National Assembly for Wales Committee and legislation Newsletter - November 2017

Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee

The Committee’s inquiry, ‘A stronger voice for Wales’, is reaching its closing stages. The Committee held its final evidence sessions on 25 September 2017.

The Committee will share and test its initial findings from the inquiry with its citizen panel and an expert panel over the coming weeks, before reporting later in the autumn.

The evidence taken has reflected the impact of exiting the EU on devolution, which is the Committee’s other priority this term. The Committee held a joint seminar with the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee on 18 September 2017, which brought together stakeholders from across the UK to discuss the implications of the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill. The committees held a joint evidence session with the Secretary of State for Wales and Robin Walker MP, Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union, on 6 November, to discuss the Bill further.

As part of its work the Committee is currently considering the Legislative Consent Memorandum on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and has launched its inquiry into Powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to make subordinate legislation. The public consultation closes on 30 November 2017.

In addition, the Committee is also undertaking scrutiny of the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Bill and the Minimum Pricing of Alcohol (Wales) Bill, along with its usual consideration of subordinate legislation.

Children, Young People and Education Committee

The Committee continued its detailed scrutiny of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill this term. 156 amendments were tabled and considered by the Committee. Several of the amendments agreed gave effect to a number of the Committee’s Stage 1 recommendations, with the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language committing to bring forward further amendments at Stage 3 to give effect to other Committee recommendations. Other legislative work has included scrutiny of the LCM on the UK Government’s Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, a debate on which is anticipated before Christmas.

The Committee launched its report on perinatal mental health in Wales on 17 October. Over 40 stakeholders attended, with Mind Cymru describing the report as “excellent and thorough”. The Committee’s short video about its work was described on Twitter as a “beautiful example of accessible communication of findings”. The Committee also completed gathering evidence for its inquiry on Teachers’ Professional Learning and Education – its report will be published before Christmas.

Over the next term the Committee will gather oral evidence for its inquiry into the emotional and mental health of children and young people, and will consult on its forthcoming inquiry into targeted funding to improve educational outcomes.

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

Following a busy summer launching two reports, ‘Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies’ and ‘Turning the tide? Report of the inquiry into the Welsh Government’s approach to Marine Protected Area management’, and launching an inquiry into rethinking food in Wales, the Committee agreed a full work programme for the autumn term.

Members visited Solcer House, the UK’s first carbon positive energy house, and launched the Committee’s inquiry into ‘low carbon housing: the challenge.’ As well as hearing oral evidence on food procurement, Members visited food processors across Wales to gather evidence for the inquiry into rethinking food. The Committee also held a workshop to hear stakeholders’ views on the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy and facilitated meetings of its Expert Reference Group on Climate Change.

Looking ahead, the Committee will be holding a draft budget scrutiny session with the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Environment. Before the end of term, the Committee will also visit counterpart committees in Scotland and London to discuss areas of common interest, including Brexit, and hold a short inquiry into community energy.

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Over the summer recess the Committee published its report on The Future of S4C, ‘Outside the Box’. The review’s recommendations are now being taken into account as part of the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s review into S4C.

The Committee is now considering key issues from its inquiry into News Journalism in Wales. However, the Committee has also agreed, at the invitation of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, to consult on how the proposed £100,000 budget allocation in this area should be used.

The Committee has launched two new inquiries this term looking at the Historic Environment and non-public funding of the arts. These are continuing, as is its inquiry into Funding for and access to music education, where the Committee is considering requesting further information from schools.

The Committee has also run a short inquiry into the Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales, where there was a degree of public controversy over the summer. The Committee is currently awaiting the release of further information by the Welsh Government before considering next steps.

The Committee has also carried out general scrutiny sessions with the Welsh Language Commissioner.

In anticipation of a new Welsh Language Bill being introduced next year, the Committee received a technical briefing from Welsh Government officials on the proposals for the Bill set out in the White paper ‘Striking the right balance: proposals for a Welsh Language Bill’.

The Committee will also carry out budget scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Education, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, and the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning.

Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

The Committee launched its report on Digital Infrastructure in Wales at Mead Farm in Caldicot on 20 September. The farm uses digital connectivity to monitor and track its cows’ wellbeing and fertility. The Committee has taken evidence looking at trade, tourism and training/education for its inquiry in to Selling Wales to the World, including discussions with representatives of other small countries outside the EU about how they go about it. The Committee has also led two Plenary debates – one on the rail franchise and Metro, and another on the impact of congestion on bus services. Members also visited Canton depot, to see how the rail operators prepare for autumn.

