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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour 10:45 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, it is simply demeaning for Wales that public order and policing should not be devolved. Why should Wales, which has a mature Assembly and is a nation anxious to take more responsibility for its own affairs, not be allowed the same level of responsibility as Northern Ireland and Scotland? I have not heard a good reason. I do not believe that there is any greater necessity to have a single system embracing England and Wales than there is for other parts of the United Kingdom.

If the Government would be a little bolder and allow devolution of responsibility in such matters as drugs and alcohol, everybody might benefit because Wales would have the opportunity to experiment with policy. In the field of drugs and alcohol, for example, we know very well that the existing orthodoxies, practices and policy are not working particularly well. Often they are working downright badly. We have huge problems with regard to drugs and alcohol. Surely it would be better to allow Wales to pioneer and develop policies of its own. Wales would obviously have to take responsibility and a degree of risk, but it is surely better that it should be able to take responsibility and to experiment than that we should simply carry on in Wales with orthodoxies that have failed in the United Kingdom as a whole. No harm has been done by Wales having a degree of independence in education policy—in schooling, for example—so surely that it is the right principle.

There will, of course, be questions of resources if more responsibilities, particularly the major responsibility for public order and policing, are to be devolved. In consideration of that we have again to go back to the question of the devolution of income tax-varying powers. We debated that issue earlier this afternoon. I shall very gently make a point to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who disputed whether a manifesto commitment was being broken by the Government. If he looks at the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on 14 June, at column 1653 he will see his Conservative colleagues Mr David Jones, the former Secretary of State, and Mr Chris Davies, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire, bemoaning the fact that the Government have, in fact, broken a manifesto commitment in that regard. I do not want to labour the point, but it ought to be corrected for the record. Certainly we have to consider, in conjunction with the question of what reservations are appropriate and what reservations the Government may decide after all to abandon, the associated question of resources—because it is no good willing the end without enabling the Government of Wales to have the means.