The Queen’s Speech 2013 and the draft Wales Bill

The Queen’s Speech, which took place on 8 May 2013, included details of 18 Bills and two draft Bills that the UK Government intends to bring forward over the course of the 2013-14 Parliamentary Session.

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

The Queen’s Speech, which took place on 8 May 2013, included details of 18 Bills and two draft Bills that the UK Government intends to bring forward over the course of the 2013-14 Parliamentary Session.

Clearly, the main news story for the Assembly was the UK Government’s commitment to bring forward a draft Wales Bill which will include provisions relating to:

  • Moving the Assembly from four to five year fixed terms to reduce the likelihood of Assembly elections coinciding with parliamentary elections;
  • Overturning the ban on dual candidacy to allow candidates in Assembly elections to stand in both constituency and on a regional list; and
  • Preventing ‘double jobbing’, by prohibiting Assembly Members from also being MPs.

Draft Bills in Westminster are published by the sponsoring department (in this case the Wales Office) and may on occasion be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a House of Commons Select Committee or a Joint Committee of both the House of Commons and House of Lords. For example, the draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee between February and March 2013.

The draft Wales Bill follows a Green Paper consultation held by the Wales Office between May and August last year on future electoral arrangements for the Assembly. In addition to the proposals which are likely to be contained in the draft Bill, the Green Paper also consulted on proposals relating to changing Assembly constituencies in light of the planned reduction in the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 ahead of the next UK General Election. Following the postponement of the next review of parliamentary constituencies to 2018 however, the Secretary of State for Wales confirmed in March 2013 that the UK Government will not proceed with proposed changes to Assembly constituencies during the current parliament.

In terms of other Bills included, most apply to Wales but only a handful seem likely to make provisions in devolved areas. Prominent among these is the Water Bill which aims to reform the water sector by increasing choice in the retail markets – a provision that is likely to meet the resistance of the Welsh Government who has placed on the record its opposition to introducing competition in the water sector. Given the Assembly’s legislative powers in this area, a Legislative Consent Motion is expected once the Bill is introduced in Parliament

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is another Bill likely to require the consent of the Assembly. Despite containing a number of provisions relating to reserved matters, the Bill will also contain provisions relating to dangerous dogs which relates to the Assembly’s legislative powers over animal welfare. The Welsh Government had intended to bring its own dangerous dogs legislation forward (and had consulted on a draft Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill for such purposes), but have now dropped their proposals in favour of seeking provisions for Wales through the UK Government’s Bill.

The Mesothelioma Bill may also be another Bill of interest to the Assembly, given the recent introduction of Mick Antoniw’s Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill. In contrast to the Assembly Bill, however, which does not aim to create any new legal entitlement to compensation, the UK Government’s Bill aims to establish a payment scheme for people with ‘Diffuse Mesothelioma’ (a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos) where their employer or employers’ liability insurance company cannot be traced.

Further information about all the Bills and draft Bills contained in the Queen’s Speech is available in the Research Service Paper: The Queen’s Speech 2013.

Article written by Owain Roberts, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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