AMs back the Wales Bill

18 January 2017, 10:19 | Updated: 18 January 2017, 10:20

Outside of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay

Welsh Assembly Members have voted to back a bill that will give the country the power to vary income tax rates.

On Tuesday evening, AMs voted to support the Wales Bill, which covers the next stage of devolution, with 38 votes in favour to 17 against.

The Bill will give Wales new powers, but it has been criticised by some parties for potentially taking control away from the Assembly in some areas.

Powers over tax, energy, transport and the Assembly's own affairs including elections will be transferred, but others - such as defence and foreign affairs - will be reserved to Westminster with everything else assumed to be devolved. The bill will also enable the Welsh Government to alter income tax by up to 10p, once the changes are introduced.

Speaking during a debate in the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, First Minister Carwyn Jones recommended AMs vote for the Bill, saying that it was “unsatisfactory” in certain areas but moved ahead in others; he said the decision for the Labour Party, which is the largest party in the Assembly with 29 out of 60 seats, to support the Bill “hadn't been easy”.

The party voted on Monday to back the legislation. The Conservatives also supported the Bill, while Ukip and Plaid Cymru said they would vote against it but for different reasons.

Plaid Cymru described the Bill as a “significant roll-back of powers to Westminster” that was “forcing the National Assembly to choose between a bad Bill and no Bill”.

Ukip opposed the Bill because it devolved income tax without a referendum.

Speaking before the vote, chair of the Plaid Cymru Assembly group, Dr Dai Lloyd AM, said:

“While the Wales Bill may deliver a fair fiscal framework, this should never have been conditional upon a deeply flawed Bill which simultaneously takes powers away from our National Assembly.

If this legislation passes, the debate must immediately move on to focus on the real empowerment of the Assembly with responsibility over areas such as justice, policing, and welfare.

The days of Wales gratefully accepting crumbs from Westminster's table must end.”

Commenting ahead of the vote, Conservative AM David Melding said the Bill was a landmark piece of legislation for Wales which will offer the National Assembly increased powers, permanence, greater accountability and fiscal stability.

He said:

“Wales can move forward with a stronger devolution settlement which will give the Assembly and the Welsh Government the scope to meet the political challenges ahead.

We now have an opportunity to move on from constitutional affairs. The Welsh Labour-led Government must now focus on making best use of the tools at its disposal and deliver for Welsh communities: creating jobs, delivering efficient public services, and investing in the skills and entrepreneurship of the Welsh people.”

Following the vote, Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales said:

“The people of Wales and their devolved Government are now on track to get more say over the everyday decisions in their lives. This has been a historic debate, and I thank Assembly Members for supporting the new devolution settlement for Wales.

Few pieces of legislation have been more widely consulted on than the Wales Bill. We have listened to the comments and concerns expressed and have made changes to improve the legislation. The result is a settlement for Wales which will allow the Assembly to call itself a Parliament and stand shoulder to shoulder with devolved administrations across the world.”

The Wales Bill will complete its passage in the House of Lords on Wednesday and is expected to gain Royal Assent early next month.