Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 10:15 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on this part of the Bill. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, for moving the amendment with such fluency and commitment, although he will know that I disagree with him fundamentally, particularly on the first of the two amendments in this group.

Through their Amendments 45 and 46, the noble Lords, Lord Elystan-Morgan and Lord Wigley, seek to place new duties on the Secretary of State for Wales to review the constitutional arrangements for Wales and the operation of the Wales Bill that we are putting in place. Indeed, through Amendment 45—at least on the wording, although I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, has said—they seem to be proposing that the Secretary of State of State be required to review Wales’s readiness for independence. I can act only on the basis of how the dominion status has operated in the past. The Statute of Westminster 1931 is expressly referenced in the amendment. There is no appetite for this proposal in Wales. Both noble Lords will know that that is shown in opinion polls and at the ballot box.

The Statute of Westminster established the dominions as sovereign states and enshrined in law the principle that no legislation made in this Parliament could apply to the dominions unless a dominion requested it. We cannot possibly agree to that. It also provided that the Parliaments of the dominions would have the power to amend or repeal any previous legislation made by this Parliament. Therefore, we cannot possibly agree to what is proposed. As a representative of a London-based polity, as it is called, I do not believe this proposal is wanted in England and it is certainly not wanted in Wales either.

Through Amendment 46, the noble Lords are seeking to place a new duty on the Secretary of State for Wales to establish a working group to review Schedule 1, which sets out the reservations, as soon as possible after it comes into effect and to report on reservations that should be removed within three years of the principal appointed day—the day on which the new reserved model comes into force under Clause 55.

Once again, we have a measure in front of us to set up yet another commission or working party to look at constitutional arrangements. I do not believe that would be welcomed in Wales. We have a duty to get on with the job on this Bill. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, to withdraw his amendment.