20 Years of Devolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 11th July 2019.

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Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 1:27 pm, 11th July 2019

It is an honour to follow David Duguid, and I congratulate Pete Wishart on securing this debate.

Twenty years ago, our Parliament, Y Senedd, opened its doors for the very first time, and with it a new door was opened in Wales—to possibility, to hope and to a new radical kind of politics. We had decided that, yes, we wanted Wales to be out there as a country in its own right on the world stage and that, yes, we could govern ourselves. Devolution has created so many opportunities: space for greater policy experimentation, and potential for different Governments to learn from each other. The devolved legislatures tend to be more representative and politically balanced, which was of course the designed intention; there was the opportunity to put that into effect.

However, devolution has evolved in a piecemeal manner, with separate devolution processes in the separate nations. There is an absence of guiding principles, and an over-dependency on convention, which has led to disagreement about the nature of the post-devolution constitution. The 2016 referendum and its aftermath have made it more urgent that these big questions be considered by the Governments, by political parties and, potentially, through a deliberative exercise involving citizens from across the UK. I have made the case before, and I will make it again, that it is time for a formal written UK constitution and of course a new Wales Bill.

Yesterday, Plaid Cymru Assembly Members held a debate on strengthening our Senedd. We called for clear, positive and urgent reform. We also called for an increase in the number of Assembly Members, so that the Senedd can properly hold the Welsh Government—we have seen the problem of the dividing line between the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly—to account, to improve policy development and fulfil the Senedd’s potential as a Parliament for all the people of Wales. Policy and its implementation depends very much on the quality of scrutiny. If the scrutiny is not there, we can guarantee that the policies formed and the way they are carried out will not be up to scratch. Increasing the number of Assembly Members has been recommended by every commission that has examined devolution since 1979.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Members also called for an immediate move towards a fully proportional electoral system. Implementing a single transferable vote system by 2021 will ensure that we have a strong Senedd that is able to operate as an effective Parliament by reflecting the diversity of the population it represents.