Speech Clause 4 Wales Bill

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope.

30 Apr 2014 : Column 934

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 5, which stands in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We will not be pushing it to a vote, because we want to save time and to have a discussion on income tax powers, which is what we really want to discuss in detail. However, I say to the Minister that, regardless of his opening remarks, our new clause is in the spirit of clause 4, which he has just presented. I hope the Government will see sense in due course, either in the later stages of the Bill’s progress in this House or in the other place.

New clause 5 would give powers to the National Assembly to change its name to the “National Parliament” or to any other name should it so decide. I stress that the new clause does not call for the institution’s name to be changed in this Bill, but rather that the power to take this decision should be granted to the National Assembly, as proposed in the Silk 2 recommendations. The Minister was being somewhat mischievous in saying that we were cherry-picking from the Silk recommendations, because our new clause is in line with the Silk 2 recommendations, in that it is a matter for the National Assembly if it wishes to change the name of the legislature. The new clause would empower it to make that decision rather than having to make a request to the UK Government of the day, as it has done for the name of the Executive.

The new clause would mean that the National Assembly would be able to change its name by means of a resolution agreed by a simple majority. It is gratifying that clause 4 officially changes the name of the Executive to the “Welsh Government”, a title that has been used widely for practical purposes since the 2011 election. There was a Scottish precedent for this change of title in 2007, when the “Scottish Executive” were renamed the “Scottish Government”. There has been broad agreement that the term “Welsh Assembly Government”, which had been in use since 2002, had been confusing and anachronistic after the separation of the Executive and legislative functions of the Assembly in 2007. It also gave rise to the unfortunate acronym WAG—being given the same label as a premiership footballer’s better half has done little for the democracy of our country. I have never used the term since I was elected, instead always using “Welsh Government”, so I was delighted that following the 2011 election the First Minister made the case that the Executive would be known as the “Welsh Government” thereafter. So I fully support clause 4, which makes that name official in legislation.

Now that the National Assembly is able to pass its own laws, it should be called a Parliament. However, I appreciate that others hold a different view, and that in the European tradition, the meeting place of a legislature is generally termed an Assembly. In France, for instance, the national legislature is called the Assemblée Nationale—if my memory of international rugby trips to Paris serves me correctly. Surely it should be a matter for the democratically elected Members of the national legislature of Wales to determine the name of the legislature in which they serve. That is what we are trying to achieve in new clause 5, but I will not press the matter to a vote. I expect there to be greater deliberations on this topic when the Bill reaches the other place.

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