Update on the Legislative Programme

Dawn Bowden MS said “One important responsibility of the Senedd, our Welsh Parliament, is to make laws for Wales for those matters devolved to us in Wales. As a result of events in recent months we have not been able to progress laws as we would have wished. The First Minister has updated us on the Legislative Programme that the Welsh Government will pursue for the remainder of this Senedd term”.

 

TITLE The Legislative Programme
DATE 15 July 2020
BY Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

 

Llywydd, mae Gweinidogion wedi adrodd i’r Senedd yn rheolaidd am effaith y coronafeirws ar ein cyllideb, ar yr economi ac, yn bennaf, ar iechyd pobl Cymru.

Heddiw, byddaf yn adrodd ar ein rhaglen ddeddfwriaethol, maes arall lle mae’r feirws wedi cael effaith sylweddol iawn.

Mae Aelodau yn gwybod ein bod wedi gorfod ail gyfeirio gwaith swyddogion ar draws y Llywodraeth, er mwyn ymateb i’r feirws a pharatoi am adferiad.  Mae hyn yn cynnwys swyddogion polisi, cyfeithu, dadansoddi a chyfreithwyr.

Er waethaf yr heriau di gynsail hyn, rydym wedi llwyddo gyrru ymlaen gyda’r gwaith craffu mewn nifer o feysydd pwysig.

Carwn ddiolch i’r holl Aelodau sydd wedi cyfrannu at y gwaith craffu adeiladol hwn.

Llywydd, despite more recent challenges,  much has been achieved during this Senedd term.  We have abolished the defence of reasonable punishment, banned unfair fees charged by letting agents and implemented a minimum price for alcohol.  There will be duties of quality and candour for our health service and a new citizen’s voice body for health and social care.

We have put in place an existing liabilities scheme for our GPs.  We have passed an Act which improves the accessibility of our legislation in both Welsh and English.

Today I hope we will confirm our commitment to the welfare of wild animals by outlawing their use in circus performances.

Llywydd, before coronavirus had been identified, to prepare the statute book for Exit Day on 31 January, we made 51 correcting SIs and consented to 158 UK SIs.

Since then, the Welsh Ministers have made more than 50 items of subordinate legislation dealing with aspects of the pandemic. These relate to both the necessary restrictions to protect public health, and ensuring statutory duties do not prevent our public services from responding to the emergency.

Llywydd, at the start of March we had the most ambitious programme of primary legislation ever to be brought before the Senedd in a final year.

For the reasons I have set out, for the remainder of this Senedd term, the Government has had to make some difficult decisions and focus on our top priorities.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill will continue its passage in the autumn. This will extend the local government franchise to 16 and 17 year olds by the next elections.

We have introduced the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, to enable changes to be in place in 2022, the timeframe towards which the education sector has been working for some years.

We will legislate to improve the position of tenants in the private rented sector through the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill, and scrutiny will recommence in the autumn.

But, large parts of our primary legislative programme have had to be withdrawn in the face of the pandemic.  I very much regret that three major Bills cannot now be pursued to a conclusion during the remainder of this term – the Tertiary Education and Research Bill, the Bus Services (Wales) Bill and the Social Partnership Bill.

The Tertiary Education and Research Bill has been published in draft and will be there for any incoming administration to complete after May of next year.  We will take a similar approach to the Social Partnership Bill, publishing in draft before the end of the calendar year.

Llywydd in terms of primary legislation, other important development work is underway and will be available to the next Government and Senedd, including White Papers on Clean Air and Agriculture, and work on reforms to residential leasehold and commonhold. We have formally requested the UK Government devolves legislative competence for a vacant land tax, so that a Bill can be prepared for Senedd Scrutiny.

Finally, the next Government will be under a duty to have a programme of consolidation and codification of its legislation, work for which is underway in the historic environment and planning fields.

Llywydd, the crisis has also required a radical recasting of our secondary legislative programme. Priority has been given to measures which:

  • respond to the COVID crisis,
  • relate to EU exit and transition, or
  • are essential for legal or other compelling sereasons, such as to implement a pay award.

Llywydd, amongst that bill are a large number of relatively minor but unavoidable measurers, ranging from miscellaneous amendments to the student finance regime in Wales to Seed Potato amendment regulations to a new Senedd Cymru (Letters Patent and Proclamations) Order. All of the above are subject to the negative procedure but each one, quite likely requires careful drafting and reporting to Members.

In the very constrained capacity which remains, we will target our resources on changes which make the biggest impact for our citizens.  These include: extending the smoking ban to outdoor areas of hospitals, school grounds and local authority playgrounds, implementation of the socio-economic duty, completing the implementation of the new additional learning needs system, and ending commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens.

Llywydd, in some areas where secondary legislation has had to be postponed, there can be interim measures put in place to make progress on our policy agenda.

For example, independent schools will be encouraged to ensure their teaching staff register voluntarily with the Education Workforce Council until we are able to make this mandatory.  We will publish the results so parents can take into account in making decisions.

We will work with our local authority partners on the use of their existing powers to increase 20 mph coverage in Wales.

Such interim action is not always an option, and we have very reluctantly concluded it will not now be possible to complete some planned work, such as home education statutory guidance and database regulations.

Llywydd, this is a slimmed down programme but the demands on the Senedd will remain high.

A significant body of EU-related secondary legislation will still be required by the end of this year. This includes work to implement EU law coming into force this year; to ensure retained EU law ‘works’ at the end of the transition period; and to implement new regimes arising from our withdrawal from the EU.

Llywydd, even if, as we hope, coronavirus remains under control it will not have gone away. In these best of circumstances there will be real challenges in responding to the speed and complexity of Brexit-related legislation in an autumn where the Senedd will still be dealing with health and economic consequences of the pandemic, the annual budget process and the demands of even the slimmed down legislative programme that I have set out this afternoon.

But that is the best of prospects.  If the autumn sees a resurgence in coronavirus and an aggressive form of seasonal flu, then managing Brexit legislation alongside everything else will be a challenge of a very different order.

Llywydd I intend to offer all Party leaders here, and relevant spokespeople, an opportunity to discuss the options for the autumn as they currently appear to us.  The Brexit debate itself is over, but there will be a shared ambition, I hope, to see the consequential legislative responsibilities of the Senedd discharged in as orderly and effective way as circumstances allow.

I have set out a non-exhaustive list of the legislative consequences both primary and secondary of the public health crisis.

With all the caveats I have set out, the remaining legislative programme has been redesigned to respond to our current challenges and deliver for our future.  I commend it to the Senedd.

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