Cameron announces Welsh ‘Calman’ commission


by a Newsnet reporter

In an address to the Welsh Senedd yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of a Calman style commission for Wales.  The announcement follows the successful referendum in March when the Welsh people approved the granting of law-making powers to the Senedd.

It is understood that the commission is likely to recommend that the Senedd be given powers to alter the rate of income tax and to grant borrowing powers to the Welsh government.  The Welsh government is dissatisfied with the current funding arrangements, and is pressing for powers to borrow money and control certain taxes.

Mr Cameron received a frosty reception in the Assembly building in Cardiff where his speech was heard in a silence broken only by the occasional heckle from Plaid Cymru Assembly Members.  

The bulk of Mr Cameron’s speech was taken up with his plea for the Welsh government to “open up” public services and to introduce greater involvement from the private sector in line with current developments in England.  

Addressing the topic of the planned commission, Mr Cameron said: “Four months ago, Wales held a referendum and the people of Wales spoke decisively. No longer will the Assembly have to ask permission from Westminster to legislate on devolved matters.

“It is clear there is no turning back from devolution, nor should there be. But I believe that along with this new level of power you now hold should come new levels of accountability.

“So as we promised we will establish a process similar to the Calman Commission in Scotland.

“The strength of Calman was that it worked by consensus – Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Scotland coming together and agreeing a way forward. I am therefore asking the political parties, all the political parties, to seek a consensus of the future direction of devolution.”

Mr Cameron made no mention of the exclusion from the Scottish Calman Commission of the SNP or any discussion of independence.  It seems likely that the Welsh ‘Calman’ will be similarly constrained.

The Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was not impressed with Cameron’s plea for greater private sector involvement in public service provision.  “I think that was not the wisest part of the speech,” said Mr Jones, “it would be the equivalent of me going and lecturing the UK cabinet on where they are going wrong.  He and I will disagree on a number of things of course, that’s democracy.”

However the First Minister was more positive about the announcement of a commission.  Mr Jones said:  “I welcomed the element in his speech that talked about setting up a commission.  It’s important now that work is carried on at the Whitehall end to make sure that commission begins as soon as possible in the autumn.”

Speaking for Plaid Cymru, party leader Wyn Jones said that the details of the UK government’s commission were overdue, adding:  “The Tory-Lib Dem coalition has been in government in Westminster for over a year but we still don’t have any more clarity on this issue.”