Y Pwyllgor Deddfwriaeth, Cyfiawnder a’r Cyfansoddiad
Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee20/09/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Huw Irranca-Davies MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Jayne Bryant MS|
|Peter Fox MS|
|Rhys ab Owen MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Chris Warner||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Materion Cyfansoddiadol a Chysylltiadau Rhynglywodraethol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Constitutional Affairs and Inter-governmental Relations, Welsh Government|
|Dr Robert Parry||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Deddfwriaeth Bontio Ewropeaidd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, European Transition Legislation, Welsh Government|
|Mick Antoniw MS||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a Gweinidog y Cyfansoddiad|
|The Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Gareth Howells||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|P Gareth Williams||Clerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:30.
Prynhawn da a chroeso i chi i gyd eto.
Good afternoon and welcome, everyone.
Welcome to you all again. Welcome to this session of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee this afternoon. We've got a busy session in front of us, and we're delighted as well to have this afternoon—. We'll be starting with an important piece of business, with the Counsel General and his team with us. The procedure, for those who are watching in, works very simply. I and our colleagues will be entering into an evidence session with the Counsel General shortly, which will go on for about an hour and a quarter. Then, there'll be additional business we'll need to take before we go into private session as a committee to discuss the reports and so on that we're putting together behind the scenes.
So, welcome, everybody, to this meeting. It's being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. The Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Now, apart from all the procedural adaptations for conducting proceedings remotely, as we're now doing, all the other Standing Order requirements remain in place and I'm glad to say that we've got no apologies for today's meeting; it's a full turn-out once again from this committee. So, can I just remind everybody on this evidence session, and this meeting, to turn your mobile devices to silent? We operate, of course, in both of our official languages, through the medium of English and Welsh, and we have interpretation available throughout this afternoon's meeting. And just to remind colleagues from the Counsel General's office that you don't need to do anything with the microphones; they're controlled by our officials.
In saying that, we're going to turn directly now to our first item of business on the agenda today, which is the scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, Mick Antoniw MS. Delighted to have you here this afternoon, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, and your officials as well. We have Christopher Warner, the deputy director of constitutional affairs and inter-governmental relations, and Robert Parry, the deputy director of European transition legislation. Do we have anybody else, Counsel General, from your—?
No, I think that is the team for today.
Oh, that's wonderful. Well, thank you very much for being with us.
We're going to go into what should be quite an extensive range of questions, and I'll begin, if I may, there, and we're going to head straight into the sphere of legislation and where legislation in Wales should be made. Just a question that goes to the heart of a point of principle, if you like, Counsel General: is it still Welsh Government's guiding principle that legislation about Wales should be made in Wales and subsequently reformed and amended in Wales?
That is our guiding principle. That is what we commit to doing as far as is practicable within the circumstances.
Thank you for that. It's helpful to have that succinct and clear answer, 'as far as practicable'. As you'll be aware from concerns from the predecessor committee of this committee that—. It raised its concerns that because of some of the UK, if you like—England-and-Wales—legislation and the regulations coming down the M4, there were several dangers here: dangers of bypassing legislative scrutiny, of missing the opportunity to develop fully bilingual Welsh legislation, and that sometimes the justifications lacked full credibility in the devolved context. How do you respond to that, bearing in mind that, at our session last week, we were dealing with quite a welter of legislation that was winging its way down from Westminster?
Well, I said that our aspiration and our guiding principle is that, as far as devolved Welsh responsibilities are concerned, any legislation relating to those should be in Wales. It should be bilingual. It should, as far as possible, fit within our programme of codification and consolidation, as we build the framework of the Welsh legislature. The difficulty, of course, is that there are many factors that intrude on legislation, our ability to legislate, and the issue of competences—or the complications around competences—to legislate. So, having set out the principle, we do know that there are a number of circumstances, and we've seen these, and we know these have perhaps really become more emphasised because of the pressures of COVID, leaving the EU, the legislation there, and so on. So, for example, we have to prioritise the resources we have—the very substantial resources, but substantial resources to deal with a very, very substantial task that we have in terms of delivering our legislation. So, we have to prioritise. There may be issues around the time available to legislate that we actually have within our parliamentary session. There may well be interconnected issues between us and the UK Government, there may be cross-border issues that require us to engage. There may be issues where a UK Government Bill confers new delegated powers on Welsh Ministers, and we want to take advantage of that. You also have legislation that can cover from devolved and non-devolved areas.
I suppose, if I have to say, in terms of how we legislate, we always look at what is in the interest of Welsh citizens, so the guiding principle is not something that is an obstruction to agreeing to a mode of legislation with the UK Government. But, certainly, our ambition and our priority is to, as far as possible, legislate in devolved areas, but we know in reality that, for all those reasons I've outlined—and there are others—that is not always possible and we have to adopt a practical and pragmatic approach.
I'm sure that other committee members will follow up on some of these areas and may want to come in in a moment on this as well. Let me first of all ask a couple of follow-up questions. You've laid out some of the practical considerations, and we have a degree of empathy with that as well—the need to get legislation done, looking for the right vehicle to get it done, and so on, but we currently have 30 legislative consent motions before the Senedd—a significant increase. Do you have any fears, Counsel General, that, the extent of legislation now coming down, some of which does go into devolved areas, could have a negative impact on devolution and our ability subsequently to make legislation and amend it in Wales?
I have real concerns about the diversity of the ways in which that legislation may either complement or encroach on devolved responsibilities, and we do see an inconsistency in approach. In some legislation, for example, the Sewel convention, whereby UK Government won't legislate in devolved areas without consent is a very co-operative and very respectful relationship, but there clearly are other areas where UK Government legislation is seeking to intrude into devolved responsibilities. There are areas where the legislation comes in very, very late so we don't actually know precisely what the remit, the extent of that legislation might be and the way in which it might encroach into devolved responsibilities. On occasion, engagement with officials is good, on other occasion, it is less good, and clearly, there is legislation that has already been passed, which is very adverse to devolution and we see this within the context of comments that are made by the Prime Minister in terms of what his approach is to devolution. So, in all these areas, one of my functions is to preserve devolution integrity.
Do you ever have interesting discussions with portfolio holders within the Cabinet when they say to you, 'Well, look, it's essential that we get this particular item of legislation through. We haven't got an opportunity here easily to be made within the Senedd', but you say to them, 'Well, I have to warn you that there are dangers here in this particular piece of legislation that is coming forward'? Because, as you've just told us, sometimes it looks good and sensible and there's a good relationship, both behind the scenes and inter-ministerially, to bring forward a piece of legislation. Are there other times when there's lack of timely engagement, or something comes forward that looks, in some ways, half baked? So, do you have those conversations? Is it your role, as Counsel General, to warn colleagues about dangers?
