Existing Welsh laws, passed by the National Assembly for Wales would in future be outside the Assembly’s competence, Plaid Cymru has revealed. Some existing laws would also become unenforceable thanks to the so-called ‘power-grab clause’ in Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill.
Both the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, which aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, and the Environment Act 2016, will become unenforceable once the EU Withdrawal Bill comes into force in Westminster, due to the environment being one of 24 areas of devolved policy the UK Government will remove from the National Assembly.
Responding to questions from Plaid Cymru’s Environment spokesperson, Simon Thomas AM, the Welsh Government’s Environment Minister confirmed that she had not received any assurances from the UK Government that the UK Government will not trespass on Welsh environmental legislation, or interfere with the work of Wales’s Future Generations Commissioner.
On Thursday (10th May) the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs released a statement expressing disappointment that the UK Government did not engage with the Welsh Government on a consultation on a new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, which will impact on devolved policy areas.
Despite being existing legislation, neither the Well-Being of Future Generations Act 2015 nor the Environment Act 2016 would be within the Assembly’s competence if they were introduced as Bills after the Withdrawal Bill is enacted, confirming concerns that Westminster is removing powers from the devolved parliaments.
In addition, some proposals for future legislation will become impossible once the EU Withdrawal Bill is enacted. A proposal to ban the use of wild animals in circuses will not be possible due to the Assembly’s responsibilities over ‘animal welfare’ being removed; a proposal to introduce a single-use plastics levy, and to create a deposit return scheme would both be outside competence due to ‘waste packaging and product regulations’ being removed from the Assembly’s competence.
Commenting, Plaid Cymru AM for Mid & West Wales, Simon Thomas AM said:
“Plaid Cymru has warned from the outset that the EU Withdrawal Bill goes far beyond its brief of implementing Brexit, and removes responsibilities from the national parliaments, including the National Assembly.
“That existing legislation – already passed by the National Assembly – will in future be completely outside the scope of the National Assembly’s abilities confirms that the UK Government is taking powers away from Wales.
“Not only is the Assembly’s ability to create new laws being reversed, it is being prevented from enforcing laws already in place.
“Until very recently the Labour Party agreed with Plaid Cymru and was fighting against this power-grab but while their colleagues in Scotland continue to oppose the power-grab, in Wales they are working with UKIP and the Tories to implement it.
“We have made great progress in Wales on matters such as the environment, animal welfare and agriculture and we cannot allow the UK Government to undo that progress.”