Wales politics

David Cameron urges reform of Welsh public services

David Cameron has urged members of the Welsh assembly to modernise public services.

He said Wales's devolved administration should follow the UK government's attempt to end a "state monopoly" over public services.

The prime minister said "more open public services" could improve lives in Wales, as they would in England.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the call was "not the wisest" part of Mr Cameron's speech to the assembly.

Speaking in the Senedd's chamber on Tuesday, Mr Cameron said the direct law-making powers won by the assembly in a referendum in March had given the institution "immense responsibility" to improve people's lives.

Bureaucracy

But Mr Cameron added that some public services in Wales were "too bureaucratic to deliver those improvements".

He said: "Let me be clear: it is not my intention to interfere in decisions over devolved matters.

"But it is my duty to give my opinion where I feel it could benefit the Welsh people."

The prime minister's appeal for reform is unlikely to be taken up by Welsh Labour which has declined to follow a number of public service policies pursued by the Westminster coalition and the previous UK Labour government.

"I believe now is the time to modernise our public services - and in England, that is what we're doing," he said.

Mr Cameron said the UK government was opening services to new providers, offering more choice over schools and hospitals, and making the system more transparent - reforms that would "revolutionise public services in England and improve lives", he said.

Image caption David Cameron and Nick Clegg met Carwyn Jones at the Senedd

"I also believe that more open public services could do the same in Wales," he added.

His speech provided few details about a commission into the way the Welsh Government is funded, promised as part of the coalition deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

He appealed to all political parties to seek consensus on the matter.

The Welsh Government wants the formula that sets its budget - currently about £15bn - to be reformed, along with powers to borrow money and control over some taxes.

It is braced for a real-terms cut in its capital budget of 40% over the next four years.

'Lecture'

Asked about the passage of Mr Cameron's speech that dealt with public services, Mr Jones said: "I think that was not the wisest part of the speech. It would be the equivalent of me going and lecturing the UK cabinet on where they are going wrong.

"He and I will disagree on a number of things of course, that's democracy.

"I welcomed the element in his speech that talked about setting up a commission. It's important now that work is carried on at the Whitehall end to make sure that commission begins as soon as possible in the autumn."

Mr Jones hailed a "very good meeting" with Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in Cardiff Bay earlier in the day.

The UK cabinet then met at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant where Mr Cameron denied the UK government was dragging its feet on any announcement about the commission.

Plaid Cymru said details of the UK government's commission were overdue.

Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "The Tory-Lib Dem coalition has been in government in Westminster for over a year but we still don't have any more clarity on this issue."

A Tory AM accused Labour and Plaid of giving Mr Cameron a frosty reception.

Janet Finch-Saunders said the "heckling" of some Plaid members and a lack of applause from the Labour benches was "immature" and "embarrassing".

"I was appalled at the rude behaviour by some assembly members during - and following - the prime minister's address," she said.

More on this story