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The Welsh Government has produced its own version of the draft Wales Bill, as an alternative to the proposals for further devolution that were 'paused' by the Welsh Secretary last week. Unveiling his 'Government and Laws in Wales Bill', First Minister Carwyn Jones claimed that it would deliver a stable, long-term devolution settlement for the people of Wales.
It includes substantially fewer 'reserved matters' -powers to be retained by Westminster. It also provides for further devolution in future, with the Welsh Government eventually gaining control of policing and the courts. The bill would immediately create a distinct legal jurisdiction for Wales.
Whilst it was the right decision for the UK Government to pause and reflect on their proposed Wales Bill, we are still deeply concerned at the lack of consultation and involvement in the process. So today, in the spirit of constructive collaboration and co-operation, we have published a comprehensive made-in-Wales alternative Bill which addresses those concerns, and provides a stable, long term solution to the future governance of Wales. We hope the UK Government will use the space created by the pause on their Bill to engage constructively with our proposals and believe it offers solutions to many of the difficult issues we currently face. This is the Bill we could still deliver together.
The immediate response on behalf of the Welsh Secretary suggested that it was unlikely that many of the First Minister's proposals would be incorporated into the actual Wales Bill.
The Secretary of State has already announced changes to the Wales Bill that will command broad support and deliver a stronger devolution settlement for Wales. As part of the St David’s Day process, Welsh Labour specifically ruled out devolving policing and creating a separate legal jurisdiction. The fact is the Labour Party is split from top to bottom when it comes to devolution. This alternative Wales Bill is clearly a concession to Plaid Cymru ahead of the Assembly elections in which Labour is expected to lose seats.
A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said the Welsh Government's bill wasn't worth the paper it was written on, as Labour MPs haven't put forward these proposals at Westminster.
Welsh peers will try again to lower the voting age to sixteen for Assembly elections when the Wales Bill returns to the House of Lords later. The Bill is mainly intended to transfer tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government but also oversees some changes to the way the Assembly is elected.
Peers from Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have all tabled amendments which, if backed, would allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in future Assembly elections as they were in September's independence referendum.
Other amendments would see the transfer of all electoral arrangements to Cardiff Bay, a review of funding to Wales before any income tax devolution and the number of AMs increased from 60 to 80.
It's unlikely that the UK Government will back the proposed changes; it's already altered the Bill to beef up income-tax varying powers on offer and there have been repeated hints that further devolution would be a matter for separate legislation.
Labour remains suspicious about the UK Government's Wales Bill which is being debated for the first time by members of the House of Lords. But the party's frontbencher in the Lords, Baroness Morgan, says the borrowing powers the bill would give to the Welsh Government are significant.
Peers are to debate plans to give the Welsh Government more powers, including the ability to borrow money and some control over taxes. They're discussing the UK Government's Wales Bill which would introduce the changes.
Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Wigley says that, despite its flaws, the bill is a step forward.
The National Assembly should be able to hold referenda on major issues that are legally binding, according to Plaid Cymru. It'll try to alter the Wales Bill to include the move when in its final Commons stage today.
Plaid MP Hywel Williams says 'it would make government better and more legitimate' by leaving it to 'the people of Wales' to decide which powers should be transferred to the Assembly and when.
Labour wants to alter the UK Government's Wales Bill to make it clear which powers have been devolved to Cardiff and which remain the responsibility of Westminster. MPs have their last chance to amend the bill when it reaches its final stages in the Commons today.
Shadow Wales Minister, Nia Griffith, says Labour's amendment would force the UK Government to make the division clear to avoid disputes and costly legal battles.