Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat Shadow Attorney General 4:15 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I wonder whether I can assist the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, in his final question by telling your Lordships about my brother-in-law, who is Welsh, but who has lived in Aberdeenshire since the 1970s. In 1979, like the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, he was wholly against devolution to Scotland. In 1998, he had not changed his mind, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, and in the referendum he voted no to devolution to Scotland, but yes to tax-raising powers if a Parliament should be formed. At the time, we thought this was slightly odd. But what he was saying was that you should not have a parliament unless it is accountable—fully accountable. That is the point.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the Welsh Assembly was constituted, and the Labour Party has, one way or the other, exercised power in Cardiff since its inception—it still does. The purpose of a proper Government is to raise taxes and to spend them, and to be accountable to the people from whom they raise those taxes as to how they handle their money. It is a perfectly simple proposition, but for the last 20 years, we have heard from the Labour Government in Cardiff that if they are incapable of providing adequate services in Wales—for example, in the health service or in education—it is because they do not have enough money sent to them from Westminster.

It does not require a referendum now. The reason why a referendum was provided for in the last Bill and why it appeared to be a good idea was that we were following the Scottish practice of 1998. But we moved on; devolution has moved on. We were tired, as my noble friend Lady Humphreys said, of the excuse that we are failing as a Government because Westminster does not give us enough money. It is time that income tax is devolved to Wales and that proper accountability should occur.