Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:17 pm on 13th May 2021.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee) 3:17 pm, 13th May 2021

My Lords, we must work collectively in this House, as the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, has so eloquently explained, to give real effect to the commitment in the gracious Speech to promote the strength and integrity of the union. I therefore particularly welcome the step taken at the end of the old Parliament by the Secretary of State for Wales and the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, to set about constructive discussion with Peers who have a particular interest in Wales.

There are four matters in particular which we should address together. First, there are the common frameworks —I have had the privilege of serving on the committee for their scrutiny, so ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. The name of these instruments does not suggest for a moment that they are of much interest or importance, but the first report of the committee, published on 24 March, tried to make clear how essential they are to a co-operative union and the creation, by consensus, of UK-wide systems to protect matters as diverse as protection of the environment, public procurement and the regulation of subsidies, while allowing appropriate divergence, reflecting devolution. There is much we can do together to strengthen the union through effective common frameworks but, as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, these require hard work and detailed co-operation.

Secondly, I will refer to the levelling-up funds, which Part 6 of the internal market Act permits this Government to use in areas of devolved competence. When these provisions were debated in this House and at the final stages of ping-pong on 14 December the Minister made it clear that while the specific arrangements for the governance of the funds were still being developed, there will be governance structures, and that the devolved Administrations—[Inaudible.] Can the Minister tell the House when the governance structures will be in place and assure us about the place of the devolved Administrations in those structures?

Thirdly, I will refer to the absence of proper structures for developing UK-wide policies on which again we in this House ought to work together. There are two basic problems: first, the current structures do not sufficiently involve the devolved Administrations and their Parliaments and, secondly—[Inaudible.]

Finally, I will refer to the balance of power between the Executive, the legislature and the courts. This must reflect a properly balanced, interdependent relationship between these three powers of the state. There is nothing that I can possibly add to the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, explaining how the balance has swung too far in favour of the Executive, to the detriment of Parliament, particularly in the light of our method of legislation, and particularly framework legislation, so clearly summarised by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane. It is important to stress that it is in that context that the position of the courts must be set.

To go back to my theme about the need to work together to strengthen the union, there is one point I must mention. The proposals will also have implications for the devolved nations. Therefore, I trust that the Government will look at ensuring that the Parliaments and Executives in those nations have a decisive voice in the arrangements in so far as they may be affected by these proposals, because they relate as much to democracy in the devolved nations as they do to democracy within the United Kingdom as a whole.