20/11/2013 The Wales Report


20/11/2013

With further financial powers announced for Wales, Huw Edwards speaks to secretary of state for Wales David Jones about the next steps on the devolution journey.


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Tonight on the Wales Report: The problem of poor quality housing in

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the private rented sector in Wales affecting the health of tenants. Is

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it time for new legislation? A clearer picture of how much control

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the Welsh Government would have over taxes - but does it make sense? And

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Swansea Bay will not be the British capital of culture - so how else do

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we promote Wales on the global stage? Stay with us for the Wales

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Report. Good evening and welcome to the Wales Report, where we explore

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the issues that affect lives in Wales and question some of those

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making the decisions. On tonight's programme - the latest facts about

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private rented accommodation in Wales. In far too many cases, the

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quality of housing is appalling. Tenants' health and sometimes their

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lives are put at risk by damp, dangerous wiring, and crumbling

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walls. This week - the Welsh Government launched new legislation

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- the Housing Bill - part of which aims to clamp down on reckless

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private landlords. But does it go far enough, given the scale of the

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problem? Helen Callaghan reports. This is not a property viewing the

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well in this house has invited me here to talk about the battle she is

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having with third landlord. She has asked us to hydrate entity but once

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people to know how problems with this house began to ruin her life.

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What was wrong? Excessive cold and damp. Wires hanging from the

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bathroom, it could cause a fire. You think this house was making the

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bill? They put me on Valium. With the damp, you have problems with

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breathing, you cannot work or pay the rent. Why should I? You have put

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me in this condition that is worse than an animal. She says from

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landlord tried to convert -- a victory for complaining but she

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stared because was nowhere else to go. One day she came home to find

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the locks were changed but although she was allowed back in, she still

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does not have a full set of keys. You cannot use your back door? It is

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locked. How do you get out? Through the window. She lived with these

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problems for eight months before any repairs were made and during that

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time she felt isolated and alone. Calling and nobody would do

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anything. I just wanted not to be cold. When I went to the kitchen, to

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have a nice, warm... Unite? -- you know? It is illegal for landlords to

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put tenants at risk of injury or death. These problems are called

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category one and according to figures from housing charities,

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there are more than 75,000 properties in this estate being

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privately let out across Wales. It is a landlord market and more of us

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are renting than ever before. Mortgages are hard to come by and

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social housing is in short supply. Experts predict we will need an

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extra 6000 homes over the next five years just to meet demand. A perfect

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situation for rogue landlords to take advantage of. The Housing

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Minister thinks he has the answer. Launching the Welsh Government's

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Housing Bill at this homeless charity, he outlined proposals to

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tackle problems with homelessness, empty properties and unscrupulous

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landlords. Under the plans, landlords would have to be licensed

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and if they fail to comply, they could face fines or having their

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rent withheld. But the housing charity is worried that lack of

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resources will undermine what the legislation is helping to achieve.

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There is not enough money for enforcement and most environmental

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health departments are stretched. How can they cope with the

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additional intelligence that will come from landlord licensing? There

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is a fundamental question about these resources and something the

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government needs to take on board. We spoke to the body representing

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environmental health officers, who take on rogue landlords. They said

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the extra information gathered through compulsory licensing will

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help them identify the culprits but they stress that local councils must

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provide adequate funding for the new laws to be enforced. It is important

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that our elected members who set budgets appreciate that if you cut

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money to housing teams, you have a real, direct and immediate effect on

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people's lives and we encourage elected members to ensure their

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teams are properly funded. We have spoken to all those representing

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landlords and letting agents and they all have their doubts about the

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effectiveness of increased legislation. They are worried that

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fees for registration will penalised good landlords and they question

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whether rogue landlords will even comply with the new laws. Con

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artists and criminals will not and we know that that applies to

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different sectors and society so we should partner up with all of the

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stakeholders to make sure they don't get away with it. There is basically

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enforcement against the good and not the bad. We believe an engagement

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with good landlords and enforcement against the bad ones. It is an

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indirect tax to the good, law-abiding citizens. Tenants might

