I’ve been looking at the bills proposed in the UK Queen’s Speech for their likely devolution effects. These are not fully spelled out, but that’s not really surprising; with barely two weeks between forming the coalition to the speech being given, there’s precious little time to work out the key policies or agree an outline legislative programme and timetable. Sorting out the devolution aspects is a complicated issue and can’t take place until the UK Government’s policy is clear in any event. The first Queen’s Speech after a change of government is therefore particularly tricky from this point of view.
By my reckoning, five bills are likely to affect devolved matters in Scotland and so will require legislative consent motions under the Sewel convention. These are the Energy Security and Green Economy Bill, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, the Public Bodies (Reform) Bill, the Decentralisation and Localism Bill, and the Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill. Three others (the Health Bill, the Identity Documents Bill and the Armed Forces Bill) conceivably might, depending on what exactly they contain.
Another bill – the Scotland bill, implementing the Calman Commission recommendations – certainly will need a legislative consent motion, as it affects the powers of the Scottish Parliament and functions of the Scottish Government (see HERE for a detailed explanation).
Of the bills affecting devolved matters for Wales, four are likely to extend the scope of devolved powers. These are the Energy Security and Green Economy Bill, the Health Bill, the Public Bodies (Reform) Bill, the Decentralisation and Localism Bill. In these cases, the question will be of the sorts of powers to be conferred – whether these should be executive powers for the Assembly Government, or legislative ones for the National Assembly.
Several other bills affect devolved matters, but in fields where legislative powers are already extensively devolved. This applies to the Academies bill, the Education and Children’s bill and the Local Government Bill. The provisions of these may alter the executive powers devolved to the Assembly Government and will certainly will merit attention, but are unlikely to change devolved legislative powers.
The welfare reform legislation (the National Insurance Contributions Bill, the Welfare Reform Bill and the Pensions and Savings Bill) will affect only Great Britain, but under the parity requirements will need parallel legislation for Northern Ireland.
Given that its priorities are the deficit, political reform and civil liberties issues (which are very largely reserved/non-devolved matters), it’s not surprising that this legislative programme affects devolved matters much less than recent Queen’s Speeches have. Nonetheless, entanglement of devolved and non-devolved functions is such that there are still some quite complex effects. Moreover, the asymmetry of the various devolution arrangements mean that different bills (and provisions within them) cause those effects.
UPDATE: The Scottish Minister for Parliamentary Business, Bruce Crawford, has responded to the Queen’s Speech; the Scottish Government’s news release is here. He appears not to expect the Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill to require a legislative consent motion.