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Strength of the Union

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 6 January 2022

As the Attorney General for England and Wales, I have the Union at the heart of my work. I am pleased that, for example, CPS Wales performs very well: a recent inspectorate report concluded that the Wales CPS area has the highest magistrates court conviction rate across England and Wales. I take this opportunity to thank all our prosecutors based in Wales for their excellent work.

Over the past 18 months, my inbox has been full of people who are frustrated and confused by the differences between the England and Wales covid rules, my constituency being close to the border. As part of the devolution settlement, under the Wales Acts, there is provision for devolution to be suspended temporarily during times of national crisis in order for decisions to be made by Westminster for the whole of the United Kingdom. Will the Attorney General confirm whether she gave any advice to the Government along those lines? If not, what would a national crisis that would trigger such a clause be?

We must respect the arrangements set out in each of the devolution settlements, but I agree with one aspect of the hon. Gentleman’s question, which is that sometimes the rules of other Administrations can be confusing. This week, for example, under Welsh Government guidance it is okay to go to the pub, but not to the office. The vaccine roll-out and the immense financial support provided by the UK Government are two outstanding examples of what can be achieved when we work together as one United Kingdom, co-operating for the good of the Union.

A happy new year to you, Mr Speaker. A key aspect of the Union of which the right hon. and learned Lady is so fond is Scotland’s separate and distinct legal system. Does she agree that any actions taken by the UK Government on legal human rights remedies must continue to respect that, and that any attempt by Westminster to alter those protections against the will of the devolved Administrations would be contrary to the devolution settlement and yet another example of this Tory Government helping—thanks very much—rather than hindering the cause of Scottish independence?

The Law Officers are always concerned about any legislation promoted by the Scottish Parliament and Government that falls outside legislative competence. That is why I was pleased that the Supreme Court agreed with the Government earlier this year on the Bills proposed by the Scottish Government on the UN convention on the rights of the child and on local self-government. Ultimately, we are a United Kingdom. The people of Scotland have voted to remain as part of that United Kingdom, and I only wish that the hon. Lady and her party would respect that will of the people.