The Silk Commission began work on part two of its remit, reviewing the powers of the National Assembly for Wales in autumn 2012 and issued a call for evidence on 29 November 2012. The closing date was 1 March 2013 (although some evidence has been submitted subsequent to this date). Below are some key headlines from the evidence submitted:
- The Welsh Government is in favour of a move to a “reserved powers” model of devolution, as are Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Submissions from the Welsh Conservative Assembly Group and the Welsh Conservatives did not express a view on this issue. The UK Government is content with the existing model of devolution for Wales.
- The Welsh Government is in favour of devolving policing. The UK Government is opposed to the devolution of policing.
- The Welsh Government does not feel able to pursue the devolution of criminal justice in its entirety at this time but it remains a longer-term intention. It also considers that there should be preparation for a time when a separate legal jurisdiction may be necessary and beneficial. The UK Government is opposed to the devolution of criminal justice and the creation of a separate jurisdiction.
- The UK Government noted that Acts of the Assembly can create criminal offences. UK Government Departments must obtain the approval of the Justice Secretary before creating new offences in Bills. The UK Government suggested that the Commission might wish to consider whether this should apply to Assembly Bills and whether it is best dealt with administratively (for example, via a protocol) or in legislation.
- The Welsh Government wants competence extended to speed limits, bus regulation, taxi regulation and ports. The UK Government invited the Silk Commission to consider the devolution boundary in respect of ports and the regulation of local bus services and operators in Wales.
- The Welsh Government saw scope for change in the devolution settlement as it applies to rail services and rail infrastructure. The UK Government invited the Commission to consider the current devolution boundary for railways, and the potential for changes to those arrangements.
- The Welsh Government wishes to see the administration of elections in Wales devolved. The UK Government invited the Commission to consider whether electoral administration in regard to local government elections in Wales, should be devolved to Welsh Ministers.
- The Welsh Government wishes the Welsh Ministers to have executive functions and the Assembly legislative competence regarding consents for large-scale energy generation projects (with the exception of nuclear power) and related energy infrastructure. The UK Government considers that the current unified development consent regime for energy projects in England and Wales provides a stable platform for investment in major infrastructure. The UK Government also suggested the Commission consider including associated development in Wales within the Planning Act regime.
- Neither the Welsh Government nor the UK Government wishes broadcasting to be devolved.
- The Welsh Government wants legislative competence for licensing and regulation of any licensed water supplier within the meaning of the Water Industry Act 1991; the appointment and regulation of any water undertaker whose area is not wholly or mainly in Wales; and sewerage. It also wishes to remove the Secretary of State’s existing unilateral intervention power in the case of functions relating to water. The UK Government said that separating cross-border systems may not be technically feasible at reasonable cost and may create significant regulatory difficulties.
- The UK Government invited the Silk Commission to consider the devolution of teachers’ pay and conditions. The Welsh Government is on record as opposing this.
The Commission will publish its report on Part 2 in the spring of 2014.
More detailed information can be seen in the Research Service paper, Summary of consultation responses to part two of the Silk Commission on Devolution in Wales .
Article by Alys Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.