Llywydd says devolution settlement is working well one year on
The National Assembly’s current constitutional settlement is working well one year on from the implementation of the Government of Wales Act, the Assembly’s Llywydd will say today (Monday May 12).
Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas will tell AMs and other guests at a reception in Carmarthen that the Assembly has shown itself ready and able to use its new law-making powers under the Act.
Lord Elis-Thomas will say: “I am pleased with the way we have risen to the challenges of the new law-making Constitution of Wales since last May. We have seen the introduction of Measures, the equivalent of Acts of Parliament, and a series of Proposed Legislative Orders, to obtain powers, by Welsh Ministers and by individual AMs. The Education and Training Legislative Competence Order became the first LCO to be approved by both the Assembly and UK Parliament, and has now been formally made by Her Majesty. The Welsh Government’s first Measure – the NHS Redress Measure, which makes arrangements for redress in cases of medical negligence in connection with treatment provided by the NHS in Wales – has now been agreed by the Assembly and we are awaiting approval from Her Majesty.
“That this has happened within a year of the Government of Wales Act becoming law and the One Wales Government being formed is a tribute to the Assembly and Welsh Ministers and to the UK Parliament – all have shown themselves willing and able to rise to the task of making the new legislative process work.
“The LCO was first proposed by the Education Minister and then an Assembly Committee was set up to scrutinise the proposal. Scrutiny was also carried out by committees of MPs and members of the House of Lords. The Measure was proposed by the Health Minister and scrutinised by several Assembly Committees before being debated in plenary. Inevitably, with any legislative proposals, there will be scrutiny and discussion and debate and sometimes disagreements, as has always happened in Westminster, and we must expect it to happen in Cardiff Bay too. This is democracy in action.
“We heard a lot of scepticism from some quarters when the Act was passed, claiming that the Assembly would be slow to use its new powers. I was always confident that this would not be the case, and so it has proved. I said I expected about 18 pieces of legislation to be introduced in the first year of the new Act, and we are on target! There are currently another ten LCOs, covering areas as diverse as mental health services, affordable housing, and fire safety, at some stage in the legislative process. Some have been proposed by Welsh Ministers, others by individual Members who have won ballots to introduce legislation. These regular ballots, held every two months or so, give Assembly Members the opportunity to present their own LCOS or measures, and gives anyone the ability for draft legislation to be presented through individual AMs and I encourage the public to contact their AMs with their own ideas for legislation.
“Eight new Welsh laws, known as Measures, are also being developed, consulted on or scrutinised – again some of these are Welsh Government proposals, others come from individual AMs. They relate to a wide range of issues important to the public, including compensation in the NHS, healthy eating in schools, recycling and school transport and are a clear sign that the Assembly is ready to do things differently in Wales and develop Welsh laws which meet the needs of Welsh people.
“We have also heard much in recent weeks and months from the critics of the current devolution settlement – those who are against any devolution at all and those who think the present powers do not go far enough – saying that the new legislative process is too complicated and does not work. Well, it does work, and it is no more complicated than the rest of the UK constitution. Any process which results in new laws must by its very nature be robust and give scope for proper scrutiny and even sometimes disagreement. One of the things which has most pleased me in the Third Assembly is the increasing ability of Members to carry out their important new scrutiny function, including the scrutiny of legislation, properly. The quality and effectiveness of a body of law depends on pre-legislative scrutiny of any legislative proposals, together with a post-legislative check on implementation and outcomes through measuring compliance and consequences. It also depends on clarity of drafting and provision of full public information of what powers will be enacted. If we are to have laws fit for purpose, robust scrutiny must continue and the Welsh and UK legislatures and executives must continue to work together to make the system work for Wales.
“I have always said that I am a pragmatic supporter of devolution. I want to see us moving towards a referendum on full Scottish-style powers for the National Assembly, but we can only get the full-hearted consent of the Welsh people for that in the referendum required by our Constitution, if we can show that we are using the powers we have to make a real difference to people in Wales.”