Referendums, Shifts of F Power. and Why We Should All Care
THERE is a month to go until the call for evidence closes in the Silk Commission, which is investigating greater powers for Wales. Here Paul Silk, Chair of the Commission on Devolution in Wales, answers 12 key questions: Q Why was the commission set up? A Following the Welsh referendum in favour of law-making powers for the Assembly, the UK Government set up the Commission to review Wales' financial and constitutional arrangements in order to develop the Assembly's financial accountability and allow devolution to better serve the people of Wales.
Q What kind of powers are you investigating for Wales? A Having reported on the financial powers of the Assembly last November, we are now looking at the powers of the Assembly more generally, that is the boundary between what is devolved and non-devolved. The Commission has an open mind on what specific aspects of the devolution settlement it should look at in detail - we have published a Call for Evidence, which closes on March 1, to hear people's views.
Q Why are you investigating whether powers should return to Westminster? A Our terms of reference were set by the UK Government and agreed with the political parties in the Assembly, and they ask us to consider any modifications to the devolution settlement that may be needed. This could be further devolution or returning powers to Westminster, and we will consider any arguments made.
Q If your recommendations are for significant change, could you also recommend a referendum before any change went ahead? A In our first report, we did recommend a referendum before devolution of income tax to Wales, which would be a truly significant change. That was following a careful examination of the arguments on either side. It's really too early to say whether we would or not for our second report.
Q Will the process of government need to change if the Assembly gets more powers - for example would there need to be more AMs to cope with the extra responsibility? A The Commission has been asked to consider practical implementation issues arising from our work, and also to not look at the structure of the Assembly. We have an open mind at this stage, and look forward to hearing all opinions.
Q How will you decide what changes should be made? A In our first part, we relied a lot on available evidence and what people said to us.
We agreed some principles, thought about each issue carefully, discussed it as a Commission and made the recommendations that we thought were sensible and would improve matters. …