Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Assembly has served its Apprenticeship. Time for real powers.

Just a day after Plaid Leader complained thay Wales was recevig third rate devolution
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Assembly went out of its law-making remit with
Pontypridd  Labour AM Mick Antoniw proposed the Asbestos (Recovery of Medical Costs) Bill in a bid to raise as much as £1m a year for the Welsh NHS from employers – or their insurers – for treatment costs for diseases like mesothelioma.

After insurance industries expressed concerns, the bill was referred to the Supreme Court by the Welsh Government.
Judges have today said that the bill is outside of what is known as the legislative competence of the Assembly.
Writing on Click on Wales  almost Immediately (Which suggest he was expecting it) after the judgement Mr Antoniw  said.
To say I am gutted and devastated by the decision is an understatement. The Bill was intended to recover from negligent employers against whom there was a legal judgment or compensation settlement, the medical costs incurred by the Welsh NHS in order to provide greater assistance to Asbestos victims and their families.
Health is devolved. The recent ruling in the Agriculture Wales Bill, now an Act, supported the view that matters related to devolved areas, even if not specifically devolved are within the competence of the Assembly. However, the Supreme Court by a majority of 3 to 2 do not consider this applies to this Bill which they have decided is a fiscal matter, and therefore not devolved. As it is not within competence it also fails under Human Rights law as an interference in private property which can be justified but only if it is within competence.
The restrospective recovery of medical costs is also something that concerned the Court, but the judgment does not exclude this provided there are significant public interest grounds for doing so. It is disappointing that the majority of judges did not consider this implicit in the Bill and supporting evidence.
The judgment is long and detailed and needs careful consideration, but at this stage it is clear that we do not the power under our current constitutional confused settlement to recover these medical costs from the Insurers in the manner proposed by the Bill.
But it is a poty that Mr Atoniw does not use the opportunity to call for Parity with Scotland

He does say

Having opened the legal “stable door” to Welsh Government, the Supreme Court now appears to be trying to partly close it and limit the scope of the Assembly’s powers. The judgment is clearly a set back and exposes the lack of clarity of the existing devolution arrangements. It has to be said that even a reserved powers model would not necessarily have overcome this decision. What is needed are clearly defined powers . We need an end to this constitutional confusion and uncertainty .
But I don't think this a call for  a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction as Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd recently .

Elfyn argued it was a “complete anomaly” that Wales had a legislature and there were “now so many exclusively Welsh laws” but the nation lacked a jurisdiction of its own.
He said: 
Quite frankly, it is hampering the development of Welsh democracy so the sooner we put it right the better. Given that there are special Welsh laws we need a special Welsh court system to deal with them.
“As much as I have a regard for the courts in England as well, they are different and they are dealing with different sets of laws and principles and so we really need people who are genuinely well versed in those legal principles, both to appear before the courts and also to determine the outcome of the cases. It’s really commons sense – why should we be, as a Welsh nation, different from any other?
“It simply doesn’t make sense.
There may have been a case for the Assembly  not to have  a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction as in the case of Scotland because the latter already had an established  one.

It sometimes feels that the Welsh Assembly has been serving an Apprenticeship as it leaned  the inside out of  being a government. 

 Some  members may be happy to be cocooned  as it is now where it has some responsibility and little power and see no reason to take on more. But how long an Apprenticeship must our Assembly serve? 

Mick Antoniw and his Boss i n the Assembly should tell Ed Miliband  we have waited to long  even for  journeyman level of competence and we need to move on to our Mastership.

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