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the one I met welcomed the Welsh Government's good intentions but

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they know the legislation will only have a positive impact on their

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lives if the foundations of the new laws are solid. When you come home

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and you have no happiness, it is not a home, you know? You wonder what

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you have done wrong. You become depressed and it makes you feel very

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bad. Helen Callaghan reporting. Joining me now from our Swansea

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studio is the Housing Minister, Carl Sargeant. Lots of people applauding

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what you are doing and they do not question your motives. But they do

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question whether the rogue landlords will be felt with by this

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legislation? -- dealt with. Our intention is to tackle the very

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people who will not comply. The enforcement activities of local

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authorities will be a very important part to ensure this happens. If they

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do not have any resources to properly policed this, what do you

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say? I do not accept the argument presented by some of your

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contributors tonight and the issue around the financing has been worked

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through with local government and we are confident that we can enable

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this legislation effectively. There are many myths. One example is the

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cost of legislation and enforcement is 65p per week for two properties

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and that is not particularly onerous. Some of these departments

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are not stretched? Local government and public services are always

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challenged and the budgets from the UK Government have not helped. But

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the issue with legislation and the financial profile has been worked

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through with them and this is about being forced and legislation pathway

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being successful to ensure that the cases you have heard about it on

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your programme are dealt with effectively. But what you are doing

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is adding a duty and burdens to staff who are already engaged in

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lots of policing work in that sense and I am wondering how you can make

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that logic for resourcing and say it is all there? Burden is a word that

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you will use. The fact of the matter is... It is a duty that we will

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impose on local authorities to comply with that will ensure we have

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better accommodation across Wales. But is not unreasonable, the fact

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that we should have safer accommodation is just a fundamental

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part of society. And I think that what we are doing in the government

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is making sure that rogue landlords can comply. We have some fantastic

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landlords in Wales that deliver on this but as you have heard, there

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are many that do not. It is about time we tackle them. What is your

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analysis of why the private sector is booming right now? There are

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supply issues. The bedroom tax is adding to displacement of

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individuals and whether we agree with that or not, and I do not, but

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the fact is that the UK has introduced this and it is displacing

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individuals into different modes of accommodation. Therefore, the

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private rented sector is playing its part and I am trying to support the

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private sector to lift up policy and the profession to ensure that we can

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get support to the professionals who want to be part of delivery and let

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us make sure that we can tackle these issues when rogue landlords

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failed to deliver. He did not mention social housing, you did

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mention social housing. -- supply. We have got investments with social

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landlords and a task force in place reporting to me at the end of the

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year in terms of supply and we are looking at innovative finance models

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and in doing things differently. We are in a very different time and

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place compared to 12 months ago. Six months ago, I took the post and I am

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very keen to tackle the issues around supply, quality and services

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in housing. That is what the Housing Bill will produce. And the building

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is already in place. Social landlords are increasing supply but

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you will have heard that report today that there are pressures due

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to that bedroom tax having an effect. Building new homes? New

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homes are being built. We have got some major announcements coming up

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shortly and I am sure they will be welcomed by the industry. Why, after

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13 years in power in Wales, Labour has not actually tackled this social

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housing problem before now? We have heard from some experts that we will

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be short of 6000 homes. You're talking about committees and

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consultations and projects, but when will the building happen? Some of

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those questions have been lifted from a Conservative press lease and

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the fact is, we are delivering... Not any press race I have seen! Six

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months in post and I am keen to ensure that I work with the industry

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and I have met with house-builders and met with social landlords and we

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are turning the corner in our ability to deliver but let us not be

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complacent. The fact is that we are under extreme pressure from the UK

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Government in terms of the finances, which are being reduced to ?1.7

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billion less into the Welsh economy. We can legislate around housing to

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make Wales a better place to live and the very person you had at the

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start of that interview shows that we need to do something. I am not

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prepared to sit back, we will take action. In future, if the Welsh

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Government had powers of income tax, it could tackle this better? The

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income tax question is around the referendum and we have to take

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action right now and that is what we are doing. Thank you for joining us.