Well, one of my functions as Minister for the Constitution is that I chair the Cabinet sub-committee on the legislative programme. And one of the responsibilities of that sub-committee is of course the devolution integrity, the overall picture in terms of what is happening on legislation, where those red lines are, and where there are aspects that would cause us concern or challenges. So, basically, anything that involves either a diminution—a significant diminution—of devolved responsibilities, or that may result in a transfer or a creation of concurrent powers in some way, are areas that I look at very, very closely. What I can say is I am, and my officials are, working on a strategy that is basically setting out the guiding principles for legislation that is coming through, so that we have a consistency of approach. And you'll know, Chair—and they're obviously comments that have been raised in this committee many times in the past session, and I'm sure will be raised many times in future sessions—quite often, what might be a convenient under-the-table agreement to something, on a memorandum of understanding, for example, or a despatch-box agreement, individually might be relatively insignificant, but when you start adding them up and looking at them collectively, they actually do amount to a significant change in the balance of responsibilities and an intrusion into what are the responsibilities that we have actually been given by Parliament. So, it is our obligation, as a Parliament, to actually protect those. So, yes, we have those conversations.
Officials, when preparing advices on legislation, those are issues that automatically are raised, and concerns that I have on them will result in bilateral discussions and, ultimately, be matters that will be—we're in early, early days at the moment—referred to the Cabinet sub-committee so that they can be reviewed within the framework, I think, that we are developing and are likely to be setting over the course of the year for the coming years.
So, are you content, Counsel General, that the right mechanisms are in place and that they are robust enough to, for example, resolve disagreements over whether subject matter of regulations and legislation is indeed devolved?
Well, I think this is a sort of moving feast at the moment, because what is happening is that we have an enormous amount of legislation, as you mentioned. We are identifying those particular areas, so we're in the early stages. And you'll know that six or seven of the legislative consent memoranda where, at the moment, we are not recommending consent. And not just on those, but, of course, there'll be other areas that are in a less advanced stage, where work is under way to identify, to engage et cetera, in the legislation to either get changes before we actually come to a view as to whether we can recommend consent or not. It depends on the scale. And, of course, one of the difficulties with some legislation is that some legislation will offer advantages to us, but attached to it also will be disadvantages. And we have to weigh up, firstly, what the impact is, what the benefits or disadvantages are for Welsh citizens—that probably is one of the most important aspects—but, equally, what is the longer term consequence of conceding something to the devolution settlement.
Yes, which goes back to those points of principle laid out by our predecessor committee on the dangers of too great a volume of legislation and regulations coming down the M4. This is just one other question before I pass to Rhys, who wants to follow on from this and take us into other areas: what is your strategy for resolving your current concerns over the operation of the Sewel convention?
Well, at the moment, the way in which they are being dealt with is by means of direct official-to-official engagement, but then also followed through by quadrilateral and bilateral meetings—so, meetings between myself and the Minister direct, and we've had a number of those, and also quadrilateral meetings between all four nations et cetera, where the Ministers basically go through the issues that are of concern. Now, those are a number of meetings that have started, and they will continue. Of course, there has just been a UK Government reshuffle, so there may be different emphases from certain changeovers from there that we will have to evaluate.
Ultimately, though, and I'm sure something that may want to be explored in more detail, is, of course, the inter-governmental relations review that is under way, where there is, I think, looking at mechanisms for resolving some of these issues where disputes arise. I'll happily explore that a little bit more in further questions, if that helps.
We'll definitely come back to that. Rhys, over to you.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd, a phrynhawn da ichi, Cwnsler Cyffredinol. Onid yr ateb i ambell broblem, neu efallai mwyafrif y problemau sydd wedi cael eu codi y prynhawn yma, yw cynyddu capasiti Llywodraeth Cymru i ddeddfu yn y meysydd datganoledig?
Thank you very much, Chair, and good afternoon to you, Counsel General. Isn't the answer to some of the issues, or the majority of the issues that have been raised this afternoon, to increase the capacity of the Welsh Government to legislate in the devolved areas?
Well, there are aspects of legislation that do increase Welsh Ministers' powers, and that's one of the issues that we have to consider. I just think, in the nature of legislation that comes forward, it is not all one way. So, sometimes there's a balancing act in terms of to what extent this will actually improve or benefit the devolution settlement, but to what extent may there be other aspects that we're not happy with. And then there's a process of negotiation between officials and, ultimately, between Ministers in terms of the extent to which agreement and satisfactory agreement can be reached, either to lead to a recommendation for legislative consent, for example, or the alternative.
Maybe my question was lost in translation a little bit.
I missed the beginning of it.
Or more probably I wasn't clear enough, Counsel General. A lot of the issues we've raised, a lot of issues we've heard and we've read on the LCMs are to do with the fact that they latch onto Westminster Bills because of convenience and because of time. Now, would a lot of these issues be answered if we raised the capacity in Welsh Government to legislate?
Well, the capacity to legislate is an issue, you're right. If we had an unlimited capacity, then we would, basically, in every single area, probably be wanting to legislate ourselves. Of course, there may be legislation where there are aspects that we can legislate on ourselves, and aspects that are not within our devolved competence. One example might be within the leasehold area, for example. It's obviously in our interest to want to see the extension of the time limitation periods for actions against developers et cetera, and that's not within our competence. There are other aspects, of course, that would be, and I think there are many examples like that.
What is clear is that our capacity to legislate has increased massively, the demands on our capacity to legislate have increased, and, of course, some of the demands that we have to legislate and the resources that we allocate are dependant on, firstly, either EU or COVID aspects, but equally so the scale of legislation that is coming from the UK, because every piece of legislation that may relate to us, and the majority of it does in one way or another, we have to analyse and we have to respond to. We then have to engage in the process, and we then have to decide whether we are going to legislate ourselves in this area and what impact that will have on our capacity to actually deliver what are our priority areas. Now, in some cases, there may be advantages to saying, 'Well, let's work collaboratively and allow UK Government to legislate.' But those are, I think, within the circumstances, where we don't intrude on the prioritisation of legislation that we have in the legislative programme.
If I could just ask one follow-up question, Chair. Counsel General, I can't imagine the pressure that's been on the legislation team with regard to COVID and Brexit, and I can certainly see the advantages of the UK Government legislating within some areas because of the huge pressure on resources here. But are you content, Counsel General, that we do have robust processes in place to ensure—and I think the Chair alluded to this—that we don't fall into the longer term consequences of UK Bills being done in devolved areas—that, in 10 years' time, we look to pass a piece of legislation and say, 'Well, we're hindered with this; because of convenience, because of resourcing, we decided it would be better for UK Government to pass a piece of legislation within a devolved area'?
