National Assembly committee calls for more scrutiny of powers devolved from Westminster
The National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has called for greater scrutiny of powers transferred to Welsh Government ministers through Westminster Acts.
Under the current procedure, Acts of the UK Parliament can give new powers on devolved matters directly to Welsh ministers through Legislative Consent Motions (LCM).
LCMs must be formally approved by the National Assembly but are not subject to the detailed committee scrutiny that Assembly Bills receive.
The report from the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee recommends changes to the Assembly’s procedures so that LCMs can be scrutinised in more detail by Assembly Committees.
“This process would allow more detailed review of powers which are currently being conferred on Welsh ministers, many of them without thorough examination from a Welsh point of view,” said Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, David Melding AM.
“In Scotland, the Sewel convention requires all Westminster laws which impact on the Scottish Parliament’s competence to be approved by that Parliament.
“Although the Sewel convention has been applied to Wales, how it works in practice in relation to the rather different devolution arrangements in Wales has never been fully considered by the National Assembly.
“Given the National Assembly’s increased competence as a result of last year’s referendum result we believe now is the time for the Assembly to give time to debate how the convention should operate here.
“We are also urging the Welsh Government to take on board our recommendations for improved early warning of Westminster legislation that affects the Assembly’s competence or the powers of Welsh Ministers.
“The guidance for UK Government Departments on how the Welsh Devolution settlement works also needs to be updated.”
The recommendations contained in the report call for a number of changes to the National Assembly’s Standing Orders, the rules by which it operates.
The Committee recommends Standing Order 30, which concerns notification in relation to UK Parliament Bills be removed, and that Standing Order 29 be amended to reflect the new procedure.
Among the Committee’s other recommendations are more notice of UK Bills with implications for the Assembly’s competence and a better understanding of devolved powers for civil service officials in Whitehall.