Belfast Telegraph

People 'must rebuild' the union

"Home rule" must be extended to Wales and Northern Ireland in the wake of Westminster's promise of further devolution to Scotland, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has said.

Mr Jones said the promise by party leaders David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to give Scotland further tax and spending powers alongside a more powerful parliament must now be offered to Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Labour First Minister warned that nationalist views held by the likes of supporters of the Scottish National Party, the UK Independence Party and Plaid Cymru will "harden" if Westminster fails to "refound the UK".

Mr Jones told the Labour Party conference in Manchester: "The future we promised to Scotland must be delivered - an equal share of resources, a seat at the table, a powerful Parliament - that must be offered to Wales and Northern Ireland too.

"Not just home rule for Scotland, but home rule all round.

"We can deliver a fair, better Britain together with a modern structure of government.

"Only Labour, with its representation in Wales and Scotland too can do this.

"We should never forget we win power in order to pass it back to our people.

"The establishment almost lost the union, the people of these nations must now rebuild it."

Mr Jones pointed out that not all SNP, Ukip or Plaid voters held nationalist views but were instead turned off the main political parties as they think politics cannot get any worse.

He called for a constitutional convention on devolution, saying the Prime Minister's "panicky" responses designed to placate the Tory right and Ukip leader Nigel Farage will not change these voters' mind.

Mr Jones said: "These causes and parties are finding support because too many people are simply fed up of what they see as the status quo. Too many people think things, and politics in particular, can't get any worse.

"Those people, to recall Archie Macpherson's great speech in the Scotland campaign, who said 'you know, I think I will try a yes' - people willing to 'try' independence.

"Some because they thought 'what's the worst that could happen?' And others because they felt, in their lives, the worst was already happening.

"That view will just harden if we, as a party, fail to honour our promise to refound the UK in a way that ensures the strong identities of our nations are recognised within a common bond of solidarity.

"I don't want to see anymore panicky responses from David Cameron to placate the ranting right in his own party, and the narrow nationalism of Nigel Farage.

"The Union has suffered a serious injury and a sticking plaster won't do."

Meanwhile shadow Welsh secretary Owen Smith dismissed Mr Cameron's proposals to restrict the voting rights of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons in an attempt to deliver "English votes for English laws" as a "tawdry trick" to placate Tory backbenchers.

The Labour MP said: "Devolution is not an end in itself but it can be a means to an end.

"A means to revitalise faith in politics and protect the gains we make when Labour governments secure progress.

"So instead of some tawdry trick to buy off backbench critics with the back of a fag packet, back room Balkanisation of Parliament and a purge of Welsh, Scottish and Irish influence, David Cameron should heed the words of Carwyn Jones & Ed Miliband and call a constitutional convention to forge a new union for Britain.

"Because we're not going to stand by and let Cameron short-change the Scots or deny power to the people of this city and others across England.

"And I'm certainly not going to stand by and let this, or any other Tory prime minister, silence Welsh voices at Westminster."

Conservative Guto Bebb, MP for Aberconwy, told BBC Radio 4's the World at One: "Clearly one of the concerns I have is the fact that the Barnett Formula, which is highlighted as being unfair to England but very generous to Scotland, is not particularly fair in a Welsh context.

"I think every single party in Wales has accepted the fact that on a needs basis, Wales would receive more - some £300 million more - than we do under the Barnett Formula.

"Now, we've accepted the arguments that we can't deal with that issue until we've dealt with the deficit.

"But in view of the promises made to maintain the current level of spending in Scotland, I think we need to address the needs of areas such as Wales and indeed areas such as the North East of England, which on a needs basis is comparatively under funded when compared with Scotland."

He said the timetable outlined in the vow to Scotland needed to be met, adding : "To fail to meet the timetable would result in many people in Scotland who voted No feeling rightly that they have been sold a pup and I think we do need to try and ensure we deliver a new deal for Scotland as promised."

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