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Monday, June 27, 2011

A decade of Labour failure

Plaid Cymru Leadership contender, Elin Jones is quite right when she says in this morning's Western Mail that First Minister Carwyn Jones’ ability to negotiate with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government in Westminster is undermined by Labour’s refusal to introduce such reforms under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The First Minister has been highly vocal since Labour lost power at Westminster in calling for a reform of the Barnett formula and yet shortly before the 2010 election then-Treasury Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry sent a letter to the Scottish Government’s Enterprise Minister Jim Mather stating that the “Government currently has no plans to change the Barnett formula”. The Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury also ruled out reform.

Requests to Labour Ministers for the Welsh Government to have responsibility for power generating projects over 50mw were also rejected by Labour and yet, as soon as Carwyn Jones found himself in some difficulty over wind farm proposals for Mid Wales, he rushed off to Westminster to demand changes with the intention of putting that particular hot potato into the hands of the UK Coalition Government.

Of course this does absolve the responsibility of the Coalition Government to address these issues, it just means that Wales has a weaker hand in negotiations, one that will not be helped by Labour's political posturing.

Our job now is to ensure that the Calman-style review of Welsh funding mechanisms promised by the Coalition addresses the Barnett formula as well, bringing in at the very least a floor that will prevent Wales falling behind England in terms of funding per head.

I also believe that the quest for responsibility over large scale energy projects is not lost either. What the Welsh Government need to do to advance this cause however, is to demonstrate that they have mechanisms in place that will treat these applications with the appropriate seriousness. These mechanisms must take account of the national interest as well as local considerations.

So far that has not happened and I believe it is one of the reasons why Wales has been unsuccessful in achieving its goal on energy. Going to London and banging the table will not cut it. It is not leadership, it is grandstanding and it wins no friends amongst UK Ministers and their officials. If the Welsh Government want an adult dialogue then they need to act appropriately.
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