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Draft Wales Bill

Volume 602: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2015

7. What progress he has made on consulting civic society in Wales on the likely effects of the provisions of the draft Wales Bill; and if he will make a statement. (902189)

Last month, I published the draft Wales Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny and I continue to meet members of civil society, the judiciary and leading business organisations across Wales to take soundings and hear their views.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. There was a substantial deliberation on our country’s constitutional future, led by a distinguished former Officer of the House, Sir Paul Silk. However, the Secretary of State has so far chosen to include very few of the recommendations of the Silk commission in the draft Wales Bill. Will the final version of the Wales Bill give his final vision of our country’s constitutional future? Is this it for the foreseeable future?

A lot of the Silk recommendations do not require primary legislation and we have already delivered them. We are committed to delivering the Silk recommendations that we have agreed on, which we set out in the St David’s day announcement earlier this year.

There is general, substantial and growing dissatisfaction with the draft Wales Bill, not least among legal colleagues. Would the Secretary of State not be better advised to withdraw the Bill and start again?

I fear that if we were to withdraw the Bill, we would see no progress whatsoever on strengthening and clarifying Welsh devolution, which I understood Plaid Cymru and the Labour party supported.

When I raised this issue before the general election, a previous Secretary of State for Wales said that I was wrong. Will the present Welsh Secretary say that if the Welsh people would like a Welsh Parliament, rather than a Welsh Assembly, they will be able to have one?

To paraphrase the famous old man of Pencader, it will be the Welsh people ultimately who determine the direction and pace of Welsh devolution. The draft Wales Bill will give powers to the Welsh Assembly to call itself a Parliament and take on more law-making responsibilities.