Thursday, October 06, 2011

Goodbye Dragon's Eye

Must admit I felt a bit sad appearing on Dragon's Eye tonight. The BBC had just announced that the 'Eye' is to be closed for good. Bit like a few years ago when my vet announced there was nothing to be done with my much loved Charolais bull after some illness befell him but to 'put him out of his misery'. Never managed to find another one as handsome.

Unsatisfactory discussion though - but pretty much what I expected. No criticism intended, but the attempt to link two important issues did not work (in my opinion). The first issue was the Welsh Government's recently announced draft 'spending plans' (I prefer not to refer to it as the draft budget). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is what happens to the £40 million 'windfall' that arrives in Cardiff Bay as a result of the Chancellors announcement that Council Tax is to be frozen for the second year running in England. Carwyn Jones made very clear that its not going to ease the pain for Council Tax payers in Wales. I wasn't interested in contributing to this issue (though I do have an opinion). I was carrying the burden of PPS on my shoulders - its a matter for the Welsh Government.

I was interested in the second issue the programme sought to cover - constitutional changes that are on the horizon in Wales. And dramatic changes they are. Truth is we didn't get even the smallest grip on this. It justifies a programme on its own. To summarise, we are expecting the Secretary of State for Wales to announce to the House of Commons soon after MPs return on Monday, who will be taking forward the 'Calman-like process'. This involves a Commission to consider how to grant 'fiscal accountability' to the Welsh Assembly (by 2012) and a new constitutional settlement for the Assembly (by 2013). This is hugely important and complex transformational stuff. It doesn't lend itself to partisan knockabout. Its serious.

Reason I drove 230 miles to do it was that I want to one of the go-to MPs when the announcements are made. I know I'm in danger of being dismissed as a 'geek' but I'm interested. Two general points I picked up tonight. Firstly, Betsan and Felicity have been genuinely taken aback by the Conservative Party's commitment to make the Welsh Assembly into a meaningful governing body. And secondly, it seems that Welsh Labour's idea of 'financial accountability' it simply to grant the right to levy additional taxes in Wales - not a 'constitutional' issue at all. Just a way of increasing the Welsh Government's budget - without accountability. Well, we'll see what the Commission has to say about that. Anyway, it was much nicer to be there tonight than it was to watch my dear old bull being shot.


Matthew said...

How is being a PPS a burden in discussing how the Welsh government should spend the additional £40m Glyn? I just ask because I heard Cheryl Gillan, David Jones and David Cameron all call for it to be used to freeze council tax?

Glyn Davies said...

Mathew - Not so much the £40 million decision, but the budget priorities in general I'm wary of commenting on. I should also add that Minnsiters set their own rules, a luxury not normally afforded to a PPS. Its also the case that I prefer to leave criticism of the Welsh Government spending plans to the Conservative Assembly Group. I believe that we should work as a team as far as possible.