UK Government pressing ahead with ‘power grab’ bill despite rejection by the Senedd

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons.

The UK Government is to press ahead with its controversial power grab bill despite it being rejected in the Senedd.

Paul Scully MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Minister of State, has confirmed that it will overrule the devolved parliaments in a statement to the House of Commons.

The Senedd voted 36 to 15 against the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill, which has been described as an “attack on democracy” because it takes away devolved powers and centralises them in Westminster.

The UK Government says it “deeply regrets” this decision and that the purpose of the Bill is to help facilitate trade between the nations post Brexit.

Mr Scully insisted that “proceeding with the Bill to Royal Assent is necessary” to “provide clarity and consistency for businesses” and therefore it will ignore the vote against in the Senedd as well as the Scottish Parliament.

Plaid Cymru MP, Liz Saville Roberts, reacted with dismay to the move.

She said: “There we have it – confirmation that Westminster is pressing ahead with its power grab bill despite Wales and Scotland refusing legislative consent.

“Welcome to the ‘United’ Kingdom, where one nation overrules the wishes of the others. Time to get out.”

The Welsh Government’s Counsel General Jeremy Miles has informed the UK Government it could face legal action if it passes the Bill.

It has been described as “an attack on democracy” allows UK Ministers “to undermine the right of the Senedd to make laws and policies which reflect the priorities of the people they serve.”

 

‘Outrageous attack’

In a written statement to the Senedd yesterday, Mr Miles said: “The Welsh Government is determined to do everything we can to protect the Senedd in the face of the outrageous attack on its legislative competence made by the UK Government through the UK Internal Market Bill, to which the Senedd has rightly refused consent.

“The Bill will today complete the process of Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments. If the Bill is enacted in its present form, this would leave the ambit of the devolution settlement in Wales uncertain and undermined.

“Regulation-making powers in the Bill would open the Government of Wales Act 2006 (GoWA) to very wide substantive future amendment, and the powers of the Senedd and Welsh Government to serious diminution, at the hands of the UK Government.

“The provisions in the Bill are also so wide and deep in operation that they risk constraining the legislative space for the Senedd in areas which are currently devolved.

“We have therefore today formally notified the UK Government that should the UK Parliament enact the Bill in its present form, I intend to take immediate action to seek a declaration from the Administrative Court that the ambit of constitutional legislation cannot lawfully be cut down in this way and that the ensuing Act cannot be interpreted so as to have that effect.”

‘Consent’

Paul Scully MP has defended the actions of the UK Government.

He said: “The UK Internal Market Bill will allow people to do business reliably and seamlessly across all parts of the UK and enable the UK Government to boost our economic recovery, increase investment across the whole UK, create new jobs and be stronger as a country as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Mr Scully insisted that it is “fully committed” to the Sewel Convention, the rule that the UK Government should not interfere in devolved matters without consent. despite the fact that it has discarded it.

He said: “The Sewel Convention envisages situations where the UK Parliament may need to legislate for the whole country in this way.

“The exceptional circumstances of our departure from the EU, and the need to provide a UK-wide legal underpinning for the internal market, is clearly one such situation.

“This Government is fully committed to the Sewel Convention and the associated practices for seeking consent.

“We will, of course, continue to seek legislative consent, take on board views, and work with the Devolved Administrations on all future Bills that engage the legislative consent process, just as we have always done.

“The UK Government does however deeply regret that the Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru have both refused to provide their consent for the Bill.

“We have maintained, throughout the Bill’s passage, that the Government is open to discussing the concerns of each Devolved Administration, and would make changes to the Bill where it is possible, without undermining the necessary purpose and integrity of the legislation.

“From the outset, it has been the UK Government’s objective to legislate for the UK Internal Market Bill with the consent of all the devolved legislatures.

“At every stage, we have followed the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement and worked hard to secure legislative consent for this vitally important piece of legislation for all of the UK.”

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