Alternatives set forward for new Devolution Bill.

Dame Rosemary Butler outlines why she believes the Wales Bill needs to be amended in order to deliver for the people of Wales.

The people of Wales deserve a clear, workable and durable constitutional settlement which will enable their elected politicians, in future, to deliver on their hopes and aspirations.

And let me be clear from the outset, I am committed to working with the Secretary of State for Wales to achieve this aim. There is much in this draft Wales Bill that I welcome, considering the powers that it devolves to the Assembly to finally manage its own internal affairs.

However, as it currently stands, I believe that the draft Wales Bill needs further work in order to deliver the sustainable settlement Wales needs.

To that end, and rather than merely criticising the proposals, I have taken the step of putting forward proposals of my own, in a constructive attempt to move discussions forward.

Today, I appear before the Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, where I will outline three alternative drafts for some of the restrictions that the draft Bill places on the Assembly’s ability to legislate.

The alternative drafts have been worked up by a former parliamentary drafter, and internationally-recognised expert on legislative drafting, Daniel Greenberg, in conjunction with the Assembly’s own lawyers.

I make no secret of the fact that none of the options achieve my true aim: a devolution settlement for Wales, and indeed a constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom, based on the principle of subsidiarity – the principle that the centre should do only those things that cannot be done effectively at devolved level. I recognise that, regrettably, there is not enough time for this aim to be achieved in the process leading up to the current Wales Bill

Instead, these alternative drafts are intended to rationalise and simplify the proposed new tests for Assembly legislative competence – and thus to make the settlement clearer, more workable and more durable.

In addition, the first option openly aims to recover some of the legislative ability that I believe the Assembly will lose under the proposals as currently drafted – particularly the ability to use the civil and criminal law as legislative tools to make substantive provisions, on matters like housing and social welfare, effective in practice.

I believe these alternatives could make a real difference to the workability of the Welsh devolution settlement – and that’s got to be a good thing, not least because it saves public resources.

The alternative proposals would also remove some of the additional requirements for UK Government consents (the so-called English veto on Welsh laws) introduced by the draft Bill, while keeping others. I believe this is a reasonable way forward. I recognise that UK Government Departments have some anxieties around the Assembly’s ability to affect its budget by imposing new duties on them or their sponsored public bodies. I’ve tried to go some way towards allaying those anxieties. But there has to be fairness and parity of respect; the UK Parliament can impose duties on bodies funded by the Welsh Government at any time, on reserved matters, without any need for Assembly consent.

All the proposed alternatives, which I will outline in my evidence, simplify the competence tests in the draft Bill by reducing the number of restrictions. The current draft includes several double-headed tests. All the alternatives reduce each of these to a single test. Most crucially this would protect the Assembly’s current powers to use ordinary civil and criminal law as part of the legislative toolbox.

In a more radical option I also propose simplifying the whole model by simply removing one of the tests for competence in legislating in terms of the reserved model. In total, my proposals would reduce the number of tests back to current levels.

My aim is, and has always been, to be a critical friend to the Secretary of State in ensuring that we end up with a bill that delivers a clear, workable and durable constitutional settlement for the people of Wales.

There has been a lot of noise about the bill in its current form. I have said publically that I believe the current draft would amount to a backwards step for the National Assembly and would not deliver the lasting constitutional settlement for Wales, and the UK as a whole.

That said, I believe that a workable solution is achievable and I am pleased to offer, with the support of a recognised expert in Daniel Greenberg, a positive and constructive contribution to that aim.

I look forward to seeing the response to the amendments I will set out to both the Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

Dame Rosemary Butler is the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales.

11 thoughts on “Alternatives set forward for new Devolution Bill.

  1. errm yeah… I think if we weren’t already, then after the events of friday night we’re all perhaps just a little bit bored of the bickerings and whinges on constitutional change emanating from the overpaid amateurs in Cardiff bay.

  2. Surely it is time for all the political parties in Wales to agree on securing the same powers for Wales as for Scotland. Stephen Crabb’s proposed Bill is just a recipe for chaos and an insult to our country.

  3. “I believe these alternatives could make a real difference to the workability of the Welsh devolution settlement – and that’s got to be a good thing, not least because it saves public resources.”

    We saved a hell of a lot more public resources before we had a devolution settlement AND Wales was better governed with better front-line services…

    Once again, the solution to political failure is more of the same – usually championed by the people who profit from it.

    Time to roll-back to a situation where we have one MP and one Councillor – before the damage becomes irreparable.

  4. A Labour politician wanting more politicians whilst presiding over an excess of politicians in local government. I am so grateful that the UK government is both challenging the complacency of devolution in Wales whilst simultaneously shining the light of transparency on a dreadful political class.

  5. The Assembly has been good for Wales, but we need more power devolved to the Assembly and the Silk commission recommendation of increasing the number of AMs to 80-100 should be implemented. There are too few AMs for the workload and proper governance

  6. Crabb talked the talk but boy has he failed to walk the walk. The bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and I am so glad that he has felt the weight of the legal, political and academic world come against him. If you have seen any of the committees on the bill, it is pretty embarrassing stuff for the Wales Office.

    Everyone knows the Wales Office is a haven for the unambitious, but this truly is a new level of incompetency.

    Carwyn Jones is right as this bill will only increase nationalism. For the vast majority of people, who believe in the Union and further devolution, this is a massive setback.

    It leaves me asking the question: if the unionist parties are incapable of giving us the strong devolution settlement we want and deserve, then who is? The SNP has done the job in Scotland. I am now, for the first time in my life, considering voting Plaid.

  7. A bit too transparent Glyn Thomas? The usual Welsh nat’s ‘psychology’ often used in similar context by Welsh speaking teachers asking unhappy parents who object to Welsh language imposition ‘Don’t you want your child to be bilingual’?

    In regard to Welsh devolution it needs to be earned and any more devolution to Wales will be rewarding FAILURE on a massive scale and plenty of examples in the public domain to support my assertions.

    Stephen Crabb is 100% right to hold back devolution and stand up to the nationalists including the disguised variety who try to hide behind ‘inverted psychology’ to support their hidden agendas!

  8. Crabb is walking the walk, since the unionists had a scare with the Scottish vote their aim now seems to be to hobble Wales and impose the failure of direct Westminster misrule once again. We should never reward failure and direct Westminster misrule will be a monumental failure. We have had 500 years of failed rule, lets get more powers for the Assembly

  9. Devolution has done great things for wales. Unfortunately we have many people who only highlight the bad bits and ignore the many many positives.
    Wales needs more powers to be able to do an even better job.
    Please ignore those who say the places should be closed down. Many have hidden agendas against wales ever having power over its own affairs.

  10. Impressed IWA ‘Censorship’ again! Touchy subjects most of the time do not reach your audience till it’s too late to do any harm to purity of thought ‘Worship Welsh LABOUR Governance and those who serve the minority through lies and deceit.

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