Wales politics

David Davies MP likens UK to Titanic after hearing from devolution commission

David Davies MP
Image caption David Davies said the UK had been "holed below the waterline"

A Welsh MP has likened damage to the United Kingdom to the Titanic and claimed it is now "just a question of how long it takes to sink".

David Davies, chairman of the Welsh Affairs committee, made the claim after taking evidence from a commission looking at possibly devolving more powers to Wales.

Mr Davies raised fears about its impartiality.

Commission chairman Paul Silk said they would hear from sceptical voices.

The Commission on Devolution in Wales is examining how the Welsh government is funded and whether it should control some taxes.

But Monmouth Conservative MP Mr Davies told Mr Silk the commission should write its report calling for further devolution now and save taxpayers the £1m cost.

Of the 450 individuals and organisations that have been asked to give evidence to the commission, the "majority" will "be on record as favouring more powers" for the assembly, Mr Davies claimed.

"Could I suggest we could save £1m by you issuing a report now calling for lots of extra powers for the Welsh Assembly, which is inevitably going to happen anyway," he added.

Outside the committee Mr Davies went further, telling reporters "the UK is like the Titanic" and claiming it is "holed below the waterline".

He added: "It's just a question of how long it takes to sink."

Mr Silk insisted consultees had not been "chosen on that basis" but conceded there were difficulties in finding groups that opposed further devolution - a problem that had been highlighted in the 2011 referendum on law making powers.

Image caption Paul Silk is chairing an inquiry into how the Welsh government is funded

He told MPs: "I think one of the problems at the time of the referendum was that there wasn't a body speaking speaking on behalf of the no campaign in the way in which there were bodies speaking for the yes campaign.

"I'm sure you are right that that is something that will, in a sense, be replicated in the evidence that is given to us because there aren't - other than True Wales - representative bodies of sceptics of the devolution process.

"But we have written to all elected members in Wales and there are certainly some sceptics among those."

Mr Silk told MPs he will not take a "Soviet approach" to running the committee and there would be room for dissenting voices.

He conceded his commission could conclude that too many powers have been devolved to Wales.

The Scotland Bill currently going through parliament is giving some powers back to Westminster.

The Silk Commission will visit Scotland at the beginning of April and the three members appearing before the Commons' Welsh Affairs Committee on Tuesday - Mr Silk, Noel Lloyd and Dyfrig Jones - said they would be "following" what's happening in Scotland.

But Mr Silk, a former clerk to the assembly, told the committee that they would not "ape what's happening in Scotland as it might not be relevant to Wales".

Experts

The commission was promised as part of the Westminster coalition deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Invitations to submit evidence by the closing date of 3 February have gone to 450 individuals and interest groups.

The UK government has said the devolved administration must be "more accountable" for the money it spends. At present it cannot raise taxes and only spends what it receives through an annual block grant from the Treasury.

Mr Davies encouraged the commission to take evidence from experts who have knowledge of countries where things have "gone wrong" after they were given further fiscal powers. Mr Silk said he would welcome such evidence.

All four main political parties have signed up to the Silk Commission, but Conservative MP Guto Bebb asked how representative the commission's membership will be.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites