Christmas reading choice: the draft Wales Bill
- 18 December 2013
- From the section Wales politics
It's that time of the year when newspapers are full of recommendations for gift books and holiday reading.
So here's a possible late addition for your Christmas stocking: the draft Wales Bill. Published at Westminster today, it's only 109 pages long (including a translation and notes). Yours for £20 from the Houses of Parliament shop.
There are few surprises for the anoraks who follow these things. The Bill will more or less enact the recommendations of the Silk commission but includes the controversial "lockstep" that means any future Welsh government won't be able to change an income tax rate in isolation - if it took a penny off the top rate, it would have to take a penny off the standard rate too.
This has the consequences of torpedoing both the Welsh Liberal Democrat idea of a 2p cut in the standard rate and the Welsh Conservative preference for a cut in the 40% higher rate - the latter being the only "realistic" option for a tax cut according to Tories in the National Assembly for Wales.
So bad news for the Westminster coalition parties in Wales, but Secretary of State David Jones told me: "There is a very low tax take from the upper and highest rates of tax in Wales and really to make a difference you do need to change the 20% tax band."
Before that can happen, he is pressing for an early referendum on whether to devolve some control over income tax to Cardiff, a vote the current Welsh government shows little enthusiasm for holding.
Mr Jones also strongly defended the previously-announced reversal of the ban on candidates choosing to stand in both constituencies and on regional lists, despite a Plaid Cymru peer claiming it was to drop the policy.
So what else did we learn today? The Welsh government's borrowing powers will be set at £500m for capital spending and £500m for its current account. The former will be used to help finance major infrastructure projects such as the M4 relief road; the latter is designed to allow the Welsh government to cope with fluctuations in its tax revenues - stamp duty, for which it will become responsible, is notoriously volatile.
Ministers in Cardiff think it's a good start but will be pressing for the limit to be increased as the Bill is scrutinised, a process that will begin in the new year as MPs on the Welsh affairs committee get down to work.
And one more thing. The Welsh assembly government, to use its current legal title, will officially become the Welsh government. No longer will civil servants have to despatch memos warning newer colleagues not to describe the institution as WAG.
With parliament about to go into recess, that's about it from me for 2013. Thank you for reading and contributing to this page during the past year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.