New UK Government bill will ‘deliberately dismantle Wales’ powers’ warns MP
A new UK Government bill will “deliberately dismantle” Wales’ powers, according to an MP.
The Government’s Subsidy Control Bill is receiving its second reading at Westminster today.
The Bill gives the UK Government full control over the UK’s state aid regime, which means that the Welsh Government can be overruled on how business subsidies can best support Wales’s economy.
Under previous devolved laws, control over state aid policy would have automatically fallen under the Welsh Government’s remit after Brexit.
Dwyfor-Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts said that she feared that underinvestment in Wales would continue as a result of centralising powers at Westminster.
“This Bill will steamroll devolved competences,” she said in the House of Commons.
“Does the Minister agree me that this Bill reflects a new Conservative ideology; which is deliberately dismantling the powers of devolved governments and their accountability as elected governments?”
Minister Kwasi Kwarteng however said that he disagreed that the bill would take any powers away from the Welsh Government.
“It is worth reminding the House that the devolved Governments will have more control over subsidies than they have ever had before,” he said.
“Previously, it was Brussels that made the decisions about which subsidies could be granted to support viable businesses.
“Now, with this Bill, it will be for the elected Governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to make those decisions.”
The Welsh Government had previously expressed “serious concerns” about the bill and said it “only reflects the narrow interests of the UK Government.”
In a joint statement, Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government, and Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for the Economy, said it would make it harder for Wales to “compete on a level playing field with more prosperous regions of the UK”.
“The Bill provides for new powers for the Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy to ‘call-in’ subsidies issues by awarding bodies in Wales for independent review by the Competitions and Markets authority,” they said in July.
“The call-in powers with which the Bill empowers the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy serve as an unacceptable imposition upon areas of devolved policy by providing the UK Government with powers to constrain decision-making on areas of devolved policy.
“The Subsidy Control Bill should not impact upon the devolved powers of Welsh Ministers or act as a tool to reverse devolution through the back door.
“The Bill brings Agricultural and Fisheries subsidies within scope of the UK subsidy regime despite concerns repeatedly raised by Welsh Ministers and the other devolved governments about the difficulty in evidencing the compliance of subsidies with the regime’s principles for compatible subsidies, as well as the lack of detailed guidance.
“Whilst it should be acknowledged that the Bill provides generous carve-outs for ‘legacy and withdrawal agreement subsidies’ the value of these will diminish over time and serve to support our argument that Agricultural and Fisheries subsidies should remain out of scope of the UK subsidy regime.”
However the Labour party at Westminster chose to abstain on the second reading of the bill.