As a former housing benefit claimant, I must say how disgusted I am George Osborne has not introduced a mansion tax, and call on Carwyn Jones to use Wales’ primary powers over council tax to do so.
With Housing Benefit, there are things that can stop you getting it or reduce the amount you get. These include the number of empty rooms you have, and whether you or your family have income from trusts, or whether your home is owned by a relative or employer.
The same rules that restrict the type of house a poor person can have should be applied to determine which properties MPs can claim for as “second homes” and to determine the “surplus” housing landowners have, so they pay more tax for excesses in the same way the poor are docked benefit.
The Assembly has the power to change the rules on council tax. It could make people who have unused properties pay higher council tax, creating a de-facto mansion tax. It could enhance councils’ compulsory purchase powers to force landowners to sell properties they are not using.
Dr Kim Howells always warned, “primary powers means tax raising powers.” I’d hate for him to be wrong!
As a former Housing Benefit claimant, I must write to say how disgusted I am that George Osborne has not introduced a mansion tax, and call on Carwyn Jones to use Wales’s primary powers over council tax to do so.
With Housing Benefit, there are a number of things that can stop you getting it or reduce the amount you can get. These include the number of empty rooms you have, and whether you or your family have income from trusts, or whether your home is owned by a relative or employer.
The same rules that restrict the type of house a poor person can have should be applied to determine which properties MPs can claim for as a ‘second home,’ and also to determine the ‘surplus’ housing landowners have, so they pay more tax for excesses in the same way the poor are docked benefit.
The Assembly has the power to change the rules around how council tax is set. It could therefore make people who have unused properties pay a higher council tax and therefore create a de-facto mansion tax. It could even enhance a council’s compulsory purchase powers to force landowners to sell properties they are not using.
Rt Hon Dr Kim Howells always warned, “primary powers means tax raising powers.” I’d hate for him to be wrong!
I have challenge the conclusions of Cllr Mike Powell about Leighton Andrews’s scrapping of region education consortia two months after founding them as evidence of a knee-jerk reaction in the Pontypridd Observer (Your views, December 6).
As a former Labour Party member in Pontypridd and a scientist I have to say Mr Andrews’s approach is a refreshing change. Mr Andrew’s has ideologies like nearly all politicians but has shown he is willing to respond to evidence if they don’t work as planned. In my 14 years as a member of the Labour Party, I met few people willing to be evidence driven. I was gulled like most people that Tony Blair’s Labour Party would be pragmatic in government – in most cases it was not.
Anyone who runs a business knows that if you are trying something and it doesn’t work, you need to try something else in order to be successful. Leighton Andrews deserves respect for admitting he made an error from my point of view and not criticism.
Being a “four-nation Briton” I think Carwyn Jones’ view that the current constitutional settlement is no longer sustainable is absolutely correct (“Carwyn Jones: Referendum deal proves UK status quo ‘unsustainable’“, Oct 16).
If one considers that the Welsh Government’s powers to make English and Welsh equal in the Assembly were challenged by the Welsh Office recently then a “devo-max” outcome is what is needed as a minimum.
I’m not convinced, however, with the conclusion that to have a united Britain requires the United Kingdom. Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg exist quite peacefully within the European Union as independent sovereign states, why can’t the four British nations do the same? From a constitutional point of view I think independence for Wales is the right thing to do in theory, even though I expect it would not be what I would like in practice.
An independent Wales would no doubt be run by the same state socialists it is now, meaning we would be constantly relying on the EU for hand-outs. But that is the price of true democracy – which is to govern ourselves.
My name is Jonathan Bishop. I have specific needs which if not accommodated, mean I can’t take part in education like others. Since I was at primary school I have either had a ‘SEN statement‘ or when at university a ‘needs assessment.‘ These have meant my specific needs have been accommodated. I now have 4 degrees, and have over 40 publications, one of them a book called, ‘Didactic strategies and technologies for education, incorporating advancements,’ which shows pioneering ways to advance education.
I would like every child to have the best education for them based on their individual needs like I had. They need not have any so called ‘disability,‘ but each child is different and needs to be treated differently. There is never a ‘best school’ only ever a best school for one’s child. But there is the problem that the best school for one’s child is unlikely to be in the same area as where they live.
Having a medical condition, when I was at primary school age I was able to go to a school outside my catchment area, and I progressed well.
All too often, the only time one’s child can go to the ‘best school for them’ is if you happen to be rich enough to move to an area where that best school is. Starting in Wales I think this postcode lottery should end. And to do this I have started the following petition on the Welsh Assembly Petition website – please sign it:
We the parents and guardians, school governors and teachers, and grandparents and Godparents of Wales call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to amend its guidance on schools admissions to end the postcode lottery in education in our country that stops every child being able to go to the best school for them.
We object to the fact that only rich parents children can go to the schools in areas where high property prices means the poor have to get what they are given elsewhere. It should not matter where in Wales our children are born or live, as they should be allowed to go to the best school for their needs so they get the best chance in life. Catchment areas should be removed and school selection policies based entirely on what is best for our children and not any other discriminating factor, such as how wealthy a child’s parents are, or what their religious beliefs happen to be. Supporting Information: Policies of choice in compulsory education have all but been eroded in Wales. How well our children do depends a lot on whether we can afford to live in an area with a school that is best for them, because of catchment area. We believe if these were removed then every child could have the best chance in life, and not just those with rich parents.
I think this is very important for the people in Wales to sign. We do not need to privatise education in order for every child to get the best outcome. We just need to ensure that the state schools that exist select children on the basis of whether they can provide the best education to that child, and not whether their parents happen to be rich enough to live in the area where that school is based. The petition to sign is on the Welsh Assembly’s petition website.
