Wales Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 14th December 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Conservative 6:15 pm, 14th December 2016

My Lords, I defer to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell’s specialist knowledge on fisheries and will restrict my comments to the general. I will also happily endeavour to follow the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, to limit contributions to under two minutes.

I spoke in Committee in support of reserving powers on consents for energy, on the basis that energy policy is so important as to be part of a national strategy determined by Westminster. On this occasion, however, I am delighted to support the devolution of matters relating to water and sewerage to the Welsh Government. As I hope will be mentioned today, and as was so passionately and eloquently referred to in the last debate on the Bill by the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Elystan-Morgan, this decision should put right a long-standing injustice following the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965.

I welcome the positive steps that the Government have taken to put in place a comprehensive devolution settlement for water and sewerage in Wales. The amendments on this subject brought forward today reflect a clear devolution boundary on these matters. This, in turn, reflects the clearer boundary between devolved and reserved powers which underpins the new model of devolution set out in the Bill. Importantly, it includes a new statutory agreement, the water protocol, between the UK Government and the Welsh Government, setting out how they will work together in future on water and sewerage matters and how any disputes will be resolved. This replacement of intervention powers with a statutory intergovernmental agreement reflects the maturing of the relationship between the two Governments, one that is based on working together and resolving issues by discussion, rather than relying on powers of intervention. I particularly welcome the move to make this agreement reciprocal, with the same duties on the Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State to have regard to the interests of consumers in both England and Wales respectively in exercising functions relating to water resources, water supply or water quality.

We must all hope that, as predicted by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, on the last occasion, these decisions will be welcomed by every party in Wales and will put to rest any lingering rancour and bitterness that the tragic drowning of the Tryweryn valley created.