Well, that is an area that is of concern to me, that when we have had—I've been involved in the process of negotiation over very complex areas of legislation, common interest, from wherever it has arisen. I suppose the temptation is to have red lines in certain areas in terms of devolved responsibilities—but where we can't get agreement from UK Government on them, and then the temptation is to look at a memorandum of understanding or despatch-box agreements, and that is a concern that I have raised. I've raised it in ministerial discussions and so on, and it's one of the reasons for developing these principles with the overview, so that we can identify what is happening, what is the big picture, because as I think you said earlier, some of them individually—and I think it's the point you're getting to—may seem relatively mundane and perhaps you wouldn't die in a ditch over, but when you start adding them up together, it's the collective impact of those, isn't it? And that is something that I am concerned about. I want to have an understanding of what is happening to have the big picture as to what is happening.
It's one of the reasons why, also, I think it is very important that progress is now being made in the inter-governmental relations review that would create the one thing that we desperately do need, and that is a proper disputes procedure, because you'll be aware, as the committee as a whole will be, that one of the issues that have arisen, for example, over competence is where we as a Government have said that this is a matter within our competence, UK Government says, 'No, it isn't.' Effectively, you have UK Government in a position where it not only owns the football pitch, it is the referee and it owns the ball as well, and in those circumstances, it is very difficult to make strategic progress. So, the inter-governmental review that is under way is, I think, something that is very, very significant, and something that, obviously, will be taking a lot of attention over the coming weeks.
Thank you, Rhys. [Inaudible.]—a couple of times now, with that inter-governmental review, but we're going to hold off—[Laughter.]—for a moment, because we're going to go to Peter first of all, and Peter's going to take us into the area of some of the EU issue. Thank you, Peter.
Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon, Counsel General, I'm pleased to have you with us today. I just want to explore what sort of criteria the Welsh Government is using when it decides whether or not to align with or diverge from EU law at the moment.
To be honest, the only criteria we have is that we proceed with legislation on the basis of the powers that we have. We don't start looking to whether we can or can't do something, we basically look at what is our competence in this area, and if we can legislate, is it in Welsh interests, and then we will legislate in that particular way. So, we don't start off with a process of what can't we do, we start off with a process of what can we do, we proceed on that particular basis. Any complications or individuals that may arise in a particular area, well, of course, those will be looked at by the individual Ministers within their portfolios.
Thank you for that. So, I see the point there, but we can have confidence that there are systems in place to monitor decisions of divergence across all those Welsh departments, as you so clearly pointed to that, as well, and would we have the mechanisms in place, also, to monitor the changes in EU regulations?
I think the mechanisms are there in the sense that there was very close analysis of what is happening both at EU level, what is happening in terms of the trade and co-operation agreement, but also in terms of our own legislation. One of the things we are concerned with in legislation is to maintain standards, and, of course, one of the areas of, I suppose, disagreement, or where there has been certainly a significant discussion with UK Government has been over things like the maintenance of standards and the extent to which standards will be protected, particularly in areas such as food, the environment and agriculture.
For every piece of legislation that will come through within a particular portfolio, there is an analysis done of what the implications are of that, of what is happening legislatively, what the implications might be for Wales, what impact it may have in terms of devolved responsibilities, and so on. And, as I've mentioned, although those are being dealt with within the individual portfolios of the Ministers, as I say, we've developed the principles and the framework within which we try to review issues that may emerge that impact on devolution integrity.
Are you confident that the Government has all of the necessary engagement in place with the various stakeholders on decisions of alignment or divergence? Can we be confident in the fact that that's in place?
Well, stakeholder engagement is fundamentally important, particularly in a lot of the new processes and the agreements and the regulatory frameworks with regard to the post-Brexit situation. Each individual Minister will have the responsibility for ensuring that happens within their portfolios. So, there may be questions you would want to put at some stage to individual Ministers. From what I have seen, because I get copied into, obviously, nearly all the key legislative elements and the officials that I have are, I have to say, incredibly experienced, with high degrees of very technical expertise. Any of the issues like that that are of concern I think are things that are being identified. So, I don't have any criticism or major concerns, but I think with all these things, it is one of continually keeping your eye on the ball, trying to maximise I think an understanding of the big picture in what is a framework of regulation and change that changes week by week, month by month, and, of course, in accordance with the legislation that is coming from UK Government as well, which quite often we only know about at very, very short notice.
Just a final bit, how would you expect the Welsh Parliament to be able to get a feel for that stakeholder engagement?
Well, I think it will ultimately be the Ministers and the way in which they report. I think the scrutiny at committees is absolutely fundamental. The role of our parliamentary committees is really the core of the way in which Parliament works and the way in which Government is held to account, and directly ties in with the actual quality of the work that is done by Government and legislation, and, ultimately, on the floor of the Senedd. So, for me, that is and has always been the actual core of the Welsh Senedd, where the Welsh people really have their accountability on the decisions that are made on their behalf.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Peter. And, Minister, before we leave this particular area of questioning, which has been really helpful, we're aware that the taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform reported back in February and subsequently there was a letter to the chair of that taskforce, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, setting out some further details. We've had an accompanying statement with it, and a statement to the House of Commons from the Paymaster General, going into a bit more—further—detail on what the review of EU retained law would involve. But, within that statement, there wasn't any mention of the role of devolved Governments in any such review or the implications of any new legislative mechanisms for devolved competence or legislation. So, I wonder if I could invite some comments from you. So, for example, to what extent have you actually been involved in Welsh Government? Have you been consulted by the UK Government on the work of the taskforce, including this establishment of a standing commission on regulatory reform?
Well, officials are certainly aware that Lord Frost was going to be making an announcement and that would cover opportunities for regulatory reform and, indeed, the review of EU law, but we weren't given any indication of the precise timing or the notification when that announcement was imminent. And, of course, that is one of the consistent problems that we have had with items like that. So, on the Government proposals for regulatory reform, as we say, there has been some engagement with Welsh counterparts. We know, for example, that officials are sighted on the digitisation of export health certificates, imports and trade, and on medicines and medical devices. I think it's an area that—. The review as far as I'm aware is now under way, but it is still very early days, and I think probably it's one of those things to ask me a bit more about at a later stage. I don't know whether, Robert Parry, whether you've got any further information you can add to this.
I don't really have anything to add to what you've just been saying, Counsel General. Yes, this is still in its early stages, like you said.
What I can say, of course, is that we have asked for a meeting with UK Government in order to discuss the review. I understand that that is going to take place in the first half of October, and I think probably they'll be in a position to perhaps provide more scrutiny responses perhaps after that, when we know precisely what is going to happen, the timetable in which it is going to happen and how it is going to happen as well.
Okay, well, it's reassuring to hear that through the official channels, there is some notification, some engagement going on, but it doesn't seem quite that fulsome ministerial engagement that says, 'Minister, just to give you a heads up, we're making an announcement; anything particular you want to be reflected within this announcement and the criteria?' That's not what I'm picking up here.
