Offering us precisely nothing

It was interesting to read this story on the BBC website that the Tory government in Westminster is now prepared to offer the devolution of teachers' pay and conditions to our National Assembly, but surprising that the Welsh Government considered this to be an "encouraging development".

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As I see it, teachers' pay and conditions are already devolved to Wales. Of course this was never intended by Westminster; it came about as a result of the Supreme Court ruling that the Assembly had power to determine pay and conditions for agricultural workers in Wales. As I mentioned in this post, by choosing to test out the Assembly's competence to retain an Agricultural Wages Board for Wales, Westminster was in fact asking the Supreme Court to rule on the general principle of whether something had to be specifically mentioned as being within the Assembly's competence, or whether it could reasonably be implied to be within the Assembly's competence because the overall subject area—in that case agriculture—is devolved.

That first post was written before the verdict had been delivered, but after it had been delivered I wrote this post, which showed beyond any doubt that politicians in Westminster fully realized that the principle could be applied to other devolved areas ... and that in this regard the Welsh Assembly has greater powers than even the Scottish Parliament. Because education is devolved, applying the same principle means that, for example, teachers' pay and conditions are devolved, as well as those of anyone else who works in education. The same would also apply to all the other devolved areas.

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As others beside myself have noted, one of the Conservative Government's purposes behind the new Wales Bill is an attempt to roll back these, and other, devolved powers under the guise of a reserved powers model. Yes, the new Bill promises a few additional powers—and for me any additional powers will always be welcome—but these come at the cost of the repatriation of powers we already have back to Westminster. It's too high a price to pay. I think we must reject the repatriation of any powers back to Westminster on principle.

In other words, although this new "concession" proposed by the Tories is meant to look like a step forward for devolution, it is very far from being the "encouraging development" that the Welsh Government believes it to be. They are in fact offering us nothing that we don't already have.

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