The Welsh Government is publishing an alternative to the Secretary of State’s draft Wales Bill, one which would deliver a stable, long-term devolution settlement for the people of Wales.
First Minister, Carwyn Jones said his government was taking the unprecedented step in the spirit of moving the devolution process forward.
The Government and Laws in Wales Bill is designed to bring clarity and stability to the Welsh devolution settlement within the context of a strong United Kingdom. It has been designed to put a full stop to the years of constitutional wrangling which has been a feature of the Welsh devolution story over the last 18 years and would bring the Welsh system more closely into line with devolution in the rest of the UK.
The Welsh Government’s Bill includes a reduced number of ‘reserved’ matters, based on the principle of subsidiarity and careful consideration of which matters need to be dealt with at a UK level.
It also introduces a future-proofing element by including the areas the Silk Commission envisaged would be devolved over the next decade, including responsibility for the civil and criminal law and the administration of justice.
In the meantime, the Bill provides for a distinct legal jurisdiction for Wales, along lines which the National Assembly for Wales has already supported unanimously.
The First Minister said:
“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.
This is particularly acute given the depth of concern expressed right across Welsh civic society about the way the original proposals threatened to constrain Welsh democracy.
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.
By including a new category of powers to be devolved in the future, we believe it has the potential to avoid years of further constitutional wrangling by setting down in law a road map for the next decade and beyond.
Laying these out in legislation, along with a distinct legal jurisdiction, should also go a long way towards clarifying the boundaries of devolved powers, thus avoiding more expensive and long-drawn-out referrals to the Supreme Court.
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.”