Wales politics

Wales devolution: Halt draft Wales Bill, committee says

Senedd in Cardiff Bay

Plans to shake-up the way Welsh devolution works need to be put on hold, a committee of MPs has said.

Last year Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb published the draft Wales Bill to give the Welsh government more powers.

It includes areas such as energy, transport and elections, while also making clearer what is devolved and what is not.

But the Welsh government and opposition MPs have said some aspects of it would see ministers left with fewer powers.

Now, a report by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee has said the process should be subject to a "pause".

It said a proposed list of powers that are not devolved need a re-think, with Whitehall departments forced to give a clearer reason why some issues should not be handed over to the Welsh government.

And it said suggestions Welsh ministers may need permission from London before passing some laws - described by First Minister Carwyn Jones as an "English veto" - were "too complex".

The report said introducing a 60-day deadline for UK ministers to raise any objections to planned Welsh laws could solve the problem.

MPs on the committee failed to reach a unanimous view on whether creating a separate legal jurisdiction covering Wales only - rather than England and Wales - should be part of the bill.

Chairman David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, said: "Over the course of the inquiry, the committee has heard evidence that raises doubts about the draft bill's ability to provide the lasting settlement it seeks to create.

"The pre-legislative process has been an opportunity for these concerns to be aired. Therefore, a period of reflection is necessary to reach a settlement that is long lasting."

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Media captionChair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee David Davies said he had 'concerns'

According to the Welsh government, 14 of the 19 bills passed since 2011 would not have been possible under the proposed new system.

They include plans to move to a so-called "presumed consent" system for organ donation, which came into force in December 2015.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: "This report simply confirms what we have been saying over the course of the past year - the process followed in the development of the draft bill was fundamentally flawed, and the bill as drafted cannot provide the clear, coherent and sustainable settlement for Wales which the Secretary of State said he was seeking."

Plaid Cymru committee member Liz Saville Roberts said the report confirmed the draft bill "claws back powers away from the people of Wales, back into the hands of Westminster politicians and utterly disregards the result of the 2011 referendum" on direct law-making powers for the assembly.

A spokesman for the Wales Office said work to improve the bill was already under way and it would consider the committee's recommendations.

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