.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Does the future of the union rest in the hands of the Treasury?

Today's Western Mail reports on the conclusions of the House of Lords constitution committee, which reiterates the views of a number of similar inquiries before it.

Their Lordships suggest that the future of the UK is at “threat” and the refusal to introduce a funding system which would address the needs of the poorest regions makes a “mockery” of the UK Government’s duty to distribute resources fairly. They argue that successive governments have taken the union “for granted” and have demonstrated a “haphazard approach” to the constitution. No dispute there.

It is the warning by the committee though that its members do not think the passing of the next Wales Act will mean “all the pieces for a stable constitutional settlement will be in place” that resonates. The constant uncertainty over funding and the perceived unfairness of the way that Wales has been treated means that people will continually seek to unpick the constitutional settlement that has been imposed on them.

The failure to include England and the English regions in this settlement means that the UK Government will remain under pressure to change it. That in itself could prove destabilising.

The Lords flag up a “lack of public understanding” about devolution, warning: “Amongst the devolved nations, it seems particularly acute in Wales with its complex conferred-powers model of devolution (albeit a model which is less complex than that used in 2006-11).” They call for a “new mindset” at “all levels of government”, saying that the devolved institutions, such as the Assembly, must be recognised as “established components of the UK’s constitution”.

Tellingly, they call for the UK Government to abandon a “devolve and forget” attitude and instead “engage with the devolved institutions across the whole breadth of government policy, co-operating and collaborating where possible.”

The biggest obstacle to this change remains the Treasury. Civil Servants there have connived with Ministers to frustrate all attempts at a fair funding settlement that reflects need across the UK and which accommodates the demands of the English regions.

Although there is a need to sort out the legislative powers of the Welsh Assembly, a fair funding formula that recognises the emerging federal nature of the UK is becoming more urgent. If the Treasury continues to block such a development then the current constitutional settlement will remain in flux and subject to challenge from all corners of the UK.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?