Silk’s first report: still no response

25 September 2013

On Wednesday, 25 September, the Assembly will debate a Plaid Cymru motion on the Silk Commission, part of which expresses concern at the UK Government’s delay in responding to the Silk Commission’s first report.

Almost a year since that report was published there has been no indication from the UK Government as to how Silk’s recommendations will be taken forward, if at all. A formal response to Silk was expected by the UK Government in spring of this year, and despite indications from the Secretary of State for Wales on 24 June 2013 that an announcement would be made ‘in the very near future’, nothing has yet materialised.

Speculation about the timing and content of the response was put on hold over the summer, following the launch of a consultation by HM Treasury on the proposed devolution of Stamp Duty Land Tax, which came, according to the UK Government, in light of industry concerns about the Silk Commission’s proposal.Speaking shortly after that consultation closed on 10 September, however, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Nick Clegg MP, indicated that a response was not forthcoming. He said that while he supported the blueprint of further devolution recommended by Silk, it was ‘not an opinion universally shared in government’. He added that ‘I’m still seeking to persuade my Conservative colleagues and others that this is a sensible step to take’.

These comments were followed on 17 September, by calls from the First Minister for the UK Government to respond positively to the Silk Commission’s report. Speaking in the context of next year’s Scottish independence referendum, he stated that the full implementation of the Silk Commission’s proposals on tax devolution and borrowing powers for Wales would send a clear signal to Scotland and would enable him to make a strong case for the Union.

Should the UK Government wish to implement some or all of the Silk Commission’s recommendations, however, parliamentary time at Westminster is scarce. A draft Wales Bill on the Assembly’s electoral arrangements – which the Secretary of State for Wales has indicated could include some of Silk’s provisions – is due to be published before the end of the current parliamentary session in March next year. However, whether time will be made available in the UK Government’s legislative programme for 2014-15 to introduce such a Bill, in order to turn such proposals into law, remains to be seen.

Article written by Owain Roberts.