Guernsey Press

Labour should not play ‘King Canute’ with devolved policing in Wales – Drakeford

The outgoing First Minister said colleagues in Westminster would have a responsibility to show the ‘journey has begun’ towards justice devolution.

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A Labour UK Government should pave the way for the transfer of policing powers to the Welsh administration and avoid adopting a “King Canute” stance on devolution, Mark Drakeford has suggested.

The outgoing First Minister said colleagues in Westminster would have a “responsibility” to show the “journey has begun” towards handing Cardiff more control of the system across the border if they win this year’s election.

In 2022, a report led by former prime minister Gordon Brown said the next UK Labour government should “embark upon the devolution of youth justice and the probation service”.

Mark Drakeford
Mr Drakeford is standing down as First Minister and Welsh Labour leader (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Drakeford, who has repeatedly called for justice powers including over policing to be transferred across the border, was asked about Westminster opposition to his proposals during a Q&A at the Institute for Government.

He said he did not expect the transfer to happen in “one big lump” but that an incoming Labour government could take steps towards wider devolution, starting with youth justice and probation.

“There are some colleagues in London who regard this as a zero-sum game, that anything that is devolved elsewhere is a loss to them,” he told the event on Thursday.

“All four Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales are firmly in favour of the devolution of policing.

“So again, even people who are close to the operational end of all this share our view,” he said.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour is the party of devolution and we are committed to reinforcing the status of the Senedd, strengthening intergovernmental working and pushing power out of Westminster and into the hands of communities.”

A party source added: “The only tide we are committed to holding back is one of rising crime after 14 years of Tory governments.”

Sir Keir Starmer has promised the biggest ever transfer of power to Wales and backed the recommendations on justice devolution made in the Brown report.

“But we will not be looking at devolution of policing and justice.”

Mr Drakeford, who is due to step down as Welsh Labour leader in March, suggested his biggest regret was not to have made more radical changes and said his advice to his successor would be to “be bold”.

“The biggest challenge for Welsh Labour when you have been in power as we have been for nearly 25 years is renewal and a determination not to just rest back on the oars of being in Government,” he said.

“I think the challenge for Labour is always to be looking for those radical changes that are necessary. Maybe I sometimes think what I’ve regretted is that we weren’t bold enough when we had the chance to be so.”

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