Y Pwyllgor Deddfwriaeth, Cyfiawnder a’r Cyfansoddiad

Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee

15/11/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies MS
Huw Irranca-Davies MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Peter Fox MS
Rhys ab Owen MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Ben Harris Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Nia Moss Ymchwilydd
Researcher
P Gareth Williams Clerc
Clerk
Sarah Sargent Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau a dirprwyon.
1. Introductions, apologies and substitutions

Prynhawn da. Good afternoon. Welcome, everybody, to this meeting of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. As per normal, the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as well as usual. So, aside from the usual procedural adaptations for conducting meetings in virtual settings, remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. We have no apologies for today's meeting; we've got a full turnout of Members. Otherwise, some housekeeping arrangements, as per normal: if we can check that our mobile devices are switched to silent; we have operation this morning through the mediums of Welsh and English, and we have interpretation available; and, of course, as per normal, there's no need to mute and unmute yourselves because the operators behind the scenes will do that for you.

2. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol ar y Bil Diwygio Cyfraith Lesddaliad (Rhent Tir) ac ar y Bil Diogelwch Adeiladau: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd
2. Legislative Consent Memoranda on the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill and the Building Safety Bill: Evidence session with the Minister for Climate Change

Now then, we were expecting to have an evidence session today with the Minister for Climate Change on the legislative consent memoranda on the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill and the Building Safety Bill. Unfortunately, we've had notice—and we do wish her well—that the Minister is not able to be with us. She's slightly unwell, which we fully understand, so what we will need to do is to discuss this in private session, about the way to proceed and to actually get that evidence and the answers we need from the Minister. So, if you're happy with that, perhaps we'll return to that in private session. There we are, thank you very much. And, obviously, the committee sends its very best wishes to the Minister there.

3. Offerynnau sy’n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i’r Senedd o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3.
3. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3

That brings us straight then, directly, to item No. 3, which is instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. Under this, under item 3.1, we have one made-negative resolution, which is SL(6)068, the Development Procedure (Consultees) (Wales) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2021. This Order makes amendments to both the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) Order 2012 and the Developments of National Significance (Procedure) (Wales) Order 2016, and the amendments are being made to amend the pre-application consultation and the consultation before the grant of planning permission. Our lawyers have identified one merits point for reporting, but we’ve had a Government response stating the errors that have been identified have been corrected, and the explanatory memorandum has been withdrawn and re-laid. So, I’m not sure, Gareth, if you or any of your colleagues from our legal experts have any comments to make on this other than what I’ve just said?

Just as a little bit of background, these regulations impose a new duty to consult fire and rescue authorities during the planning stages of certain types of development, and the draft report noted errors with some of the dates included in the explanatory memorandum, which had the potential to cause confusion as to exactly when fire and rescue authorities had to be consulted. As you said, the Welsh Government accepted the errors, and a revised explanatory memorandum has been laid.

That's lovely. Thank you, Gareth. So, I'll assume that all of us are content with agreeing the reporting points there. We are. Thank you for that.

So, we go on to item 3.2, which is SL(6)072, the Valuation for Rating (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021, and these regulations specify assumptions to be made when applying certain provisions to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 in connection with a non-domestic property’s rateable value. And the rateable value is used, of course, to calculate liability for non-domestic rates. So, Members will be aware that these regulations are linked to the Welsh Government’s LCM on the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill. Our lawyers have identified two merits points for reporting, so I'm going to invite Gareth here to give us an update on where we are with those merits points and any response from the Government.

13:35

Diolch. These regulations were laid before the Senedd at 11 a.m. on 1 November and came into force at 6 p.m. on the same day. So, there were just seven hours between the time the regulations were laid and the time they came into force. The first merits point asks the Welsh Government to explain the urgency and why couldn't these regulations have been made sooner. The Welsh Government has responded, listing various factors that have delayed the making of these regulations—for example, the Senedd was in dissolution earlier this year, then there were negotiations about including the subject matter of these regulations in a UK Parliament Bill, then there was a period of consultation on these regulations, and the response also cites the autumn recess as a further reason for the delay. As regards including these provisions in a UK Parliament Bill, namely the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill, the subject matter of these regulations is being dealt with in that Bill. That Bill is not yet law, but when or if that Bill does become law, these regulations will no longer be needed and they will be revoked.

Thank you, Gareth. Thank you very much for that. So, can I ask Members: are we happy to agree the reporting points there? We are. Thank you very much.

