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AMs back Wales Bill in Assembly vote

Credit: PA Images

Assembly Members have voted to back the Wales Bill in today's Assembly vote. The vote was 38-17 in favour of the bill.

The Assembly's right to rename itself a parliament is one of the powers unambiguously given to Cardiff Bay by the Wales Bill.

The main concern of Plaid Cymru - and many in Labour who've agreed to swallow their doubts - is that because law and justice won't be devolved, the Assembly's ability to legislate will be curtailed.

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Labour AMs decide to back Wales Bill

Labour AMs have agreed to back the UK Government's Wales Bill when it's debated in the Senedd today.

Although the bill includes significant new powers for the Assembly, the Welsh Government has argued that it also gives ministers at Westminster new opportunities to curtail devolution.

The UK Government had made it clear that it would not over-ride the Assembly if it refused legislative consent for the Wales Bill to be passed. It also said that a new deal with the Treasury on how the Welsh Government is funded would be dropped if the bill did not go ahead.

The decision to back the bill was taken at a meeting of the Assembly Labour group on Monday evening.

As the Conservatives are also committed to supporting the UK Government's legislation, it now seems certain to pass when the vote's taken in the Senedd tomorrow.

As the party who delivered devolution for Wales we have rightly adopted a challenging, but responsible approach towards the passage of the Wales Bill.

This is not the Bill we would have developed and it is not the Bill that Wales deserves. However, on balance this legislation will give the country more constitutional certainty and the fiscal framework in particular represents a real step forward.

After a considered debate, the Labour Group has decided to vote in favour of allowing the UK Government to proceed.

– Labour Group Chair Hannah Blythyn AM

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Welsh Government produces its own version of the draft Wales Bill

Carwyn Jones claimed that his bill would offer a 'stable' devolution settlement Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

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.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

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.

– Spokesperson for Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

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.

Lords in fresh attempt to lower voting age in Wales

A voter places a ballot paper in a ballot box Credit: PA Wire

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.

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