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Government of Wales (Devolved Powers) Bill [HL]

Volume 830: debated on Friday 19 May 2023

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, ahead of today’s debate, I have had indications of support from individual Members of your Lordships’ House from all four main groups, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Cross Bench. I am aware that some Members have reservations, but, no doubt, if the Bill makes progress, those will be focused on in another place and other issues raised there. I have also had indications of support from Senedd Cymru, and I am very grateful for the advice I have had from it and from others.

I ask the House that the Bill now pass so that progress can be made in another place by MPs, if they are prepared to give it time, and so that they can consider the merits of these proposals and the need for a new understanding between Westminster and Senedd Cymru. I believe that a better climate is already emerging, but further work needs to be done and this legislation would be a means of doing that.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for the interest she has taken in this Bill. May I convey to her our sympathy in her bereavement this week? As this may be the last week she has on the Government Front Bench, I thank her for all the interest she has shown in matters relating to Wales and I hope that she continues to do so from the Back Benches. I beg to move.

My Lords, we are very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, tabled this Bill, so that the issues within it are in the public domain. Many aspects of the clauses make a lot of sense in their practical application. Clearly, the noble Lord has a lifetime of experience in this matter. We wish the Bill well as it progresses through to the other place.

Diolch o galon i Arglwydd Wigley am ei geiriau caredig iawn. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for those kind words and for sponsoring this Private Member’s Bill. I also thank all those who have contributed during its passage through the House, both today and at Second Reading.

As I outlined at Second Reading, the Government’s position is that there is already an established practice of securing the consent of the Senedd for parliamentary Bills that modify the Senedd’s competence. The Sewel convention makes it clear that Parliament will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the relevant devolved legislature. This includes instances where such legislation would seek to modify the competence of that legislature. The Government engage extensively with the devolved Governments on Bills that include provisions that are within or modify devolved competence and have always sought the consent of the relevant devolved legislature in such instances.

The noble Lord’s Bill seeks to go further than the convention and provides that the powers of the Senedd could not be altered without the support of a supermajority unless the formal dispute resolution processes were engaged. This would have significant implications for the sovereignty of Parliament. In light of this, sadly, the Government cannot support the noble Lord’s Bill.

My Lords, I regret that the Government cannot at this stage support the Bill. None the less, I believe that it should pass and go on to another place. It provides a mechanism to undo the unease that has existed across parties during the past three or four years on the question that powers either have been taken back from Senedd Cymru or are deemed or feared to be taken back. There needs to be a new understanding, a new clarity, on these matters, and this Bill, perhaps modified in another place, can do that. Only such clarity will enable those in power to be held properly accountable.

There may well be occasions when both Westminster and Senedd Cymru agree that some powers hitherto regarded as devolved should be transferred back to Westminster, and this Bill provides a mechanism for that purpose. Therefore, I believe there is a basis here to build on to get a better understanding.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.