Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wales Bill reaching the End Game.

Seems as if the Wales Bill has been winding its way through the fog and dust of Westminster's legislative processes for an age. It all started when Stephen Crabb was Secretary of State for Wales. He invited representatives of all political parties (under chairmanship of much respected Paul Silk) to suggest a new stable permanent settlement for how a devolved Wales should be governed - when Welsh MPs would no longer have to debate how Wales should be governed! Stephen introduced a draft Wales Bill which was not well received. So it's been much altered to meet some objections under the guiding hand of new Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, and Ministers Guto Bebb and Lord Nick Bourne - an impressive team I enjoy working closely with.

The House of Commons has enthusiastically backed this Wales Bill through all Parliamentary stages, and it has now progressed through the House of Lords to 'Report stage', having just completed passage through 'Committee Stage'. Three more crucial steps to go. On December 14th and on another day in early January, their Lordships will consider the Wales Bill at 'Report Stage'. There could be a bit of dispute between the Houses if anyone tries to play 'silly b*****s with it, but it's a mighty risk to the entire future of the Bill. Any delay and timetable issues may sink the Bill completely, especially if we have an 'urgent' Article 50 Bill tabled in January, following a Supreme Court judgement against the Gov't. That would dominate all else. After that, it's a matter for Assembly Members. No more complaining. It's their call. In mid January, After Report Stage it will become a matter for Assembly Members , who will be asked to approve a Legislative Consent Motion, which informs the watching world that they support the Wales Bill. If they don't support the LCM, the Bill will be become a deceased Wales Bill. Up to AMs to decide. If they do approve the LCM, their Lordships will move quickly to Third Reading and then it's Royal Assent. Could be all done in February. The only big question left then is "what will Welsh MPs do with no Wales Bill to squabble about - until the next one comes along that is!!

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