Friday, 25 July 2008

Changing Times

When I was a lad, the Conservatives were in favour of smaller government, lower taxes and reduced public spending.

Things have changed, although earlier this month, the former Welsh Office Minister Lord Roberts suggested to BBC Wales that a future Conservative government should cut spending, although his comments may have been lost during my futile journey to discover Tory policy on devolution.

Today, Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne has suggested the formula which effectively decides the level of much public spending in Wales should be replaced with "some updated needs-based top up grant". That would presumably increase public spending in Wales, although he doesn't say whether that would be financed by a cut in spending in Scotland or England.

For all the fuss about the formula in Wales, the strongest pressure for a review comes from England, which perhaps should worry politicians west of Offa's Dyke. Check out how the Northern Echo reported an inquiry into the issue for one English perspective. The debate's still raging on the (London) Evening Standard website.

Lord Roberts will have been chuffed to learn that David Cameron has promised to publish his review of devolution policy when he receives the final report (the interim version was submitted recently).

It's slightly confusing to simple hacks like me why the Tories are reviewing their policy on devolution when their MPs have been promised a free vote on the conclusion.

Never mind, let's just hope Mr Cameron didn't leave his copy of the Roberts review on the back of his bike.

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