Supreme Court asked to rule on Welsh assembly powers
31 Tuesday Jul 2012
The UK attorney general has used “backstop” powers contained in the Government of Wales Act 2006 to halt the progress of the Welsh Assembly’s first piece of legislation, and has referred the matter to the Supreme Court to determine whether the Assembly has exceeded its authority in passing The Local Government (Byelaws) (Wales) Bill. The objection is based on the Bill’s removal of the role of the Secretary of State in confirming Welsh byelaws at both ministerial and official level. Sch 7 to the 2006 Act sets out the devolved areas that the Assembly has the competence to legislate across without reference to the UK government, but the Welsh government cannot modify the functions of a minister of the crown unless any modifications are incidental to other provisions in the legislation.
Wales’s recent enhancement in legislative power has led to calls for the Supreme Court to have a Welsh judge on its panel, on the grounds its independent jurisdiction will result in the principality becoming increasingly governed by laws which are different to the rest of the UK.
Theodore Huckle, chief legal adviser to the Welsh government, spoke to The Guardian about the matter back in March:
“The composition of the Supreme Court should reflect squarely the whole devolution settlement.
“It is increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will have to consider devolution issues. In that context we think there should be a Welsh representative on the Supreme Court.
“They say that England and Wales is one jurisdiction and it’s difficult to identify what constitutes a Welsh judge. We say we know one when we see one. The government in Wales has consistently argued that the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act should be interpreted to mean that Wales is a separate part [of the UK].”