4. Datganiadau Ysgrifenedig o dan Reol Sefydlog 30C
4. Written Statements under Standing Order 30C

We will go on, then, to item No. 4, written statements under Standing Order 30C. Under this, we have item 4.1, WS-30C(6)003, the Animal Health, Plant Health, Seeds and Seed Potatoes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021. This statement provides notification that the Welsh Ministers have given consent to the UK Government to make regulations in a devolved area. The regulations make amendments to secondary legislation to correct deficiencies relating to plant health, seeds and seed potatoes, which have arisen as a result of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The regulations also correct some errors in various statutory instruments. The statement that accompanies this notes that consent was given for reasons of efficiency, expediency and due to the technical nature of the amendments. But I wonder, Gareth, do you have anything to note on this?

Yes. These UK Government regulations confer functions relating to a reserved authority, namely the national plant protection organisation of the UK. Because that is a reserved authority, the Senedd will be unable to modify or remove those functions in relation to Wales without UK Government consent. Those are the rules set out in the Government of Wales Act 2006. So, here we have the Welsh Government agreeing to the UK Government making these regulations that apply in Wales. There is no Senedd involvement despite the regulations having an impact, albeit a very small impact, on the Senedd's powers. I suspect there might be a common framework behind all this as well that requires a joined-up Great Britain approach, but, again, common frameworks are essentially inter-governmental. The committee may wish to write to the Welsh Government highlighting these issues, in particular the principle of Governments agreeing things among themselves that have an impact on the Senedd.

Thank you, Gareth. I wonder if I could open this out to Members. Whilst the Government will, understandably, in this situation argue this is relatively a technical matter, it's a Government-to-Government matter and for expediency and efficiency they've chosen to go down this route, as Gareth highlights, there is an issue of principle here. It may well be, as Gareth has well articulated, that this could be linked to common frameworks, but we don't have a great degree of clarity on that, and it would be helpful to have it. So, I'm wondering, do you think we should write on this occasion? Even though this is a relatively minor one, it could in future be a larger, more significant one. So, what are your thoughts, colleagues, on whether we should write on this occasion? I can see Rhys is nodding, Alun as well, and Peter. Okay, we will, then. Gareth, we'll do that and we'll take this issue up there. Alun.

I think it's important that we do so for the right reasons and that we articulate what those reasons are, and that it's not seen as simply pushing back whenever the Government seeks to take measures that are efficient and timely and all the rest of it. We probably need to have a wider conversation about the point of principle so that we understand and we're able to articulate what that point of principle is. My feeling is that there should be no changes to the competence or place and role of the Senedd without the consent of the Senedd, and I think that's quite important. I think it's fundamentally important, in fact. So, when we're articulating these things, I think it's important for us as a committee to come from a shared understanding through conversation and debate about where these things lie, because some of these things, as you say, will be relatively minor and we could be seen to be making a mountain out of a molehill. On other matters, there are more important points of principle, but I think if we've established where that principle lies, then I think we'll be in a more powerful position to argue those things in due course.

13:40

Thanks, Alun, and I can see colleagues nodding with that as well. So, I think we're in agreement there and on the necessity to articulate exactly why we're picking this up and the explanation that we're requiring from Ministers. Thank you, Gareth, and thank you, colleagues. 

5. Papurau i'w nodi
5. Papers to note

We'll go on now to item No. 5, papers to note. We have, first of all, item 5.1, correspondence from the Chair of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee in respect of the common frameworks programme. This is the letter from the Chair of the House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which provides the Secretary of State regarding the common frameworks programme. If you're happy to note that correspondence for now, we might return to this in private session. Yes, okay. Thank you—we'll do that.

Item 5.2, we have correspondence from the Minister for Economy: free trade agreement between the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and, again, if you're happy to note that for now as correspondence, we'll return to it. Thank you.

Then we have correspondence from the Minister for Finance and Local Government in respect of the meeting of the finance Ministers' quadrilateral, which took place on 14 October. Again, are Members happy to note that? Thank you very much.

And then, we'll go to item 5.4, correspondence from the Chair of the House of Lords Constitution Committee in respect of the Constitution Committee's visit to Senedd Cymru, thanking the committee for hosting their recent visit, which I think we all agree was mutually beneficial and provided a real good basis for future engagement as well. The more we can expand our reciprocal understanding of how we work and things that we can work together on, the better. So, my thanks as Chair, as well, to all Members for their support with that. So, we're happy to note that.

We'll go on to item 5.5, correspondence from the First Minister in respect of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No.19) and (No.20) Regulations 2021 and the written statement. So, Members, I ask you to note that letter from the First Minister in response to our letter querying the wording used in the written statement that preceded those regulations. If you're happy to note, we'll come back to this in private session as well.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

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.

Motion moved.

And that brings us, faster than we expected, in the absence of the ministerial evidence today, to a motion under item No. 6, under Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting so we can get on with some substantial business now in private. Are Members happy to move into private session? We are, brilliant. Thank you very much. We'll go into private session, and we'll wait for the all-clear to be given by our officials.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 13:44.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 13:44.