Carwyn Jones argues for a new devolution settlement to give Wales a Scottish-style relationship with Westminster
Devolution is now the settled will of the people of Wales. But unlike devolution in Scotland, which perhaps sprang into life fully formed, devolution in Wales has been in a process of growth since 1999. It was only with the overwhelming success of the Yes campaign in the 2011 referendum that we finally established the National Assembly for Wales as a legislature, with primary legislative powers. The Assembly can now make laws for Wales in matters such as health, education, transport, the environment, local government – matters which most touch peoples’ lives on a daily basis.
But we have more constitutional change in prospect. The UK Government, in its coalition agreement, committed to a Commission to review the constitutional settlement for Wales. That Commission, under the chairmanship of Paul Silk, has been working diligently and will soon publish its first report.
The Commission’s remit covers two broad areas. First, it has considered fiscal devolution, whether to confer on the Assembly responsibilities to determine rates for specified taxes. The Commission will report to the UK Government on that very soon, but the two Governments have already agreed that any recommendations on the transfer of taxation powers will go forward only with the consent of the National Assembly. That is a proper recognition of the status of the Assembly within the UK’s constitutional arrangements, and means that fiscal devolution must proceed on the basis of consensus between the UK and the Welsh Governments.
We await a Supreme Court judgement on one particular aspect. It is worth noting that that case was heard in the Supreme Court without the benefit of a Welsh judge on the bench; it is very surprising that the Lord Chief Justice, who is the Lord Chief Justice of Wales as well as of England, was not invited to sit in the Supreme Court to hear this case. Wales is the only part of the UK not formally represented in membership of the Supreme Court. That position that should not be allowed to continue.
Although the National Assembly now has substantial legislative powers, the statutory provisions providing for this differ significantly from those for the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Scottish Parliament’s powers, for example, are defined in law by what it cannot do; certain matters are ‘reserved’ to Westminster, but the Parliament can legislate in relation to Scotland on anything else. The Welsh Assembly’s powers, on the other hand, are legally defined by what it is permitted to do: legislative competence is conferred on the Assembly in respect only of a range of specified subjects.
In theory, the two approaches ought to be able to produce bodies with equivalent competence. In practice, that has not proved the case, and the method of conferring legislative competence on the Welsh Assembly produces complications. I expect the Silk Commission will receive a lot of evidence about this, with recommendations for change. My Government’s evidence will argue for Welsh devolution to be reformed on the basis of a Reserved Powers model, as Lord Richard recommended in his Report on the powers of the National Assembly as long ago as 2004.
12 thoughts on “Assembly needs reserved powers model”
Trouble is Carwyn it was your comrades that gave us this dogs dinner of a set up, to placate the British nationalists in your ranks.
It’s good to see that after more than a decade of devolution, some leading members of the Labour Party in Wales are beginning to see the shortcomings in the second rate settlement foisted on Wales in 1997 and the 2006 Act.
I’m in agreement with the FM on the points that he makes. I would go further in saying that much more power is required if the Government of Wales is to even begin to tackle the damage caused by more than a century of exploitation, neglect and decline by successive UK governments. Insofar as he goes, Carwyn has my support, but I suspect that Labour MPs from Wales will continue selfishly to protect their own interests and Carwyn will find himself frustrated – it won’t be the first time that Wales has lost out at the hands of Labour. As for the Tories…enough said!
Devolution is not the settled will of the people of Wales. In the last referendum only 35.4% could be bothered to vote, which meant 64.6% did not vote which is hardly indicative of a very power force of opinion behind the creation of a law making edifice in Caerdydd. The votes for greater legal powers was 517,132 and this represents 23% of welsh electorate of 2,300,088. Therefore 77% of the Welsh electorate as a whole did not express their settled view in wishing to see greater powers. If you take it that there is approximately 10-15% of electorate who wish to see Wales separate from UK, and are GUARANTEED to vote for greater powers as a point of principle, then the balance of support is derisory amongst the 85% who wish to stay in UK. When you think that BBC Wales is a FRONT for PC,and presumably S4C is even worse,and that welsh print media,and civic society (whoever they are) were all in favour of a YES vote then the attendance at polls is in my very humble opinion not a true indication of welsh public opinion.We are however ‘where we are’,and the drive for greater separation from England continues at pace, and unfortunately our FM is seemingly making it his priority,as its easier than getting a grip on public services. In conclusion the machinations down the Bay,leave most welsh people ‘cold’,however the impact on devolution on their lives has barely started,and we’ll see the results over time,particularly as the funds available for spending are going to reduce dramatically in coming years.
“the attendance at polls is in my very humble opinion not a true indication of welsh public opinion”.
There is a growing trend on Welsh blogs for the those on the unionist side to seek & find ways for the results of elections, referendums etc to be simply set aside as required. I don’t wish to be theatrical but in the days when telling-the-truth was more important than fearing-to-give-offence we used to call this fascism. Howell’s comments are a lot milder than others one might find everyday on Wales Online where the english right openly asserts that election results should be subject to their so say. Scots seeking a Yes outcome in their upcoming referendum might ask themselves if a Tory W’mister govt is ready to simply step aside.
“People who don’t vote in referenda to change the status quo = people who oppose the change to the status quo even though they didn’t vote to preserve it” or more colloquially for our purposes: “people who didn’t vote in the Welsh devolution referendum this year are by definition anti-Welsh devolution”
This is argument is trotted out every six months or so by the usual suspects, trolling the blogosphere with the single principle of ‘if you tell a lie enough times people will begin to believe it’
Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully analyse this question in considerable depth (and with c. 15 years of polling data for regression analysis and post-referendum polls) in the following book:
‘Wales Says Yes: Devolution and the 2011 Welsh Referendum’ by Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully (15 Mar 2012)
Read it. You will be enlightened.
