Issue date

The Wales TUC has today published what it calls “a damning legal opinion” and accuses the UK government of preparing to “act unconstitutionally” and “undermine the democratic will of the people of Wales”.

An independent legal opinion, commissioned from leading Queens Council Hefin Rees (attached in full), looks at those aspects of the UK government’s Trade Union Bill which impact on Welsh devolution.

The intervention comes on the day that the Bill is debated in House of Lords.

Wales TUC General Secretary Martin Mansfield said,

“This independent expert opinion shows that parts of the UK Government’s Trade Union Bill infringe on areas that are devolved to Wales.

“The Welsh government has consistently sought to deliver devolved public services through social partnership – co-operation between government, employers and unions.

“The aim of the Trade Union Bill is to attack the role of unions in the workplace and undermine our ability to protect workers.

“In doing that the Bill also undermines the ability of Welsh government to deliver our public services according to the democratic wishes of the people of Wales.

“Later this month the National Assembly of Wales will decide whether to give legislative consent for the UK government to act in this way.  We expect that consent to be withheld – meaning the UK government must exempt Wales from parts of the Bill.

“If they refuse then the UK government will be acting unconstitutionally – they will be attacking the basis of devolution and the will of the Welsh people.

“All political parties and the whole of civic society in Wales should be concerned about that and act to defend our devolved powers.”

Note to editors

  • The summary of conclusions within the legal opinion document can be found on page 25, paragraphs 71-75
  • Below are key quotes from the opinion (Wales TUC highlights):

Paragraph 56

provisions of the Bill relate to subject matters that are devolved (i.e. devolved public services) as well as to subject matters which are not devolved (industrial relations and employment). “

Paragraph 59

By ignoring the possibility that under the devolution arrangements for Wales, a legislative provision may relate to both a devolved and a non-devolved subject matter, the UK Government has fallen into error in concluding that the provisions of the Bill are not within the legislative competence of the Assembly.

Paragraphs 64 and 66

(The Sewell Convention) “clearly recognises the possibility that legislative provisions can relate to both devolved and non-devolved subject matters and envisages that a UK Government department should consider whether, from the Welsh Government’s perspective, a proposal could be considered to be both devolved and non-devolved when determining whether legislative consent is required. 

“….the Sewel Convention carries considerable political weight, enshrining the important political settlement that protects the autonomy of the Assembly.  A UK Government that proceeded in breach of that important Convention would be acting unconstitutionally.

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