The Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
On 7 October, the Home Office tabled an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, to replace one of the current exceptions to the National Assembly for Wales’ legislative competence with a new exception.
The exception in question is that relating to “Anti-social behaviour orders”, which is listed under paragraph 12 of Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006.
The Home Office amendment would replace this with the following exception:
“Orders to protect people from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”.
The Home Office contend that this is a consequential amendment, which merely updates the exception in recognition of the abolition of the current anti-social behaviour regime.
I disagree with the Home Office. The Minister for Local Government and Government Business and I have made our views clear to both Home Office Ministers and the Secretary of State for Wales. The Minister for Local Government and Government Business’ letter of today’s date to the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, and my letter to the Secretary of State for Wales, are attached for Members’ information.
In my view, the Home Office’s replacement exception would have a significant impact on the National Assembly’s legislative competence. The effect of the current exception is that anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), under the current Crime and Disorder Act 1998 regime, are not within the Assembly’s legislative competence.
The effect of the proposed replacement exception is that all or any orders to protect people from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress would fall outside the Assembly’s legislative competence. This represents a restriction on the Assembly’s powers, as it would prevent it from legislating substantively about any sort of order to protect people from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, even in devolved contexts such as the health service, schools or housing.
The UK Government considers that this amendment to Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act can be made without a legislative consent motion in the Assembly. I disagree. The amendment would reduce the Assembly’s legislative competence, and it should not be taken forward without the Assembly’s agreement. The Minister for Local Government and Government Business will be laying a legislative consent memorandum and motion on this issue, and the Welsh Government will not be supporting the motion.