The increase of Legislative Consent Memoranda (LCMs) laid by the Welsh Government has been large and should be of real concern for supporters of Welsh democracy.

Yet they pass through our Senedd with little attention as even the vast majority of people who are interested in Welsh politics are probably unaware of LCMs.

Their role is that when the UK government wishes to legislate within a devolved area, an LCM is laid by the Welsh Government in front of the Senedd. The Senedd can then grant or refuse consent for the Westminster Parliament to pass a bill which trespasses within the Senedd competency.  

However, if consent is refused, due to the nature of the United Kingdom, the British Parliament can continue regardless.

The National Wales: Rhys ab Owen is a Senedd Member for South Wales CentralRhys ab Owen is a Senedd Member for South Wales Central

In essence, they are merely window-dressing, a formality which highlights that the voice of Wales is, at its core, unheard and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. On top of this, the process highlights the real precarious nature of the devolution settlement here in Wales.

Since the start of the sixth Senedd, the Welsh Government have laid 16 LCMs, ranging from the Armed Forces Bill to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, and from the Environment Bill to the Health and Care Bill. Evidently these are a wide range of issues.

Sixteen LCMs is more than any other year (excluding 2020 where 18 LCMs were laid). The increase has been momentous and highlights the creeping tentacles of an ever-encroaching Tory government.

The Labour Government here has denied consent to five Bills so far and are currently bringing another forward on the Nationality and Borders Bill. This shocking and draconian Bill, passed under the shadow of the Tory Christmas party scandal, highlights the callousness of this Conservative government.

Ignoring the fact that it breaks international laws, both refugee law and the European Convention on Human Rights, clause nine gives the government the power to strip British citizens of their citizenship without any reason. This in turn, as we have historically seen with such policies, disproportionally effects our BAME citizens.

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If anything shows that Westminster isn’t working for Wales, then it is this case, where British policies run counter to Wales’ policy of being a Nation of Sanctuary.

I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has brought an LCM forward on the matter. Although the Bill could be seen as sitting outside the Senedd’s competency, it has a knock-on impact on life in Wales such as in social care.

However, despite the protestations of the vast majority in the Senedd, this cruel Bill will most likely go forward. This current UK government does not care about what’s right and enjoys ignoring the voices of the devolved nations. They probably can’t even hear us over the loud Christmas music being played in 10 Downing Street.

Time and time again, the Welsh Government has been critical of this Westminster government.

In late October 2021, Mark Drakeford described Boris Johnson as ‘bottom of the barrel’. Yet, during the sixth Senedd, the Welsh Government has consented on several bills which the Senedd is perfectly capable of legislating itself. In fact, in my view, the Senedd would do a better job!

There are nine Bills that the Senedd has provided consent for (seven fully and two in part). These Bills will further complicate, an already highly complicated, devolution settlement, make accessibility to laws even more difficult and the Bills will only be through the medium of English. 

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We already know that Boris Johnson and his Conservative government are no friends of devolution. Yet despite this we are passing Senedd powers to them. We are giving them the power on when to enforce Bills and we are giving UK ministers powers to pass subordinate legislation within devolved areas.

I want to highlight two that are close to my heart: the Environment Bill and the Building Safety Bill, all of which fall within the portfolio of our Minister for Climate Change.

Firstly, the Environment Act passed by the Johnson Government who only a few months earlier backtracked on dumping sewage into public waters. The Johnson Government who, a week before the most important international environmental conference since Paris, decreased tax on domestic flights.

We should be legislating ourselves in an area which has been devolved to Wales for over 20 years. We should certainly not be reliant on a Tory government led by a man who has flirted with climate change denial.

Secondly, the Building Safety Bill seeks to tackle the cladding crisis which has gone mostly unchecked since the Grenfell Tower disaster. The LCM laid by the Welsh Government argues that the Bill presents an opportunity to “take earlier action” on some issues, a bit ironic seeing at the Bill passed almost four years since the disaster. On top of this, the Bill provides no realistic remedy to stopping a future cladding crisis and still makes individuals foot the Bill. We are consenting for a defective Bill to be implemented in Wales.

This Senedd needs to legislate in devolved areas. The Welsh Government were elected by the Welsh people to draft laws within devolved areas and to be scrutinised by the Senedd.

With a Conservative Government in Westminster that is going from one scandal to the next, from one mismanagement to the next, I know where I would rather have power lie.

Rhys ab Owen is a Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for South Wales Central. 

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