The Welsh Government’s Legislative Programme: What progress has been made?

Published 13/04/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

When the First Minister announced five new Bills in the Welsh Government’s legislative programme in July last year, he said that they were “an essential part of our ambitious and radical programme for government that will help shape Wales for the future”.

But as we approach the start of the summer term, how much progress has been made on getting those Bills through the Senedd and onto the statute book?

Senedd Bills aren’t the only way that primary legislation is made for Wales. This article will also look at the increased use of UK Parliament Bills to legislate in devolved areas.

What progress has been made?

Single-use Plastics

The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill was the first Bill to be presented from the legislative programme. The Bill was introduced on 20 September 2022 and completed its progress through the Senedd on 6 December.

The Bill’s scrutiny was expedited at the request of the Welsh Government for the purposes of supporting its legal challenge to the UK Internal Market Act 2020 and to ensure that the single-use plastic products in the Bill were “banned as fast as possible”.

The use of the expedited process was criticised by three Senedd committees and there was disagreement between the Welsh Government and the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee about how the Bill will interact with the UK Internal Market Act 2020. This Senedd Research article looks at this in more detail.

The Bill has yet to receive Royal Assent. The First Minister wrote to the Llywydd on 22 March 2023 to explain that he would be delaying the Bill coming into force. As the Bill could result in a barrier to trade, the World Trade Organisation requires a six month interval between the passing of legislation and it coming into force. For this reason, the Bill will not become law until early June 2023.

Clean Air

Proposals for a Clean Air Bill have long been in development, with the Welsh Government publishing a White Paper setting out legislative proposals in January 2021.

On 20 March 2023, the Minister for Climate Change introduced the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill. As well as setting targets and establishing duties around clean air, the Welsh Government has included a duty on Welsh Ministers to publish a national soundscape strategy to tackle noise pollution.

The Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee held its first Stage 1 evidence session on 29 March 2023 with the Minister for Climate Change. The Committee is planning further sessions throughout May with a deadline for reporting to the Senedd of 14 July 2023.


The Agriculture (Wales) Bill, introduced on 26 September 2022, establishes a new framework for agricultural support based on ‘Sustainable Land Management’ and allows transition from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy system of support. The Bill includes powers for Welsh Ministers to replace those due to expire in the UK Agriculture Act 2020 and includes provisions on dispute resolution processes, tree felling licences and prohibits the use of snares and glue traps.

The Bill is currently at Stage 3 in the legislative process, where Members can propose amendments to be voted on by the whole Senedd. The date for the Stage 3 debate is yet to be announced but is likely to take place over the coming weeks.

Coal Tip Safety

This is one of two Bills announced in the legislative programme that have not yet been introduced to the Senedd. Coal tips, piles of waste material removed from the ground during coal mining, are a legacy of Wales’ industrial past. The majority of Wales’ tips are now disused but they present risks including landslides, flooding, pollution and spontaneous combustion.

The Welsh Government asked the Law Commission to look at options for reforming the regulatory system for coal tips. The Law Commission published its report in March 2022 and the Welsh Government responded on 22 March 2023.

In this response, the Minister for Climate Change states her intention to bring forward a Bill “during the current Senedd term”.

Infrastructure Consenting

The other Bill from the Legislative Programme that has not yet been introduced is on Infrastructure Consenting.

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 are set to 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.

In October 2022, the Minister for Climate Change confirmed that the Welsh Government would be introducing a Bill by the end of this Senedd year – in the summer term.

Other Bills considered this year

As well as the Bills mentioned in the legislative statement, the Welsh Government introduced the Health Services Procurement (Wales) Bill on 13 February 2023. The Bill enables the Welsh Government to develop a new procurement regime for health services in Wales.

The Senedd has also been considering Bills carried over from the previous year, including the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill and the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. The Food (Wales) Bill, a Member Bill introduced by Peter Fox MS, is at Stage 1 in the Senedd.

Use of UK Bills to legislate in devolved areas

In addition to Welsh Bills, UK legislation, passed by the UK Parliament, is sometimes used to introduce laws for Wales in devolved areas. This is done by seeking the consent of the Senedd in a process known as the Sewel Convention.

The Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has raised concerns about the increasing number of UK Bills being used to make laws in devolved policy areas.

Since the First Minister announced the Welsh Government’s legislative programme in July 2022, legislative consent memorandums (LCMs) have been laid for 15 UK Bills. This takes the total number of LCMs and supplementary LCMs laid in the Sixth Senedd to 79, relating to 34 UK Bills. This is a considerable increase when compared to the Fifth Senedd.

Read more about the Welsh Government’s increasing use of UK Bills to legislate in devolved areas in this Senedd Research article.

Looking ahead

The Welsh Government has recently consulted on proposals for a number of new Bills that could be introduced soon:

The next legislative programme is likely to be announced by the First Minister before summer recess and could include some of these Bills. This programme should also include legislation to implement Senedd Reform and could contain proposals to reform the Welsh Tribunals.

Article by Josh Hayman & Phil Lewis, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament