The Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament building

The Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament building

Third year of the legislative programme: an update on the Welsh Government’s commitments

Published 24/04/2024   |   Reading Time minutes

A “stronger, fairer and greener Wales” – these were the former First Minister’s aims when setting out the Welsh Government’s legislative programme in June 2023. He announced eight new Bills for the year ahead, as well as setting out longer-term commitments.

It will be for the new First Minister, Vaughan Gething MS, and his Cabinet to decide whether it sticks to the previous government’s legislative programme or reprioritises it.

This article considers progress made on the previous legislative programme and where things currently stand.

Legislative commitments for 2023/24

Bus reform Bill

The previous First Minister’s statement included commitments for a Bill “to reform the failed system of deregulation” of bus services.

In February 2024, he confirmed that the Bill is in the “final stages of its preparation”. It will introduce “a planned, agreed, stable and subsidised system of bus transport”, ensuring that funding is provided for “socially necessary” routes.

In March 2024, the Welsh Government set out further information on its approach to bus reform.

The reform looks set to go ahead; Vaughan Gething MS’s leadership manifesto included a commitment to “pass legislation to regulate the bus network before the end of this Senedd term”.

Coal tip safety Bill

The then First Minister said a Bill will be introduced “to establish a new supervisory authority and management regime for tip safety in Wales”. This Bill will apply to coal tips. However, the white paper also sought views on whether non-coal tips should be included. The Bill is set to be introduced in the autumn of 2024.

Action on tips was also a commitment in the 2022 legislative statement.

Social care reforms

The statement included commitments for legislation to make reforms to social care, including:

  • to eliminate private profit from the care of looked-after children;
  • to introduce direct payments for continuing healthcare; and,
  • to “make a number of amendments to help regulation and support for the social care workforce operate effectively”.

To support work to eliminate profit from the care of looked-after children, the Welsh Government has established a multi-agency Programme Board. In March, the former First Minister said that a Bill would be introduced “soon after Easter”, however, its introduction was recently postponed until May.

Welsh language education Bill

The Welsh Government published a white paper on reforms to Welsh language education. Proposals include reflecting the target of a million Welsh speakers in law, creating a single Welsh language skills continuum, and enhancing Welsh language provision in schools not designated as Welsh-medium schools.

In February 2024, the then Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS, confirmed his “intention to press ahead and introduce a Bill that will address the policy objectives outlined in the white paper”, stating that the Bill would be introduced ”before this Summer recess”.

Electoral and Senedd Reform

The previous First Minister’s statement included several commitments relating to electoral reform.

In October 2023, the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill was introduced to the Senedd. If agreed, the Bill will introduce electoral registration without application and create a requirement for a voter platform to host candidate information, amongst other changes. Our Bill resources page includes our Bill summary and articles on the Bill’s progress.

The general principles of the Bill were agreed in February 2024, and it is currently undergoing Stage 2 proceedings.

The statement also included a commitment to introduce a Bill to:

create a modern Senedd, reflecting the breadth of devolved responsibilities and the Wales we live in today

The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill was introduced in September 2023. If agreed, the Bill will make changes including increasing the size of the Senedd to 96 members and introducing a Closed List voting system. Read our bill summary here.

The Bill is currently at Stage 3; the general principles of the Bill were agreed in January 2024, and Stage 2 proceedings took place on 5 and 6 March 2024.

The First Minister also announced “a Bill to introduce gender quotas for candidates elected to this Welsh Parliament”. Following delays, the Bill was introduced on 11 March 2024 and is currently at Stage 1.

Our article explores the Bill in more detail.

Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill

Following a commitment to reform the revaluation cycles for council tax and non-domestic rates, the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill was introduced in November 2023. The Bill is currently at Stage 2, with its general principles having been agreed by the Senedd in April 2024.

Longer-term commitments

The previous First Minister’s statement also referenced the Welsh Government’s longer-term legislative commitments.

The visitor economy

The Welsh Government plans to introduce a Bill to give local authorities powers to introduce a visitor levy, and another to introduce a licensing and registration scheme for visitor accommodation.

Whilst it anticipates that both Bills will be introduced by the end of 2024, the Welsh Government estimates that the “earliest a visitor levy could be in place in any part of Wales is 2027”, and that a licensing and registration scheme will have been implemented by 2026.

The environment

The previous First Minister committed to establishing an “environmental governance body for Wales and to introduce a statutory duty and targets to protect and restore biodiversity”. The Welsh Government is currently consulting on a white paper on proposals.

Vaughan Gething MS’s leadership manifesto included commitments both to set “strong statutory targets for the protection and restoration of nature” and to create a “fully-functioning environmental governance body”.

The manifesto also commits to a new Nature Positive Bill, to be developed alongside the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

For more information, see our article on environmental governance arrangements and our briefing on biodiversity in Wales.

Homelessness services

The statement included a commitment to reform homelessness services. The white paper consultation on the Welsh Government’s proposals ended in January 2024.

Then Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, said in March 2024 that the Welsh Government will introduce a Bill before the end of the Senedd term.

Building safety

As part of plans to “overhaul the system for building safety”, the Welsh Government established the Welsh Building Safety Programme, and confirmed that the Building Safety (Wales) Bill will be introduced in this Senedd term.

The Welsh Government has also made regulations under the UK Building Safety Act.

The taxi and private hire vehicles sector

The previous Welsh Government anticipated that legislation will be introduced at “the end of this Senedd term” to modernise the taxi and private hire vehicles sector. A white paper consultation on the matter ended in June 2023.

Welsh tribunal system

A consultation on the Welsh Government’s white paper A New Tribunal System for Wales closed in October 2023.

The Welsh Government stated that it plans to develop legislation during this Senedd term, but did not provide a specific timeline.

Consolidation bills

The statement committed to bring forward consolidation bills during the Senedd term, including on planning and another on repealing necessary legislation.

The white paper consultation on the Statute Law (Repeals) (Wales) Bill ended in January 2023, with a bill to be introduced “in due course”.

The Counsel General announced that a planning bill will be introduced to the Senedd during the summer of 2024.

New First Minister, new priorities?

The new First Minister recently stated his ambition to “focus on a set of core priorities” to “deliver the positive, progressive change we want to see”.

He will set out his first legislative statement ahead of the summer recess. This will give a clearer idea of his plans, and whether there are any differences to the legislative programme set out by his predecessor.

Article by Adam Cooke, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament