Friday, 1 November 2013

Gwent levels under threat again

Top of priorities for Carwyn Jones, First Minister, is to resurrect the scheme to build a new section of the M4 motorway, bypassing Newport. He hopes to be able to do this through the borrowing powers which have been promised by David Cameron and Nick Clegg in their long-delayed response to Pt 1 of the Silk Commission Report (pdf here).

Apart from my worries about the scheme in itself (the environmental damage, the irrelevance to Wales as a whole), I am concerned about allowing the devolved government the power to borrow, especially as it is likely to be dominated by Labour for the foreseeable future - and we know what Labour did to UK borrowing when in Westminster. The major cause of the Spanish economic crash was not (as it was in London) a failure to regulate their central banks, but the over-extension by local banks on the back of a splurge by local regional governments.

I do welcome the devolution of some minor taxes and the possibility of varying income tax. The latter would bring us into line with Scotland. However, a BBC political correspondent suggested today that Mr Jones is not so keen on this. I can foresee the response by many in the House of Commons (and not all on the Conservative side) to this stance when the enabling measure comes before parliament, that Wales will beg or borrow but not take responsibility for raising extra cash from its citizens.

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