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Opinion

Westminster is scrapping Wales’ law – so what are Welsh Labour going to do about it?

27 Jun 2022 4 minute read
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0). Mark Drakeford (right) Picture by Doubledoppler (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Ifan Morgan Jones

There’s a scene in The Simpsons where Homer Simpson is being his usual boorish self, opening and throwing away every chocolate bar in Apu’s Kwik-e-Mart convenience store.

Apu confronts Homer thus: “Hey! Hey! I have asked you nicely not to mangle my merchandise.”

Then comes the punchline: “You leave me no choice… but to ask you nicely again.”

This scene often comes to my mind when the Welsh Government reacts to the latest intransigent move by the UK Government.

There are a lot of strong words by the First Minister about ‘shocking’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘reckless’ actions taken by Boris Johnson and others at No 10.

But the question always remains the same. Under devolution, a system Welsh Labour supports, what choice does the Welsh Government ultimately have but to ‘ask nicely once again’?

The announcement today that the UK Government plans to scrap a law passed by the Senedd so that striking trade unionists can be replaced by agency workers is another such moment.

Welsh Labour ministers had hailed the Trade Union Wales Act in 2017 as a way to protect the rights of unions in devolved public sectors, such as health, education and councils.

Well, some protection that turned out to be – the UK Government have simply brushed it aside when they needed to, because ultimately devolution does not provide any protection at all.

‘Power devolved is power retained’ said Enoch Powell (stopped clocks etc) and in practice Wales can do as it wants to – unless Westminster wants to do something different.

So far the UK Government has generally tried to avoid such confrontations with the devolved parliaments. But the present ‘muscular unionist’ UK Government clearly feels differently.

Steamrolling devolution isn’t even an accident, but rather a conscious policy to recentralise power after Brexit.

Subservient

This brings us to the present moment. The UK Government have now crossed the Rubicon.

Either there’s some kind of a political backlash, something that makes the UK Government regret this course of action, or Welsh devolution becomes Westminster’s doormat.

This, now, is a moment of some importance, because it will set a precedent. If Welsh devolution doesn’t resist this incursion on its powers, it will simply become the norm.

Next time, Westminster doing away with a Welsh law will seem a little less newsworthy, a little less unusual.

The Senedd will slowly become enfeebled, and Welsh Labour’s promise to ‘stand Wales’ corner’ against Westminster will appear to be little more than a paper tiger.

If the UK Government really is ‘shocking’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘reckless’ as Mark Drakeford claims then the Welsh Government need to act as if they believe that.

At the very least, they need to back constitutional solutions that cement Wales’ rights to make its own laws that cannot simply be overruled at a whim.

Labour claim to believe in a Union that is a voluntary partnership of nations working together for the greater good.

A Wales where the views of the people of Wales as a political unit – in two referenda for devolution and law-making powers, and six Senedd elections – actually matter.

Scrapping Welsh law isn’t just a poke in the eye for Mark Drakeford but is a declaration that Wales as a political unit is subservient to the larger UK.

As Nicola Sturgeon said this morning, it’s taking ‘wrecking ball’ to idea UK as a partnership that chooses to stand together.

In its place, we have a model of the UK where the centre governs all else, and Wales is just a peripheral region, politically and economically, to be ignored and overruled.

Is that a model of the Union that Welsh Labour thinks is worth preserving? Does the chance to have a go at power at Westminster every 15-20 years ultimately justify its retention?

We’re about to find out. But depressingly, I think we may already know the answer.


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Gareth
Gareth
4 months ago

The Tory’s plan to scrap our human rights laws, and now attack the Senedd directly with this, and while we head towards being a carbon copy of 1930s Germany, Labour tell us we are better off in the union, and do nothing to stop it.

Dave
Dave
4 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Labour might Gareth but the question is what will Welsh Labour do? separation from UK Labour? pass an alternative law namely new name same result? refusing to enforce unlawful secondary pickets occurring? Gareth the list is endless, can you imagine a situation where the Senedd refuses to enforce laws passed in Westminster because we don’t like them? will they send in the Army? there are choices to be made but this really is a 2 way street.

