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Crucial step towards fiscal devolution

The UK Treasury and Secretary of State for Wales have met with the Welsh Government in a landmark step towards greater fiscal devolution.

As part of the new package of tax and borrowing powers being devolved through the Wales Bill, the Wales Joint Exchequer Committee have agreed to work together to consider whether Welsh Ministers should be able to issue bonds.

The details of this arrangement were formally agreed at yesterday’s (20 October) meeting in Cardiff, between HM Treasury’s Danny Alexander MP and David Gauke MP, the Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb MP, and the Welsh government Finance Minister Jane Hutt AM.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

Today’s Joint Exchequer Committee meeting was a crucial step in the UK’s devolution settlement and implementing the Welsh government’s new tax and borrowing powers as recommended by the Silk Commission.

We’ve made important progress towards agreeing the mechanism by which Welsh ministers would be able to issue Welsh bonds, in order to further increase their range of borrowing options.

Stephen Crabb, the Secretary of State for Wales, said:

I want a lasting and fair devolution settlement that works for the people of Wales.

Along with the Wales Bill, today’s first meeting of the Joint Exchequer Committee further underlines the UK government’s commitment to deliver and strengthen this process.

I will continue to work with the Treasury and the Welsh government to secure the best deal for Wales to boost jobs, raise living standards and attract investment.

David Gauke, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

This government is determined to increase the accountability and autonomy of the Welsh government. That’s why the landmark Wales Bill devolves taxes for the first time, giving the Welsh government greater autonomy over landfill tax, stamp duty land tax and income tax.

Jane Hutt, the Welsh Minister for Finance, said:

As devolution moves forward, with new fiscal powers coming to Wales, it is important that our two governments work closely together to make sure the system works well – for the benefit of people in Wales and across the UK.

Today we discussed a wide range of financial matters that have major implications for Wales. My focus was on the full devolution of business rates from April 2015. We also addressed the case for Wales to have bond issuing powers and the need to look again at the fair funding issue.

The Welsh Joint Exchequer Committee also discussed the progress of the landmark Wales Bill, which has just completed committee stage in the Lords. This Bill gives the Welsh government new borrowing powers and greater responsibility over landfill tax, stamp duty land tax and 10p of income tax (subject to a referendum) – the first time that tax powers will be controlled by the Welsh government.

Building on the joint review process agreed in October 2012 and undertaken in advance of SR13, the UK and Welsh governments have also agreed to revisit the arrangements for considering relative funding in light of the powers contained in the Wales Bill.

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