Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Kinnock Lord Kinnock Labour 4:15 pm, 7th November 2016

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who I respect greatly, that it would be—without oversimplifying this—on the same basis as borrowings are undertaken now. He will know of the generous and immensely useful support given to a variety of projects in Wales by the European Investment Bank. Nobody has required the allocation of tax-varying or tax-raising powers to the Welsh Assembly to enable that support. Since there is also a guaranteed income for the Welsh Assembly—inadequate and stunted by the application of the Barnett formula, as he and I would agree—but nevertheless significant, as he and I would agree, nobody lending money for major capital investment projects in Wales, within reasonable limits and according to the required fiscal disciplines, should worry about it because they will be guaranteed a return on their investment. It is not necessary to add to the obligations of the Welsh Assembly to facilitate that—within limited confines, as I say. I will give him an example, which I will pluck out of the air.

If, for instance, a sensible proposal was made for establishing a link between Rhoose international airport and the main train line from London to Swansea, I would certainly support it, or, indeed a spur road from the M4 or even a direct road from the A48 into Rhoose airport in order to enhance the attractiveness of this major infrastructure advantage, substantially, and rightly, supported by the Welsh Government. There is no reason why a guarantee of return on the investment should not be made by the imposition of a small toll on the road or the railway line. It is not unprecedented across continental Europe. If we want to know how successful such arrangements can be, the noble Lord only has to look that the second Severn crossing. A huge capital sum, vastly in excess of anything that would be needed to link Rhoose airport, has been paid off with in, in my view, excessive and unfair impositions—I am speaking of the degree, not the principle. The same thing could be done elsewhere. I am not advocating it; I am simply saying that there is a variety of ways of guaranteeing a reasonable return on long-term capital investment without requiring the allocation of fund raising through income tax-raising powers for the Welsh Assembly.

If this removal of a requirement for a referendum is to have a real justification, it has to have evident support from people across Wales. They have expressed no significant demand for, or preference for, the further allocation of such a power to the Welsh Assembly. The maxim employed earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, which was coined by a Welshman at the time of the American Revolution, “No taxation without representation”, bears an addition in this century. It is: “No further allocated powers of taxation without at least consultation, without at least deliberation, without at least endorsement and, finally, without at least agreement”. That brings us back to the referendum because where there is an absence of demand for this change in the way in which the people of Wales are governed, there has to be a supreme additional justification for allocating a power that is not only not demanded but that we have every reason to assume would not be exercised, a power that would not lend itself to extra accountability or enhance transparency or enrich democracy. I wait to hear from the Minister a justification of the dismantling of the undertakings previously given by all parties and enacted for a referendum as a prerequisite of the allocation of income tax-raising powers to the Welsh Assembly.