Doing a deal with Labour

On the Politics Show yesterday, Owen Smith suggested that it was up to other parties to come to Labour if they wanted to do a deal. Although I can't speak on behalf of Plaid, this is what I think we should say.

Plaid Cymru's goals are long term: to develop and enhance the constitutional position of Wales so that decision-making power in more and more areas is devolved to Wales. Put more simply, our principle is that we in Wales are better able to make decisions about Wales than people who are not in Wales.

For this reason, our "red-line" issues should not be the day-to-day policy decisions in areas which are already devolved, such as health or education. In 2007, the one big thing we wanted was Labour's commitment to a referendum on primary lawmaking powers for Wales. Without that, the One Wales Agreement would never have got off the ground. All the other things in the One Wales Agreement, even though good in and of themselves, were of secondary importance.

So this time round we must similarly concentrate on the big issues rather than the small ones. In my opinion there are three:

     •  Devolution of the police, justice system, prisons and probation
     •  Devolution of some taxation powers, as recommended by Holtham
     •  A fair voting system for the Assembly

That's not to say there aren't other constitutional matters that could be considered such as reform of the civil service or broadcasting, but these are the three areas that I think matter most. If we can reach agreement with Labour on these, then there is nothing to stop us adding more; but without these three things I don't think there would be any point in doing a deal at all.
 

Devolution of the police, justice system, prisons and probation

On this subject, I want to start by saying that it is absolutely inevitable that a Wales will become a distinct legal jurisdiction. It is therefore pointless to negotiate a deal on something that is going to happen anyway.

We need the complete package to be devolved to Wales.

Our position should be simple, if this area is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland it is only right for it to be devolved to Wales as well. It also solves the tricky problem of dealing with the ConDem coalition's proposals for elected Police and Crime Commissioners. At one level, Westminster can currently impose whatever it wants on Wales. But it is impossible to impose a system where we get a very powerful individual, but do not also get a mechanism for scrutiny of that individual. For that scrutiny to be democratic, it must consist of elected representatives at local level, and local government is devolved.

It would also enable us to go ahead with building a much needed prison in north Wales, but of a size that suits the needs of north Wales (500 or so at the very most) as opposed to Labour in Westminster's previous plan for a prison to house some 1,500 ... most of whom would have come from England. We would also be able to build much smaller facilities for the very low numbers of women and youth offenders who need to be in custody. These units might house as few as 15 to 25 people. They could of course be built through the BuildforWales model.

Devolving prisons and probation also makes sense because of their natural interdependence with areas that are already devolved to Wales such as education, health and social services. We will be able to develop a joined up approach to reduce the numbers that re-offend.
 

Devolution of some taxation powers, as recommended by Holtham

A simple, but fair, summary of Labour's position with regard to Holtham is that they want what is in the first part of the report, but don't want what is in the second.

We can all now agree (even though it took Labour some time to realize it) that the way Wales is funded is unfair. But it is utterly naïve for Labour to think that Wales can get a fair funding formula without also having to accept a degree of responsibility for how the money the Welsh Government spends is raised. You can't cherry pick. Both parts of the Holtham Report are equally important.
 

A fair voting system for the Assembly

Although Labour don't like it, they have lost the battle over the number of MPs in Wales. The question for us now is how to adapt the Assembly voting system to suit. Now of course we could simply have two different sets of constituencies for the Assembly and Westminster, but I think that would be confusing.

There are two possibilities: one is to keep the current voting system but base it on the same 30 constituencies as will be used for Westminster, but to increase the number of regional AMs from 20 to 30; the second is to adopt STV.

A second factor is that is the overall number of AMs. I strongly believe we should not increase the number of AMs unless further areas of responsibility are devolved to Wales. But if we get police and the justice system devolved to Wales, that would justify an increase to 75 or 80 AMs.

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These three are tricky areas in that the decision about whether nor not we get them rests with Westminster; they are not deliverable by the Assembly on its own. But the name of the game will be to present a united front to Westminster with the aim of persuading them to devolve these powers to us. For as long as Labour press for these things to be devolved, it should be possible for us to work with Labour. But if no progress is made, Plaid's support will be withdrawn.