I think you are absolutely spot on with that. It is a completely unsatisfactory way of having reviews that directly affect devolved Governments. If we had the inter-governmental relations review completed and the systems up in place, I suspect this might well be one of the items that would immediately be on the agenda. But I have to say it has also been fairly typical of the way in which consultation and engagement has often taken place: at the last minute, often with scant proper regard for devolved Governments, with the other three nations, and of course, it puts suddenly an immediate demand on work and resources in order to ascertain what's going to happen. It is not what should be happening; what should be happening should be early engagement, early relationships and participation in the actual preparations for such reviews. And I think that is one of the challenges that we are going to face in the future.
Okay, thank you. And I know we'll return to that to see—
—whether that—[Inaudible.]—in terms of devolved legislation as well, one of the themes of today's questioning. But Jayne, we're going to hand over to you there, please.
Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon, Counsel General. What are your priorities regarding the accessibility of Welsh law?
I see accessibility in two ways. Firstly, there is my role within the aspect of ensuring that people know where Welsh law is, that it's accessible by those who need to use it, as well as those who are affected by it. So, both from the position of the citizen, as well as in terms of the lawyers, advice agencies, organisations and bodies that need to know what the law is. So, there is a considerable amount of work that's been going on, and there is another aspect of course to accessibility, which is I think a point I've often made, and that is the whole issue around legal advice and support and legal aid, which is a slightly separate matter at the moment.
You may know that I am setting out the Government's programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law to the Senedd tomorrow. The publication of my report, under the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019, which is an annual report, so it will be an oral statement. The programme will include three consolidation Bills, proposals to scope further areas for consolidation, I think with a view to adding additional Bills into the programme in later years, as well as a range of non-legislative activity. So, I have already announced the first consolidation Bill to come forward. That is the historic environment Bill, which I hope to introduce in the first year of this Government's legislative programme.
So, I will provide more detail on the programme and the range of projects within it during my statement. I think you'll understand I don't want to make my statement now rather than tomorrow, so I'll certainly be happy to talk with the committee about that particular programme on a future occasion.
Jayne, before you proceed, I wonder, Rhys, did you want to come in on this?
No, only perhaps—maybe after Jayne finishes her questions. Maybe she's going to ask what I want to ask. I won't want to step on Jayne's toes.
Thank you. Jayne, all yours.
That's no problem, Rhys. I know we can't coax the Counsel General into giving us any more information. I really appreciate that, Counsel General, because that was what I was going to ask you next—about your statement tomorrow. Just following on from that, really, then, you've outlined in the answer to the first question about what you see as the priority, but can you let us know what you see as the guiding principles for future areas of the law to consolidate?
Yes, I've given a lot of thought to how we go about this, and of course we see it within the context of what the programme for government is, what the legislative programme is, and what the opportunities might be in terms of codification and consolidation. So, what we've tended to do is to look, for example, to a particular portfolio or a particular area—is it one of the areas of the law that is in most need of consolidation because of the complexity of existing law? So, that will be something that we'd really want to look at in saying, 'This is a prime target'. You'll be aware, won't you, of course, of the work that the Law Commission has been doing in respect of planning, again, a very complex area, an area—I'm sure Peter Fox probably would endorse this—that is well overripe for consolidation and for clarification. I think the other factor we want to have is where it would have a significant impact on the citizen by virtue of the very nature of the law concerned.
We do have to have to regard to if it's feasible, taking account of what can actually be achieved within the context of all the demands and all the resources that are there, and I think, to some extent, the topicality of particular issues. So, I think the important thing out of the process of accessibility—. There are a number. On the one hand, it is also about really ensuring that, as a Parliament, the laws that we pass over a period of time all begin to fit in within that process of clarification, codification and consolidation. When you look at the UK Government framework, if you were to attempt to start that process now, how many decades would it actually take? So, this isn't—. Even with us as a relatively new democracy and legislature, this isn't something that, again, is happening overnight—it's something that's got to be done consistently, but also looking at the opportunities where, in the legislative programme, for example, we are going to bring forward legislation as far as possible to actually ensure that that fits within a framework, that it may consolidate where possible, but it also may fit within codification, and of course the taxonomy on codification is something that is still being worked on at quite an advanced stage as well.
Thank you, Counsel General. I'm going to move on to another topic, but I don't know, Chair, if Rhys wants to come in at that point.
Thanks, Jayne. Yes, it's on the accessibility point. I may be going back to where I started, Counsel General—how do you tally up with all you've just said that we're then consenting to legislative consent motions? And then, with regard to your duty under the Bill to make bilingual law accessible to the Welsh public and to practitioners, with consenting to LCMs, (1) the law will not be bilingual, it'll be in English only, and (2) surely it adds to the complications. How do you tally that, then, with your duty under section 1 of the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019?
Well, it becomes a balancing act of what is most important and what is feasible. But I'll give you just one example, because you'll have seen the legislative consent memorandum in respect of the UK Government's Elections Bill. Now, there are bits within that that obviously are very controversial politically, but one of the aspects to it, and one of the aspects why I've effectively said to my counterpart at UK Government level that we intend to bring—we're looking to bring—our own legislation in it, is because (1) it is ripe for consolidation, secondly, it's ripe for reform, but, equally so, we would like to have it within our own—. Because local government and Senedd elections are within our responsibility, our devolved responsibilities, we want to see it, firstly, bilingual, secondly, to be able to go into a codified system of regard to Welsh election law, and also that it then consolidates the plethora of bits of legislation that relate to electoral law. So, there's an opportunity to take to do it.
But the point you're getting at is, 'Could we do more?' I think we try to maximise what we can within the resources. And these resources, I have to say, are not just resources in terms of having the funding to do things; it is also the very, very technical skills that are required. It is also, actually, the resource of committees to be able to properly scrutinise legislation as well. That brings us back, of course, to the issue of the size of the Senedd and the capacity of the Senedd, because you can imagine, with all 30 or so UK Government Bills, if there were areas that we were to legislate in in every single area that we potentially could, you'd have committees that would be sitting from dusk til dawn every day, seven days a week, in order to attempt to actually scrutinise them. So, all those things create a certain practical environment within which we have to look at the priority of legislation, what is most important, what is the most impactive on citizens, and I think that is really the starting point and we move on from there.
Thank you, Rhys. Jayne, back to you.
Thank you, Chair. Just moving on now to there being a constitutional convention, Counsel General, can you outline what the ultimate purpose of a constitutional convention would be?
Yes, I can, and I hope to be making statements over the coming weeks on the constitutional convention. The convention is essentially about the fact that we have a dysfunctional set of arrangements between the four nations of the UK. In my past involvement with your committee, and I know with the Chair as well through the inter-parliamentary forum that took place, you had a situation where the constitutional and legislative committees of all four Parliaments and the House of Lords, cross-party, have consistently stated that the system is not fit for purpose.
