Wales Act: the good, the bad and the ugly
Steffan Evans previews his session on the Wales Act 2017 ahead of TAI 2017 - looking at the transfer of powers and the implications for the housing sector, what are his conclusions about the road ahead?
Following the enactment of the Wales Act 2017 earlier in the year, Wales’s devolution settlement is set to change once more. The Wales Act 2017 is set to change the model of devolution that’s in place in Wales from the conferred to the reserved powers model. The Act, and the process that led to its enactment, has drawn heavy criticism from a number of constitutional experts and politicians.
Under the conferred powers model of devolution the National Assembly does not have any power to enact legislation unless powers have been expressly devolved to it. Under Schedule 7 of the Government of Wales Act 2006, powers have been devolved to the National Assembly in 21 subject areas. Housing is one of these areas. Whilst this model of devolution grants significant legislative powers to the National Assembly within the 21 subject areas, the system has been widely criticised for lacking certainty and clarity.
Under the reserved powers model of devolution, all powers will be devolved to the National Assembly, with the exception of those that are explicitly reserved to the UK Parliament. This is the model of devolution that is in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is argued that this model of devolution offers greater clarity over where powers lie and provides greater certainty for the devolved institutions. Concerns have been raised, however, that the approach taken when drafting the Wales Act 2017 will mean that the Act will lead to a reduction in the powers of the National Assembly, and will mean that the devolution settlement that’s in place in Wales will become more, not less complicated.
The implications of this change for the housing sector remain unclear. The Wales Act 2017 does not see further powers over housing transferred to Wales. Neither does it seem to significantly reduce the legislative powers of the Assembly with regard to housing. The indirect impact of the Act on the housing sector in Wales could be more significant, however. Given the concerns that have been raised that the Wales Act 2017 will lead to greater complexity and uncertainty as to which powers are devolved to Wales, there would appear to be a risk that the legislative process in Cardiff Bay could slow significantly. With the Brexit process also due to begin, the housing sector may find increasingly difficult to get things done in Wales.
Find out more
You can see Steffan Evans' session on day one of TAI 2017