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Wales Act 2017

Policy background

  1. In November 2014 the Government established what became known as the St David’s Day process. Its aim was to determine where there was political consensus to implement the recommendations of Sir Paul Silk’s Commission on Devolution in Wales second report (Silk II) on the powers of the Assembly (see Empowerment and Responsibility: legislative powers to strengthen Wales, published in March 2014). The process also looked at whether there was political consensus to implement for Wales some elements of the Smith Commission proposals for Scotland (see Report of the Smith Commission for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament), published in November 2014).
  2. The command paper, Powers for a purpose: Towards a lasting devolution settlement for Wales, published on 27 February 2015 (Cm 9020), set out the recommendations on which there was political consensus. Those recommendations requiring legislative change were included in the draft Wales Bill which was published on the 20 October 2015 for pre-legislative scrutiny (Cm 9144). The Act includes changes that were made as a result of that scrutiny process and changes that were made as a consequence of discussions with the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission.
  3. The St David’s Day process also examined some of the powers which are being devolved to Scotland under the Smith Commission agreement. The Act takes forward two significant commitments from this exercise around which there was strong political consensus. These are - devolving powers in relation to Assembly elections, including the electoral system, conduct, franchise and registration, and devolving the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction (including shale gas licensing).
  4. The St David's Day agreement also committed the Government to examine whether there was a strong case to implement for Wales any of the other recommendations from the Smith Commission. As a result of this work the Act includes :-
  5. - provisions giving a formal consultative role to the Welsh Government and Assembly in designing renewables incentives and OFGEM strategic priorities;

    - a duty on OFGEM to lay its annual report and accounts before the Assembly, submit reports, and appear before Assembly Committees;

    - the devolution of responsibility for mineral access rights for underground onshore extraction of oil and gas in Wales;

    - the devolution of power to prevent the proliferation of fixed odds betting terminal;

    - provisions to require the Secretary of State to consult Welsh Ministers on strategic priorities for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with respect to its activities in Wales' and

    - the devolution of powers to the Assembly to set gender quotas in respect of public bodies in Wales, and the devolution of traffic signs.

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