“people who didn’t vote in the Welsh devolution referendum this year are by definition anti-Welsh devolution”
That should be “last year” of course… How time flies
Paul Roberts, it’s easy to be arrogant when we have SILENCED MAJORITY in Wales. English speakers of Wales do not have a voice in the Welsh Assembly or the Welsh media and it all started with Rhodri Morgan and his vision of Wales as a ‘Bilingual Nation’ and Rhodri’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to socially engineer Welsh society continues and is now faithfully carried out by Carwyn Jones and his cronies.
Would like to know when the following was widely debated in public and it has a popular demand to do so:
1. Imposition of Bilingual Nation
2. Removal of parental choice to select English Medium education for their children
3. Welsh language speakers being essential requirement in public employment
4. Extreme powers over education and public employment being given to an unelected body – Welsh Language Board
5. Imposition of Welsh Language Commissioner with no equal post for English speakers in Wales
Can add a lot more, but for now would love to hear from Paul Roberts and other Welsh nationalists of his ilk if in any democracy an enforced and imposed social engineering by a so called ‘Government’ can ever be acceptable and justifiable?
Carwyn Jones talks common sense here, as he does on alot of legal issues. The problem is that at some point getting further powers, or even entrenching existing Welsh powers, is going to call into question Wales’ allowance of MPs at Westminster. At that point the internal issues of the Labour party, currently being reasonably well handled by a united Labour party, will again become exposed. I don’t doubt that some kind of compromise can be reached, as Ron Davies once managed, and as Peter Hain later managed along with the One Wales coalition forcing the issue (depending on your reading). But it is these limited compromises that have really held back devolution and prevented genuine self-government, with fuller powers and more accountability, from emerging.
@Paul Roberts. Whose talking about setting aside elections/referendums?. It is perfectly correct to analyse voting patterns etc and my figures are accurate and do I believe show a genuine lack of interest by welsh people in devolution. As far as the Scottish vote is concerned the English people I meet will be delighted if the Scots vote YES, and come face to face with economic/social reality as the UK as a whole has to do, and has done very well for 200+ years. The Fascism seems to be coming from the Nationalist part of Wales which challenges the rights of non-nats, non-welsh speakers to criticise the appalling waste of WLB and S4C. This is all part of of the FM’s drive to separate us from England, but still pick up the hand-outs which fund our current standard of living. You cannot pick and chose when you want people to interfere in your life, if you rely on them for your income, or a large part of it.
Two points Howell:
First, you state: “…the Nationalist part of Wales…” Which ‘part’ is that? It is abundantly clear – as exemplified by this forum – that most people here are either Welsh nationalist or British nationalist. I happen to be a Welsh nationalist whilst you are clearly a British nationalist. I have no problem with that whatsoever, but it does a disservice to label one side of the debate ‘nationalist’ when the vast majority of people are nationalists of one kind or another.
Secondly, you state, “This is all part of of the FM’s drive to separate us from England”. What does this mean? We can’t be seperated from England in any sense. England is not a governing body, or indeed a political entity, at this moment in time. We belong, currently, to the UK polity – not the English one. If Wales, and invariably England, eventually settle for political autonomy, they will still be linked – in social, cultural, linguistic (yes Jacques Protic!) and a myriad of other ways. So, please set the hyperbole aside, and let us all, as proud nationalists, have a rational discussion.
You asked – “Whose talking about setting aside elections/referendums?”.
This point was answered unambiguously in my assertion – “Howell’s comments are a lot milder than others one might find everyday on Wales Online where the english right openly asserts that election results should be subject to their so say.”.
The term Fascism is massively overused, and you’re useage upon your ideological rivals, would be an example. I limit the term only to describe political forces who do not feel bound by democratic outcomes but feel entitled to supercede them.
“You cannot pick and chose when you want people to interfere in your life, if you rely on them for your income,..”.
Of course, that goes without saying. I have no wish for england’s interference or its money, nor do I wish for it to take ours to spend on the trappings (battleships, aircraft carriers, nuclear deterrent, monarchy, empire, over-sized diplomatic service, Olympic games, America’s foreign wars etc) of being a great world power.
“English speakers of Wales do not have a voice in the Welsh Assembly or the Welsh media..”.
As all AMs are english speakers and as all the (significant) Welsh press & blogs (Welsh is banned from WoL) are in english, it’s hard to see how the above is true.
“1. Imposition of Bilingual Nation”.
In this world a number of countries call themselves bilingual. Wales has the attributes typical of these countries. Objectively, it fits the type.
“2. Removal of parental choice to select English Medium education for their children”.
Where I live parents have the choice, so I don’t recognise your issue. In less populated areas there is less or no choice due to lower school density – perfectly normal in a bilingual society. As far as I know, the choice of which medium is arrived at on objective criteria (pupil numbers, demand, quality & location of school etc). Normally one school is the clear choice. In my experience, where EM is chosen, disappointed WM aspirants accept the objective justification stoically, whereas in the opposite case, a handful of anglo-supremacist die-hards play the victim regardless of the merits of the case.
“3. Welsh language speakers being essential requirement in public employment”.
a) I’ve never heard it is, other than when both languages are req’d.
b) Again, perfectly normal in a bilingual society so that no group feels ignored.
“4. Extreme powers over education and public employment being given to an unelected body – Welsh Language Board”.
This cannot be answered until you justify the descriptor, “extreme”.
“5. Imposition of Welsh Language Commissioner with no equal post for English speakers in Wales”.
In Ladies’ loos there are more cubicles than in Gents’ loos. But the Gents have urinals while the Ladies don’t. Is this fair? Yes, because there are rational reasons for this difference. What justifiable end would be served by an EL commissioner or is it just a mischievous & destructive call for parity for its own sake?
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