When Welsh Government published 'Reforming our Union', and then the updated version of 'Reforming our Union', there were those who saw this as somehow some sort of constitutional challenge whereas, in actual fact, it was an attempt to identify the areas where those dysfunctions existed to provide ways of actually solving them. So, I think the establishment of the convention—which, again, is based on a mandate from the Senedd elections—is about trying to engage those arguments, to engage in them with the people of Wales, to identify the consensus with the people of Wales. And I suppose what would be a good outcome of it—. And don't forget, the commission, once it's formally launched, will be a commission independent of Government. I think I would want to look at, firstly, that there has been effective engagement with the people of Wales; that there has been thorough analysis of the issues that impact on the empowerment of the people of Wales and how governance works within Wales; that there has been an identification of those areas where there is a high degree of consensus; that there is a clarity of recommendations and options that I think we need to have; and I think also, importantly, that the work of the commission is one that will have engaged with and influenced processes across the UK—constitutional processes wherever they may come from—in influencing the decision-making processes.
Thank you for that, Counsel General. I was going to mention that the Wales Governance Centre had a meeting in June, and they did say that the Welsh Government would need to identify early on what would constitute a good outcome from the process, so I'm glad to hear you identify those. But, in that, they also stated that:
'In the current constitutional setup, it is inevitable that the UK Government will need to be persuaded of the case for reform.'
You've outlined—. We've all heard some of the things, today, that you've outlined. You've said with your own analogy that the UK Government owns the football pitch, it's the referee and owns the ball. How likely do you think the chances are of this actually happening in the current political climate with the UK Government, in terms of the dynamics that we all know are going on?
I think it's always a mistake to look at things in terms of what is the position of this particular Government, or what's going to be the position over this year or next year. I remember debates in the early 1970s in terms of should there or shouldn't there be a devolution referendum. My first engagement as a lawyer was around the issues of the Kilbrandon Royal Commission on the Constitution, and I remember even then people saying, 'Well, nothing will ever come of this,' and so on.
I think we're in a process of change, and this is not just something where it's Wales or the UK; it is across Europe and I think it is internationally. I think those changes are powered by sometimes global factors, by local factors in terms of equality. I think a big aspect of Brexit was about the issue of equality and the extent to which people felt empowered. Now, Governments that don't listen to the people don't last very long. They may do for a short period of time, but, at the end of the day, it seems to me the crux of this is that within Wales we have to identify where we fit within all of this, what is important to us, what are the options that may emerge.
We are in a very changing, potentially changing, environment. Change, I believe, is coming, and I don't think Governments are in a position to stop that change. They can try to manage it. They can try to embrace it, if they are progressive. I'll say, for example, it seems very likely that there will be, during the course of the term of this Senedd, a referendum in Scotland. I think there are issues in respect of the situation within Northern Ireland at the moment, and of course there are provisions there that may impact as well. And we have to take also the fact that, at the end of the day, since we've developed—. When we had one Parliament that was only passing laws, we understood where sovereignty lay. Now we have, effectively, four Parliaments that are passing legislation in their own right. Sovereignty clearly lies with the people. We have a shared sovereignty. I think the difficulty we have is that our constitutional dysfunction exists because—I'll put it bluntly—UK Government hasn't woken up to the fact that the world has begun to change, that sovereignty has begun to change, and that the way in which people engage with one another needs a new modern, twenty-first century arrangement.
Thanks very much for that answer, Counsel General. Just finally from me, how is progress coming along for establishing the commission? Do you have more details on that?
Well, again, there has been a lot of work going on. We're looking, obviously, at co-chairs for the commission. I think you'll fully understand it's not appropriate for me to talk about names or individuals until all those arrangements are in place. We're looking also at the issue of terms of reference. What is very important is the framework within which the commission will operate, what we're actually asking it to do and to deliver, and discussions over the resources that are needed to enable it to do that, particularly with the engagement process.
The other aspect, of course, is we're looking at, then, the commission members. So, if we take the two co-chairs out of it, we're looking at, then, nine places. I've had discussions with political parties in terms of—. We're not asking political parties for nominations, but we are asking for recommendations, and what we have to look at is we have to look at balance, political balance, equality, diversity, and, in particular, very importantly, the skills, the range of skills, that are needed for what I think is going to be a very unique commission. This is not a technical commission that is looking at specific aspects of constitutional reform in that way. It is very much about having a conversation with the people of Wales and putting across those issues that affect their lives, because those are the things that lead into the need for constitutional reform. You know, people say, 'Well, you don't get asked about the constitution on the doorstep.' Well, in actual fact, after three or four years of Brexit, I mean, that's actually not been true, has it? But what you do have is you have people asking about issues, you know, community safety. When you start discussing community safety with them, you have to start looking at the powers, the way in which the relative bodies that have to work together to deliver that operate. I think that brings you into the issues of the question of justice, youth justice, policing and so on.
So, I think the way in which the commission has to operate—I mean, it will ultimately be up to the commission itself—it has to be one that has an engagement process. What is the purpose of the commission? The purpose of the commission is, I think, to try and build a consensus for change for people over those decisions that impact on their lives. That's ultimately what it's about; this is a people-oriented commission. That's how I see it, and how I see it actually carrying out its work. And in doing that, it leads really to how decisions are made and how our relationships operate with the other nations of the UK as well.
Thank you, Jayne, and thank you, Minister. Now, then, we're probably about half way through the questions we want to ask you, but we've swallowed up more than half the time, so I'm going to try and lead by example now and be really snappy, Minister, and I know that you will be in your responses as well. I know that this is a bit of a stamina-sapping session, but we're going to rattle through some of these quite fast now.
So, can we come to the thing you've touted a few times: the inter-governmental relations review? We just want to know how this is coming on. Do you share the Prime Minister's view that it's pretty much ready to be concluded? Do you think that there's support from all four Governments of the UK for the outcomes, as they're likely to be put forward? And where are we on dispute resolution procedures? So, what do you want to tell us?
Okay. Well, what I can tell you is I think we are more optimistic than we have been in the past; that there has been considerable progress; that we are beginning to look at the details of the terms of reference and that we're getting closer in terms of the wording. There are still areas that have to be worked on, but we are looking at, effectively, a body that would incorporate a meeting of First Ministers, including the Prime Minister; that it would also, then, involve an inter-ministerial forum as well; and that, very importantly, there would be an independent secretariat that would actually provide a basis of data, information and framework within which those discussions took place. Very importantly, progress is being made on the issue of a disputes procedure and how that might advance and how it would be—well, let's just say a disputes avoidance process, because ultimately, that leads to a disputes resolution process if the first isn't achieved.
So, the short answer is that there is progress. I think progress over the next couple of weeks is hopefully going to move quite quickly. I don't know to what extent the reshuffle may impact on the speed of that progress, but there is certainly a degree of optimism now.
Okay. Now, that is really helpful and I think we'd appreciate, as a committee, being kept up to speed, as alive as you can possibly make it, on where those discussions are going and where the outcomes are likely to come to. It would be great if we were getting some of this—if you can, as much as you can—in advance, as you head into some of these discussions, because that would really inform our work.
