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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Embracing the lockstep

How quickly we slip into jargon. There is quite a lot of controversy about a provision in the draft Wales Bill in the way that it seeks to give the Welsh Government the power to vary income tax in Wales. What it says is that if we were to vary the lower rate of tax then we must also vary the higher rate in the same way.

This linking together of the two rates is called the lockstep, as it prevents us exercising policy on tax. For example we cannot cut the lower rate of tax so as to assist poorer workers without doing the same for those paying 45% tax. The Government could not tax the rich more without also hitting the lower paid, whilst Conservative plans to encourage entrepreneurship by cutting the upper rate would be a non-starter, as cutting both rates would be unaffordable.

This provision has caused problems for both the Conservatives and Labour. In the latter case, despite Labour AMs insisting that the Silk report, which recommends the devolution of income tax, be implemented in full, the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales has come out against this policy.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Secretary of State for Wales has clashed with the Tory Assembly Leader. Andrew R.T, Davies wants to aabolish the lockstep, but David Jones says it is Conservative policy to keep it. Andrew R.T. Davies says he has the support of his group, but as the Western Mail points out yesterday's vote in the Assembly told a different story.

In a vote on an amendment condemning the lockstep, five Conservative AMs failed to vote at all, though three of them later voted for the main motion. One of the AMs was paired, whilst it transpires that in the case of another it was an oversight. That leaves three members of Andrew R.T, Davies' group who apparently disagree with him and are prepared to publicly demonstrate their opposition.

It seems that splits in the Conservative Party on this issue are multi-faceted and that the Tory Assembly Leader does not have the 100% support from his own group that he previously claimed.
The loss of Ms Finch-Saunders will be a huge boost to the future of the Welsh Conservatives. She is so toe-curlingly poor as a public representative, not least because of her inability to enunciate place names such as Aberconwy, Conwy, Deganwy and christian names such as Elin, Alun,etc. She does seem to grasp that Alun Ffred Jones's brother fought to establish Conwy as the formal name and spent 6 months in jail for his beliefs.
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