Political boffin, keen fisherman looking forward to retirement.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Contradictions of Huw Lewis

As Huw Lewis has been gagged by Rhodri Morgan until the future make up of government in Wales is sorted, I thought I may as well stick the boot in. For many months Plaid's Leanne Wood and Huw have been skirmishing over Labour's claim that they can end child poverty from within the current remit of the Assembly. It was due to be the flagship Labour pledge of last months election, before they realised that everybody else knew they couldn't deliver.

Interesting therefore to see Rhodri Morgan push the fight against child poverty right up the agenda for the Third Assembly, which brought this swift response from Alan Trench. For those of you unaccustomed with Mr Trench he is a senior research fellow at University College London's Constitution Unit. He is reported today in the Western Mail as saying:

"The child poverty stuff is pretty nebulous, with most of the power to make improvements lying with non-devolved departments like Work and Pensions and the Treasury, although it is possible for the Assembly to tinker at the edges with initiatives like free school breakfasts.....The fact is, though, that in terms of really tackling child poverty Wales doesn't have the powers or the money."

which is more or less the point Leanne has been making - ie that control over the benefits system and primarily the ability to redistribute wealth is the key to tackling child poverty.

This is Huw Lewis' primary policy area of concern. I wouldn't want to question his sincerity without knowing him, but if this is his major policy area then he would have to come to the conclusion that Wales needs powers over these areas currently preserved at Westminster (which admittedly goes far further than a proper Parliament based on current devolved ideas.)Far from being the biggest unionist in the Assembly, shouldn't he be the most ardent nationalist?


GeraintRennie said...

Labour Party, be it the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, European Group or Westminsiter MPs, all believe in tackling child poverty, and in taking steps to eradicate poverty, its been one of Labour's core values since the start and still is.

Ted Jones said...

I'm not questioning core values here, particularly as I agree that the numbers of children living in poverty is a scandal - which says a lot about Labour failure after a decade in power. What I am questioning is the ability of the Assembly without power over fiscal policy to deliver.

If Labour in the Assembly want to make tacking child poverty a key aim, then surely it is disingenuous not to want the tools to do the job.

Simo said...

If child poverty is a real aim for Labour in the assembly then why arn't Labour MP's echoing this sentiment by also ensuring extra funding from the treasury!

Do LAbour MPs sing from the same hymn sheet!

GeraintRennie said...

The number of children living in poverty has dropped since Labour came to power in 1997, of course it is not enough, and nor should it be for a progressive, socialist/social democratic party like Labour.

However we can only use the powers that we have, the referendum of 1997 was a very narrow victory and getting more powers without a refedendum would be difficult to justify and would damage the legitmacy of the Assembly.

Likewise it would be a mistake to hold a refendum if the support is not there for more powers (which I personally believe there is) or if the tunrout won't be there to ensure the 'yes' camp actually wins (which might be a bit more difficult, but not that serious of a problem.)

Also defeat of a referendum for full law making powers would set devolution back.

However I do agree that a full law making parliament would allow progressive centre-left to persue an agenda to deliver more social justice that we can do at the moment, it just ashame that Labour MPs from Wales don't want to loose their seats, and probably the only arguement that might be a serious problem is that in turn would increase the chances of a Tory government in Westminister, and the funding powers they would indirectly or directly have over the Parliaments in Scotland and Wales. Although again there are probably ways to get around that.

hafod said...

You need a Rennie to digest Labour's bullshit on child poverty, Geraint... relative inequality has risen under New Labour as the gap between rich and poor has grown.
The lack of powers Huw Lewis will have indicates that he is either lying when he says he's serious about tackling child poverty or he honestly doesn't know how to go about it.
Gordon Brown said he wanted to eradicate child poverty by 2020 - does anybody actually believe this will happen give the past 10 years? Tax credits, CSA cock-ups, crap minimum wage levels, 30+ class sizes, creaking NHS, poor housing and less social housing... all these impact directly on child poverty.

GeraintRennie said...

Actually independent evidence suggest that child poverty has fallen, as has poverty in general. The only reason why the gap between rich and poor is so wide is because the rich are getting richer, much faster then the poor are getting richer (which is why we should tax the rich more so). The fact is that schools are funded more now then ever before (they can buy new books, and repair buildings, unlike 10 years ago), we got Sure Start which has improved the lives of many children, the introudction of the minimum wage (never would have been done under the Tories), and it is raising all the time.

Child poverty has been reduced, then again Hafod, you are even too cowardly to reveal your profile, and what your (I am guessing a Tory, or maybe a nationalist?) leanings, whatever it is, you are obviously full of crap, spin and you are very disingenious. Even though I dsilike New "Labour", even I can admit when they have gone right, and give them credit, ashame others cannot do that.

View from the Glen said...

Why do we keep coming back to schools are better funded now than 10 years ago.

let's face it successive Labour and tory governments were up to their nuts in dept to our bankers the Yanks!

Thatcher had the balls to take hard decisions which should have been taken by the Wilson government but were not. I'm no tory but fact is in the 560's we we're in today's money 11 billion! yes 11 billion in debt to the US of A.

It's not Labour who were the architects of the NHS but the US bankers, who gave us the cash!

Anonymous said...

I did a piece on this on June 5th asking what is important after a quiet damning report from Barnardos
What we should be talking about is parental poverty as a child is totally reliant on its parents
Benefits yes - but they are a poverty trap too
Open up opportunities for parents to move up the food chain. There is growing poverty in working families. Ensuring a working wage and good interesting jobs would be a start.
Support to up skill, to study, to move, to have some choices all would lead to better lives for so many children in the UK
Poverty of expectation is as bad as financial poverty

Ted Jones said...

"Poverty of expectation is as bad as financial poverty "

I couldn't agree more VM.

david h jones said...

child poverty is just Labour jingosim. It doesn't mean anything, it's all bunk to try and give Labour members a self-delusion that they believe in something now that they've accepted that Thatcher was basically right in the 1980s.

The Tories could say they want to eliminate child poverty but they choose to say they want to create wealth.

Child poverty - it's just flag-waving.