Assembly committee calls for a Speakers’ Conference
The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has called for the establishment of a Speakers’ Conference to help improve the way parliaments work together and hold governments of the UK to account.
A Speaker’s Conference is used in Westminster and is effectively a committee drawing members from all sides of the House of Commons and the United Kingdom to address constitutional issues of particular significance or sensitivity which require a cross-party solution.
The recommendation from the Committee is for a conference involving speakers and presiding officers from all UK legislatures with the aim of determining how best to develop UK inter-parliamentary working, particularly as a means of scrutinising the impact of withdrawal from the European Union on the constitutional framework of the UK.
“We see a Speakers’ Conference as a way of increasing understanding and cooperation between UK parliamentary institutions at a crucial period in the evolution of the constitution of the UK” said Mick Antoniw AM, Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
The Committee also concluded that inter-governmental relations—currently administered through the Joint Ministerial Committee—had not changed enough since their introduction following devolution and that the Speakers’ Conference could assess the UK Government’s approach as the UK leaves the EU.
Mick Antoniw added: “The role of the Joint Ministerial Committee has not evolved during the course of devolution, whereas devolution itself, particularly in Wales, has undergone rapid constitutional changes in such a short space of time.
“Constructive, inclusive dialogue between UK governments is critical and will become even moreso following Brexit as we move into a new era of international relations and economic development.”
The Committee also wants to see the EU Withdrawal Bill making its way through Westminster, and which would repatriate powers from Europe into UK law, amended to put inter-governmental relations on a statutory footing.
“Currently there is no legal framework and no formal governance which gives any great power or impetus to the process of UK governments working together.”
“This means the process is essentially driven by personality and makes the Joint Ministerial Committee little more than a speakeasy for Ministers to discuss ideas behind closed doors without any transparency or accountability.”
The Committee makes nine recommendations, including:
- That the Joint Ministerial Committee is strengthened in the short term by ensuring it fulfils the functions of an annual Heads of Government Summit;
- That in the longer term, post-Brexit, the JMC is subject to fundamental reform so that it becomes a UK Council that -
• is a decision-making body;
• has an independent dispute resolution, arbitration and adjudication mechanism;
• is transparent and accountable in all of its functions and operations, in particular, in its decision-making.
- That the Llywydd seeks to establish with the other Speakers and Presiding Officers of UK legislatures, a Speakers’ Conference with the aim of determining how best to develop UK inter-parliamentary working, particularly as a means of scrutinising the impact of withdrawal from the European Union on the constitutional framework of the UK.