The Wales Bill 2014, despite its flaws, will go some way (despite Peter the Pains selective moaning) towards strengthening our fledgling democracy. That said, having read through the draft bill and its amendments I find myself left thinking that the bill remains a missed opportunity when it comes to making devolution work for Wales.
The London based parties having repeatedly and regularly stated that they are committed to further meaningful devolution, yet they have failed to demonstrate any real ambition for Wales. So it comes as no surprise that Labour in Westminster, nominally a party that makes much of its claims to be focused on strengthening the Welsh economy, has tabled nothing but wrecking amendments.
It should have been possible to suggest relatively widely supportive and positive changes which could have delivered some of the tools to do the job of making Wales a more prosperous place. Plaid tabled a wide variety of amendments to improve and strengthen the bill including:
· Devolving control over setting the number of Assembly Members,
· Reforming the UK funding formula which sees Wales lose out on £400m a year, and
· Granting the Welsh Government the power to issue bonds (similar to the Scottish Government).
Most reasonable observers would probably agree that the National Assembly needs more powers to help deliver a sustainable recovery for the Welsh economy and ensure that it becomes a more accountable institution. Whatever is said about the current Wales bill when it is eventually passed it will deliver some more powers, but, nowhere near enough to deliver the real and significant economic change that Wales needs.
Too many powers still remain with Westminster and too many aspects of Welsh people's lives are decided by largely indifferent Westminster based and Westminster focused political parties. We in Wales have to jump through far too many hoops (and there may be many more hoops yet to come) simply to gain the tools needed to deliver for our country economically.
The Wales Bill could have been Labour in Westminster’s opportunity to show its support for devolution. The choice was a simple one either stands up for Wales or supports the Con Dem Government's attempts to dismantle our welfare state, justice system and meddle with other matters that remain controlled from London.