Devolution Settlement

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 17th March 2010.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West 11:30 am, 17th March 2010

What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the question of the devolution settlement under the Government of Wales Act 2006; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

We regularly discuss how the Government of Wales Act 2006 is delivering powers for the Assembly-so far, in 58 different areas over the past two years.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Are there discussions on taxation powers for the Welsh Assembly? What we have learned in Scotland is that although we may already have them, they are never used by any party and are actually a waste of time.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

There has been no pressure-certainly from the Government side-to introduce tax-varying powers for the Welsh Assembly Government. As my hon. Friend has said, they have not been used in Scotland to date.

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government; Culture, Media and Sport; Transport; Business, Innovation and Skills; Treasury; Olympics; Energy and Climate Change)

Why is it right for an English Minister to sit as judge and jury on the question of bilingual juries? Should this not be a decision made in Wales for Wales by a Welsh Government elected by the Welsh people?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

I understand the passion with which the hon. Gentleman asks the question. The issue that Ministers have had to grapple with is balancing the right and desire of Welsh speakers to have bilingual juries with ensuring at the same time that random selection is maintained. This is part of a continuing dialogue as we move into the future.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

On his own website, the Secretary of State says that it is "clear" to him

"that a referendum held before or in 2011 would be lost", and that further powers should not be granted

"today...tomorrow, nor even next year or the year after that".

Given these comments, will he be accepting the referendum request currently sitting on his desk, or, like so many of his colleagues, will he be waiting for any decisions to be taken by an incoming Conservative Government?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

As the hon. Lady very well knows, Labour is the party of devolution. We are the only party that has delivered any extra powers for Wales, and I, as Secretary of State, am proud that I legislated in the 2006 Act for the option of a referendum to deliver full law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly Government, and in time I am sure that that will come about. Specifically, as she has asked, work is continuing among my officials in response to the First Minister's request under the 2006 Act to take this process forward, so that a referendum can be called as and when it is required.

Photo of Hywel Francis Hywel Francis Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

The Secretary of State will be aware that the Welsh Affairs Committee has completed all its pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislative competence orders that have come before it. [ Interruption. ] Can he give an assurance to the House that he will make every effort to ensure that these orders complete all their remaining stages before the Dissolution of Parliament? [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work of the Welsh Affairs Committee in taking forward record levels of scrutiny and speeding this process through. It is our Government's determination that all the legislative competence orders that have been effectively scrutinised by his Committee will get Royal Assent. There is a Statutory Instrument Committee next week, and I hope that Mrs. Gillan will co-operate in speeding those through. Yes, in the wash-up negotiations, I hope that the Opposition will back the Welsh Assembly Government's policy and the LCO to deliver policies to tackle lack of housing and homelessness in Wales, which they are threatening to block.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

Before the House rises for the election, will the Secretary of State be willing to share a date for a referendum on further devolution of powers?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Wales

This is a matter for consideration after the general election. All the parties agree with that, and that is the position made clear by the First Minister only yesterday.