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Friday, June 14, 2024

Shadow Home Secretary undermines Welsh Labour

Of course one of the perils of devolution is that a party can pass all the policies it likes at a national or regional level, but if they don't get their colleagues on board at a UK level then they end up whistling into the wind.

This can be particularly embarrassing if you head up a longstandin Welsh Labour administration and have been arguing for some time that you can work more closely in partnership with a UK Labour Government. And so it has proved even though not a single vote has yet been cast.

Wales on Line reports that shadow home secretary. Yvette Cooper has said control over police forces would be retained by Westminster if Labour takes power next month despite the Welsh Labour Government wanting to take charge of policing here:

Ms Cooper could be responsible for overseeing police forces in England and Wales if Labour win power. Responsibility for police forces in Wales currently rests with the UK Government rather than the Welsh Government. This is unlike policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland which are controlled by their respective governments.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast on Wednesday Ms Cooper said it was important to "keep the links" around policing and crime across England and Wales. She also accused the Home Office of "turning its back on Wales" and said there were reasons not to give policing powers over to Cardiff Bay.

"We need to keep the links around policing and crime across England and Wales," she said. "Not least because here in north wales there’s obviously strong links in terms of what happens in Merseyside has an impact on north wales and so on. So you have to have all of those close relationships between police forces."

Home Office figures show the number of police officers in Wales has increased from 7,479 in 2010, when Labour left power in Westminster, to 8,091 in 2023, the BBC reports. There is some disagreement among Labour over whether or not Wales should gain control of its police forces. Previously Mark Drakeford's government had held ambitions of devolving policing to Wales and the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales said in January that policing and criminal justice powers should be devolved beginning with the police, probation, and youth justice. A sub-group of the commission said that there was evidence of a "strong case for change to secure better outcomes, better value for money, increased transparency, and more accountability".

But these ambitions have been tempered by some in UK Labour including shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens who said earlier this year: "We have said that we will explore the devolution of youth justice and probation. But we will not be looking at devolution of policing and justice.

It actually makes sense to give the Welsh Government the sort of control over policing that is held by the Mayor of London and other elected Mayors in England. At present we are in a sort of halfway house in which Welsh Ministers provide half the funding but have no say in how that money is spent, nor is there any proper accountability on a Welsh level.

The reluctance of senior Labour figures to address this issue tells you all you need to know about their attitude to devolution and the new First Minister.
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