Well, now we'll find out whether a review of the Barnett Formula will be beneficial for Wales or not. Its been a question that has rattled around in Welsh politics for many years. While most Welsh Assembly politicians seem to have taken a view that Barnett is out of date, unfair to Wales, and ought to be fundamentally reviewed, I have never been convinced - at least about the certainty of any review being of benefit to Wales.
I spent quite a bit of time as Conservative Finance Spokesman while I was in the Assembly, and this issue was always bubbling under the surface. There could be no argument that it was anything but 'out of date'. Joel Barnett, the Treasury Minister after whom it was named, established the formula about 30 years ago - and it was intended to be a temporary measure (one year I think). In general, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems were always keen on a review, because they thought Wales was being short changed. I thought there was more than a bit of the 'victim culture' influencing this opinion. Both Labour and we were much more cautious - but not on the principle. I can't speak for Labour, but I felt that any independent review which informed this policy had to to be commissioned by the Government. Even then, I was not convinced that an independent review that transferred large sums of money from Scotland would not result in some dodgy horsetrading before it would be implemented - there being too many Scottish Ministers at the top of the UK Government! If today's reports that a review is to be commissioned by the UK Government are correct, we are soon going to find out if the various claims and caution was justified.
The most worrying part of the debate I've heard on this issue are the siren voices calling for the per capita Government spending to be the same in England , Scotland and Wales. This is the language of breaking up the United Kingdom. The basis on which Government spending should be distributed is need. Because the level of need is different in Scotland, Wales and regions of England, there must inevitably be different per capita payments - higher in Scotland and Wales, as it is now. Another reason I was cautious about calling for a review of the formula was that it opens a can of worms, which could have unforeseen consequences. Still times move on, and everybody (in Wales anyway) now seems to be in favour of this review - so lets bring it on. I just hope today's decision doesn't come back to haunt us.