Wales politics

Carwyn Jones reveals alternative Wales Bill

Carwyn Jones

First Minister Carwyn Jones has unveiled an alternative draft Wales Bill to provide a "stable, long term" solution to how Wales is governed.

It follows Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb's decision to put his plans for further devolution on hold.

Mr Jones said the Welsh government's plan would cut the list of powers to be kept by Westminster and set up a separate legal system for Wales.

The Wales Office said Labour previously ruled out a legal jurisdiction.

Policing and the criminal justice system would be devolved after 2026 under the Welsh government's proposals, as recommended by the Silk Commission on devolution.

'Avoid wrangling'

"Whilst it was the right decision for the UK government to pause and reflect on their proposed Wales Bill, we are still deeply concerned at the lack of consultation and involvement in the process," Mr Jones said.

He said in the "the spirit of constructive collaboration and co-operation" the Welsh government had published "a comprehensive made-in-Wales alternative bill which addresses" concerns about the original draft.

Mr Jones said at a press conference on Monday that his draft Government and Laws in Wales bill "is not intended to be the last word" on the issue.

Image caption Stephen Crabb said more work was needed to get the bill right

The changes in the proposed bill include:

  • Dividing the England and Wales legal jurisdictions to create a law of Wales and a law of England, but with both served by a common judiciary and courts service
  • The devolution of air passenger duty
  • The partial devolution of income tax with two-thirds of the support of the assembly
  • Changing the name of the assembly to the Welsh Parliament

Mr Jones said the latter changes would "have the potential to avoid years of further constitutional wrangling by setting down in law a road map".

Mr Crabb announced a range of changes to the bill last week, including reducing the number of powers set to be reserved to Westminster in the legislation.

A spokesman for the Welsh Secretary said the already announced changes "will command broad support".

He said: "As part of the St David's Day process, Welsh Labour specifically ruled out devolving policing and creating a separate legal jurisdiction.

"The fact is the Labour Party is split from top to bottom when it comes to devolution. This alternative Wales Bill is clearly a concession to Plaid Cymru ahead of the Assembly elections in which Labour is expected to lose seats."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: "Where have Labour been until now?"

"Wales could be in a much stronger position if the Welsh government had not dragged its heels," she said.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: "Once again we see the Labour party running scared from income tax powers.

"We all know that many in the Labour party are against Wales benefiting from these powers. Now, it seems Labour is trying to refuse powers already on offer to Wales."

The final Wales Bill will only become law when it is passed by parliament.

Analysis by Daniel Davies, BBC Wales political correspondent

This is Carwyn Jones's attempt to regain control of the next stage of devolution.

Arguably, the UK government has been in the driving seat since 2010 when the Tory-Lib Dem coalition promised to review Wales' devolution settlement.

And while Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb prepares to go back to Whitehall and re-draft the legislation, Mr Jones has jumped in to seize the initiative by offering the Welsh government's own solution.

The alternative bill calls for a more explicit division of powers, handing more responsibility to Cardiff. Mr Jones is pushing at an open door there.

But it will be a lot more difficult for him to win the argument that Wales needs its own legal jurisdiction.

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