The government has announced a fiscal framework for Wales, with the Welsh government getting powers to vary income tax rates in Wales from April 2019 without the need for referendum. As the Press Association reports, the Welsh government will be able to alter the levy by up to 10 pence once the changes are introduced. It will also be able to invest more money in infrastructure after its borrowing cap was doubled to £1bn.
Alun Cairns, the Welsh secretary, said:
Agreement on the fiscal framework is a significant milestone in the Welsh devolution journey. It lies at the heart of the Wales bill’s determination to provide secure long-term funding for the Welsh government and give Cardiff Bay greater visibility when looking at spending decisions.
We have worked hard to arrive at a deal to provide the Welsh Government with a clear financial structure with which it can push on with improving the Welsh economy. This framework underlines the mature relationship between Westminster and Cardiff as we move closer to agreeing a lasting settlement for the people of Wales.
For some days now the government has been under pressure from some Conservative MPs to toughen up the laws on public sector strikes, in the light of the Southern rail dispute in particular. As the Guardian reports this morning, Number 10 is currently resisting these calls.
Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South and one of the key figures pushing for tighter legislation, was on Today programme earlier. He called for a new law saying strikes would only be allowed on critical infrastructure like rail services if a high court judge decided that a walkout was “reasonable and proportionate” and if companies could continue to provide a 50% service. He went on:
I completely accept the right of people to strike but it has to be reasonable and proportionate and it can’t inflict pain on the public that goes beyond the complaint.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, told the programme that the UK already had some of the world’s toughest union laws and that tightening them would put all the power in the hands of “bad employers”.
The Commons is just sitting today and tomorrow before going into recess for the Christmas break. That means we don’t get PMQs this week. But we do get a double dose of Theresa May, because the prime minister is giving a Commons statement this afternoon on last week’s EU summit before giving evidence to the liaison committee tomorrow afternoon. Thursday’s summit was a relatively dull one, and Britain’s departure from the EU wasn’t officially on the agenda, but Brexit is the black hole of British politics, sucking in everything else through its immense gravitational pull, and this afternoon’s statement may well end up being a Brexit Q&A.
Yesterday Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, suggested that the UK could remain a partial member of the EU customs union. This morning on the Today programme a trade expert questioned that. Sir Andrew Cahn, the former chief executive of UK Trade and Investment and a former adviser to a former adviser to Lord Cockfield, the Conservative European commissioner who helped to create the single market in the 1980s, said the EU would not allow Britain to “cherry-pick” certain industries that could continue enjoying tariff-free trade in the customs union after Brexit. Fox suggested that the UK could be partially in the customs union like Turkey. Cahn said that Turkey’s trade deal with the EU did not include agriculture and services, and that agriculture was often a special case in trade deals. But he went on:
What I think is more difficult to contemplate is the idea that you have cars inside but some sort of widgets outside.
The idea is that cars which we care about, aerospace which we care about, financial services which we care about, wouldn’t it be great if they were in the customs union.
Would that be legal under the WTO (World Trade Organisation)? I doubt, even if we got away with it I don’t think the EU side would be prepared to do it – why would they allow us to cherry-pick?
Here is the agenda for the day.
11am: Number 10 lobby briefing.
1.30pm: Priti Patel, the international development secretary, gives evidence to the Commons international development committee.
3.30pm: Theresa May is due to give a Commons statement on last week’s EU summit.
Around 5pm: Liz Truss, the justice secretary, is due to give a Commons statement on the Birmingham prison riot.
As usual, I will also be covering the breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another in the afternoon.
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