Could I ask you as well for your take on the proposed new inter-governmental structures on UK-EU and international relations? How is that coming along?
Well, that has been one of the difficult areas because, as you know, international trade has been one of the areas right from the start that has been of major concern, even from the very, very early days, and that is that, of course, international trade agreements are a reserved matter—effectively, Government acting with the exercise of the royal prerogative. But, of course, the Supreme Court, in the Scottish continuity judgment, was very, very clear that the implementation of those agreements is often within the devolved responsibilities. So, the area that we are seeking close agreement on is wording that actually respects devolution, recognises the responsibilities of the devolved Governments and participation, from early on, in those trade negotiations. The trade negotiations aren't something that are then imposed and that we just basically have to pick up with and deal with, but that we're actually involved in them from early on and that the devolved responsibilities feature, and interests are a significant part of that. Now, you'll agree that you'll understand that this is a very sensitive area. Negotiations have been ongoing and difficult, but there is certainly, again, a degree of optimism at the moment that a form of wording is likely to be achieved.
Okay. Thank you very much. We'll come back to that in future sessions. First, Rhys, on to you.
Another big topic, I'm afraid, Counsel General.
Dwi'n mynd i ofyn y cwestiwn yma yn y Gymraeg am Ddeddf Marchnad Mewnol y Deyrnas Unedig 2020. Pa brosesau sydd mewn lle gan Lywodraeth Cymru er mwyn asesu goblygiadau y Ddeddf yna ar ddeddfwriaeth Llywodraeth Cymru?
I'm going to ask this question in Welsh about the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. What processes are in place by the Welsh Government to assess and consider the implications of that Act on Welsh Government legislation?
Well, look, the starting point is of course we were aware of the internal market Act, and you'll be aware that, of course, consent wasn't given to that legislation. In fact, we weren't effectively significantly involved in the preparation for that legislation because we've always taken the view that it's legislation that was completely unnecessary. And you'll also be aware that we have a legal challenge that is due to be heard, I believe, in the Court of Appeal in January of next year. So, essentially, we do not have regard to the internal market Act in terms of our legislation. We work on the basis of the devolved powers that we actually have, as determined by the various Government of Wales legislation. We do not think that the internal market Act lawfully limits those devolved responsibilities.
Obviously, in terms of discussions that are taking place on the common frameworks, we're obviously moving ahead with those. The internal market Act is a cross-cutting issue that has been raised, really, of concern from the three nations—from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—in terms of its implications, and there are obviously discussions as to how that can be avoided.
One of my functions is, obviously, to ensure that however we progress on those common frameworks, it does not undermine the legislative hearing that we are going to have in January. But, I think the point you're making is, you know, do we start off from the point of view of looking in terms of, 'Can we do this or can't we?' No, we don't, because we've started from the position, 'It doesn't.' We don't believe it is lawful, that it lawfully restricts what we can do, and we will carry on and operate in the way we always have done.
I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I'm glad to hear that, Counsel General. With one eye on the Chair, if I could just ask another question: I think you have alluded to it, about maybe the lack of impact of this legal challenge or that the legal challenge is having on the legislative programme, that you are carrying on, as much as you can, as normal. But are there any delays with Government work, pending the outcome, which, I don't know, might be in February—the judgment—and possible appeals after that, maybe, to the Supreme Court? Is this causing any delays for you at all?
No, it isn't.
I'm sure the Chair will be very glad of that quick answer, and I'll pass you back to him now. Diolch yn fawr.
Rhys, that was brilliant. Thank you very much indeed. And with that, we'll move on to Peter.
Yes, thanks again. We'll move into that subject that you've just talked about, Counsel General, about frameworks and common frameworks. Now that common frameworks are in operation, how will the Senedd be able to scrutinise how they are working?
Well, I am certainly hopeful that we'll move to a process soon where that scrutiny process can start. It is absolutely fundamental, and has been a significant feature of the discussions over the common frameworks. As you know, there are a large number of these; they are intensely complex and detailed. They involve collective work by all four Governments, and it is an area, actually, where I can say, 'This is actually an example where Governments have really been able to work together co-operatively.' There has been progress, officials have worked together. There has been a spirit of co-operation, which was always what was intended from the beginning. And, in many ways, it is really unfortunate that we had the intrusion of the internal market Act, because what it effectively did was drive a coach and horses through that whole spirit of co-operation that was under way, and produce obstacles through that common working together.
We're making progress. I had a discussion with my counterpart, and I've had quadrilateral meetings on this as well, where we've discussed the frameworks. Of course, my engagement has been with the UK Government Minister Chloe Smith, who, of course, has just been moved from her position. So, I'm not quite clear—a number of meetings were in the pipeline—the extent to which those will go ahead or whether this may delay the process. But we were moving close to a situation where certainly some of the frameworks, particularly those that didn't have any major impact on the cross-cutting issues that we were concerned with to be published, because there is quite a significant scrutiny role for the four Parliaments to consider. And, of course, there will then be recommendations that come from those, and there may then be a further review of progress, collectively, of all the frameworks.
So, certainly I would hope that soon in October, perhaps towards the end of September—we're getting very close to that now, so I'm not quite sure, with the reshuffle, whether that will happen. But, certainly I think we're moving very close now to the publication of the frameworks, or some of the frameworks and their supporting documents, to enable the committees to start the scrutiny process. And I think everyone agrees that the scrutiny process is important. I gave evidence to the House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee the other week, and I also made the point that, as well as an overall review of the frameworks, there will need to be an annual review as to how they are operating, and that is obviously something that we'll be discussing soon.
Thank you for that. I'm pleased things are going well. I'm pleased there's going to be an annual review, and I'm assuming that the Senedd will be notified as these decisions on the common framework come through. So, I'm taking that as read. I'm conscious of time, so I'll swiftly move on, and ask, Counsel General, if you could outline the Welsh Government's proposals for how cross-cutting issues in negotiations on common frameworks should be resolved.
Well, it seems to me that the starting point is the terms of agreement on which those cross-cutting issues are there. So, for example, on international agreements, one of the areas that is most of concern is that, firstly, there is collaboration at a very early stage; that there is a process that is respectful of devolution and the devolved interests; and a recognition of areas where there may be divergence for a variety of reasons, one of which might even be democratic mandates. So, all those things need to be incorporated within that. But what is important—and I think it takes me back again to the point that I made—is the significance and importance of progress being made on the inter-governmental relations review, and that is that where disagreements arise of significance, then it is important that there is a mechanism for resolving them. In the past, as I've said, the tendency has been that we say, 'There's a disagreement', and the UK Government says, 'No, there isn't.' Well, you can't really progress very far on that basis. So, the progress on the inter-governmental side, I think, is quite crucial to this, but the starting point is getting the terms of agreement between the four nations, and my understanding is that we are moving very close to that.