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This week a clearer picture has emerged of how new financial powers

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for the Welsh Government announced recently by David Cameron and Nick

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Clegg would be implemented. Some powers over income tax could be

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transferred if the Welsh people gave their approval in a referendum. But

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the Welsh government would not get the power to vary individual tax

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bands. For some in the Assembly, that's disappointing news. The

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Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, who's joining me in a moment,

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defended the decision at Westminster earlier today. I welcome the fact

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that after one year, we have a statement from the Secretary of

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State on this matter. But I want to question him further on details. I

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make no apologies for ensuring that this proposal was properly

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scrutinised and I believe that the package we have announced is good

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for Wales and I'm glad to see that it was welcomed by the Welsh

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Government. Joining me now from Westminster is the Secretary of

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State for Wales, David Jones. Thank you for joining us. Are you a

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convert for the income tax powers for Wells? Wales does need powers

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because the big issue we have in Wales is poor performance of the

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economy. By and large, lower taxes make for a more dynamic economy and

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at the moment we have Wales getting progressively poorer and GDA is only

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three quarters the British average and income tax powers would be good

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for the economy. In the past people have been saying you have been

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lukewarm on this. When did you change your mind? It is not a

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question of changing my mind. Conservatives believe instinctively

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in low taxation. Wales needs a competitive edge and devolution has

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been used to impose more regulation upon the people of Wales. It would

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be refreshing if we saw a lower rate of taxation in Wales which would

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encourage people to come into Wales and set up businesses here. Do you

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regret that it took so long to come up with the response to the

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recommendations? No, I do not. We had to give it proper scrutiny. The

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proposals we accepted mostly I therefore good. There will be an

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impact not just upon Wales, but on the whole of the United Kingdom. I

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do not make any apologies for giving proper consideration and going out

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to further consultation as a consequence of the extreme doubts we

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were seething from certain quarters of the property sector. There is one

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significant exception and that is air passenger duty. Northern Ireland

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benefits from that. Why is Wales to be deprived of it? There is a big

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difference in the case of Northern Ireland's which is that it is

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separate from the British mainland. In Wales we have got another

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aircraft -- airport crows to Cardiff, Bristol. There would be a

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distortion effect and it would have the effect of favouring one airport

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at the expense of another which we did not think was the right thing to

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do. What does that tell us about the Government's you about air capacity

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in the South East of England and beyond? We need more capacity in the

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South East of England and London is the only hub airport we have got at

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the moment. We do as much as we can to improve capacity into Heathrow

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and in Wales we are improving rail links. But the fact is to devolve

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airport tax duty would benefit one airport at the expense of other

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airports in the UK. That is a distortionary effect. The clarity of

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that answer means lots of those people who were hoping you would

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revisit this may as well stop because they are wasting their time.

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No, I do not think so because it is a matter that we will keep under

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review. It would have an unfair impact upon other airports in the

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UK. What is your view on the varying of individual tax band for income

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tax? Experts say if this is to be a meaningful devolution of power, a

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Welsh Government would need to have that ability, but you are depriving

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them of that. It would have an adverse impact on progressivity. The

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higher tax rate in Wales is extremely low. Unbelievably only

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4000 people in the whole of Wales pay the top rate. In terms of giving

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the Welsh Government more flexibility and the capacity to

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attract inward investment would have had very little effect. I think

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something that emulates the Scottish model, which is what we have

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approved, gives the Welsh Government the capacity to change income tax

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rates. Most importantly, it gives the opportunity to entrepreneurs to

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come into Wales and establish themselves. I feel a lower tax

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economy is a better one and I would hope the Welsh Government would be

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bold and go for a lower rate across the board. How bold should they be

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in terms of the timing of a referendum? As you know I am

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pressing for a referendum to take place as soon as possible. But I

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think the Welsh Government needs to do something to kick-start the Welsh

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economy. At the moment they have not used devolution to give Wales that

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competitive edge it needs. In many respects they have made Wales less

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competitive. It would be a strong signal if they said, we want a

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referendum and we want to have it as soon as possible and if we get those

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varying powers, then we will be moving to a lower tax regime in

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Wales. That would be bold and just the thing Wales needs to improve the

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Welsh economy. But doesn't Carwyn Jones have a point when he said

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unless we sort out the fundamental basis of funding for Wales, the

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Barnett formula, there is no point talking about a referendum? That is

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indicative of his mindset and the Labour Party's mindset as a whole.

