• January 30, 2016


The Welsh Assembly have just given David Cameron a kick ‘where it hurts’ by voting to block the UK government’s trade union bill in Wales.

Assembly members said it would undermine public services, the economy and the “constructive social partnership” between workers and employers in Wales.

Instead of heeding the Welsh Assembly’s decision, the UK government is ignoring it and has said the bill will continue its progress through the Westminster parliament.

The situation seems certain to end with a constitutional crisis as the two governments will almost certainly (unless one or the other backs down) end up in the Supreme Court.

The showdown between the Welsh and UK governments over the trade union bill was inevitable with Cameron determined to push through the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said the Welsh Assembly government will do everything in its power to stop the bill and forged an alliance with Plaid Cymru and Welsh Lib Dem Assembly members to vote down the plans by 43 to 13.

They were voting on a “legislative consent motion” (1) tabled by Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews. Legislative consent – basically permission – is required from the Welsh and Scottish governments when the UK government wants to pass legislation that relates to devolved areas, like on the health service and education.

The Welsh government believes the trade union bill does relate to those devolved areas. Introducing the motion, Andrews said the bill was “damaging, divisive and risks undermining public services and the economy”:

We believe it will lead to a confrontational relationship between employers and workforce. It contrasts sharply with the constructive social partnership approach in Wales – valuing the workforce, supporting public services and encouraging enterprise.

Therefore, says the Welsh government, the bill does require legislative consent.

That view is roundly supported by legal advice (2) given to Wales TUC by QC Hefin Rees:

In our view it is strongly arguable that clauses 3, 12, 13 and 14 of the Bill relate to the following devolved subject matters: “education and training”; “fire and rescues services”; “health and health services”; “highways and transport”; “local government”; and “public administration”.

Indeed, Rees goes further, telling the UK government that forcing the bill onto Wales without permission from the National Assembly would be unconstitutional.

The Trade Union Bill relates to employment rights, duties and industrial relations, all of which are clearly reserved matters for the UK Government under the Welsh devolution settlement.

Clearly the Assembly believe its clearly expressed and democratic decision supersedes any ‘reserved right’ the Westminster government believes it has.

The Assembly would appear to be in a win win situation here as Cameron can back down (unlikely) or the Supreme Court could find against them thus provoking an even bigger constitutional bust-up.

Often regarded as the junior partners, to Scotland and N. Ireland, in the UK devolution lottery Wales have stolen a march on their Scottish parliamentary colleagues.

In Scotland, MSPs who also overwhelmingly oppose the trade union bill had their attempt to table a similar legislative motion thwarted by Holyrood’s Presiding Officer.

It would seem the Welsh Dragon has more fire in its belly than the Scottish Lion!






Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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