Gareth
Gareth
4 months ago
Reply to  Dave

We must do what past Tory Govs have done to us, and run to the courts and use the legal system to frustrate them, just for a start. Russia do not like what Ukraine are doing, so they sent in the army, will Westminster risk this move?. We are heading towards being a fascist state, and look at what happened in Germany, when people just watched a certain Mr Hitler. As for not passing laws because we don’t like them, they are doing this now to our laws, to people we elected.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

WLINO Welsh Labour In Name Only…Economy Minister goes full nuclear…Adam Price over to you…

David Harking
David Harking
4 months ago

I often wonder why they even care about controlling Wales, but they might as well because resource connections may become useful in the future/are useful. Same was true of Ireland, they just had the balls to break free. I’m not blaming the Welsh public for their lack of appetite and I honestly hate it when someone comments saying tyrd Cymru mae’n amser deffro crap (what are you doing yourself to encourage independence?) but it seems that the only way forward is to convert a majority of the Welsh public to a pro indy sentiment, earn and win a referendum.

Dave Rowlands
Dave Rowlands
4 months ago
Reply to  David Harking

They’ll be after our water next.

Arwyn
Arwyn
4 months ago

Write to our MP’s & MS’s. Fill their mailboxes. Write well, impassionately but not offensively. Hundreds of people write one star reviews for bad housing developers who change the name of a house. Thousands ought to make their feelings known to their democratic representatives about this. Plaid need to go for the political jugular on this. Attack the Toties and the UK Govt with everything they can throw at them. Take the political initiative here and invite Welsh Labour to join them.

Arwyn
Arwyn
4 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

*Tories* not Toties!

Martin Thomas
Martin Thomas
4 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Tories/Toties….same thing lol

J. W. Soares Jones
4 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Toties, a Party to the right of Tories on the keyboard spectrum. What’s not to dislike?

Llefain
Llefain
4 months ago

Labour, especially in Wales, are not fit for the moment. Tied to the “UK” party they are toothless. In grasping for some “UK” safety blanket they are spineless. And in trusting Cymru to the “UK” they are feckless. The Cons will ride roughshod over our FM’s empty words with no consequences, as ever, because WM has all the power as long as we are in their “UK”. And they know Labour in Wales can never challenge that. Their boss won’t let them. Power is useless unless you use it. All we have left to us is the “bully pulpit” and… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Llefain
Christian
Christian
4 months ago
Reply to  Llefain

Don’t get fed up, others hear you and want the same things. Be emboldened by that and don’t let the fire die down.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
4 months ago

If devolution is based on law the Senedd should use the law to protect devolution. What else can be done done other than to take the UK government to court. Though I suspect ultimately, the only real way to stop Westmister is by leaving the Union. The Tories will continue to attack devolution – it’s in their English nationalist Brexit blood. Let’s just gain independence before it is too late.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
4 months ago

Surely the Supreme Court will stop the Tories’ wicked plans??

Can any legal experts tell me if I’m right or wrong?

Last edited 4 months ago by Mr Williams
I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Supreme Court? See; Julian Assange.

George
George
4 months ago

Am I right in saying the Senedd took Westminster to court over how Brexit allowed Westminster to override devolution already through post-Brexit Internal Market Act? As far as I recall, Jeremy Miles was told that couldn’t challenge based on theory and had to wait for practical application of the Act, and then Jeremy Miles outlined intention to challenge that ruling. This clearly isn’t a relationship of respect between two nations, clearly Conservatives don’t care for unionism and only want to rule by force and there is limited options that the Senedd can do – it cannot afford to continuously be… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

They should take the English Tory Government to the Supreme Court. What the Conservatives have done and are doing with their Wales EU power grab, interference into areas devolved, especially their illegal repeal of the 2017 Welsh Trade Union Law passed by our Senedd Cymru is against the Wales Devolution Act and should be challenged & won in the highest court

Malcolm rj
Malcolm rj
4 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Why don’t the trade unions take the case to the high court if they get away with this what’s next

Quornby
Quornby
4 months ago

Do about it? Sod all…… the wife wants to go to a palace garden party and wear a stupid feathered hat. If I’m really really servile I’ll get to swear an ermine robe like Kinnock.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
4 months ago
Reply to  Quornby

Apparently, I already upticked your comment without moving the cursor??

Last edited 4 months ago by I.Humphrys

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