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UK Administrations: Co-operation

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2018

3. What recent steps his Department has taken to improve co-operation between the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments. (905009)

I was always optimistic that discussions with the Welsh Government would result in agreement on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The agreement that has been reached is testimony to the close intergovernmental working that has taken place and to the spirit of co-operation, and I am still hopeful that the Scottish Government will sign up to it as well.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the agreement—announced last week—between the Welsh Government and the UK Government in respect of clause 11 of the Bill shows what can be achieved when Governments work together constructively for the benefit of the whole United Kingdom and all its peoples?

My hon. Friend has made an extremely important point. I think the agreement demonstrates the maturity of the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. The Welsh Government recognised the merits of providing certainty and security for businesses and communities. I am still hopeful that we can underline the benefits of the scheme to Scottish businesses and communities, and that we can attract the support of the Scottish Government.

The heavy hand of the Treasury is still delaying investment in north Wales. Will the Secretary of State commit to real devolution, as we in north Wales want the freedom to invest and attract investment ourselves, to improve our infrastructure?

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the north Wales growth deal that we are currently negotiating between the authorities and businesses in north Wales. I met Ken Skates, the Economy Minister, just last week to discuss it. We are anxious to see greater devolution, but some Assembly Members do not want that, because some areas of north Wales have traditionally felt as isolated from Cardiff Bay as from Westminster.

Will my right hon. Friend extend to the Welsh Government the thanks of many hon. Members of this House for accepting the UK Government’s sensible and pragmatic proposals for resolving the issue of the repatriation of powers, thereby reflecting the fact that Wales voted to leave the European Union in 2016?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question, because he rightly focuses on the practical benefits and the outcomes. I believe that so long as we are focusing on an environment in which business can continue to invest, employ and represent communities in the way we have negotiated with the Welsh Government, that will put us in the strongest position to get the best benefits for every part of the UK.

I am sure that, in the interests of co-operation, the Government would not want to do anything that undermines the devolution settlement. Do they not recognise that the Conservatives are isolated in the Scottish Parliament, where there is a cross-party consensus that the EU withdrawal Bill is not fit for purpose? Will the Secretary of State therefore ensure that the House of Lords is not asked to consider the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on Third Reading until all the devolved Assemblies have had a chance to pass a legislative consent motion?

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) highlighted, so long as we focus on outcomes—and the Scottish Government focus on outcomes and delivering for Scottish businesses—I am confident we can reach an agreement. The Welsh Government clearly would not undermine the devolution settlement as far as Wales is concerned, and I hope the Scottish Government will see the merits of the certainty and security that we can offer Scottish industry and Scottish business with this agreement.