Dai Lloyd, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for South Wales West
Last night, Westminster voted to trample over international law and unleashed yet another attack on Welsh devolution through its power-grabbing Internal Market Bill.
Today, that Bill comes to our Senedd for consent. The Internal Market Bill is an insidious piece of legislation. It takes a sledgehammer to Welsh democracy. It undermines the devolution settlement. It reduces the impact of the Senedd’s legislation. And it goes against the will of the Welsh population who are calling for more, not fewer, powers.
We seem to have found ourselves at the mercy of a Westminster Government which seems to be committed to dismantling Welsh democracy – this despite the results of two consecutive referendums to establish and then to strengthen Wales’ national parliament.
Only this year we’ve seen the UK Government gazump the Welsh Government on testing kits; telling private companies not to supply PPE to Welsh based care homes; a Prime Minister who won’t even attend the inter-governmental meetings, treating Wales with utter contempt; a lack of commitment on future structural funds, further evidence of crippling underfunding of our rail infrastructure at the hands of the UK Government – and now a blatant attack on the Welsh Parliament’s powers via this Internal Market Bill.
Powers are being taken away from Wales and its communities under the guise of creating a ‘single internal market’. It is a lie. The Internal Market Bill is being used to undermine Welsh democracy and its utilisation will render our Senedd powerless in so many key areas. This is where being a part of the union leads us. This is where it leaves our communities. Wanting.
Of course, the Tories in Westminster don’t care. They have already shown they are more than happy to ride roughshod over Wales’ autonomy by gladly supporting this power grab.
But what about the Labour Party? Whilst they may rightly call the Bill a “smash and grab” now, history may yet to judge them as an accomplice.
Back in 2018, the Labour Government in Wales naively dropped plans to proceed with a Continuity Bill – presented at the time by Plaid’s own Steffan Lewis – to protect the Senedd’s legislative competence and instead opted to sign an inter-governmental agreement with the Tory Westminster Government.
We warned them at the time of the dangers of trusting a Tory Government. We warned them that the agreement failed to deliver the safeguards needed to ensure that Welsh laws were free from unilateral interference from Ministers in London.
We warned them and we warned them again. They didn’t listen. We were told that we simply didn’t understand, and that everything would be fine.
In November 2018, Mark Drakeford said in the Senedd that the “agreement we reached has ensured that not a single devolved responsibility has left this Assembly. Areas already devolved remain devolved, and the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that this continues to be the case. Devolution is entrenched in the inter-governmental agreement.”
And look at where we are now. Three Senedd Committees have now concluded that the Internal Market Bill drives a coach and horses through the devolution settlement. So much for the protection of the inter-governmental agreement. So much for trusting the Tories.
Labour in Wales’ refusal to support today’s consent motion is not going to be enough. Their party abstaining in Westminster is certainly not going to be enough. Jibes or witty tweets from their backbenchers won’t be enough. No. What Wales needs is a Government that will truly stand up for Wales – not a Government that writes angry, unanswered letters.
Plaid Cymru will choose a better future for our communities. Plaid Cymru will choose a future as an equal nation and a nation of equals. Plaid Cymru will choose independence.
Because the nations of this ‘Disunited Kingdom’ are re-evaluating. The people of Wales are re-evaluating. Soon, Scotland will be free of this charade and will take her place as a free nation of the world. Wales needs to join her.
The majority of Labour voters in Wales have already decided that it’s time to cut ties with the school yard bully – their party leadership needs to be on the right side of history moving forward, and need to ensure once and for all that Westminster establishment that cares not a jot for Wales, is never allowed to play a role in Wales’ democracy again.
If they don’t, history will show them to be complicit in the dismantling of Welsh democracy. It’s time to make a choice.