Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland join forces to express ‘real concerns’ over UK Internal Market Bill
Finance Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have voiced their concerns about the financial implications of the UK Internal Market Bill on devolved governments.
The spending powers set out in the Bill override the existing devolution settlement and will enable the UK government to undertake spending in devolved areas, including for replacement EU funding, without any engagement with devolved nations.
The ministers also warned of the impact the new powers could have on future consequential funding arrangements.
Last week 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.
Welsh Government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “I am deeply concerned that the Bill gives UK ministers, for the first time since devolution, powers to fund activity in areas which are clearly devolved to Wales.
“In Wales funding decisions are taken in partnership with local communities, to ensure that they reflect the needs of the people in Wales. The powers set out in the Bill completely undermine devolution and will see decisions currently taken in Wales clawed back by the UK government.”
Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes said: “It is entirely unacceptable that – with no prior notice – the UK government has written provisions into the Bill that presume Whitehall control over the delivery of replacements for the EU funding programme in Scotland; a programme that Scottish ministers have delivered successfully for decades.
“This Bill would also allow the UK government to dictate how money is spent in devolved areas without the consent of Scottish Ministers. It puts at risk funding for a whole host of capital programmes – schools, hospitals and infrastructure. It reverses the devolution process and we will oppose any attempt to bypass the Scottish Parliament and government which are elected by the people of Scotland.
“Not only is it in contravention of the devolution settlement, but it has the potential to create confusion, duplication and unnecessary additional bureaucracy at a time when economic recovery is paramount.”
Conor Murphy, Finance Minister for Northern Ireland, added: “The Internal Market Bill will give the British Government wide ranging powers to make funding decisions in devolved areas.
“This is greatly concerning and could have huge implications for the Good Friday Agreement. The British government should not interfere in funding matters which are currently the responsibility of the devolved administrations.
“It is also imperative that they provide details on the scope of the Shared Prosperity Fund. This will be a vital source of replacement funding for devolved areas and the lack of meaningful engagement to date is extremely disappointing.”