Wales police devolution: David Hanson warns on challenge

Carwyn Jones has been warned that reducing crime is more important than deciding which government manages the police

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Devolving control of the police to Cardiff would be a major step with many challenges, Labour's shadow policing minister has warned.

Delyn MP David Hanson said reducing crime was more important than deciding which government manages the police.

Conservative Dyfed-Powys Police Commissioner Christopher Salmon said devolving policing was a "power grab".

The Welsh government has called for powers over policing and in the long term the rest of criminal justice.

The UK government said a commission would look at the evidence.

Ministers in Wales' Labour administration made the call in a submission to the Silk Commission, set up by the UK government to make proposals on the future of devolution.

Start Quote

There are some really complex issues around this... which need to be examined in very great detail before such a major step would even be considered to be taken”

End Quote David Hanson Delyn MP and shadow police minister

First Minister Carwyn Jones said on Monday it was "becoming increasingly hard to justify" why the police were the only major public service that was not devolved.

At question time in the Senedd on Tuesday, the first minister was asked whether his call for devolved powers over policing would feature in Labour's 2015 general election manifesto.

He said: "That is something we as a Welsh government would want to see."

Mr Hanson said party policy was being reviewed in time for the next general election by former Met commissioner Lord Stevens.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "I don't want to rule anything in or rule anything out.

"What I'm really interested in is not the organisation that manages police and crime and justice, but actually what it means in terms of delivering crime reduction and justice for people who are victims of crime.

"The Welsh government have yesterday made a pitch for consideration of devolution.

"We'll look at that, but there are some really complex issues around this in relation to serious organised crime, counterterrorism, the legal system, justice, probation, which need to be examined in very great detail before such a major step would even be considered to be taken."

He added: "It isn't just a simple matter of devolving policing to Wales because counter terrorism, serious organised crime, cross-border issues, much of the crime in my part of Wales derives from people who live in England."

Mr Hanson stressed that he was not arguing against the idea: "I'm just saying there are many challenges to this."

Two of Wales' four police commissioners backed the Welsh government's proposal.

The independent North Wales Police Commissioner Winston Roddick said: "The Welsh government is well placed, is it not, to understand the needs and develop laws and policies for Wales and there is an interface between devolved responsibilities, such as community safety and criminal justice, which is critical."

'Lack details'

South Wales Police Commissioner Alun Michael, a former Labour leader of the assembly and an ex-MP, said the commissioners already had regular meetings with Welsh ministers.

Start Quote

It's much more to do with a power grab by political anoraks in Cardiff Bay than it is about what people really need”

End Quote Christopher Salmon Dyfed-Powys Police Commissioner

"This joined-up approach which the Welsh government is setting out is far better - it spells out a vision, and then allows for time to be given to these important details about the practicalities," he said.

Gwent Police Commissioner Ian Johnston, an independent, said that if policing were devolved it must improve services.

"Whilst I appreciate the first minister's comments were part of a submission to the Silk Commission, what is being proposed does lack detail," he said.

"I need more in the way of detail and clarity about how the government's proposals would work before I can make an informed comment on the proposals."

Conservative Dyfed-Powys Police Commissioner Christopher Salmon claimed there was "no real appetite out there" to devolve policing.

"It's much more to do with a power grab by political anoraks in Cardiff Bay than it is about what people really need," he said.

Mr Salmon told Good Morning Wales that police and crime commissioners were elected last year "precisely to bring a greater accountability and greater focus to the fight against crime to local people".

A UK government spokesman said: "The Welsh government has submitted its evidence to the commission and the UK government will submit its own evidence shortly.

"The Silk Commission will consider all the evidence it receives and will make recommendations to the government in spring 2014."

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