UK Government bill ‘an attempt to recentralise control from Wales to Westminster’

UK Government Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0)

The UK Government’s Internal Market Bill which is making its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords is an attempt to recentralise control to Westminster, according to a Senedd committee.

Contrary to what the UK Government have said, there are no provisions in the Bill which give new powers to the Senedd, the Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee today said.

In fact, it does the opposite, they say, by expressly including new areas as being outside the Senedd’s powers.

“We recognise and endorse the need for a UK internal market after leaving the EU. But this Bill as it is drafted is not the way to achieve that objective,” the Committee chair Mick Antoniw MS said.

“The common frameworks that all governments have been working and co-operating on since 2017 are the right approach.

“As it stands the Bill has the potential to create unnecessary division and appears to be an attempt to recentralise control to Westminster.

“It is undermining the trust and goodwill between governments, which is an unwelcome distraction in the middle of a global pandemic. We urge the UK Government to reconsider the terms of the Bill.”

 

‘Break-up’

The committee referred to GM crops as an example of how the Internal Market Bill could in practice curb devolved powers.

The principle of ‘mutual recognition’ would mean that it would be lawful for producers in England to sell GM food in Wales, despite them being prohibited here. As such, the Bill will embed within the constitution a limit on the effectiveness of Senedd legislation.

The Bill also gives the UK Government power to provide financial assistance in any part of the UK, to further UK Government priorities, rather than devolved priorities.

The Committee will continue its consideration of the Bill and its implications for Wales in the coming weeks, they said.

Earlier this month First Minister Mark Drakeford slammed the Bill as an “enormous power grab” which the Welsh Government will oppose “every step of the way”.

“This Bill will do more to hasten the break-up of the Union than anything else since devolution began. We’ll oppose it every step of the way,” he added.

The Bill has also sparked controversy because one of its main aims is to empower ministers to pass regulations even if they are contrary to the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU under the Northern Ireland protocol, breaking international law.

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