Economic Development

It's always nice to see True Wales make fools of themselves, as Rachel Banner seems anxious to loose no opportunity to show how little her group knows about the referendum. What brought tears to my eyes this time was her idea that it was "highly questionable" whether this referendum has anything to do with the Assembly getting powers to set taxes. To answer her question, it doesn't.

But in the statement she gave to the Western Mail she went on to say:

“The omission of ‘economic development’ and ‘culture’ from the list of devolved areas, on the grounds that ‘the terms would not be clear to most people’, is bizarre. We are astonished that it has been deemed unnecessary to include these fundamental areas.”

So I thought this would be a good time to look in more detail at "Economic Development" with the aim of trying to clear up any confusion there might be about the extent of the Assembly's powers to make laws in this area.


At present, the Assembly has absolutely no legislative powers in this area at all. If anyone doubts that, all they need do is look at the up-to-date list of matters that the Assembly can legislate on, called Schedule 5 of the GoWA, on this page.

Scroll down to "Field 4: Economic Development" and we can all see for ourselves that it is blank. This means that the Assembly currently has no powers to make any laws on Economic Development in Wales, since it can only pass laws on Matters that are specifically listed. There are examples of such Matters in other Fields for those who want to see the form they would take.

If we vote Yes in the referendum, the Schedule 5 list of Matters which the Assembly can make laws about will be replaced by Schedule 7. For reasons probably known only to the mandarins of Whitehall—which might well have made sense at the time but certainly don't make any sense now—what were "Fields" in Schedule 5 have now become "Subjects" in Schedule 7, but the headings are exactly the same: they are the twenty areas for which Wales has some degree of devolution.

If we look at Schedule 7 we will see what the Assembly will be able to legislate on after a Yes vote. For Subject 4 it reads:

Economic development

Economic regeneration and development, including social development of communities, reclamation of derelict land and improvement of the environment. Promotion of business and competitiveness.

But it isn't as simple as that, because there is a long list of exceptions: things to do with economic development that the Assembly will still not be able to legislate on even after a Yes vote.


Fiscal, economic and monetary policy and regulation of international trade.

Regulation of anti-competitive practices and agreements, abuse of dominant position and monopolies and mergers.

Intellectual property, apart from plant varieties.

Creation, operation, regulation and dissolution of types of business association.


Product standards, safety and liability, apart from in relation to food (including packaging and other materials which come into contact with food), agricultural and horticultural products, fish and fish products, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides (and things treated by virtue of any enactment as pesticides).

Consumer protection, including the sale and supply of goods to consumers, consumer guarantees, hire purchase, trade descriptions, advertising and price indications, apart from in relation to food (including packaging and other materials which come into contact with food), agricultural and horticultural products, fish and fish products, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides (and things treated by virtue of any enactment as pesticides).

Occupational and personal pension schemes (including schemes which make provision for compensation for loss of office or employment, compensation for loss or diminution of emoluments, or benefits in respect of death or incapacity resulting from injury or disease), apart from schemes for or in respect of Assembly members, the First Minister, Welsh Ministers appointed under section 48, the Counsel General or Deputy Welsh Ministers.

Financial services, including investment business, banking and deposit-taking, collective investment schemes and insurance.

Financial markets, including listing and public offers of securities and investments, transfers of securities, insider dealing and money laundering.

Telecommunications, wireless telegraphy (including electromagnetic disturbance), internet services and electronic encryption.

Postal services, post offices and the Post Office, apart from financial assistance for the provision of services (other than postal services and services relating to money or postal orders) to be provided from public post offices.

Generation, transmission and supply of electricity.

Energy conservation, apart from the encouragement of energy efficiency otherwise than by prohibition or regulation.

Coal, including mining and subsidence, apart from land restoration and other environmental matters.

Oil and gas.

Nuclear energy and nuclear installations.

Units and standards of weights and measurement and the regulation of trade so far as involving weighing, measuring and quantities.

Industrial Development Advisory Board.

Now I'm sure that even with all those exceptions there will be things in this area which the Assembly can legislate on. We will have moved from the position of being able to legislate on nothing to the position of being able to legislate on some things ... though not very many.

So, for example, it's comforting to know that we will be able to legislate on intellectual property for plant varieties, even though we won't be able to legislate on intellectual property for anything else. Again, I'm sure it must have made sense to the Wales Office at the time, but ...

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James Dowden said...

If I were an AM in a hypothetical world after those powers, I would love to draft a bill regulating the intellectual property of types of industrial machinery, claiming that they were plant varieties. Rather like in yesterday's list being able to regulate the air transport of animals, my first response would be to draft a bill relating to the air transport of homo sapiens. That is of course very silly, but the effect of such a long and tedious set of restrictions is inevitably some creative use.

MH said...

It's not so much of a joke, James. A while back, when it was still doubtful whether we would be able to change the Building Regulations to increase energy efficiency for buildings in Wales, Jane Davidson (or at least someone advising her) achieved much the same goal by changing the Planning Regulations instead. There's always room for some clever lateral thinking.

Anonymous said...

Of course the colonial way water resources are treated in the GoWA is another major exclusion from the economic development "subject area".

Unknown said...

The change of terminology between Section 5 and Section 7 is a grave indictment of the ability of Westminster to scrutinise legislation! They took long enough over it. What were they doing?

And I'm sure that every one of us on the YES side of the argument thank the good lord for Rachel Banner! (and stonemason!)

MH said...

I only hope that True Wales keeps going for the next seven months, Siônnyn. But I fear that they've spread so much disinformation that they will not be considered to be a suitable designated organization for the No campaign.

Cibwr said...

The Scotland Act was far cleaner, with everything permitted unless specifically forbidden, with a much shorter list of reserved functions. Unfortunately we once again drew the short straw.

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