Policing powers 'should be devolved' to Wales - first minister

Decisions affecting Wales should be taken in Wales, said the first minister

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First Minister Carwyn Jones has called for powers over policing to be devolved to Wales.

Mr Jones was unveiling the Welsh government's vision for Wales under devolution.

His administration's submission to the Silk Commission, which is looking at the scope of the Welsh Assembly's remit, says devolution needed to be "enhanced and restructured".

Decisions affecting Wales should be taken in Wales, he said.

The Welsh government admitted for the first time that in the "long term" it would also like to see criminal justice devolved to Wales.

But while it wants control over large scale energy projects, it is not seeking powers in regard to nuclear energy.

'Strengthen accountability'

Mr Jones said: "Decisions that affect Wales should be taken in Wales.

The first minister emphasised that policing and criminal justice are now "the only mainstream public services which are not devolved to Wales", and that this status quo "is becoming increasingly hard to justify."

Powers over criminal justice would include the courts prisons and probation, as well as the establishment of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction. As part of the preparations for this, Mr Jones called for the appointment of a Welsh member of the Supreme Court.

He also called for a new Government of Wales Act "in order to strengthen accountability, and reduce the scope for conflict between the Welsh and UK Governments."

This call for a reassessment of the scope of devolution comes less than two years since a referendum on the assembly's powers was held.

Devolved taxes

Start Quote

It is better late than never that the first minister has finally caught up and called for proper powers for our National Assembly, but the question is, does his party back his position?"”

End Quote Kirsty Williams Welsh Lib Dems

Since the 2011 referendum, the assembly has had primary law making powers in 20 different areas of government in Wales.

But Mr Jones told journalists that he wanted to see extra powers being devolved not only on policing, community safety and crime prevention - but also on water, ports, road safety (including speed and drink drive limits), alcohol and late night entertainment licensing, as well as the administration of elections.

The Welsh government also backed the recommendation of the Silk Commission's previous report, which would allow the assembly to legislate on a range of devolved taxes.

According to Mr Jones, these additional powers should be devolved by 2020/21 as part of a wider reform of the UK Constitution, with the intention that these would allow the Welsh government to improve the quality of life for the people of Wales.

Responding to the Welsh Government's submission, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams asked whether Mr Jones had the full backing of the Labour party for the proposals.

'Proper parliament'

Start Quote

The question is not just of which powers should be transferred to Wales, but when they should be transferred”

End Quote Spokesperson Plaid Cymru

"It is better late than never that the first minister has finally caught up and called for proper powers for our National Assembly, but the question is, does his party back his position?"

She said that her party had been calling for enhanced powers for a number of years.

"If Labour had listened to recommendations from the Richard Commission, which called for a significant amount of what the first minister is now proposing, we would be much further along the journey of having a proper parliament for Wales.

"It is disappointing that the Welsh Labour Government didn't declare these proposals earlier, rather than conveniently finding a voice once their party was no longer in power in Westminster."

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said: ""While we are pleased with the direction of travel from the Welsh Government, this is very much a slow lane approach that would still leave the major levers of power at Westminster.

Vision

Start Quote

The plans from the Welsh government give a vision for the long term, and allow for any consideration of the practicalities of how it will work”

End Quote Alun Michael South Wales Police Commissioner

"The question is not just of which powers should be transferred to Wales, but when they should be transferred."

However, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael welcomed Mr Jones's proposals as "a very joined-up approach to public policy".

"Policing, community safety and reduction of offending are integrally bound up with other areas of public policy including education, economic development, health and local government, all of which lie with Welsh government.

"The plans from the Welsh government give a vision for the long term, and allow for any consideration of the practicalities of how it will work."

In addition, the Welsh government wants to see a shorter timescale for devolving powers relating to rail services and infrastructure, and also wants responsibilities for the appointment of the Welsh member of the BBC Trust as well as the chair and members of the S4C Authority.

The Welsh Government makes clear that any transfer of extra powers would need to be accompanied by full budget transfers from the Treasury, but that no further referendum would be required for any of their proposals to take effect.

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