Prime Minister: Meeting with First Ministers of the Devolved Governments

Debate between Baroness Humphreys and Lord Greenhalgh
Wednesday 8th June 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I am not sure I can specifically answer that at the Dispatch Box, but there are now mechanisms, as part of the review of intergovernmental relations, to ensure we have the structures to take these points on board in the appropriate setting.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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My Lords, I welcomed the demise of the Joint Ministerial Committee earlier this year. It was doomed to failure principally because it was rarely convened by the Prime Minister. What structures have been put in place to ensure that two of the main weaknesses of that system are addressed: so that the First Ministers meet with the PM, in the new intergovernmental forum, more regularly than once a year; and that all four nations are able to contribute issues to the agenda?

Shared Prosperity Fund

Debate between Baroness Humphreys and Lord Greenhalgh
Thursday 24th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I am always reminded that on all sides of the House we have tremendous support for Wales, including on the Front Bench. My noble friend is right to probe, and in response I can say there is more than £18 billion through the Welsh block grant, £167 million in local growth funding, a share of the £2.6 billion shared prosperity fund, £900 million for Welsh farmers and a £130 million British business bank fund to support Wales’s small businesses. That is considerable investment to ensure that Wales prospers.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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My Lords, we have gone from “not a penny less” to analysis showing that, by 2024, the Welsh budget will be £1 billion worse off, as the noble Baroness has already said. With very little clarity at the moment on plans going forward, is it not now time to respect devolution, restore the missing £1 billion to the Welsh budget and put Welsh decision-making on building stronger local economies back where it belongs, in the hands of Welsh Ministers?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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We are getting some mixed messages from the House. On one hand we have that desire to see that we empower regions and functional economic areas through councils, but we do recognise that it is important to have proper engagement and collaboration with the Welsh Government. Indeed, at official level and also through the Welsh Local Government Association, that continues to happen, as it does at the level of the Secretary of State, who had a meeting, in the levelling up and housing committee, with the Welsh Local Government Association and local authority leaders. I believe that Minister O’Brien also met ministerial counterparts yesterday. So, yes, we must continue to build on collaboration, and I just caution against the idea that we should model into the future and say that there is a gap. We want to make sure that we repair the public finances, post pandemic, so that every part of this great country gets the investment it needs to prosper.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Repeal of EU Restrictions in Devolution Acts etc.) Regulations 2022

Debate between Baroness Humphreys and Lord Greenhalgh
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, these regulations were laid in draft before the House on 25 January. Their purpose is to repeal the powers introduced by Section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which provided a regulation-making power to temporarily freeze devolved legislative competence while UK common frameworks were finalised. If approved, the regulations will also remove limitations on devolved legislative and executive competence introduced into the devolution settlements and any cross references to those powers.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act has an inbuilt duty on Ministers to consider the repeal of Section 12 powers. Those powers are time-limited. In any case, the powers have never been used and, since 31 January this year, can no longer be used. There can now be little reason to retain them. Although the powers have never needed to be used, they provided a useful contingency while the Government and the devolved Governments worked jointly to develop UK common frameworks. The Government and the devolved Governments have successfully worked together on a collaborative basis to develop common frameworks, and the powers have not needed to be used. The frameworks that have jointly been developed now underpin a common approach across the United Kingdom to policy areas previously governed by EU law that are within devolved competence.

If approved and made, the regulations will remove the now redundant powers from the statute book. They will also remove the ongoing statutory obligation on the Government to report to Parliament on the use of these powers. The Government have produced 14 reports since the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 was enacted, with the most recent report published last week.

In addition to keeping the statute book in good order, the regulations mark the progress that this Government have made jointly with the devolved Governments to develop common frameworks. These frameworks are in operation to create a consistent approach across the United Kingdom in a wide range of policy areas. I commend the regulations to the Grand Committee.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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I thank the Minister for the clarity of his presentation. As he has already outlined, this SI removes the powers introduced into the devolution settlements by Section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. These were temporary powers to prevent divergence from existing structures established in the UK by EU law while the UK common frameworks were developed. The Explanatory Memorandum points out that these regulation-making powers are no longer needed, as the Minister has already explained, because of the progress made towards developing the frameworks. It also points out that the power to make such regulations cannot be exercised after 10.59 pm on 31 January 2022. As we are now six weeks past that date, I presume that the powers no longer exist and that this instrument is therefore needed to remove these redundant provisions from the statute book.

The Government make much of the collaborative approach taken towards working with the devolved Administrations, and point out that the powers introduced by Section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act have never needed to be used because of that. My concern is that, by removing the powers from the devolution settlements, we are also removing an ongoing statutory obligation to report to Parliament on the use of the powers and, crucially, report on the implementation of the UK common frameworks.

I am a great admirer of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee and the expertise of its chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and of its members. I hear of its activities through members of the committee. In its report, Common Frameworks: Building a Cooperative Union, the Committee highlighted three problems with the common frameworks. The first was that the frameworks have been developed behind closed doors, with minimal stakeholder engagement or parliamentary scrutiny. The second was the need to clarify the relationship with the Northern Ireland protocol, and the third was the lack of information given to Parliament to enable it to scrutinise the operation of these important governmental agreements, which, it says, remain largely invisible. While doing excellent work, the committee appears almost to be working in limbo, so what progress has been made on the three problems that it identifies? What steps have been taken to present information to Parliament on a regular basis so that Members can better understand and scrutinise the intergovernmental relationship?

As usual, I am particularly interested in the quality of the collaboration between the UK Government and the devolved Governments. In various Bills that have come before this House recently, the UK Government have talked about consultation or collaboration with the devolved Governments, but they in turn have complained about a lack of meaningful consultation, having sight of a Bill only the day before it is presented to the Commons, and being presented with information without being allowed a sensible response time—so much so that the Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee, in its legislative consent memorandum to the Elections Bill, made a recommendation that the Welsh Government should include a commentary on the extent of co-operation and engagement with the UK Government in all legislative consent memoranda that are required by virtue of Standing Order 29. This enables the Senedd to scrutinise the level of engagement between the Governments.

I hope that the noble Lord can assure me today that the UK Government have a plan to allow scrutiny of all aspects of the common frameworks process by Members of this House.

UK Community Renewal Fund

Debate between Baroness Humphreys and Lord Greenhalgh
Wednesday 8th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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Of course I am not saying that. I am saying that there is a methodology and approach and that they are transparent. We have funded those bids according to that methodology. There is nothing controversial about that; there is nothing to see here.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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My Lords, in Wales, additional funding has long been allocated to support communities that are struggling with high levels of poverty and deprivation. Could the noble Lord explain what criteria are being used, as over 60% of so-called levelling-up funding in Wales is being allocated to the 35% of constituencies that are Conservative held? Is this not another case of the UK Government funnelling money into their own back yards?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I know that is why the question has been asked, but it is simply not the case. Levelling up is around infrastructure—digital infra- structure, heavy infrastructure, transportation systems and the things that will bind this country together. I have a briefing today about the community renewal fund, which is the precursor to the UK shared prosperity fund. This is not about the politics you saw in Tammany Hall in New York; this is sensible stuff that aims to level up this country.