The Chair of the conference opened the debate, describing the Better Governance for Wales document as a “blueprint for
taking devolution forward” and said that whether it is the correct solution can be tested by whether it will improve the lives of people in Wales and whether it will deliver better public services.
Rhodri Morgan thanked delegates for taking part in the consultation that led to the document, citing Oscar Wilde, “the trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings”. He said that the conclusions that can be drawn from the
document is that the legislative powers of the Assembly should be enhanced, indicating that there should be greater capacity to make legislation in devolved areas.
Rhodri said that the status quo is not strong enough to deliver for the people of Wales, pointing out that under the current “legislative log jam in Westminster” only two out of three Bills get through Parliament because of the lack of time,suggesting that devolving primary legislative powers to the Assembly would remove a burden on Westminster. I think this is a strong and convincing argument for devolving primary legislative powers.
Rhodri also said that the Assembly is “delivering on democratising the quango state”, something which the TGWU delegate said was a “truly socialist step”. Ken Hopkins pointed out that democratising the quangos meant that the budget that the Assembly would be responsible for would be greater and therefore more Assembly Members would be needed.
There seemed to be a lot of support for an eighty member Assembly, particularly one that is made up of forty men and forty women, a proposal put by Ken Hopkins in his submission to the Richard Commission.
The other issue that seemed to receive a lot of support from delegates was that it should not be possible for candidates to lose in the first past the post election and win on the list system. Pat Brunker said that “it is an abuse of democracy to offer people two bites of the cherry” and as another delegate put it, “losers should not become winners”.
There seemed to be a strong support for retaining the first-past-the-post method as opposed to proportional representation (PR). There did not seem to be an appetite for the Single Transferable Votes system, which I got the impression many thought was PR method, when it is in fact a fairer form of first-past-the-post that still ties elected representatives to constituencies. This method of election is used within the National Union of Students and students young and old seem to understand how it works.
Peter Hain concluded the debate, saying that his position had to changed on whether there needs to be a referendum, indicating that he now believes it is necessary to have one. I think after listening to the arguments for primary legislative powers, my position has now changed in support of them in principle, but I think a lot needs to be addressed for it to work in practice.
Speaking to people after the debate raised several questions:
- What should happen to ensure that a Bill is properly scrutinised?
- Should the Assembly be able to repeal legislation?
- What can be done to ensure that the Conservatives do not get rid of the Assembly?
- Why is it that local councils have tax-varying powers but the Assembly does not?
I don’t know about other readers, but I am fed up of hearing people talk down the Assembly’s powers.
The truth is that the Welsh Assembly is a Parliament in all but name. It has the same “legislative competence” arrangements as the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly since May 2011 in reality.
The difference is we have a constitutional anomaly that Scotland doesn’t. That is, UK constitutional law recognises, in precedent, Scotland as having its own legal system. This needs to be decided for Wales, most likely by judicial review.
As a director of three limited companies and a self-employed contractor, who also now believes in Wales having its own legal jurisdiction, I will begin doing something to speed it up, and suggest others do as well.
The “governing law” part of my contracts, as on my websites, now say they will be “governed by and construed exclusively in accordance with the laws of Wales and England & Wales, with primacy being given to the former.”
I also ensure I include the text “should one part of this agreement not be enforceable it does not affect the enforceability of any other part.”
This would mean a decision might have to be made on the enforceability of the reference to the laws of Wales, yet the contract would still be valid if it wasn’t.
If judges ruled that Welsh law was enforceable over English and Welsh law, then Wales would have a legal system equal, or even more equal, than Scotland’s.
Should people who go on drunken spates of abuse face jail terms? If you are a Welsh Assembly member the answer is no, but if you’re a young and inexperienced student the answer seems to be yes.
The reports that Liam Stacey is to face disciplinary action on top of his jail term for his drunken actions on YouTube filled me with disgust (‘Jailed online troll will face university’s panel’, May 13).
Liam Stacey was suspended from Swansea University following posting racist abuse when challenged on Twitter, and he now also has a criminal record. Yet Welsh Assembly member Keith Davies, who had a ‘real-world’ equivalent drunken episode at St David’s Hotel in Cardiff has only had to apologise.
There is probably not a student in the country who has not acted in an offensive manner when under the influence of alcohol, yet when our elected representatives do it, they are somehow above the law. It does not seem fair to me – if some people under a code of conduct have an opt-out of the criminal justice system then so should all, including students like Liam Stacey.
With Simon Thomas dropping out of the Plaid leadership contest to support Elin Jones (Western Mail, February 6), the campaign should have become less of a one-horse race that Leanne Wood was guaranteed to win, but reading Elin’s “vision” on her website disappoints me.
Elin talks Wales down from the start, feeling she has to justify we are a nation.
She says our legal system is not a separate jurisdiction, that we can only legislate in a small number of areas, and that we have no tax-raising powers so are therefore a “quandary” with no “power and status”.
As a Master of Laws, I’d argue all of these are wrong. Since last May, Welsh laws have to receive Royal Assent from the Queen, which means that it is only a matter of time before a conflict between ‘Welsh law’ and ‘English and Welsh’ exists before the Supreme Court will have to determine whether Welsh law is to be treated on par with Scottish law.
In terms of tax-raising powers, the Assembly does have those. It can pass any law it wants on local government providing it doesn”t take away their law enforcement and civic responsibilities. This means it could decide to set council tax on a Wales-wide basis and order the local authorities to pay the tax they collect through the precept directly to the Welsh Government.
The Assembly is now a Parliament in all but name. Primary legislative powers are just that, and Elin needs to move with the times.