The Welsh government published an alternative draft Wales Bill on 7 March, following the announcement that the UK government’s draft bill was to be revised following a series of critical reports. This will be one of the first and hardest tasks for Alun Cairns, the new Secretary of State for Wales. In this post Alan Cogbill offers an initial analysis of the alternative bill and argues that it merits careful study in Whitehall.
When the UK government published its draft Wales Bill last October, it ran into a barrage of criticism. The First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones expressed frustration at how the UK Government had responded (or not) to Welsh government concerns while the bill was being prepared, and he published extensive correspondence. It disclosed acute non-meeting of minds between ministers and officials in Cardiff and London – even on technical matters.
The draft bill was heavily criticised elsewhere. Both the National Assembly’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, and the House of Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee, expressed serious misgivings and recommended time to reconsider. A joint report by the Wales Governance Centre and the Constitution Unit offered a sharp critique, with proposals for radical revision.
Now the Welsh government has published its own draft bill. It offers it not as a finished product, but a contribution to joint working with the UK government to produce a better bill for parliament to consider – one that will create a clear, robust and sustainable basis for the governance of Wales within the United Kingdom.