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Opinion

The Westminster Government is hoping to steamroll devolution – and our human rights along with it

29 Jun 2022 5 minute read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire

Rhys ab Owen, Senedd Member for South Wales Central

The UK Government has recently presented its proposals for the removal of the Human Rights Act in exchange for a so-called Bill of Rights. Not only does this aim to limit the rights of the Welsh people to hold their governments accountable, but also goes against the very ideals that devolution was founded on.

My parliamentary colleague Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts today called on Dominic Raab in the House of Commons to enshrine the right for Wales and Scotland to decide their own futures in the bill. He of course refused.

The Welsh government has always aimed to abide by the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights, and yet still the Westminster government insists that we should not be bound to hold governments, whether that be the Welsh Government or the UK government, to account for its actions.

By stepping on convention rights that are enshrined in the very fabric of devolution, Westminster makes its position very clear: devolution was an error, and it is their intention to rectify it. Of course, this power grab is nothing new, we saw this a few years ago during the passing of the Internal Market Act, which allowed UK Ministers to break international law and went against the consent of both Welsh and Scottish parliaments.

Rhys ab Owen MS in the Senedd

Immediately on Monday night when I heard that the Conservative Westminster Government intended to scrap the Trade Union Wales Act 2017 I tabled a topical question to ask the Welsh Government about the steps Welsh Ministers are taking to protect the Welsh devolution settlement.

I was pleased to secure a question today in the Senedd. We can see this move as a continuation of a Conservative crackdown on trade unions and other such forms of protest.

The General Secretary of TUC Cymru, Shavanah Taj, said that “The UK Government seems determined to attack both workers’ rights and devolution in one go.” And she’s correct, the purpose of this revocation of legislation that the democratically elected body of Wales has voted for is to undermine the rights of working people, and to undermine the powers that they voted for in 2011.

It is a two-prong attack on the voices of the Welsh people, both in the workplace and in the legislature.

Does Unionism give an answer?

That begs the question, where is the unionist answer to this steamrolling of devolution? Unionists seem to have brushed aside this issue, with the Westminster Conservatives resorting to a form of muscular unionism and flag-waving to try and enforce their will.

But surely it should be the will of the Welsh people that matters most in regards to devolution, not the elites up in Westminster? Even the Labour Party, the ruling party of Welsh devolution, seems to have ignored this glaring inconsistency with the constitution.

Is Welsh Labour’s “soft nationalism” enough to fight back against the fresh wave of attacks against Welsh democracy? It seems as though the Welsh government is sleepwalking toward human rights violations by not standing up against Westminster in their proposals to prevent courts from removing legislation which violates the rights of the Welsh people, a principle that any democratic body should hold dear.

As the UK Government shows time and time again that it doesn’t care about the rights of its citizens, including the right to protest and the right to strike, we need to stand up to their bullying.

In the wake of the rewriting of the ministerial rulebook after Partygate, the Welsh Government should be taking steps to ensure that it does not allow Westminster to rewrite the rulebook on human rights, and that we in Wales are able to hold onto our commitment to following the principles of the ECHR. The replacement of these values should make us all too aware that devolution, and the democratic accountability that comes along with it, can just as easily be replaced by the Tories in Westminster.

A rights-based solution

This is one reason why I decided to put forward a proposal for a Welsh Human Rights Act.

My bill would: “…give effect to international human rights in Welsh law through a Human Rights (Wales) Act to make select international human rights part of Welsh law so that they are binding on Welsh Ministers and public authorities in the exercise of devolved functions and may be enforced by a court or tribunal.”

The would protect the human rights of all citizens living in Wales and keep us in step with the rest of Europe. It would secure our human rights as a cornerstone of devolution and Welsh democracy – in spite of any authoritarian policy decisions out of Westminster.


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DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
1 month ago

Make no mistake about it the english nationalist part called tory want to totally take back what little power the 3 Celtic nations have back to london and dissolve their governments and take back control of their colonies because that is way the english establishment think of those 3 Countries

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  DAI Ponty

‘Fat Shanks’, my alternative name for the PM, coined some 2 years ago now is a reference to Edward Longshanks, sometimes known as the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ or in Latin ‘Malleus Scotorum’ (the fun one could have with that) seems increasingly apposite. Who among us thinks I should ‘trademark it’? Not me obviously given my statements elsewhere so I offer it free to all…there is many a truth spoken in jest… The weather for tomorrow in Wrecsam looks good, to those going to the rally have a great day, stay calm and safe and wear a mask if you… Read more »

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago

end second homes. senedd members have second homes in Cardiff and throughout Wales.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 month ago

Wales is an independent Nation, it has every right, as does Scotland, to self determine its future direction. Enough of this bullying from Westminster!

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

I wrote to my various (Labour) representatives wrt this constitutional crisis. I received a considerate and courteous reply. However, I fear that Labour does not fully appreciate the battle it is in. It is a battle of right wing Tory Greater England British Nationalist ideology vs competing aspirations for constitutional reform. I fear that they are still blinded by the bauble of winning a Westminster majority. A feat that they will find very difficult given the state of play in Scotland. I am driven by one clear principle when it comes to the constitution. It is enshrined in the United… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Arwyn
Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Geiriau doeth

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

If a Welsh speaker you already have no human rights in the House of Commons . The right to speak your birthright. And if you do, will be forcible ejected. We don’t live in a democracy but a dictocracy. What the English Conservative fascists in Whithall are contemplating doing is morally reprehensible. To trample over Welsh democracy by illegally repealing Welsh Laws passed in our Senedd Cymru, Draconian. We have a stark choice to make as a people & country. Do nothing and we’ll lose everything. Do something and we can send those Conservative cretins in London packing with their… Read more »

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Oh for some healthy militancy from our Welsh MP’s. Pwy sydd â’r dewrder i ond siarad Cymraeg yn y ffau nadroedd. Gwneud iddynt taflu ein pobl allan, tro ar ol tro. Dangos nhw am yr hyn ydynt.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

The Tories want an end to devolution, they want an end to the liberties we in Cymru have gained by devolution. We must remember what our own ancestors have stated. Richard Price writes in his – Observations on the nature of civil liberty, the principles of government and the justice and the policy of the war with America 1776 – -“Civil liberty is the power of the state to govern itself, by its own discretion or by laws of its own making without being subject to any foreign discretion or the impositions of any extraneous will or power” He goes… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

I’m sure William Jones Llangadfan would be applaud

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