The Tory power grab of Wales’ powers threatens the whole United Kingdom
Lord Mike German
This week in the House of Commons sees the continuation of parliamentary battle to defend the attack by the Conservative government on the Union which is the United Kingdom.
The UK Internal Market Bill has made headlines for its shameless breach of international law, but the Tories’ plan for Wales, and its implications for devolution, are immense. If we want the United Kingdom to survive, then the UK government has to respect the Union, and have regard for its future.
The people of Wales voted to have a Welsh Assembly (now a Parliament), and then voted again by 2 to 1 to give it more powers. The people’s voice is in grave danger of being thwarted by this Bill, which will turn the clock back – will take away powers, and hollow out the ability of Welsh people to take decisions for ourselves in key areas of our lives.
The Bill renders many of the powers of our Welsh Parliament useless by using overrides and bypasses to the laws we now make in Wales. For example, in Wales we have decided to stop the use of single-use plastic cutlery and plates because they damage the environment, cannot be recycled, and pollute our ground and sea for centuries to come. But in this Bill the UK government gives itself the power to make and use them in
England and then to sell them in Wales. So Welsh law becomes useless. There is no point having the power to make these laws if they can be by-passed by the UK government. This is the power grab by the Conservatives in London of the very powers the Welsh people voted for in a referendum and which we now have.
The Liberal Democrats believe there have to be rules which make trade between our countries fair, but that it has to be done on the basis of a UK-wide agreement. A huge level of agreement has already been made through negotiation between the Welsh and UK governments, but that is being set aside by this Bill.
The Tory view is that you can have powers but they will be useless if we in London decide to override them. And they propose to do the same with the former EU money which Wales used to get.
In answer to a question from me, the Tory government said they would match the EU money for Wales – but in this Bill they are planning to spend an undisclosed part of it themselves. So our laws and our money are under threat – Liberal Democrats will fight for both.
In the Lords I, together with my Liberal Democrat collegues, made this forcefully clear. We will debating amendments and are still hopfull that this bill does not go ahead until the processes have been agreed by all four nations in the United Kingdom.
Protecting and extending devolution, not just between the four nations but within them as well, is the key to ensuring the integrity of the United Kingdom, and bringing government to the people.
Lord German is a former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and deputy First Minister of Wales.