Mike Hedges is the ‘Welsh’ Labour AM for Swansea East, although I would be surprised if many people in Wales (or even Swansea) have heard of him. He recently responded to the growing demands for Welsh independence by claiming that thousands of his constituents would become unemployed overnight following Welsh Independence.
Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency
He was referring to the staff employed at the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Morriston, Swansea which currently manages the issue of driving licences, vehicle licences and other traffic related issues on behalf of all of the constituent countries of the UK.
He makes a valid point in that an independent Wales would only need around 5% of the licences required by the UK, in which case why would we need so many people to process them?
But he is missing the point, in that the DVLA is nothing more than a government data processing centre, which is currently tasked with activities relating to driving.
An Alternative Future
An independent Wales would need all sorts of government data to be processed, not just driving licences, but including for example registration of births, death and marriages; passport and visa applications; customs and excise duties; value-added tax; corporation tax; etc. All of these activities are currently managed at different data centres across the UK, but in the future we would need to do this ourselves.
The obvious solution would be to redesignate the DVLA as the central data processing centre for all Welsh government activity. The IT infrastructure is already in place as are the highly trained staff.
There may even be an opportunity to continue to issue Driving Licences on behalf of other countries – for them to outsource this work to Swansea rather than them having to set up their own replacement agencies – for a reasonable fee of course.
The DVLA staff would not become redundant in a future Wales, but some of them would need to change their job roles.
It is time that ‘Welsh’ Labour stood up and started taking independence seriously, instead of just spreading unneccesary and inaccurate scare stories to the electorate.