- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Category: Latest News
In a submission to the UK Government’s Commission on Devolution in Wales (The Silk Commission), the First Minister is calling for Welsh devolution to be enhanced and restructured through a new Government of Wales Act in order to strengthen accountability, and reduce the scope for conflict between the Welsh and UK Governments.
The new settlement would replace the present “conferral model” of devolution, whereby powers are devolved to Wales on specific matters, with a “Reserved powers” model, where specific areas of responsibility such as constitutional affairs, defence, foreign affairs, social security and macro-economic policy would be “reserved” to the UK Parliament, with remaining matters devolved to Wales. The First Minister said none of the Welsh Government’s or National Assembly’s existing powers should be ‘repatriated’ to Westminster.
The Welsh Government is calling for legislative devolution to be extended in the following areas, in order to increase democratic accountability and ensure decision making that responds to the particular needs of Wales:
- Policing, community safety and crime prevention, including Anti-Social Behaviour Orders – in order to strengthen joint working with devolved services and reduce offending;
- Water – to fill gaps in the current settlement so that the Assembly has legislative competence in relation to all water matters, and to align competence with the England and Wales geographical boundary;
- Vulnerable adults and children – to clarify and extend competence including in relation to taking children into care, fostering and adoption (public child law);
- Road safety and powers to improve public transport – including powers over speed and drink driving limits, bus and taxi regulation;
- Ports – to ensure that we maximise the economic development potential of Welsh ports;
- Licensing of alcohol and late night entertainment – in order to promote public health and community safety;
- Administrative Justice in relation to devolved areas, including arrangements for complaints and redress;
- The administration of elections in Wales – including Elections to the National Assembly for Wales and local authorities;
- Taxation – powers consistent with the Silk 1 recommendations to enable the Assembly to legislate on devolved taxes.
The Welsh Government believes these responsibilities should be devolved to the Assembly by 2020/21, as part of a wider reform of the UK Constitution following the Scottish independence referendum. The Welsh Government is exploring the scope for extending the devolution settlement in relation to rail services and infrastructure, ahead of this timetable. It is also calling for the devolution to Wales, of executive responsibilities in the following areas, to take effect from times agreed between the Welsh and UK Governments:
- The consenting of large scale energy generation (except nuclear power) and related energy infrastructure – to enable locally sensitive decision making and consistency with other planning powers which are already devolved;
- The youth justice system – in order to promote innovative approaches to prevent young people from offending, and join up with already devolved children’s services;
- Minister of the Crown functions within the Assembly’s devolved legislative competence. These should in future be discharged by the Welsh Ministers;
- Responsibilities for the appointment of the Welsh member of the BBC Trust, and also the Chair and members of the S4C Authority, to ensure that Welsh interests are represented in these crucial institutions;
- Civil contingencies – to confirm the Welsh Ministers’ current de facto leadership and co-ordination role in civil emergencies and clarify accountability;
- Certain marine matters, where powers currently exercisable only in relation to the Welsh inshore area should be extended to encompass the Welsh offshore area.
All transfers of responsibilities from the UK Government to the Welsh Government would need to be accompanied by full budget transfers, subject to independent scrutiny. In the Welsh Government’s view, there should be no need for a further referendum before these proposals are given effect. The outcome of the referendum held in March 2011 confirmed the electorate’s support for the National Assembly as an institution with extensive legislative authority for Wales.