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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 14:05 GMT
A guide to devolved powers

paras Defence remains Westminster's responsibility


On Friday 11 February 2000, the Northern Ireland Secretary suspended the Northern Ireland Assembly amid the crisis in the peace process.

The creation of the Northern Ireland Executive nine weeks previously marked one of the final stages in a process of devolution which had begun with Labour's 1997 general election victory.

The Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, subject to its restoration, have primary legislative powers over many areas. This means that they can pass their own laws on topics such as education which have been devolved from Westminster.

However, the Welsh Assembly is limited to secondary legislative powers. This means it is only able to vary some laws set by the Houses of Parliament and only in those issues which have been devolved to Cardiff.

The following is a summary of which powers have been transferred to the new devolved bodies from Westminster and Whitehall:








Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food

Northern Ireland - Primary and secondary legislative power over these areas was devolved to the assembly prior to its February suspension.

Agriculture was one of the areas for cross-border co-operation with the Republic of Ireland with specific bodies to cover food safety and marine matters.

Scotland - The Scottish Parliament has primary and secondary legislative powers and a role in the formulation of European Union policy. It has responsibility for food standards in co-ordination with Whitehall and the Food Standards Agency.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers over most aspects of these areas. It controls farm animal welfare, the Forestry Commission in Wales and payments to Welsh farmers. The assembly also has a role in the negotiations and implementation of EU policy in Wales.

Culture, Media and Sport

Northern Ireland - The assembly had primary and secondary legislative powers over the arts, sport and language. Control over broadcasting and the National Lottery remained in London.

Scotland - Edinburgh has primary and secondary legislative powers over the arts, sport and language. Control over broadcasting and the National Lottery remains in London.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers over the arts, sport and language. Control over broadcasting and the National Lottery remains in London.

Defence

Legislative powers and responsibility for the administration of defence remain with Westminster and the Ministry of Defence.

Economic policy

The Treasury retains control of overall economic policy for the UK. Of the devolved bodies only the Scottish Parliament has been given some limited powers to vary tax rates.

Economic development

Northern Ireland Primary and secondary legislative powers were devolved to the assembly.

Scotland - Primary and secondary powers have been devolved. The Scottish Parliament's responsibilities include Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Tourist Board.

Wales - Secondary legislative powers have been devolved to the assembly. Cardiff runs the Welsh Development Agency and Wales Tourist Board and administers European Structural Funds.

Education

Northern Ireland - The assembly had primary and secondary legislative powers over this issue which was also made one of the areas for cross-border co-operation through the North-South Ministerial Council.

Scotland - Edinburgh has control over the Scottish education system through primary and secondary legislative powers. Its responsibilities include student fees, school standards and the training and supply of teachers.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers. Its responsibilities include setting and monitoring school standards, the content of the National Curriculum and funding further and higher education.

Employment legislation

Northern Ireland - The assembly took primary and secondary legislative powers over this area except for the National Minimum Wage and consumer safety which remained UK-wide.

Scotland - Edinburgh has no control over this area.

Wales - Cardiff has no control over this area.

Environment

Northern Ireland - The assembly had primary and secondary legislative powers and there was also cross-border co-operation on this issue.

Scotland - The Scottish Parliament has primary and secondary legislative powers. Its responsibilities include pollution control, water supplies and sewerage.

Wales - Cardiff has secondary powers in this area. It controls water quality and determines policies on town and country planning.

Foreign policy

Northern Ireland - Responsibility remained in London except for the assembly's role in entering into agreements on cross-border co-operation through the North-South Ministerial Council.

Scotland - Responsibility remains in London.

Wales - Responsibility remains in London.

Health

Northern Ireland - The assembly had primary and secondary legislative powers to run the NHS in Northern Ireland. However, control over some areas remained with the Department of Health. They were: abortion, embryology, surrogacy, genetics, fertilisation, medicine safety, oversight of medical professions and xenotransplantation (transplant of animal organs to humans).

Scotland - Edinburgh has primary and secondary legislative powers to run the NHS in Scotland, but with the same exceptions as Northern Ireland.

Wales - Cardiff has secondary powers to run the NHS in Wales, but with exceptions in the same areas as Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Home affairs

Northern Ireland - Responsibility for this area, including control of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, remained with the Westminster government and the Northern Ireland secretary.

Scotland - Edinburgh has primary and secondary legislative powers. It has overall responsibility for the criminal justice system, prisons and the police in Scotland. However, some areas remain the responsibility of the Home Office and Westminster, such as: drugs policy, data protection, firearms, official secrets, immigration and gambling.

Wales - The Home Office and Westminster retain all responsibility.

Legal system

Northern Ireland - Responsibility remained with Westminster and the Northern Ireland secretary.

Scotland - The Scottish Parliament has primary and secondary legislative powers to administer the Scottish legal system which was different from that in the rest of the UK even before devolution.

Wales - Responsibility remains at Westminster.

Local government and housing

Northern Ireland - This passed to the control of the assembly which had primary and secondary legislative powers.

Scotland - Edinburgh has primary and secondary powers. Its responsibilities include control of local government finance and the designation of enterprise zones.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers. It decides on the overall funding for local authorities and oversees the council tax system in Wales. Westminster remains in control of fire service funding.

Social Security

Northern Ireland - The assembly was responsible for this area and had primary and secondary legislative powers. Westminster retained responsibilities for social security appeals.

Scotland - The Scottish Parliament has no responsibility in this area.

Wales - The Welsh Assembly has no responsibility in this area.

Social Services

Northern Ireland - The assembly was responsible for social services in Northern Ireland and had primary and secondary legislative powers.

Scotland - Edinburgh is responsible for social services in Scotland and has primary and secondary legislative powers.

Wales - The assembly has secondary powers. It determines and implements policies on care in the community and on social services for children and controls adoption services.

Trade and Industry

Northern Ireland - The assembly took devolved primary and secondary legislative powers in some areas prior to its suspension.

They included: inward investment, promotion of trade, exports and tourism and some elements of company regulation. There was also cross-border co-operation on tourism, trade and business development. Westminster retained control of subjects such as: the Post Office, competition policy, consumer protection, nuclear energy, telecommunications and international trade policy.

Scotland - Some elements are devolved to the Scottish Parliament with primary and secondary legislative powers. They include: inward investment and the promotion of trade, exports and tourism. Westminster retains control of the same areas as it does for Northern Ireland.

Wales - Most responsibilities retained by Westminster. However, the assembly has devolved secondary legislative powers over some areas. They include: the promotion of trade and inward investment and the administration of EU Structural Funds.

Training

Northern Ireland - This area was devolved to the assembly with primary and secondary legislative powers.

Scotland - The Scottish Parliament has primary and secondary legislative powers. Its responsibilities include vocational qualifications and the functions of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers and funds and oversees training and enterprise councils in Wales.

Transport

Northern Ireland - The assembly took primary and secondary legislative powers. Westminster and the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions retained power over the regulation and safety of aviation and shipping.

Scotland - The assembly has primary and secondary legislative powers, with the same exceptions as Northern Ireland plus rail safety and driving tests for motorists.

Wales - The assembly has secondary legislative powers with the same exceptions as Scotland. Responsibility for the contract to operate the Second Severn Crossing also kept in London.

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