Before Christmas, the Committee will scrutinise the budget, Wales’ Traffic Commissioner, and the work of Careers Wales. It will also review progress on town centre regeneration five years on from its predecessor committee’s work in this area. There will be a call for evidence as the Committee gears up for its in-depth post-legislative scrutiny of the Active Travel Act.

Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee

During the first part of the autumn term, the Committee has continued to take evidence to inform its work on poverty in Wales. It heard from a range of witnesses about making the economy work for people on low incomes. This work is scheduled to conclude in November with a joint evidence session with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport and the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning.

The Committee completed Stage 2 scrutiny of the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill, during which the Bill was amended to give effect to a key recommendation made in the Committee’s Stage 1 report.

In order to inform its forthcoming scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s draft budget 2018-19 in relation to local government and communities, the Committee took evidence from the Welsh Local Government Association and the Society of Welsh Treasurers on pressures and priorities for local government in Wales.

Following the referral of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill to the Committee for Stage 1 scrutiny, the Committee launched a public consultation on the general principles of the Bill. The remainder of the autumn term will be dedicated largely to taking evidence to inform its scrutiny of the Bill.

External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee

This term has proved to be a very busy one for the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee. The Committee has done a great deal of work on the EU Withdrawal Bill and its implications for Wales, including a very productive stakeholder event, evidence session, and drafting amendments to the Bill which have since been tabled in the House of Commons.

The Committee continues its inquiry into resilience and preparedness: the Welsh Government’s administrative and financial response to Brexit, having taken evidence and held stakeholder events in both South Wales West and South Wales East. The Committee is now considering its consultation responses and the output from the inquiry.

The Chairs of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee attended an inter-parliamentary forum in Westminster on 12 October 2017 and produced a joint statement. The Committee also undertook a visit to Brussels for a number of meetings, including one with Mr Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the Article 50 Task Force.

This term has also seen the creation of the Sub-Committee on the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Bill which will take evidence on stage one of the Bill. The Sub-Committee’s consultation on the Bill closed on 13 November 2017.

The Committee will be carrying out scrutiny of Welsh Government performance and preparedness for Brexit with Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary, and will hold a scrutiny session with the First Minister this term.

The Committee continues to monitor Brexit and provides regular updates as the process of withdrawal unfolds.

Finance Committee

The Committee has been focussing much of its time during the autumn term on scrutinising the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2018-19. Following the Wales Act 2014 this budget cycle sees new budget scrutiny procedures in place. The Committee is concentrating its scrutiny on the outline draft budget, including how it aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies and priorities, and for the first time taking account of taxation forecasts in preparation for the implementation of devolved taxes in April 2018. As part of the autumn budget scrutiny, the Committee is also considering spending plans from the Assembly Commission, the WAO and the PSOW.

The Committee introduced the first Committee Bill in October 2017 – the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. The Chair, as the Member in charge of the Bill, will be appearing before the Equality Local Government and Communites Committee as part of its scrutiny.

The Committee is consulting with stakeholders on its inquiry into the cost of caring for an ageing population and will be taking oral evidence in the new year. Also in the new year, the Committee will continue to monitor the preparations for fiscal devolution by inviting evidence from the Welsh Government, Welsh Revenue Authority, Wales Audit Office, HMRC and the Secretary of State. The Committee is also in the process of recruiting a new Auditor General for Wales, with the current Auditor General standing down in July 2018.

Health, Social Care and Sport Committee

This autumn, we opened up our meetings with oral evidence sessions on our inquiry into the use of antipsychotic medication in care homes, having held the consultation for written responses during the spring.

Following on from that, we took a different approach to the preparation for scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s draft budget. We received evidence from the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Finance from each of the Health Boards, and heard from the WLGA and ADSS. We used this evidence to prepare for our scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s draft budget 2018-19.

The Committee also agreed its report on the inquiry into Primary Care Clusters. It was then launched on 12 October.

The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill was introduced and remitted to the Committee in mid-October. Our members received a technical briefing on the Bill from Welsh Government officials, and we’ve launched a public consultation. We will be receiving evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services and other stakeholders in November and December.

Our report on our inquiry into loneliness and isolation has been agreed; we will be launching the report in early December.

We held a consultation for our inquiry into physical activity of children and young people during the summer. The responses have been published and we will be holding oral evidence sessions early next year.

Petitions Committee

In May the Committee considered its first petition to gather over 5,000 signatures. The Committee requested time for the debate on petition P-05-756 Live Music Protection in Wales which was held on 12 July.

On 10 October the Committee laid its report on petition P-05-710 Ensure Disabled People Can Access Public Transport as and When They Need it which was submitted by Whizz-Kidz, an organisation representing young disabled people. The report includes a number of recommendations relating to rail, bus and taxi services and is set to be debated before the end of 2017.

A motion was agreed in Plenary on 18 October to elect Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Neil McEvoy AM as members of the Petitions Committee. The Committee now has five members.

During the remainder of 2017, Members will continue to consider admissible new petitions and updates to petitions currently under consideration. The Committee will also hold evidence sessions on P-04-472 Make the MTAN law/P-04-575 Call in All Opencast Mining Planning Applications, P-05-736 To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible and P-05-751 Recognition of Parental Alienation.

Public Accounts Committee

The Committee has been busily undertaking Accounts Scrutiny this term, considering the accounts and annual reports of the Assembly Commission, Welsh Government, Future Generations Commissioner and Sport Wales before the half term recess, and continuing with National Library for Wales and Arts Council after half term. These sessions have thrown up a number of issues, but on the whole have shown the accounts and annual reports of these bodies to be in good shape.

The Committee also had to consider a Public Interest Report, published by the Auditor General for Wales, about failings in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – this was a high profile report and the first time the Public Accounts Committee has had to consider such a report.

The Committee was proud to host the inaugural Public Accounts Network , which brought together a wide range of people involved in Public Accounts scrutiny from across the UK and beyond. It was with great delight that the Committee was able to welcome Dame Margret Hodge MP as the key note speaker for this event, alongside a number of other high profile contributors.

Over the next term the Committee will embark on the first part of its long term inquiry into Care Experienced Children and Young People, and consider the Welsh Government’s Supporting People Programme, as well as publishing reports on Medicine Management and the Scrutiny of Accounts 2016-17.

Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister

The Committee met on Friday 27 October at the Cwmbran Centre for Young People. The venue was chosen as the majority of the meeting focussed on how the Welsh Government embeds the rights of children and young people into its legislation, policies and practices. Time was also set aside at the end of the meeting for Members to ask the First Minister a number of questions on topical issues.

Before the start of the formal meeting, Members met with young people from two local schools, the Centre and representatives from the scouts to follow up on earlier discussion sessions held with colleagues from the youth engagement team. Many of the issues discussed were then raised with the First Minister during the evidence session. Others will be followed up in correspondence.

The Committee will next meet in February 2018 in Montgomeryshire, where the topic will likely be based around food production and security.

Standards of Conduct Committee

The Standards of Conduct Committee has continued to look at the issues arising from its inquiry into lobbying, and intends to report before Christmas 2017. The Committee has also given consideration to the issues arising from the Assembly reform programme and the potential to amend Section 36 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 as part of the implementation of the Wales Act 2017.


Since January 2017, the Welsh Government has proposed four laws for the Assembly’s consideration. These are:

In addition, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (Wales) Bill, which was proposed for the Assembly’s consideration by the Welsh Government in December 2016, is currently at ‘stage 3’ where all Assembly Members have the opportunity to debate and vote on amendments to the Bill.

One Committee Bill has been introduced since January 2017: The Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. The Bill was introduced by the Chair of the Finance Committee. A separate committee (the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee) is currently gathering public views on the general principles of the legislation as part of ‘Stage 1’ scrutiny.

No Member Bills or Assembly Commission Bills have been introduced in the Fifth Assembly.

Dai Lloyd AM was successful in the first Member Bill ballot of the Fifth Assembly, which was drawn on 25 January 2017. On 15 March 2017, a debate and vote took place on a proposal seeking the Assembly’s leave to enable him to develop and introduce The Protection of Welsh Historic Place Names Bill. However, leave to proceed was not secured. As a result, no further action can be taken on this proposed Bill.

Paul Davies AM was successful in the second Member Bill ballot of the Fifth Assembly, which was drawn on 28 March 2017. On 14 June 2017, a debate and vote took place on a proposal seeking the Assembly’s leave to enable him to develop and introduce the Autism (Wales) Bill. Leave to proceed was secured, which means that Paul Davies has until 14 July 2018 to introduce the Bill. Paul Davies is currently consulting the general public on his proposed ideas for the Bill.

Principal Appointed Day

So far during this Assembly, all laws proposed for the Assembly’s consideration have been based on the Assembly having competence to make laws on any Subject listed in Schedule 7 to the 2006 Act. However, the Wales Act 2017 changes the competence of the National Assembly for Wales from ‘the Principal Appointed Day’ (which is expected to be 1 April 2018).

The Wales Act 2017 provides that if the Assembly has agreed the general principles of a Bill (i.e. if it has completed ‘Stage 1’ in the Assembly’s legislative process) before the Principal Appointed Day, the question of whether or not its provisions are within competence are considered under the current, conferred powers model under Schedule 7 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.

If the general principles of a Bill are agreed on or after the Principal Appointed Day, then its provisions are considered under the new, reserved powers model under the Wales Act 2017.

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