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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 18:24 GMT

Plaid demands more power for Wales

Plaid Cymru has described its promises for the next 4 to 5 years of parliament as "good old fashioned socialism".

Unveiling its election manifesto in Cardiff on Monday, constitutional reform and more money for public services were placed top of the party's agenda.

The party praised the progress of devolution so far, but wants the same tax-varying and primary law-making powers as the Scottish Parliament has.

" The National Assembly currently lacks the powers to deliver real change for Wales. We need a legislative parliament to deliver that "
Ieuan Wyn Jones

Another central demand of the manifesto is an overhaul of the Whitehall formula used to determine public spending levels in Wales.

The Welsh nationalists are looking to build on the sweeping gains in the assembly elections two years ago.

They captured assembly seats in the traditional Labour heartland of the south Wales Valleys and they are hoping to repeat the success in this general election.

With the manifesto, Plaid is placing itself on the political left claiming taxes must go up to pay for services.

Their proposals also include a pledge to raise the higher rate of income tax to 50% for those earning over 50,000 a year.

The party says that would provide an extra 5.7bn for public spending.

In total, with extra money gained from a review of the Barnett formula - which governs the amount Wales gets from central government - they say it would bring in an extra 6.3bn.

The money would be used to help fund the abolition of students' tuition fees, increased pay for teachers, the re-nationalisation of Railtrack and more spending on health and pensions.

Party president Ieuan Wyn Jones insisted there were no inconsistencies in calling for the assembly to be given greater autonomy at the same time as demanding extra financial help from the UK treasury.

"The National Assembly currently lacks the powers to deliver real change for Wales.

'Voodoo economics'

"We need a legislative parliament to deliver that.

"But obviously Wales is currently doing a lot worse than the rest of the UK in terms of its economic performance and we have to address that by redistributing income at a UK level and changing the Barnett formula to one based on need."

As well as supporting a rise in the minimum wage to 5 an hour, members also said Wales could play its part in welcoming "a fair share" of refugees.

On Europe the party supports signing up to single currency when the exchange rate with the pound was "appropriate".

Plaid also wants to see Wales's status and influence within the EU boosted.

But opposition parties have criticised the spending plans with Labour branding it "voodoo economics" while the Tories accused the party of turning into "old Labour".

Last week Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy described a vote for Plaid as a wasted vote.

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