Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 7th November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Murphy of Torfaen Lord Murphy of Torfaen Labour 4:45 pm, 7th November 2016

I had not quite finished my remarks—I thought the noble Lord was intervening on me. The issue is about the principle of a referendum. Right from 1997, the people of Wales agreed on a devolution settlement. In 1979, my noble friend Lord Kinnock and I disagreed with the idea of a Welsh Assembly. Twenty years later, we agreed with it—and, as the Minister himself said, in 2011 there was a referendum to change that settlement. I approved of it, I agreed with it and I supported it. That gave legitimacy to the change, because at the end of the day the people of Wales agreed.

I suspect there has been a change in the past 18 months because, after all, this is about a change in the current law. It is not about introducing something but about abolishing something: the right of the people of Wales to have a referendum on income tax. My guess is that it has nothing to do with the spread of devolution or the other issues to which the Minister referred; it is about their thinking that they would not win it. But the principle of the referendum would give it that legitimacy. Indeed, if the Government and others thought it would be hugely popular, what is wrong with a referendum on it? If we had one on the powers, we can have one on income tax. The Minister has not explained why the Government have changed their mind about the principle of a referendum in under two years. That is a pretty rapid change, and there must be other reasons lying behind the Government’s views. At the end of the day, if the people of Wales want income tax variation—and, by the way, it is not extra money. I reject that idea; I do not think for one second that any income tax powers will produce a penny more for the people of Wales, because the block grant will be reduced. That imposition has been put on a country that is poorer than England. Having said all that, I shall not push this to a vote this evening.