Opinion

The Westminster government is using the process of Legislative Consent Motions to roll back the devolution settlement

09 Oct 2021 4 minutes Read
Liz Saville Roberts MP by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0). South Wales Central Senedd Member Rhys ab Owen. Picture by Plaid Cymru.

Rhys ab Owen MS, Liz Saville Roberts MP

Like a trojan horse the Westminster government is using the process of Legislative Consent Motions to roll back the devolution settlement and stop Wales legislating in devolved areas in the future.

In Mark Drakeford’s speech at the UK Labour’s party conference last week he highlighted the importance of retaining power in order to make a difference in communities. Yet when it comes to motions before the Senedd the Labour Welsh Government has been happy to concede power to the Conservative party at Westminster.

The Welsh Government agrees legislative consent motions allowing the Conservative Westminster Government to pass legislation on a devolved issue over which the Senedd has regular legislative authority – the latest area was the environment last Tuesday. At least this week they rejected a consent motion when it came to another devolved area education.

This is what the First Minister said in Brighton: “Everything Labour has achieved in Wales…..has been achieved in the teeth of one of the most awful UK governments we have ever seen. Incompetent to its core and automatically hostile to anyone who does not share its visceral reactionary instincts at home or abroad.”

Hostile

Awful, incompetent, hostile and reactionary. Yet good enough last week in the eyes of the Welsh Government and Labour MSs to pass legislation in a crucial area for the wellbeing of the people of Wales, now and in the future.

Powers over our environment, devolved for over 20 years, handed back to Boris Johnson’s “awful”, “incompetent”, “hostile” and “reactionary” government.

It is a constitutional principle, that the Senedd should legislate in areas devolved. Areas like the climate crisis and the environment are far too important to leave to Boris Johnson’s government to legislate on.

There is very little information in the memoranda of the Legislative Competence Orders why this occurs. In future we need clear principles why the Welsh Government feels they can allow legislation to pass. A lack of time and capacity is not good enough.

If we allow Westminster to legislate this results in laws solely in the English language, without proper scrutiny by the Senedd. Laws that will not be as accessible to the people of Wales, and it would limit our powers to legislate in this area for the future.

The question has to be asked why after a decade of having full legislative powers, are we asking a Government in Westminster that has such a terrible environmental record to do this on our behalf?

It is not just about the environment. This was the first Legislative Consent Motion of many that to be discussed in this Senedd in areas such as education, health and housing.

The  Professional Qualifications Bill discussed in the Senedd this week gives the Secretary of State or the Lord Chancellor powers to make regulation that amends Senedd Acts.

There are also powers in the bill that could modify the Government of Wales Act 2006. As the Senedd’s cross-party Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee highlighted it is a basic constitutional principle that Senedd’s legislative competence should not be amended by regulations made by UK Ministers.

We are glad that other parties in the Senedd agreed with the arguments put forward by Plaid Cymru on Tuesday and refused consent for the motion.

The Westminster Government is undermining our devolution settlement. If you look at the numbers in the fourth Senedd, there were eight Westminster Bills that required consent; now, in the sixth Senedd, already there are 14 Bills.

It is happening. It is no coincidence, it is a plan by the Conservative Government to withdraw powers from this Senedd quietly but consistently and like the Trojans the Welsh Government are in danger of falling into a Boris Johnson trap.

Plaid Cymru’s message to those in Westminster is simple – hands off our Senedd and our powers.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago

I will repeat myself…if Boris gets a second term and we continue to push for independence be prepared for their troops on our streets…

Hedda Mulgrew MSc (Econ)
Hedda Mulgrew MSc (Econ)
13 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

To suppress Dr Ifan Bach”s paramilitary clickbait army of five?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
12 days ago

Purely to please Fat Shanks’ perverted ego…

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
12 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I agree, troops with high boots

Popsieonline
Popsieonline
4 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Did you mean to say Britiish soldiers?

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

With the fascist Tory idocracy using undemocratic means to overrule & undermine Welsh devolution, is now vitally important for Wales most senior civil servant again to challenge this hostile act again at the Supreme Court. The last challenge made failed mainly because the Tories at the time indicated what they might do but never did. Call it idle threats. See, saying and doing is one thing. A court can only judge and act if a crime has been committed. Now it has. And since the last Supreme Court decision, the scummy Conservatives have already hijacked Wales EU powers, have interfered… Read more »

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
12 days ago

We had a referendum (Two in fact).

You lost.

Get over it.

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
12 days ago

They are not interested in democracy, only cleptocracy

Steve George
Steve George
12 days ago

Excellent points Rhys. What’s even more concerning is that Senedd Committees often consider LCMs in private.

While there are a number of good reasons for Committees to be able to have private discussions, there is surely no room for this when laws are under consideration. Law making, and consideration of any laws that will apply to Wales, should be open and transparent throughout the process.

It’s no good complaining that Welsh Government processes are opaque, and information in memoranda limited, when Senedd Committees, charged with scrutinising these LCMs, do so behind closed doors.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve George

They do have to publish agendas, papers and minutes for the Committees. Like the campaign to save the National Library, we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to be proactive, on their case and raise a noise. Make the MSs work for us.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
12 days ago

Look we all know the Tories hate devolution, hate giving up any power and would abolish the Senedd and probably even try and make Wales a county of England, immediately, if they could. They can’t, so they are doing it slowly bit by bit, stealthily. They think we will not notice – damn fools, they are just pushing us to independence quicker, through their arrogance.

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