General election in July – what it means for Wales


A general election has been called for 4 July – but what does that mean for people in Wales?

The existence of the Welsh Parliament means you will hear loads of promises and pledges in this election campaign about things that don’t quite relate to the election – at least, not in Wales.

It can get confusing, especially when Welsh politicians blur the lines themselves and fail to make the distinction, as has happened in the past.

The things the UK government is in charge of include criminal justice and policing, benefits, most taxation, foreign affairs and the military.

For 25 years the Senedd and the Welsh government – and the old National Assembly for Wales – have controlled health, education and councils.

Ministers in Cardiff have been in charge of agriculture policy, culture, housing and supporting businesses, among other bits and bobs.

However, most of the money for these things comes from the UK government.

A major issue in Wales will be how well a future government may fund public services in Wales, given the severe strains the NHS and other bodies have been under.

BBC Wales Money Editor Felicity Evans said the decision to call the election now could be connected to recent good news when it comes to the economy.

The latest being today’s inflation data which, at 2.3%, is edging closer to the Bank of England’s target of 2%.

But falling inflation does not mean falling prices and many people are still struggling with the impact of the big price hikes of two or three years ago.

Rishi Sunak will be hoping the Bank of England will cut interest rates in June to provide some relief for mortgage holders, but markets have reined in those expectations because today’s inflation figure is actually a bit higher than forecast.

Businesses will be looking for certainty and stability from the government, says BBC Wales Business Correspondent Huw Thomas.

While most prefer to avoid getting into political territory at all, the decisions taken in Westminster have an impact on everything from the taxes they pay, to the ease with which they can import and export their goods, he added.

Like households, businesses have battled soaring energy prices and an increase in their everyday costs, so they’ll be looking for commitments about economic stability and, in some cases, extra help.

Areas devolved to Wales could be used to scrutinise Welsh Labour’s performance by the Tories.

The state and performance of the Welsh NHS will undoubtedly be under the spotlight during the campaign, says BBC Wales Health Correspondent Owain Clarke.

On some measures, the Labour-run NHS here is performing worse than across the border, for example, the numbers waiting more than two years for planned treatments.

In Wales there are 22,980 cases where somebody has been waiting that long while in England, which has a much larger population, there are only 252.

The Welsh government is likely to point to other measures which suggest NHS in Wales is more than holding its own.

For example, ministers say spending on the NHS is set to increase by 4% this year in Wales, but by less than 1% in England, where it is run by the Conservative UK government.

Wales’ education record will also be a big talking points for politicians in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

Wales ranked lowest of all the UK nations when the results of the latest round of international tests for 15-year olds in reading, maths and science (or PISA) were published at the end of last year – and the gap with other parts of the UK had grown.

The Welsh government said things were getting better before the pandemic, but Education Correspondent Bethan Lewis says we can expect this devolved issue to feature in election clashes between the two main UK parties.

Higher education is also the responsibility of Welsh ministers, but UK government policy has a big impact on universities here – for example the recent row over how UK visa rules affect international student numbers, and therefore Welsh universities’ finances.

And environmental issues are set to be higher up the agenda at this general election than ever before, according to BBC Wales Environment Correspondent Steffan Messenger.

Green groups have urged the parties to set out clearly how they’ll manage the transition to a net zero future and ensure poorer communities aren’t left behind.

Wales can expect pledges around new clean energy infrastructure and debate about its role in delivering nuclear power too.

Meanwhile, Welsh farming policy will be raised on the campaign trail, despite it being an area that is devolved to Cardiff Bay.

Particularly in rural areas, he added.

The Welsh government has been trying to douse the flames of farmer protests recently, announcing a delay to its plans for greener agricultural subsidies.

Rishi Sunak has jumped at every opportunity to criticise the situation, while UK Labour has distanced itself from the most controversial aspect – a 10% tree cover rule for farms.

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