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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

MH - While I agree with you regarding the goals that you state - But why would Plaid make a deal with Labour on that basis - as they can not deliver! These can only be delivered from Westminster and Labour have on contrl there.

Penddu

Anonymous said...

Good points MH .... and Penddu.

Anonymous said...

Tories and Labour done a deal? Tories to get PO and DPO? Labour get working majority! What do the Tories get out of this except two nice, but nor important in terms of policy, positions?

Anonymous said...

Where does control of resources come into this eg Water?

Anonymous said...

Mmmm. Not sure. The three "big issues" are not that big in the sense that, as you say, MH, the ground has been well prepared by Holtham, Richard, the precedents in Scotland and NI. They are devolution issues. Leave them to the pro-devolution parties! I think that the Tories and LibDems could come round to these policies in any case. Can't see Labour supporting fairer voting. If I was the new Tory leader, the first thing I'd do would be to get on the phone to get London to change the system for electing the assembly. If we get back into bed with Labour, Plaid would be back in govt in a weakened position, unable to reflect and reassess on the longer term direction of the party, generally in the firing line for the cuts Labour will have to make, having to keep quiet about the rear-guard action of old-school Labour MPs. How hard and slow it seemed to be to get them to deliver the language act and the referendum, and that was when they were in government in London! If the ConDem coalition in London is unpopular by the next election, Labour will benefit again at our expense. There is no gratitude in politics. Perhaps we could influence the agenda (including speeding the delivery of these three aims) and position ourselves for the next elections better from outside government, with a clearer message on the merits of independence.
Efrogwr

Anonymous said...

Albert Einstein Quotes

Definition of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

MH said...

I read about the Tory Llywydd and DLl on here on Peter Black's blog, 20:14. I can't believe the Tories would be mad enough.

And yes, 20:35, I would say that resources—not just water but particularly Crown Estate revenue from offshore windfarms and tidal lagoons/turbines, and any gas we find in Bae Ceredigion—are important too. Very important. I should have included that.

To Efrogwr. Yes, the Tories and the LibDems might want them, but that's the very reason why Labour would resist. Labour are deeply tribal. Take for example minimum alcohol pricing: Labour want it in Wales, because they think they thought of it. They oppose it in Scotland because they think the SNP thought of it. It's a matter of holding Labour's hand and letting them think that these things were their idea all along; just like we did on the powers referendum. They can take things from us that they wouldn't take from them.

And of course we won't get the thanks, but we'll get more things devolved to Wales if Labour think they can run them when they are devolved. Getting more stuff devolved is what really matters.

Anonymous said...

I am against One Wales 2. But if REAL progress (not a another bloody commission) was made in devolving those listed above (particularly the crown estate) then I'd welcome it.

A question on STV for you MH- I know you're good with numbers; so who would be the big winners/losers out of getting STV; would it be even more proportional and would Plaid benefit?.

MH said...

I just want to add something that perhaps wasn't clear. I'm not proposing that any deal Plaid do with Labour should be another coalition. I think Labour can probably get on with the job of day-to-day government themselves. We don't really need to have any ministers in charge of any of the devolved departments.

However, there would be a case for just one job: a "Minister for Constitutional Development" who would basically co-ordinate discussions with Westminster on things which are being devolved to Wales. It would be all to easy to just make a request and then leave it to sit in the long grass while Westminster get round to doing nothing about it. We need a process which is proactive, and someone to devote their full energies to it and report direct to the cabinet about it. We can't control what Westminster does or doesn't do, but we can make sure that we are doing everything possible to make it happen.

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I was actually planning to do the maths on that, 23:03. Because we have the constituency breakdowns for the regional vote (all except SWE, but I should get that in a day or two) we should be able to work out with a fair degree of certainty what would happen under STV by grouping constituencies in different ways. And what would happen if we had a 30 plus 30 additional member system.

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