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Let's concentrate on delivery not powers, says Wales Office Minister

Welsh politics needs to move on from dated policy arguments about national differences to concentrate on delivery, Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns has said.

The call came in a major speech on devolution made by Mr Cairns to a conference in Cardiff.

Mr Cairns will say that as Wales embraced more accountable Government, the time had come to “move the debate in Wales onto a more mature footing”.

He told the audience “the focus on political engagement in Wales should be on policies, not on powers.”

Mr Cairns praised the Welsh Assembly for “innovative” policies like the introduction of the presumed consent system for organ donation and carrier bag charges.

However, he said “I want to see more of that innovation and less of policies that are different in Wales simply because responsibility for them is devolved.”

Mr Cairns cited the devolution of tax powers as an example where the Welsh Government could demonstrate further innovation.

He said: “Not only will they make the Welsh Government accountable for raising more of the money they spend rather than continuing only as a spending department, they offer the opportunity to make Wales a low-tax Wales.”

Mr Cairns also highlighted progress on the Wales Bill, telling his Cardiff audience that:

  • The UK Government is looking at “how we best address the concerns” over the need for consent for the Assembly to amend Minister of Crown functions in devolved areas.
  • The list of reservations will be reduced “to include only those where there is a good reason to do so”

However, the Wales Office Minster rejected calls for a separate legal jurisdiction for England and Wales as “expensive and unnecessary”.

He said: “We do not need a separate jurisdiction to make a reserved powers model work, nor do we need one just for the sake of being different.”

The Wales Office Minister told the conference that Wales was entering a “time of opportunity” to concentrate on issues that “really matter to people on the doorstep”.

Devolution presented “a chance to develop ambitious and innovative policies for Wales – not for the sake of being different, but to but to address the big economic and social challenges and deliver world class public services”, Mr Cairns said.

The Wales Minister argued there was a case for wider devolution within Wales.

“The case for devolution stems from different needs in Wales to the rest of the UK. This logic also applies within Wales where communities face different issues, and localising decision making can also be more effective.”

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