Well, thanks for that, Counsel General. And I think actually you've covered many of the follow-up areas I might have wanted to probe on, so I appreciate that.
Peter, thank you very much, and Minister. This is the best committee in the world; you've pulled us back on time admirably, colleagues. You've done really well, which means that we do have time now to turn to two important areas. One is quite a substantive one and it's the issue of justice within the remit of this committee. Rhys, we're going to come to you on this, and I've got to say that we welcome your background and experience that you bring to this area as well. So, over to you.
Thank you, Chair. I'm sure we could spend more than half an hour of work just on this topic alone, but I'll be brief.
Y cwestiwn cyntaf yn Gymraeg: beth yw blaenoriaeth Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer cyfiawnder yn y chweched Senedd?
The first question in Welsh: what are the Welsh Government's priorities for justice in the sixth Senedd?
Our priorities are, firstly, in respect of the whole of the Thomas commission, to actually identify those areas where we can reach agreement with the UK Government mutually. There has been some progress in some of those particular areas, in terms of, as you will know, the female offending blueprint, the pilot with the drug and alcohol court. We've made certain progress in a number of other areas. So, we're looking at those, and a number of areas where we can carry on that conversation.
Other areas came up in the Thomas commission, of course—that is the state of the courts in Cardiff, the civil justice centre and so on. I was able to visit that to meet with the judges and some of the staff there, as well, to really raise a whole series of issues that go to the heart of a lot of aspects of judicial operations within Wales, certainly within Cardiff, and areas that are of concern to us and that were raised by the Thomas commission.
On of the key areas that, obviously, we really want to see progress on, and that are controversial with UK Government, is, of course, the devolution of justice, and perhaps starting with the devolution of youth justice and policing. I've had meetings with the police federation so far. I was very pleased to hear the progressive approach that they have to the issue of devolution of policing. Of course, some of these things may interact with work that's going on with the commission that that will take on and embrace.
There's obviously work going on that we are implementing with regard to Welsh tribunals and reform there. There is work that's going on with regard to the law council for Wales, which, again, was one of the recommendations. I'm hopeful that that will be launched in the not-too-distant future. I have offered the new law council for Wales, when it's reformed, every support that I can give. It will, of course, be independent of Government, as is important, but what is important is that, certainly, we support it in any way that we can.
In terms of my personal concern, it really centres around the fact that the current arrangements in respect of justice, the way justice is managed and operated, are not in accord with the way in which it integrates with so many areas of policy that are devolved areas of responsibility. It's an area where I've asked, certainly in the justice committee that has met once and will be meeting again soon—the justice committee, of course, is the committee set up on the recommendation of the Thomas commission to look at and to develop a strategy for how we will progress these. So, we will be meeting, we will be developing a strategy to look at the issues around devolution of justice as a whole, and I would hope that, at a future meeting of this committee to which you'll invite me, I can actually report to you in much more detail about some of the practicalities and the details as to how that work is progressing, how that strategy is developing and what it might mean in practice.
Thank you, Counsel General. I'm glad to hear that you are looking at the practicalities of how to call for the devolution of justice, and I'm pleased also about the establishment of the law council. But what about the other—? I think about a third of the Thomas commission recommendations were within the remit of the Welsh Government. What about the other recommendations that are within your power? Is there a timetable to deal with those recommendations?
That is what we are going to be considering at the next meeting of the justice committee, and that is to consider a strategy, to look at them to work out at a timetable of what can be achieved. What I can say is, of course, I was due last week to have met with the Lord Chancellor to actually discuss some of those issues, and, of course, the Lord Chancellor, as we knew him then, is no longer there. We now have a new friend in the Lord Chancellery, and we're not quite sure what the approach there's going to be. What I had wanted to discuss with the Lord Chancellor, of course, were some of those practical issues around the courts areas that are clearly at the moment within the reserved responsibilities of the UK Government, to look at those areas where we could work collaboratively on making progress, particularly on some of those aspects within the Thomas commission, and to embrace the area where I think we knew what the response would probably be—that was the area of the devolution of policing and justice.
My view is that the strategy that we want to develop has got to be one that is not focused on the issue of who does what but it is why things need to be done in a particular way—what is the best way of actually delivering justice, what is the best way of integrating all those particular functions. So, those are there. Other areas, of course, you were probably beginning to allude to with the Thomas commission are the areas around legal aid and so on, and those I think are longer term areas. I have long been a supporter of the idea that we need a Welsh legal aid system. Within the resources we have, we have started the process of funding that we put in for advice services and so on and trying to co-ordinate and maximise the impact of those. But those are not a substitute for really having a properly devolved legal aid system, where we can actually focus on the operation of the law and the needs and interests of communities. I think the other aspect, of course, is issues with regard to accessibility of the courts and so on, and that is an area that is of considerable concern, particularly with issues around digitisation and so on that are under discussion and what impact that will have on some of the poorest of our communities.
Diolch yn fawr. If I could just ask one final question, Chair, it's about data, the one thing that has really impeded planning with regard to the Welsh justice system and has caused real issues with the Thomas commission also—the lack of specific Welsh data. I look back at evidence from HMPPS, the prison and probation service, to the Thomas commission back in 2019, and they said in that evidence that a working group had been established between them and the Welsh Government to disaggregate data, to create specific Welsh data. Now, I appreciate COVID has happened in between that, but where are we with that group? Is that group up and running? Is it doing anything?
My understanding is that it is, that there is a data dashboard that has been established, which certainly at official level provides access to that sort of data. The question you're asking, of course, is I think the question I asked when I was last Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee of the Lord Chancellor himself on this. I think the view I take is this: that at the moment, a lot of data is not disaggregated, that we do not get the sort of Welsh data that we need. There is Welsh data out there, some of it is better, some of it is more accessible, but there is still a long way to go. But you are absolutely right; fundamental to any reform is actually knowing the data, the factual metrics on which you are proposing change and understanding how change needs to occur. So, that is actually one of the areas that, in fact, I was going to be discussing with the Lord Chancellor. It will be one of the things I will want to discuss when the meeting hopefully is rearranged, and I'll certainly have a better view then.
Officials are working collectively on that. I think the problem is that the systems, a large number of the systems, are very centralised and they do not provide that specific Welsh or localised data. And it's not even sometimes a case of just having Welsh data, it's even having disaggregated Welsh data community to community, area to area, because we know of the divergences that exist around Wales itself. So, it's having the data in the format that we need to actually be able to make the decisions that we want to actually make. And in terms of the justice framework, that is an essential component.
Thank you very much. Minister, how are you doing? Are you okay just for a couple of minutes longer?
I'm okay until 3 o'clock. I have to go into a Cabinet meeting at 3 o'clock, so I'm okay for about 10 minutes, if that's okay.
We won't keep you that long, I promise, but we didn't want to let you go without bringing in an interesting final question, perhaps, from Jayne.
