On 5 July, the First Minister announced five new Bills to be introduced this year. These will work towards the Welsh Government’s ambition to create a “fairer, greener and stronger Wales”.
The Welsh Government’s Legislative Programme for 2022-23 has a focus on tackling climate change and protecting the environment. It includes plans to ban the sale of single use plastics, create a new framework to support farmers and reduce the likelihood of landslides from disused coal tips.
The First Minister highlighted the impact that secondary legislation, particularly on Covid-19 and EU exit, continues to have on the workload of the Welsh Government and Senedd.
This article takes a look at the five proposals, and provides further information on the wider legislative programme.
What new Bills are being proposed?
In his statement, the First Minister set out five Bills that the Welsh Government will bring forward this year.
The Welsh Government intends to introduce a Bill to ban or restrict the sale of some single-use plastics, such as plastic straws and cutlery.
The First Minister hopes to use this legislation as a test case as part of the Welsh Government’s ongoing legal challenge to whether the UK Internal Market Act 2020 limits the practical effect of Welsh law.
The First Minister said he will seek to introduce the Bill through an ‘expedited’ process to assist this legal challenge.
This Bill, which formed part of last year’s Legislative Programme, will reform the support for agriculture in Wales with an emphasis on “high-quality and sustainable food production” and “rewarding farmers for the delivery of environmental and associated social outcomes”.
The Welsh Government has subsequently published an outline Sustainable Farming Scheme, which it will consult on before introducing the Bill in the autumn.
The conclusions of this consultation will inform a Bill to establish “a consistent approach to the management, monitoring and oversight of disused coal tips” to protect communities and the environment, and support critical infrastructure by the reducing the likelihood of landslides.
The Wales Act 2017 devolved further powers to the Welsh Government to give consent for major on and offshore infrastructure projects.
The Welsh Government ran a consultation on a new consenting process in 2018. These proposals will inform a Bill to simplify the process for agreeing major infrastructure projects and will introduce a single consent requirement to construct and operate a project.
What about Secondary Legislation?
The First Minister highlighted the importance of secondary legislation to the delivery of the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government. Secondary legislation introduced in the last year includes laws on the Welsh curriculum and default 20mph speed limits.
The First Minister said that regulations on the Covid-19 Pandemic and EU exit have significantly affected the workload of the Welsh Government and the Senedd. EU exit legislation will continue to be introduced until the end of this year.
The First Minister also announced that the Welsh Government will bring forward regulations this year to implement the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill and aspects of the Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Act 2020, such as the ‘Duty of Candour’.
What has been the reaction to the programme?
Members from across the parties welcomed many of the Bills contained in the programme but other concerns were raised about Bills that have been left out. Some members echoed the First Minister’s concerns about the number of Bills being made in the UK Parliament in devolved areas being a “significant risk to Wales and to devolution”.
Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group, Andrew RT Davies MS, welcomed many areas of the Programme, such as the Clean Air Bill, the Coal Tip Safety Bill and plans to outlaw Single Use Plastics but expressed disappointment about the lack of Bills on Autism and British Sign Language. He called on the First Minister to support Peter Fox MS’s proposals for a Food Bill.
Adam Price MS, Leader of Plaid Cymru, supported many of the Bills in the programme but criticised the number of Bills that the Welsh Government is introducing (five compared to an average of fifteen in the Scottish Parliament and fourteen in the Northern Ireland Assembly). He called for increased capacity to support Member and Committee Bills.
A number of Members also raised concerns about the omission of an Environmental Governance Bill. The First Minister responded that the temporary arrangements in place are “working satisfactorily” as an interim measure and a Bill will be forthcoming later in this Senedd term.
How are current Bills progressing?
The Senedd is still considering four Bills that were introduced during the last 12 months. The chart below shows an update on the progress of these Bills.
Both the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill and Welsh Tax Acts etc. (Power to Modify) Bill are reaching the end of their progress through the Senedd. The Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill was introduced on 7 June 2022.
In addition to the proposed Bills, the First Minister outlined his intention to bring forward further legislation before the end of 2023 on proposals for Senedd Reform, the regulation of Bus Services and reform of Council Tax through a Local Government Finance Bill. As well as exploring options for reform of non-domestic rates.
It will be for the Senedd to consider whether the Bills outlined in the First Minister’s statement, and those in progress, become law.
Article by Josh Hayman, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament