Many in the Westminster village discovered devolution last weekend. We saw seeming incomprehension in Downing Street when Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reminded the Prime Minister that in many of these matters his writ runs out at the English border. In truth, they should have been paying more attention.
The response of our governments to this crisis has not only shone a spotlight on the legal realities of governing in a multination state, but also on the values that underpin those decisions. In Wales, a Labour government containing co-operators has shown values of fairness and equality at the heart of its response.
The decision announced this week to exclude those businesses registered in a tax haven from receiving government support was not simply an easy knee-jerk reaction to a question in a press conference. It is a part of a principled approach to supporting business during this crisis. It is part of an approach that has created a fund for social enterprises and focussed on supporting people and communities. And it is about setting out the vision for the country we are creating when we make each one of these individual decisions. And it’s the right thing to do.
It’s only right that businesses in places such as Blaenau Gwent that have been doing the right thing, paying their taxes, looking after their staff and being part of our communities get all the support they require in unprecedented times; it is also right that others who fail to do this and have systematically avoided paying their fair share should not expect unqualified support.
But it is not only a response to this crisis – it is a part of a wider agenda. The First Minister announced new ground-breaking legislation a few months ago that seeks to make Wales a “Fair-Work Nation”. This means recognising the rights of workers, designed by and with trades unions and guaranteeing a co-operative approach to future economic policy.
This is all rooted in those same values that put the Future Generations Act on the statute book, including putting sustainability at the heart of decision-making. It is these timeless Welsh values that Aneurin Bevan would recognise. The values that tell some businesses to recognise their wider social and financial responsibilities and pay fair tax.
This means that the funds used to support businesses will be going into towns like Abertillery, Ebbw Vale, Brynmawr, Tredegar and scores more across Wales, as they are intended.
If companies want public sector support, they should be paying their fair share towards it – I don’t believe this should be controversial.
It is time for the UK Government to follow this lead and make the same commitment. It was Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, who made the point that we all need to “build back better”. This is an opportunity to make those words and that ambition a reality.