UK Parliament should retain power to ‘abolish’ the Senedd, Lords report recommends
A report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee has recommended that the UK Parliament should retain the power to abolish the Senedd.
In its report, Respect and Co-operation: Building a Stronger Union for the 21st century, which has been published today, it is argued that “Parliamentary sovereignty remains a fundamental doctrine of our constitution”.
Ultimate control over laws in Wales is held in Westminster, not in the Senedd, under this system.
The committee says it is calling for the creation of a revitalised, better-functioning and less rancorous Union. The report set outs how such a Union of respect and co-operation can be achieved, it says.
According to the report, improving the shared governance of the UK will require a greater degree of respect and partnership between the different layers of government than exists at present.
The committee argues the UK’s constitutional arrangements can provide the best of both worlds for its constituent nations. It says this requires significant devolved autonomy complemented by the pooling of resources and sharing of risks, to ensure greater resilience in its collective response to challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
The committee has expressed concern about what it calls the tendency to ‘devolve and forget’, and while it welcomes the Government’s stated commitment to the Union, it believes it needs to set out a clearer vision about how it will be shaped in the 21st century.
The report says: “Parliamentary sovereignty remains a fundamental doctrine of our constitution. While the UK Parliament could, in theory, legislate to abolish the devolved institutions; in reality, it would not do so, and certainly not without the express consent of relevant voters in a referendum, as recognised in the devolution statutes.
“This illustrates the political constraints which in practice circumscribe the legislative supremacy of the UK Parliament. As with other political
constraints, there may, from time to time, be tensions in their operation.
“Parliament’s legislative authority must continue to be exercised with respect and restraint if the Union is to be strengthened.”
Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Chair of the Constitution Committee said: “The United Kingdom, The Union, marks its centenary in 2022. After the challenges of Brexit and COVID-19 there is a clear need and a clear opportunity to reset relationships between its constituent parts to achieve a better functioning Union.
“This will help us to keep pace with the rapid changes and many challenges that confront all of us and which every layer of government will have to address in the 21st century.
“The UK Government needs to articulate a compelling vision and narrative for the United Kingdom in the 21st century. The committee’s vision is of a more co-operative Union based on a renewed sense of respect and partnership between the different layers of government and a new emphasis on shared governance in the interests of all its citizens. But for this to be a success requires good faith and a constructive approach from central, devolved and local government.
“We believe a significant culture change is required in Whitehall, including the end of its top-down mindset. This will be critical if the new intergovernmental arrangements and any extension of devolution across England is to be a success. Fostering greater respect and co-operation between Whitehall and the different parts of the United Kingdom will be even more important in strengthening the Union.
“We believe that the Union’s strength historically has been its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The Union should continue to do so, so it can achieve its full potential in the 21st century and fully demonstrate its benefits to all its nations and regions.”
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