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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 7th November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Elis-Thomas Lord Elis-Thomas Plaid Cymru 8:45 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, my amendments in this group are all focused on attempting to ensure that the legislative competence of the Assembly is not reduced by the movement from conferred powers with exceptions, to reserved matters with even more exceptions.

I was always concerned about this matter when I had responsibility for presiding over the Assembly because I had to make decisions about the competence of legislation. I often found it difficult to assure myself that there was clarity about the boundaries, although I was advised by excellent lawyers. The current Presiding Officer of the Llywydd has published a series of amendments to enable us to study the question of the constitutional propriety of where we are heading. What particularly troubles me—I am sure the Minister will understand this—is that the UK Government seem to have no intention of publishing an explanation or rationale, if there is such a thing, across the whole 200 or so reservations that would help us to understand the constitutional principles at work here.

Although we were promised by a previous Secretary of State that the pause in the Bill would give an opportunity for these matters to be considered, and there would be a response, this does not seem to have happened. My amendments would restore or maintain the current competence of the Assembly by enabling it to legislate in an ancillary way in relation to reserved matters. I know the Minister will say that ancillary matters are a minority interest but they are of great constitutional import. In my view, this is a clear example of how the move from the current form of legislative powers to the new form is narrowing the Assembly’s competence.