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“A clear, workable and durable constitutional settlement”: Presiding Officer sets out constructive amendments to Draft Wales Bill

16/11/2015

The National Assembly for Wales' Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM, will set out ways that she believes the draft Wales Bill could be improved.

She will outline her proposals on Monday, 16 Nov, when she gives evidence to the Assembly's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee inquiry on the Draft Wales Bill.

Later she will give evidence to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the same issue, via a live video link.

During both sessions she will outline substantive amendments to the Bill that she believes will deliver a stronger constitutional settlement for Wales.

The alternative drafts have been worked up by a former parliamentary drafter, and internationally-recognised expert on legislative drafting, Daniel Greenberg, in conjunction with the Assembly's own lawyers.

"I look forward to giving evidence to committees," said Dame Rosemary.

"There is much in the draft Wales Bill that I welcome but it needs further work if it is to deliver a lasting devolution settlement for Wales that is clear, workable and durable.

"But I make no secret of the fact that none of the options achieve my true aim: a devolution settlement for Wales, and indeed a constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom, based on the principle of subsidiarity – the principle that the centre should do only those things that cannot be done effectively at devolved level.

"I recognise that, regrettably, there is not enough time for this aim to be achieved in the process leading up to the current Wales Bill, and therefore, I am committed to working with the Secretary of State to ensure that the Wales Bill that is eventually introduced is one that I can support as a step on the way to that lasting settlement.

"To that end my evidence contains substantive suggestions for improving the clarity and workability of the draft Bill, and a contribution that I believe is positive and constructive.

"The changes would not achieve my ideal outcome but would improve the settlement that the Assembly would have to work with for at least a few years while we work with the UK Government and other parts of the UK to find a truly stable and lasting constitutional settlement".

During the evidence sessions the Presiding Officer will outline three alternative drafts for some of the restrictions that the draft Bill places on the Assembly's ability to legislate.

They are intended to rationalise and simplify the proposed new tests for the Assembly's legislative competence – and thus to make the settlement clearer, more workable and more durable.

The alternative drafts focus on two things - the new tests for competence based on the word "necessary", which many commentators have agreed introduces significant additional uncertainty into the settlement, and the number of additional UK Government consents (the so-called English veto on Welsh laws) that would be needed for future.

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