House of Lords Library

Wales Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

Published Tuesday, October 4, 2016

This Lords Library briefing provides background to the Wales Bill and highlights the key amendments made and discussions held during its passage through the Commons.

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The Wales Bill seeks to implement those elements of the St David’s Day agreement that require legislative change and to introduce a clearer and more durable devolution settlement in Wales. The Bill would replace the current conferred powers model used by the National Assembly for Wales with a reserved powers model. The Bill includes the following:

  • A declaration that the Assembly and Welsh Ministers are a permanent part of the UK’s constitutional arrangements and would not be abolished without a referendum in Wales;
  • A declaration that the UK Parliament would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Assembly;
  • Provisions to amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 to define the limits on the legislative competence of the Assembly and detail of the tests for assessing whether the Assembly is within its competence. The Bill includes two new schedules which would define the areas that are reserved to the UK Parliament;
  • Provisions for the Assembly to modify “protected subject matters”, such as the name of the Assembly and the franchise and electoral system used for Assembly elections;
  • Provisions to devolve responsibility for ports policy, speed limits, bus registration, taxi regulation, local government elections and sewerage;
  • Provisions to give Wales powers over planning development consents for electricity generating stations with 350MW capacity or less;
  • A requirement for justice impact assessments to be produced for Assembly Bills;
  • Removal of the requirement for the devolution of a portion of income tax to be subject to a referendum in Wales; and
  • Provisions to allow Welsh Ministers to grant licences for onshore oil and gas extraction.

No non-government amendments were made to the Bill during its passage through the Commons. Key issues discussed included the creation of a separate or distinct legal jurisdiction for Wales; the Bill’s requirement for justice impact assessments for Assembly bills; restrictions on the Assembly’s legislative competence for energy schemes over 350MW; and powers for the Welsh Assembly with regard to water supply and sewerage.

The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 13 September 2016 and is scheduled for second reading debate on 10 October 2016.

This Lords Library briefing provides background to the Bill and outlines its key provisions. In addition, it highlights the key amendments and discussions during the Bill’s passage through the Commons. It concludes with a summary of the scrutiny the Bill has received in the Welsh Assembly, produced in support of this briefing by the Research Service at the National Assembly for Wales.

Lords Library notes LLN-2016-0048

Author: Heather Evennett

Topics: Devolution, National Assembly for Wales

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House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.