First Minister Carwyn Jones has condemned the draft Wales Bill, claiming that it would create an English veto on Welsh laws. He said proposed new restrictions on the National Assembly’s ability to legislate would make the devolution settlement more complex and less powerful. Mr Jones made it clear that he would ask the Assembly to refuse legislative consent for the bill as drafted to go ahead.
The Bill contains extensive new requirements for Whitehall to consent to Assembly bills, something which would be both inappropriate in principle, and bureaucratic in practice. They amount to nothing less than an English veto on Welsh laws. In pursuing its legislation, the Assembly would be subject to a new test of necessity which would introduce new areas of legal doubt and uncertainty. If these provisions had been in place during this administration, lawyers advise that less than one third of our Bills could have been passed without the prior approval of the UK Government. What kind of devolution would that be? The draft Bill, which reverses the two unanimous decisions of the Supreme Court in the Byelaws and Agricultural Wages Board cases, proposes a type of reserved powers model which, if implemented, would be a major step backwards for devolution in Wales. Without major improvement, the Bill is a recipe for ever more referrals to the Supreme Court and ever more inter-governmental disputes. That cannot be in the interests of the National Assembly, the Welsh Government or, indeed, the UK Government. The Bill as drafted will not provide the coherent and durable devolution settlement that the people of Wales deserve.
A group of MPs and AMs will meet today to scrutinise the UK Government's proposals on further devolution for Wales.
The UK Government is to publish its Wales Bill which sets out changes to the powers of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly