With rather curious timing, the Welsh Government announced its legislative programme for the coming year just before the summer recess. The news release is here, and there’s news coverage from the Western Mail here. This announcement follows one last year, laying out a legislative programme for the whole of the Assembly’s term.
There are eight bills for 2012-13. Several of these are likely to test the limits of the National Assembly’s law-making powers, either because of the scope of Schedule 7 as it is drafted, or because of their effects on the remaining powers of UK ministers. The latter is particularly like to be a problem with the Human Transplantation bill, creating an opt-out rather than opt-in regime for organ donations. (The organ transplantation system is presently run on a UK-wide basis by NHS Blood & Transplant, for which the UK Secretary of State for Health is responsible, and regulated by another UK body, the Human Tissue Authority, although that is slated to have its functions changed under the Public Bodies Act 2011. See HERE for further discussion of the legal problems it faces.) Similar issues may arise with the Education, Local Democracy and perhaps Social Services bills, depending on how those are framed. That means that issues of amending Schedule 7 (for which new procedures were set out in the early summer), or obtaining the Secretary of State’s consent where there is an effect on a UK ministers’ functions, will be needed.
One thing is very clear about legislating in Cardiff Bay; the new arrangements under Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 replaced one set of difficulties with another. The National Assembly simply does not have an untrammelled power to legislate for ‘health’ or ‘education’, even if the general public has the impression that it should.