Article written by CWS Board Adviser Adrian Mason who is a constitutional lawyer:
You often hear people saying that the UK does not have a written Constitution. That of course is nonsense. Whilst it is true that we do not have a Constitution written within one document, as in most countries, our Constitution can be found written down in thousands of documents, spanning centuries. It is why our Constitution can be so flexible, not tied to a rigid set of rules found elsewhere.
The fundamental starting point for our Constitutional system goes right back to the Norman invasion of 1066 and then, subsequently, the Magna Carta. Since then, it has been developed piece-meal. It is why we have ‘Conventions’. One of those conventions is that an Act of Parliament cannot bind a future Parliament. In other words, an Act of Parliament passed today can be repealed by a future Parliament. For years, academics debated whether the European Communities Act 1972 could be repealed as incorporated into the Act, albeit by stealth, was that EU law was supreme. Of course, history has shown that democracy trumps everything and that the 1972 Act has now been repealed.
Moving on to the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the subsequent Government of Wales Act 2006, the Acts of Parliament that set up the then Welsh Assembly and vested powers to it in twenty areas, including health and education. The legislation required that a referendum be held for the people to affirm, before the powers were transferred. By the tiniest of majorities, the Welsh Assembly was set up. However, using the principle that no Act of Parliament can last forever, the Welsh Assembly (now grandly calling themselves a ‘Parliament) has no right to exist in perpetuity. They are only in existence at the behest of the people of Wales.
Let us imagine that the current Welsh Government behaves in a manner which is clearly to the detriment of the people of Wales. Then we have the option to remove them in elections. However, what if the Welsh Government takes steps to entrench themselves with a series of diktats that do not have the support of the people as a whole? We are currently seeing weekly pronouncements on the Covid 19 pandemic that are entirely disproportionate to reality. These pronouncements are having a devastating effect upon our economic wellbeing. Just yesterday we are told that a ‘new set of rules’ will be produced to ‘take us beyond and into the future’. These are chilling, sinister words.
We are also witnessing ‘mission creep’. The Welsh Government is insidiously entering areas that do not fall under their devolved powers. They are venturing into the international arena, they are concerning themselves with the Internal Market Bill, wanting to have these powers after we leave the EU and they plan to unlawfully impose border controls with our English neighbours.
Given the current course of events, another solution would be to repeal the Government of Wales Act 2006. This should, of course must be subject to a further referendum. But, nevertheless, a Westminster Government could legitimately bring this before Parliament. Given that the vast areas of Wales now have Conservatives elected to Parliament and the Welsh Government’s power base is confined to a small area of the Country, this option may be seen as the truly democratic method to end devolution and return powers back to Westminster.
The Welsh Government really needs to tread carefully. Arrogance towards electors is a dangerous thing in politics. It needs to remember that they only exist because the people want them to exist. The people can withdraw that consent and, if they do, the UK Constitution is there, ready and waiting, to facilitate it.