Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wales will No longer have a third rate assembly.

But it will become a second rate Parliament.

The next piece of Devo Dipyn bach  will be  trumpeted by the Tories and largely excepted by Labour but most of it is gloss.

Even Nationlists will perhaps be dazzled by the Assembly becoming officially the Welsh Parliament. and being able to  change the electoral system (which they should), retain current constituency boundariesnd  and increase the number of AMs (MWPs) to 80. It would all be a matter for them.

Thee are some key points I admit 

  • Make the Assembly permanent and accountable to the people of Wales,
  • Allow the Assembly to vary an element of Income Tax for the first time,
  • Confirm in statute the existence of a body of Welsh law made by the Assembly for Wales and Welsh Ministers which forms part of the law of England and Wales,
  • Reduce the number of “reservations” - powers retained by Westminster - although substantial powers will still be reserved,
  • Remove the "necessity test",
  • Introduce an impact assessment
As thr Wastng MUle points our 
A previous draft Bill was withdrawn after protests that the Welsh Government would have to justify some new laws according to a “necessity test” that would have effectively given Westminster a veto.
There have previously been a number of legal challenges by the UK Government to some Welsh laws, including one that set up an Agricultural Wages Board .
The fear was that the necessity test would allow similar proposals to be blocked.
Under Mr Cairns’ new draft Bill the necessity test would be removed.

There would, however, be a new arrangement under which every law would be subject to an impact assessment relating to how it would affect the legal system.
The assessment would be carried out by the Welsh Government.
A working group consisting of representatives of the Wales Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Lord Chief Justice and the Welsh Government will draw up the principles on which the assessments will be made and how any disputes could be resolved.
But Professor Richard Wyn Jones, head of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, says:
 “I’m afraid this unexpected addition to the Bill suggests the mindset that devised the necessity test is still alive and kicking in
“It clearly undermines the UK Government’s claim to respect the National Assembly as a mature democratic institution able to make its own laws without interference.
“Ultimately the Secretary of State would be able to override a piece of legislation passed by the democratically elected Assembly. It is a mindset which sees the Assembly as a second-class legislature. There is no similar provision at the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Scottish Parliament.”

Prof Jones said the impact arrangements were not reciprocal: 

“A new super prison is being built at Wrexham which will have a great impact on public services including health and social services in North East Wales. Yet there is no obligation on the UK Government to subject the plan to an assessment by the Welsh Government.”

It seems that  all Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns has done is swap Necessity for Impact whilst still hamstringing the Assembly.

There is no plans to devolve Policing and Criminal Justice on similar lines to Scotland and the introduction of the Impact Assessment  nay well make further devolution of powers  to the new "Parliament" even more difficult.

It may be necessary to oppose this Bill outright , otherwise we , may find we have a legal limit imposed on any chance of parity with Scotland.

1 comment:

  1. If we oppose the bill outright Glyn what guarantees do you have it would be replaced by anything better? The british tory govt might conclude they should abandon the bill altogether if it's rejected. Where would that leave us - waiting for a labour govt at westminister to bring a better wales bill forward? Well aside from the fact it's likely to be a long time before we see a labour govt at westminister could we really trust labour to offer anything better? A number of welsh labour figures are still opposed to wales gaining powers over income tax for example.

    The bill isnt perfect but it includes positive proposals any welsh devolutionist should support - control over elections in wales, income tax varying powers and confirming in statute the existence of a body of Welsh law. And of course it would make permanent the existence of the Senedd, given the existence of an anti assembly lobby in the recent elections not something to be sneered at.