Is the new Wales Bill fit for purpose?

4 August 2016

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Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre hosted a discussion at the National Eisteddfod of Wales to assess the latest version of the Wales Bill.

The session featured a presentation by the Wales Governance Centre’s Manon George, an expert in constitutional law, and Dr Huw Pritchard, whose expertise lie in the law of devolution in Wales.

Their presentation analysed the key aspects of the new Bill and discussed the possible future implications for the Welsh constitution.

The Wales Bill, ‘designed to set the course for decades’, modifies the Welsh devolution settlement by moving to a reserved powers model, similar to the Scottish system, where the devolved legislature can make laws on any matter except those specifically reserved to the UK Parliament.

However, this is the Wales Office’s second attempt at delivering a ‘stronger, clearer and fairer devolution settlement for Wales that will stand the test of time’.

Manon George said: “The first Bill was heavily criticised for the lengthy list of reservations, the extension of UK Minister of the Crown consents and the controversial ‘necessity test’, viewed as a roll back of the Assembly’s powers.

“The latest Bill is not without its problems. There is no general transfer of executive functions in devolved areas and there remain over 200 reservations and new tests for Assembly legislation.”

Dr Pritchard added: “There are significant areas that still require attention, such as the need for a distinct jurisdiction for Wales and the administration of justice in Wales. The implications of Brexit on the Bill should also be considered following the EU referendum.

“The uncertainty of Brexit and the need to consider the way in which powers could revert to Wales mean that the Wales Bill is unlikely to be a long-term settlement for the Welsh constitution.”

However, despite the uncertainty of Brexit, Dr Pritchard remains hopeful: “In some ways the Wales Bill presents a step forward. The Assembly will soon be a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements, be able to change its name and have powers over rates of income tax without needing a referendum.”

All University events at the National Eisteddfod can be found here.