(Title Image: HMRC via Twitter)
This week’s short debate was led by the leader of the Brexit Party group, Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East).
Devolution “shouldn’t be a moving feast”
He started by saying that the fiscal deficit between Wales and the UK was likely to become more obvious as more powers are devolved to Wales, but devolution shouldn’t be “a moving feast” that only moves in one direction – there needed to be clarity over what taxes Wales is responsible for and what Westminister is responsible for, based on consensus.
“One concern I have in this area is the idea that somehow we should tax for taxation’s sake, or we should tax in order to test the devolution machinery, and I first heard this from Mark Drakeford…. Rather than saying, ‘We should tax because we need that tax to fund those particular public services, and this is the best way of getting it,’ it seemed almost as if the tax was seen as a good thing in itself. I understand that some taxes have behavioural impacts. When people talk about a tax on plastic or a tax on vacant land, at least part of the reason for the tax is a desire to change behaviour. But, for me, that is a subsidiary issue to the primary one, of needing tax to fund public services.”
– Mark Reckless AM
He was concerned that a possible vacant land tax would give the impression that business costs in Wals were higher than England and that was part of a wider problem of a lack of vision on what devolved taxes would be used for – particularly when informing the UK Government of the Welsh Government’s intentions.
Bringing decisions closer to the people of Wales
Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), said tax devolution meant that around £5billion of Wales’ running costs are decided in the Senedd and subsequently brought key decisions closer to the people of Wales.
More than two hundred different taxes were suggested to a public call for new devolved tax ideas and a vacant land tax was eventually chosen. The Welsh Government did, however, have a clear vision for taxes
“Taxes should always be as simple and clear and stable as possible, and of course they should link directly and contribute directly to our Well-being of Future Generations Act goal of creating a more equal Wales….But at all points throughout the year we’re really keen to engage with anybody who has an interest in taxes in Wales in order to continue to develop our thinking and explore new ideas, and always seeking to improve the things that we’re already doing.”
– Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans