Sir Roderick Evans, presiding judge of the Wales Circuit, gave the Lord Callaghan Memorial Lecture in Cardiff on Monday, in which he called for a simpler way of making law for Wales. The speech is available here, and news coverage from the Western Mail here.
The Western Mail also reports a ‘hiccup’ in introducing the Welsh Language Measure into the Assembly, due to the nature of consultation with Whitehall. An Assembly Government spokeswoman is quoted as saying “We received confirmation mid-afternoon on Friday that we had been given the necessary consent from the UK Government to table the Measure.”
What earthly reason can there be to require the UK Government’s ‘consent’ to the Measure’s introduction? The scope of the Assembly’s legislative competence is, thanks to the LCO passed earlier this year, now set out in Schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act 2006. That competence is a matter of law, not a matter for consultation with Whitehall. The procedures set out in Part 3 of the Act ensure that there is no scope for the Assembly to exceed its competence – the Assembly Government and the Presiding Officer both have to certify it is within competence, and the UK Attorney General can refer the legislation to the Supreme Court (as can the Assembly Government’s Counsel General) and prevent it receiving Royal approval if she or he considers it exceeds competence. There are good practical reasons for consultation with UK Government departments, but the only area where that should delay introduction on legal grounds is consultation with the UK Law Officers – and there’s no need for the Wales Office to be part of that process. This is an odd approach to using the Assembly’s legislative powers.
UPDATE: The draft Measure has now been introduced into the Assembly. Its text is available here.