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Power grab bill ‘disproportionately favours interests of England’ over Wales, Senedd committee says

26 Nov 2020 4 minutes Read
Westminster and the Senedd. Picture on the right by Richard Szwejkowski (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Three Senedd committees have joined forces to slam the UK Government’s “power grab” bill which “disproportionately favours the interests of England” over those of Wales.

According to the committees, the Internal Market Bill, “imposes the UK Government’s will on Wales and favours the interests of England”, and they have called on the Senedd to reject it.

The UK Government says the purpose of the bill it to make sure trade continues smoothly after Brexit, and has described it as a “power surge” for the devolved administrations, but the committees have expressed “serious concerns” about the impact on devolution if it is passed.

The Bill creates new rules for the regulation of goods, services and qualifications across the UK, and the Senedd committees have warned that it gives UK Ministers funding powers in devolved areas, and that it “undermines devolution” because of this.

Even if the Senedd does reject it, the UK Government has the power to override it and plough ahead regardless just as it did with the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee has recommended that the Senedd to reject the bill, because it would reduce the Senedd’s powers.

It has also warned that it would reduce the effect of many future laws passed by the Senedd, and that it seeks to impose the UK Government’s will on Wales, in a way that disproportionately favours the interests of England.

 

‘Favours England’

David Rees MS, chair of The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee said: “The view of the Senedd, Wales’ Parliament, cannot be ignored on such an important constitutional issue.

“The Internal Market Bill could reverse two decades of work on devolution if it is passed. I urge the UK Parliament not to ignore the Senedd’s will as this Bill will reduce the power of the Senedd and reduce the effect of laws made in Wales.

“Laws made in the Senedd are passed on behalf of the people of Wales to address the needs of the people of Wales – this Bill seeks to impose the UK Government’s will on Wales, in a way that disproportionately favours the interests of England.”

The Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has also raised serious concerns about the Internal Market Bill and says it presents a risk to devolution and the stability of the UK.

It believes that the Bill would, threaten devolution as it stands, introduce a disincentive for the Welsh Government and Senedd to innovate in policy and law making, and undermine laws passed by the Senedd in relation to goods and services.

It gives the example if Wales banned beef treated with synthetic hormones, but the rules were different in other UK nations, then Wales’ ban would be undermined.

‘Weakened’

Mick Antoniw MS, chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee said: “There’s no question that the Internal Market Bill threatens devolution as it stands today. It undermines the Welsh Government and the Senedd and the ability to make laws that meet the needs and aspirations of the Welsh people.

“Sometimes constitutional issues can be seen as abstract and dry but we’re clear that this UK Government Bill, if it is passed, will affect the daily lives of Welsh citizens and impact on Welsh businesses.”

The Finance Committee believes the Bill undermines devolution and makes it possible for the UK Government to reduce it’s funding to Wales through what is called the Block Grant.

It believes there is a lack of clarity on the impact of the Bill with regards to subsidy control on tax devolution and that this creates the possibility that certain tax policies in Wales may be limited or open to challenge. It also noted the lack of progress on replacing the funding that Wales has been receiving from the EU.

Llyr Gruffydd MS, chair of the Finance Committee said: “This Bill raises serious questions about how money is spent in Wales and who spends it. If the Bill passes as it is, it gives the UK Government power to undermine the Welsh Government and spend money how it sees fit in Wales and could reduce the Welsh Block Grant.

“This totally weakens devolution and the power of the Welsh Government to spend money on behalf of its citizens.”

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