Welsh government blasts ‘undemocratic assault’ on devolution as they take UK Government to court
A Welsh Government minister has said that they will not tolerate the UK Government’s “undemocratic assault” on devolution after taking them to the High Court yesterday.
At a hearing in London on Friday, Wales’ Counsel General Jemery Miles asked the High Court to allow the case against the UK Government to proceed to a full hearing later this year.
They are taking legal action against the UK Government over the Internal Market Act, which they say “severely curtails” the powers of the Senedd.
Jeremy Miles later said: “We will not tolerate this undemocratic assault on our devolution settlement. We promised we would challenge the UK Conservative government’s attempts to undermine the Senedd in the courts, and that is exactly what we are doing.”
The UK Government argued in court that the new act does not prohibit the Welsh Government from applying laws to companies within Wales.
However it said that no devolved rules could be applied to businesses in other parts of the UK which wanted to sell their goods in Wales.
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the UK Government, said in a written submission: “Nothing in the Act alters the devolved competence of the Senedd – the subject matters of the areas in which legislative competence exists is unaffected.
“But the Act does prevent legislation having effect in a manner which purports to restrict in a prohibited manner goods or services produced in, or provided from, a different part of the United Kingdom, so as to preserve the internal market.
“There is no ambiguity in what the Act does and the claimant is not entitled to invite the court to question the approach taken by Parliament.”
Sir James Eadie QC added: “The Act plainly and expressly applies across the entirety of the United Kingdom, to legislation of the devolved legislatures and administrations, and to secondary legislation made by a UK minister, where it would affect the UK internal market.
“Parliament was entitled to make specific provision in respect of the UK internal market … and Parliament’s legislative and drafting choices may not be called into question by the back door, as the claimant seeks to achieve.”
Helen Mountfield QC, representing the Welsh Government, argued that the Act appeared to give the UK Government “broad powers … to modify the Internal Market Act itself, devolution legislation and other primary legislation”.
She told the court: “At least on one reading, these provisions so severely curtail the competence of the Senedd, formerly the Welsh Assembly, to legislate in areas which are not reserved to the Westminster Parliament … as to impliedly remove those areas from Senedd competence.”