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Independent Commission on Funding and Finance for Wales

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 23 June 2010

3. What recent discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the findings of the Independent Commission on Funding and Finance for Wales. (3034)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has discussed the issue of funding for Wales with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and also met the hon. Gentleman last week to discuss the subject. I hope that the hon. Gentleman found that helpful.

I welcome the Minister and the Secretary of State to their posts.

Notwithstanding the review that has been promised after a successful referendum, there is clear and understandable concern about the difficulties that will be faced in Wales because of the necessary measures being taken to reduce the deficit. Will the Minister commit himself to a dialogue with Gerry Holtham and with Treasury colleagues to ensure that Wales is given a fair deal, given its historic levels of underfunding and the severe pressure put on the Welsh Assembly Government?

The Government are committed to ensuring that Wales is properly funded, but it is clearly right for the Treasury’s energies to be concentrated on tackling the deficit left behind by the Labour party. We will certainly give careful consideration to the Holtham commission’s final report, which is to be published this summer. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already met Mr Holtham, and intends to have further meetings with him.

Do the Minister and the Secretary of State recall that last November the Treasury was persuaded to accept an historic reform ensuring that Wales was not disadvantaged under the Barnett formula? Why are they not ensuring that the agreement to protect the Welsh Budget is implemented? On Barnett, the Chancellor promised on 12 February 2010 to

“move on it pretty quickly, as soon as a new Government is elected.”

How on earth can the Secretary of State and the Minister have allowed that pledge to be dumped in the long grass? Instead of capitulating immediately to savage cuts, why do they not stand up and fight for Wales as their Labour predecessors did?

Having read the so-called pledge that the right hon. Gentleman received from the Treasury, I think it fair to say that it was almost meaningless. As he knows, the Holtham commission is due to report substantively next month. My right hon. Friend and I intend to have further discussions with Mr Holtham, and it would be wrong to pre-empt his decision.