Welsh Minister calls out UK Government’s ‘destructive approach’ to devolution
The UK Government has been accused of taking a “centralised, unilateral, and destructive approach” to devolution by Mick Antoniw, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution.
The criticism comes ahead of a landmark speech Antoniw is due to deliver to the Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association’s annual conference today, the 24th anniversary of the creation of the National Assembly for Wales, now known as the Welsh Parliament.
Antoniw argues that the current strain on the devolution settlement, established in 1999, is unprecedented, primarily due to the UK Government’s consistent breaches of the Sewel Convention.
This convention sets out that the UK’s Parliament will not typically legislate on matters devolved to regional parliaments without their consent.
However, recent legislation such as the UK Internal Market Act, the Professional Qualifications Act, and the Subsidy Control Act have been passed without the consent of the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament.
In addition, the Senedd has voted against granting consent for the Retained EU Law Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill, both of which are in the legislative process.
According to Antoniw, the UK Government’s approach disrespects a democratically elected body and denies accountability to the people who elected its members.
He also pointed to what he described as an assault on civil liberties, including the Public Order Bill, which he argues could potentially weaken the right to protest, and the introduction of Voter ID, which saw about 14,000 people turned away from English polling stations.
Highlighting the need for a change to the current status quo, Antoniw stressed the importance of listening to the people and delivering reformed structures that can improve outcomes and strengthen communities.
He cites the Commission on the UK’s Future and the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, both of which are due to deliver proposals for significant constitutional reform later this year, as crucial in moving the conversation forward.
Mick Antoniw said:
“Despite our efforts to work collaboratively, the UK Government has chosen a centralised, unilateral and destructive approach to the devolution settlement.”
“It has repeatedly pushed ahead with legislation in devolved areas without the consent of the Senedd.”
“In doing so it disrespects a democratically elected body and denies the people who elected its members of accountability.”
“We have never seen this level of strain in the devolution settlement during the entire 24 years of its existence.”
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