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Labour expect Wales to be a kind of supplicant part of the United

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Kingdom for every more. They should be more ambitious. We agreed last

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year a formula that would protect the Welsh Government against

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so-called convergence, in other words the benefit of the Barnett

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formula dwindling. They have got that agreed. But now is the time for

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the Welsh Government to say, we want that to be ambitions for Wales and

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we want to move towards a lower tax economy. You think it is entirely

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practical and realistic to look forward to a referendum before the

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next Assembly elections? I think they should do it as quickly as

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possible. The question of when the referendum is triggered will be a

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matter for the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly. But I know my

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colleagues in the Conservative Party will be pressing the Welsh

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Government to do it as quickly as possible. Frankly, if it is

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Labour's timidity that is holding us back, it will be the Labour Party

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who will pay the penalty in the ballot box. You are saying before

:20:27.:20:35.

2016? It is a matter for them, but my preference is to go as quickly as

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possible. People would know what they were voting for. The UK City of

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Culture in 2017 will be how. It is a great city. Well done. They beat

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Swansea Bay, Leicester and Dundee. But some people are asking how did

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Swansea Bay managed to lose because the potential gains are significant?

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The current holder, dairy in Northern Ireland, has hosted events

:21:07.:21:12.

such as the Turner prize, an outdoor theatrical extravaganza written by

:21:13.:21:16.

Frank Cottrell Boyce and BBC radio one's Big Weekend. We will be

:21:17.:21:21.

discussing the lost opportunity for Swansea Bay. I am delighted to

:21:22.:21:28.

announce the UK City of Culture, 2017, is how. But I am also

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delighted to pay tribute to all of the short listed candidates as well.

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They all gave fantastic presentations. These things would

:21:40.:21:47.

happen anyway. This part of the world creates its own indigenous

:21:48.:21:54.

culture. We are gutted, but we pick ourselves up and we dust ourselves

:21:55.:21:59.

down. We take ourselves forward. Some evident disappointment. Joining

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me is Lleucu Siencyn, the chief executive of Literature Wales and

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the broadcaster and broadcaster John Gower. How gutted are you? We are

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very gutted, but it is a bitter disappointment for us all. The

:22:22.:22:26.

Swansea Bay bid was a really strong one and everybody involved should be

:22:27.:22:33.

congratulated. Not strong enough. I am really surprised, because if you

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had asked me yesterday I would have said Hal would have been long down

:22:40.:22:46.

at the bottom of my list. A long dead poet was not in the business of

:22:47.:22:52.

celebrating anything. A small theatre company. I thought

:22:53.:22:58.

Swansea's clever bit should have won out. Lester was a bit build on a

:22:59.:23:08.

platform of multiculturalism. The great building in the centre of it.

:23:09.:23:12.

I would have said Swansea would have been top of my list. What was the

:23:13.:23:20.

weakness? Was it to do with the logo or was it more fundamental?

:23:21.:23:26.

Swansea's bid was amorphous, it was about a whole region. Even although

:23:27.:23:33.

that allowed them to bring in some very heavyweight names like Michael

:23:34.:23:37.

Sheen, that would have been part of the problem. But you sometimes have

:23:38.:23:42.

to ask yourself questions about the bigger picture. These things deliver

:23:43.:23:48.

at the end of the day. As much as people say they do? For Glasgow it

:23:49.:23:59.

though. It transformed Glasgow. Now Glasgow is sexy, cultured and sharp

:24:00.:24:06.

and quick thinking. The big, huge, global Dylan Thomas brand and

:24:07.:24:09.

despite that it does not get there. It raises a few questions. You

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mentioned Glasgow and people in the early 90s would have said Glasgow,

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surely not? Saint Andrews would have been more mentioned. Maybe this is a

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subtlety that needs that cultural regeneration and Swansea does not.