Thank you, Chair. I will be very brief on this as I'm sure you'll be back many times to discuss it. Can you give us an outline of the legislative timetable for a Senedd reform Bill, to ensure implementation before the 2026 election?
Firstly, let me just start with the first part of your preamble. I am more than happy to appear before the committee as regularly as possible. I think it's important that the work I do, the engagement et cetera, is fundamentally scrutinised and I recognise the importance of your committee as, effectively, a constitutional committee.
In terms of the Senedd reform Bill, of course that is an area where, as you will know, there are discussions that are taking place around that. What I would say is that the issue of Senedd reform is something that belongs to the ownership of the Parliament itself, and it has to come from it—the content as to what that reform should be. It should not be a case of Government saying, 'This is the reform that should happen'. It's got to come from the Parliament itself. And of course, any reform will require a two thirds majority.
What I think is important is that, when the Senedd has decided a policy framework for what that legislation should be, we actually use the skills and expertise. Of course, that's one of the additional demands on resources that there'll be, to actually assist the Senedd in the delivery of a Bill. Because it's in our vested interest that any reform of the Senedd, of the Welsh Parliament, and so on, is as efficient, as effective and of that high quality as we'd expect for a Welsh Parliament. So, in terms of the timetable, as I say, discussions are under way, but ultimately, those discussions are within the ambit and the ownership of the Senedd, so the timetable will really depend on how quickly that progress can be made. I don't know if that helps.
That's great. Thank you very much.
Wonderful. Thank you, Counsel General. We will definitely let you get away on time. I just want to ask one question, following a theme that's come from Rhys and from others: the issue of capacity here within the Senedd but also within Government as well. You were talking about your ambitions to actually have devolution of justice, devolution of policing and so on, and yet we were talking about capacity issues to scrutinise what we currently have and to legislate where we would want to, bilingually in Welsh and English, and so on there. How do you reconcile those two—your ambitions for what we want to do with Wales with the capacity restraints?
I think there is actually a further discussion there. Government funds all the work in terms of the legislative programme and so on out of the allocation of the block grant. We may be 5 per cent of the UK, but if we pass a health Bill in Wales, or the UK Government passes a health Bill, by and large, they involve predominantly the same amount of work. So, the actual overwhelming pressure in terms of UK Government legislation, as well as our own demands et cetera, I think are disproportionate and I think there is an issue there around how the operation of the Parliaments of the UK are actually funded. I do not think we are funded fairly in accordance with the way in which UK Government is funded. So, I think there is an argument there. We have to manage the resources, but also the skills we have, and obviously the skills are something that we have to increasingly build up, and that we build up on a Welsh basis in conjunction with the Welsh universities and with the legal profession as well. So, there's work going on there, and that's one of the reasons for the establishment of a law council for Wales. So, there is a major challenge there. All I'd say is there are enormous resources in there, but we do not have the scale of resources that the UK Government has, so we do have to prioritise.
A very interesting answer and a very interesting session as well. Thank you, Minister and Counsel General. It's been very wide ranging, but I think strange as it may seem, it's right, probably, to say we've enjoyed this and I think anybody looking in on this will have welcomed this as the first session with you in front of us. We welcome very much your offer as well to come back in front of us regularly, because there is such a vast remit. We may well write to you if anything comes out in a subsequent discussion in private, and clearly, we'll send a transcript as well for accuracy. But to you and to your officials, thank you very much for joining us today and good luck in the Cabinet meeting.
Thank you very much.
We'll give you just a couple of minutes now for you to virtually leave us—just a few moments. Thank you very much.
We're still in public session, and just to explain to people watching in what happens now, at this end of this session, subsequently, we will go into private to discuss our feelings as a committee on what we've heard today and actions we might want to take from it, but, before we do that, we also have some more business to actually take care of in public.
The first part of that will be to turn to our statutory instruments under item No. 3, and these are instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. They, in effect, have clear reports, and the first one is item 3.1, SL(6)043, the Education (Admission Appeals Arrangements) (Wales) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (Amendment) Regulations 2021. This relates to appeal panels in certain circumstances, and the incidence of transmission of coronavirus. I understand that our lawyers have not identified any points for reporting. No. Okay. So, in which case, could I ask Members if you're happy to agree with the draft report? Thank you very much.
We turn to item 3.2, SL(6)045, the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (Wales) Order 2021, which makes out the determination of the remuneration of schoolteachers in Wales and other conditions of employment of schoolteachers in Wales that relate to professional duties and working time. Again, our lawyers haven't identified any reporting points, so could I ask colleagues if we're happy to agree with the draft report? Thank you very much. We are. Thank you.
So, we turn to item 4, which is instruments that do raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3, and under this we have, first of all, a made negative resolution instrument, and if anybody watching in on this is confused as to this terminology, we try and make it as simple as possible, but sometimes it does need some explanation—go to the site that we have, and it does have some explanation on there for you.
But the first one of these is item 4.1, SL(6)042, the Meat Preparations (Amendment and Transitory Modification) (Wales) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021. This extends the temporary removal of the requirement for meat preparations imported into Wales from establishments situated in European economic area member states, the Faroe Islands, Greenland or Switzerland to be deep frozen. This amends the relevant date in the meat preparations regulations 2021, extending the effect of those regulations until midnight on 31 December 2021. Our lawyers have identified one merits point for reporting, so could I invite Gareth to comment on this?
Diolch. It's just a point to note that the Welsh Government says these changes were urgent, and that's why there was no consultation on the recommendations.
Okay, and we're quite familiar with that in respect of some of these. Can I ask for Members' agreement that they're content to note the report? Agreed? Yes, thank you very much.
Item 4.2, SL(6)046, the Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021. This relates to the basis for the repayment of student loans made by the Welsh Ministers, and they include provision for interest to be charged on student loans. Our lawyers have identified a technical point for reporting, which notes that the instrument has been made as a composite instrument. Gareth, did you want to add any comments?
Only to say, we see these composite instruments every so often, when they are made by both the Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State, and therefore they are laid before both the Senedd and the UK Parliament, and it has become common practice for such instruments to be made in English only.
Okay. Are we happy to note and agree that report? Thank you very much.
In which case we go on to item no. 5, which is papers to note, and we'll come back to discuss any of these relevant ones in private session, then, subsequently. So, we have item 5.1, correspondence with the First Minister on the scrutiny of regulations arising from the UK's exit from the European Union and the protocol between the Welsh Government and the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee of Senedd Cymru. Are we happy to note that exchange of correspondence and we can return to this at a future meeting? You are. Thank you very much.
We also have item 5.2, correspondence from the Minister for Finance and Local Government on the finance Ministers' quadrilateral meeting. Happy to note? Thank you. Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Okay. Item No. 6 we then come to, which is the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members happy to do so? In which case, we now move into a private session, and if I ask Members just to wait for about 10 seconds so we know we are in private.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:55.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:55.