There was a ripple of applause from AMs in the Senedd chamber this afternoon when Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler welcomed the Supreme Court judgement. She told members that she would now take the next steps required to enable the disputed Local Government byelaws bill to become law.
I've been talking to First Minister Carwyn Jones to get his response to today's Supreme Court judgement. He told me it vindicates the Welsh Government's position although he admitted it has been a 'useful' clarification of the law. Watch his answers below:
Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary has criticised the Secretary of State for taking the dispute over the Welsh Government's first bill to the Supreme Court. Owen Smith said
Now that both of the Wales Office’s legal challenges have been dismissed out of hand, David Jones should pledge not to waste any more time or taxpayers money with further such challenges.
If the only good to come from this complete waste of time, effort and money is that the Welsh Secretary now has a better understanding of where the devolution boundary lies, I can’t help but feel the Welsh public has been left short-changed.
– First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM
I’m very pleased the Supreme Court has ruled in our favour in this case. Their judgment is confirmation that the Welsh Government's position was right.
Welsh Secretary David Jones says the Supreme Court has 'removed uncertainty about the Assembly's' powers. He said:
This judgment will assist both the Welsh and UK Governments as to where the devolution boundary lies. In particular, it clarifies the extent to which the Welsh Ministers can exercise their powers to amend byelaw making procedures in the future.
The Government appreciates this clarification, as the referral was made to clarify the boundary of the Welsh devolution settlement, not to interfere with the policy objectives of the Welsh Government.
The UK Government will continue to make every effort to ensure that the legislative arrangements work effectively. Any referrals to the Supreme Court should not be seen as hostile, but rather the appropriate mechanism of ensuring devolution works smoothly. I am committed to ensuring that and working with the Welsh Government in the future.
A Welsh Government source tells me that this morning's judgement by the Supreme Court is proof not just that the disputed Local Government byelaws bill is lawful but also that the Welsh Government 'knows what it's doing.' The source added that 'the stabilisers are off the bike' for Welsh lawmaking.
The Assembly's Presiding Officer has welcomed today's ruling by the Supreme Court as a 'victory for the National Assembly for Wales.' Rosemary Butler said it was a vote of confidence in the Assembly's ability to make laws.
It confirms the authoritative legal advice given to me and demonstrates that the Assembly is a mature institution that has the right procedures and staff in place to interpret and implement the devolution settlement.
Our system of law-making in Wales is unique in the world and still evolving. It is more complicated in its approach than the Scottish and Northern Irish models, and this ruling today is another chapter in that process which demonstrates that the Assembly is making good law for Wales.
– Rosemary Butler, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales
I welcome today’s judgment and I am grateful to the Supreme Court for their thorough examination of the matter.
Judges sitting in the UK's Supreme Court have this morning unanimously ruled that the first Welsh bill is within the Welsh Government's range of powers. There had been a dispute about whether or not the Local Government byelaws bill was lawful or not.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Welsh Government's first law was within the Welsh Assembly's legislative competence, and can go ahead.
– Supreme Court judgement
The outcome is entirely consistent with the general thrust of the extended powers given to the Welsh ministers, by the Government of Wales Act 2006.
The Local Government Byelaws Bill was passed by the assembly in July this year. But it was blocked from becoming law by the attorney general and referred to the court.