:24:29.:24:33.

We have got art sensors and a fantastic programme of events

:24:34.:24:36.

beginning very soon, celebrating Dylan Thomas. Swansea is very much

:24:37.:24:43.

at the heart of those celebrations. We have got a City of Culture

:24:44.:24:49.

already and we will be celebrating that hopefully through literature

:24:50.:24:54.

and other activities. You are basically saying this project might

:24:55.:24:58.

not have delivered that much for Swansea as much as for other

:24:59.:25:04.

cities. Is that what you are saying? If you have the seed of a successful

:25:05.:25:08.

programme, any investment will develop that further. Also with the

:25:09.:25:16.

Welsh Government's own investment in the Dylan Thomas celebrations next

:25:17.:25:19.

year, the biggest investment in literature activities, and I am

:25:20.:25:26.

thrilled with that, what we see is a strong legacy of rebranding and

:25:27.:25:30.

repositioning South West Wales through the brand of Dylan Thomas

:25:31.:25:34.

which will have an equally lasting legacy. Is there any point in

:25:35.:25:40.

Swansea or Cardiff or any Welsh cities bidding for this kind of

:25:41.:25:46.

profile in future? Or do we say we are happy with our cultural heritage

:25:47.:25:53.

and richness as it is? There is a question about granting the City of

:25:54.:25:58.

Culture status in the future. The main players have been rewarded in

:25:59.:26:02.

the past. We are now getting down to decisions when we are thinking do we

:26:03.:26:09.

need the whole process? Of course Swansea will want to bid for it

:26:10.:26:13.

again because Swansea is one of these second cities. All around the

:26:14.:26:18.

world you have got cities that are capitals and they have all the

:26:19.:26:22.

formal business of culture. You have got other cities, like Manchester

:26:23.:26:28.

versus London, worked at grassroots level it is happening. Swansea has

:26:29.:26:35.

always had that mentality. Little poetry groups are happening in

:26:36.:26:38.

Swansea because they want to put it on. Because of the inheritance from

:26:39.:26:46.

the Dylan Thomas Centenary celebrations of course Swansea can

:26:47.:26:50.

do it. They have seen the value of sport. Premiership football is

:26:51.:26:56.

bringing in a lot of money and extra students into the university because

:26:57.:27:00.

they can see the brand of Swansea being promoted. Like you say it is

:27:01.:27:08.

already a cultural capital, a very cultured city, and has been for many

:27:09.:27:14.

decades. What will be the highlight of the Dylan Thomas year? All the

:27:15.:27:19.

workshops we are delivering in schools throughout Wales, not just

:27:20.:27:26.

in Swansea. There are so many films, theatre projects. The main thing is

:27:27.:27:33.

to return to the poetry. There are a handful of absolutely glorious

:27:34.:27:40.

poems. Forget the boozy bard. Go back to the work itself. If we do

:27:41.:27:46.

that, it will be a fantastic legacy. We will be back next Wednesday. In

:27:47.:27:52.

the meantime you can get in touch with us on e-mail and we are on

:27:53.:27:57.

twitter. As we have been discussing, Wales is to mark the

:27:58.:28:03.

Centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth. I will leave you with a taste of what

:28:04.:28:07.

is ahead in the coming year. Good night. Mostar. An ugly, lovely town,

:28:08.:28:18.

or so it was and is to me. Crawling, sprawling by a long and splendid

:28:19.:28:25.

curving shore where true with boys and sound field boys and old men

:28:26.:28:32.

from nowhere beach combed, idled and watched the dog bound ships, or the

:28:33.:28:37.

ships steaming away into wonder and India, magic and China, countries

:28:38.:28:41.

bright with oranges...

:28:42.:28:43.

With further financial powers announced for Wales, Huw Edwards speaks to secretary of state for Wales David Jones about the next steps on the devolution journey.


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