Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Kinnock Lord Kinnock Labour 4:00 pm, 7th November 2016

I agree with the noble Lord. Certainly we have not only a constitutional but an electoral arrangement, which is of at least equal relevance. We speak of course in 2016, the year in which—indeed, just a few months after—an election of a new Assembly took place in Wales. I do not recall any proposition from any party—outside Plaid Cymru, which has been entirely and honourably consistent in its proposals—that said, “If you elect us, we will work to ensure that the United Kingdom, in a change of legislation, will allocate to us the power to vary income taxation in Wales”. I know that that is a political point, but it is worth taking into account. On this central issue of accountability, I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said when he advanced the idea that the allocation of powers to the Welsh Assembly to levy and vary income tax would enrich accountability in Wales. I say to him, and in part I respond to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that accountability must relate not to abstract, desirable, mooted, arguable or deluded powers, but to exercisable powers. What we see in Scotland is a myth of accountability. When they have the power to vary taxation, as they have had for the best part of 20 years, and have not even begun to consider the implementation of such powers I simply do not see how accountability—the central principle of democracy—is enhanced by having a power but never exercising it, and never daring to exercise it. Where is the enhancement of accountability there?