Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Welsh Assembly must be prepared to refuse consent o latest Wales Bill

Professor Richard Wyn Jones is the director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University has given an extraordinary critique of the latest attempt of Devo Dipyn Bach.

Writing in the Wasting Mule he says.

The Wales Bill suffers from two fatal flaws: it’s a piece of legislation that has been both poorly conceived and badly drafted.
They combine to fatal effect to outline a system of devolution that would not only be as cumbersome as its predecessors, but in some important ways would be even more restrictive and frustrating.
The Bill is based on what the UK government has rather grandiosely titled the ‘St David’s Day Agreement’.
This was the end result of a lowest common denominator process in which each of the political parties was allowed to wield a veto on the individual recommendations of the Silk Commission; doing so without any need to explain (privately let alone publicly) their behaviour.
Those who continue to oppose devolution like to claim that the Westminster parliament is far more effective at scrutinising legislation than the National Assembly for Wales.
Whilst the ‘big guns’ blast on the banks of the Thames, on the shores of Cardiff Bay it’s Billy Connolly’s ‘wee pretendy parliament’.
Naturally enough, Welsh parliamentarians at Westminster are particularly partial to this particular saw.
Now the Assembly has its problems. But, really, it takes a particular kind of chutzpah to argue the case that Westminster is somehow a more effective legislature than the National Assembly for Wales when we recall the complete pig’s ear that the former has made of the legislation that underpins the latter.
He continues
It’s doubtful that it was ever possible to produce a sensible, stable devolution dispensation on such weak foundations as those provided by the St David’s Day Agreement. But without doubt, its deficiencies have been further magnified by the grudging, negative attitudes on display across Whitehall during the drafting process. Attitudes that a weak, marginalised Wales Office has been quite unable to challenge.
In drawing up the list of those issues that will be reserved to London, Whitehall departments have seized the opportunity to reserve every power they might conceivably ever ‘need’ in relation to Wales.
Matters have been listed because Whitehall civil servants seem to believe that Welsh politicians can’t be trusted to deal with them responsibly.
Others have seemingly been added to the list because Whitehall regrets letting go of them when powers were devolved to Scotland.
Whitehall has even availed itself of the opportunity to reverse the losses that it suffered at the hands of Welsh Government in the Supreme Court. Not only has the attitude been nega
tive and grudging; it’s been patronising and vindictive too.

He's critical of the Bill is damning enough but perhaps its the official opposition in Westminster that he is most critical of.
The efforts of Welsh Labour MPs during the Commons debates can only be described as pathetic. Unwilling to engage with the deep structural flaws of the Bill (for reasons to which we will return), they concentrated their intentions instead on relative minor, peripheral issues.
Predictably, they also availed themselves of the opportunity to return to the alleged constitutional outrage of the government’s plans to reduce the number of Welsh MPs; an issue that clearly exercises some far more than the prospects of yet another inadequate Welsh devolution dispensation.
It is embarrassing that those of us who seek much more than this Dog Breakfast  may  need the support of a body many of us would like to replaced

For the Mule reports that 
A committee of peers have added their backing to those who say the Wales Bill legislation would actually reduce the powers of the National Assembly.
And they are calling on the UK Government to clarify if it intended to reduce those powers and, if not, to set out what steps it will take to rectify this.
The report was published by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, which has been scrutinising the legislation as part of its passage through Parliament.
Lord Lang of Monkton, chairman of the committee, said:
 “The Bill risks, in some areas, actually reducing the powers of the Assembly.
“We have asked the Government whether that was their intention, and if not, how they intend to avoid unintentionally diminishing the Assembly’s powers.”
The peers welcome the move to change the foundation of the National Assembly’s authority to a “reserved powers” model, meaning AMs can legislate on any subject not explicitly reserved by the UK Parliament.
However, they warn that power is reserved in so many areas it will become a recipe for litigation.
Lord Lang said:
 “The list of reservations is so extensive, and the legal tests that govern the Assembly’s powers so complex and vague, that it could be a recipe for confusion and legal uncertainty.
“The outcome is likely to be increased litigation as the courts are asked to decide exactly where the boundaries of the Assembly’s authority lies.
“We are disappointed that there is no clear explanation from the Government as to the rationale for the scope of the powers being devolved under the Wales Bill.
“As we noted in our report The Union and devolution, devolution must take place on the basis of appropriate principles to ensure that the devolution settlements evolve in a coherent way, rather than in a reactive, ad hoc manner.”

Personally, I feel that the current Bill will not be changed by the Lords ,or at any other stage that meets the concerns raised.

That is why I believe that it will be necessary for the Welsh Assembly to refuse to consent  to the Bill.

Plaid should indicate that they will Press for a refusal, and call on the other Parties in the Assembly to do announce they are also prepared to do so.

I believe this will not be a case of "Cutting of ones nose o suit ones face" but making a stand against legislative bullying.

As i have said we need Parity with Scotland not more Devo Dipyn Bach and its time  the Labour Party in Wales in particular told us whether  they support this idea, or do they have further ambition for Wales beyond having what cannot even be called a ‘wee pretendy parliament’.


1 comment:

  1. With all respect to you Glyn and those who think like you they remind me of those misguided people - and there were a few - who sat on their hands during the 1997 devolution referendum because the form of devolution on offer wasnt enough for them. Such people in my view were at best naive and at worst downright irresponsible, as it's a fair bet i think that if the vote had been lost in 1997 many of us wouldnt have seen devolution for wales put forward again in our lifetimes.

    And this is my fear if the Senedd rejects this bill. I think its clear from what nick bourne is saying that if this bill isnt accepted the tories certainly wont be in a hurry to revisit the topic again. And even if jeremy corbyn can overcome the terrible polling figures and win in 2020 for all jezza's qualities an interest in and commitment to welsh devolution doesnt seem to be among them. So unless there's some sudden sea change in political consciousness among people in wales and plaid starts enjoying SNP style levels of support we may not see the powers that are on offer to wales in this bill presented to us again for a long time.

    Also for all it's flaws the bill does establish the principal of 'reserved powers for the senedd, it enshrines the existence of the senedd in law and and perhaps most importantly it gives wales powers over income tax for the first time in our history. Also maybe the tories will surprise us and make positive changes to the bill suggested by the lords and others? Do they really want to keep losing in the supreme court? I think they've lost every time they've challenged the welsh government there.

    Sometimes - and this is especially true of welsh devolution i think - you have to accept what's on offer because it takes us a couple of steps nearer to where we want to be. So i think people on our side of the debate need to think very very carefully before try to kill off this bill.