirmed its clear commitment to devolution" and this report raised "crucially important questions about the future of governance in Wales".

He added that while some of the changes could be implemented in this parliament, those requiring primary legislation would have to wait until after the general election in 2015. "These will therefore be a matter for the next government and parliament, and for political parties to set out their proposals and intentions to the electorate."

The prime minister, David Cameron, said "careful thought" would be given to the proposals while his deputy, Nick Clegg, welcomed the report as a "way forward to advance devolution".

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