Demand for Commission to Look into Further Devolution for Wales; ASSEMBLY PARTY LEADERS CALL FOR IT TO HAVE A 'CALMAN-STYLE' REMIT
Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON
ALL four party leaders in the National Assembly have signed a letter calling for a wide-ranging "Calman-style" commission to look into further stages in Welsh devolution, we can reveal.
The letter, which has not so far been released into the public domain, was sent to Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan yesterday morning. Its wording was agreed by Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones, Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones and Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams. It was also signed by acting Welsh Conservative Assembly group leader Paul Davies before the election of Andrew RT Davies as leader was announced.
In Scotland, a commission chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman recommended extending the fiscal powers of the Scottish Parliament. Last year the UK coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats contained a commitment to set up a similar commission in Wales if there was a Yes vote in the referendum on more legislative powers for the Assembly which took place in March.
It is understood that yesterday's leaders' letter to Mrs Gillan calls for a commission that would have a wider remit than purely finance. It would look at the possibility of devolving other powers to the Assembly including the legal system and energy projects.
Last night a Plaid Cymru source said: "We are very pleased that the Unionist parties agreed to put everything we suggested into the letter.
It wouldn't make sense to limit the commission to funding issues - they have been looked at very thoroughly by the Holtham Commission [which concluded that on a needs basis, Wales was underfunded by the UK Government by around pounds 300m a year].
Plaid Cymru's Lord Wigley warned in a statement that lessons must be learnt from the Scottish Calman Commission before introducing a similar process for Wales.
He argued that a broad remit was required for the commission and that cross-party consensus on the terms of reference were vital. He said the final report should build upon previous reports, such as Holtham's, rather than simply repeating their work.
The former Plaid president also reprimanded the Prime Minister for claiming that a consensus had existed in Scotland when no such consensus had been reached - and the Scottish Government had not participated in the process. …