Lords will try to change law to protect Senedd from future 'power-grabs'

Dafydd Wigley is a former leader of Plaid Cymru Credit: Plaid Cymru

The House of Lords will this week debate a proposed new law aimed at preventing any change to the Welsh Parliament’s powers without the overwhelming support of Senedd members.

Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley is sponsoring a bill to which would put new legal safeguards in place.

It’ll receive what’s known as its second reading in the Lords tomorrow (Friday) which is the first time it’ll be debated by peers.

It’s a private members’ bill which means it’s unlikely to be accepted by the UK Government although it could well receive enough support in the Lords to reach the stage when debated it's discussed by MPs in the Commons.

At that point ministers will have to decide whether or not to adopt it or block it.

The bill, known as the Government of Wales (Devolved Powers) Bill, is a response to criticism of the UK Government’s approach to devolution following Brexit, an approach branded by opponents and some supporters as “muscular unionism.”

Credit: PA

As a result of Britain’s departure from the European Union, powers and funding have been redirected.

Some of the powers which had been in devolved areas such as health and education were returned centrally to Whitehall rather than to the devolved governments despite opposition from many in Wales and Scotland.

At the same time EU funding which has seen billions of pounds given to Wales is being replaced by  a UK equivalent scheme known as the Shared Prosperity Fund.

Whereas the EU money was passed directly onto the Welsh Government who administered its spending, the new funding streams are administered by the UK Government with local authorities bidding directly for the cash.

Both changes have allowed the UK Government to take decisions and commit funding in areas which have previously been considered entirely the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

There are plans to increase the numbers of MSs in the Senedd from 60 to 96.

Lord Wigley's bill will prevent any change or reduction in the Welsh Parliament's powers without the support of a 'super-majority' of two-thirds of Senedd members.

He says it would still allow for powers to be pooled on a UK-wide basis in the event of an emergency such as a pandemic.

But he said that it would formalise relationships of respect between governments.

“The aim of the Bill is to provide a greater stability than has existed over the past few years, particularly since the Brexit vote, which has led to the legislative powers of Wales Senedd being undermined by actions of the UK government.

"This has on several occasions been against the wishes of the Welsh Government; and at times, in what has appeared to be in conflict with the legislative framework within which the Senedd conducts its business.

He added that, twenty-five years since the referendum which created what was then known as the Welsh Assembly, "Devolution is here to stay; and therefore it is incumbent on us – both in Westminster and in Cardiff Bay, to make it work; and to do that requires a stability and a transparency of its powers.”

Prime Minister Liz Truss speaking in the House of Commons Credit: House of Commons/PA

Liz Truss is expected to continue her predecessor's robust approach to keeping the countries of the United Kingdom together, giving herself the title "minister for the union."

During the leadership contest she said, “For too long, people in parts of our United Kingdom have been let down by their devolved administrations playing political games instead of focusing on their priorities. If elected prime minister, I will deliver for our whole country.

“We are not four separate nations in an agreement of convenience, as some would have us believe. We are one great country which shares a history and institutions, but also family and friends, memories and values.

“I would ensure that our entire family continues to get the attention, support, and investment that it deserves.”