Silk sets out ‘stable and lasting’ devolution settlement for Wales

3 Mar 14
The Welsh Assembly should take on powers over policing, justice and transport, according to the Commission on Devolution in Wales

Following its 2012 report on greater financial powers for Wales, the commission today published its second report on the powers of the National Assembly. It made a total of 61 recommendations, proposing that changes be phased in over a 10-year period.

It said there should be a shift from the current conferred powers model of devolution to a reserved model, which sets out those powers that are not devolved, rather than those that are. This would clarify responsibilities and facilitate more confident governance, the commission said.

Chair Paul Silk added: ‘At a time when constitutional issues are high on the agenda in the United Kingdom, we have agreed recommendations that will provide a stable and well-founded devolution settlement fit for the future.

‘It will give Wales a lasting settlement that allows political decisions to be made in a democratic and accountable manner.’

He suggested that the recommendations would bring Wales more in line with other devolved countries in the UK.

‘We are therefore delighted to present our unanimously agreed report to the UK government for implementation.’

Among the commission’s specific suggestions were devolution of policing and justice. While youth justice should be devolved immediately, a feasibility study for the devolution of prisons and probation should follow, the commission said.

The Assembly should assume powers for water and over ports, rail, bus and taxi regulation, and speed and drink driving limits. The Welsh dimension of BBC governance should also be beefed up and funding of the Welsh-language television channel S4C should be transferred from the UK government to the Welsh administration.

There were also a series of recommendations over how the Assembly could better manage its affairs. These included greater flexibility over the number and size of committees, increased numbers of research staff and more backbench Assembly members.

Responding to the report, Welsh Secretary David Jones said: ‘This government has consistently reaffirmed its clear commitment to devolution, and we warmly welcome the commission’s second report which sets out its recommendations for making devolution in Wales work better.’

But he added that there was not sufficient time in the remaining Parliament to implement any changes that require primary legislation.

‘These will therefore be a matter for the next government and Parliament, and for political parties to set out their proposals and intentions to the electorate ahead of the general election in 2015,’ Jones said.

Dame Rosemary Butler, presiding officer of the National Assembly for Wales, said: ‘I believe the package of recommendations provides a strong basis for the development of devolution in Wales, to strengthen democracy and accountability and, most importantly, for the Assembly to better serve the people of Wales.

‘Moving to a reserved powers model will help to dispel some of the uncertainty of the Assembly’s role and responsibilities. It will allow us to legislate more effectively and with greater confidence. Critically, it will put us on a similar legislative footing as the Scottish Parliament.’

The Silk Commission’s first report was published in November 2012 and made 33 recommendations on taxation and borrowing powers for the National Assembly. The majority of these were accepted by the UK government in full and are now being taken forward through the Draft Wales Bill.


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