What a Welsh "Calman Commission" will mean for devolution and for Wales


By Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

In the past year of the ConDem coalition they have said much about a Calman-like process for Wales, that is, a discussion on further Welsh devolution along similar lines to the Calman Commission in Scotland which has led to the Scotland Bill that is currently passing through the Westminster Parliament.
We are disappointed that the ConDems consider this the best way forward for the debate in Wales, especially considering the self-evident flaws in the Calman Commission and its aftermath.
Unlike the independent Holtham Commission established by Plaid as part of the One Wales Government, Calman was always a political vehicle.
Rejecting even the discussion of Scottish independence in its brief, it was an example of how London-based parties believed they could throw their weight around and ignore Scottish popular opinion.
It remains incredible that a debate on devolution in Scotland could take place without the party in government in the Scottish Parliament.
Nevertheless, the Calman commission, consisting largely of political placemen rather than independent experts who made up Holtham, met and reported and their findings were largely wrapped up in the Scotland Bill.
The Bill can be expressed in two parts – those that deal with specific financial issues for Scotland and those that deal with minor changes in the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP attempted to make a series of changes to the Bill as it passed through its early stages at Westminster but were rebuffed by the ConDems and Labour.
Now, though, the game has changed with an SNP majority and the possibility of the Scottish Parliament rejecting the Bill, under the Sewel Convention, before it reaches Royal Assent.
The question for us in Wales is why the ConDems seek to inflict upon us a partisan political process developed by the unionist parties as the next stage in Welsh devolution.
There are many unanswered questions in Wales – our idea of Welsh devolution, and eventually independence, is already so much more than anything offered or understood by Labour – which is why we must look at devolving financial powers, our natural resources, policing and criminal justice and broadcasting in this next stage.
However, with Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, not insisting on Barnett reform as a pre-condition of our Calman-like commission, we must be very wary of a political fix which will be used by the London-based parties to neuter our hard-won powers and responsibility here in Wales.
A debate which does not get to the heart of issues in Wales is not a debate to waste our time upon.
Unlike the original Calman commission, ours must be fair, open, transparent and independent of political influence.