Y Pwyllgor Deddfwriaeth, Cyfiawnder a’r Cyfansoddiad

Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee

28/03/2022

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

Claire Fiddes Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Gerallt Roberts Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 13:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Prynhawn da. Good afternoon. Croeso, bawb. Welcome to this afternoon's meeting of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. As you can see, we're meeting in virtual session this afternoon, but as per normal, even though we're meeting in virtual session, all Standing Orders apply as normal. I'm very pleased to say we've got a full turnout, as we regularly do on this committee, from Members, so we are fully quorate. Just a quick reminder that we're on Senedd.tv, obviously, if people are watching this or want to watch this back on recording. We'll also, of course, bring forward the full verbatim record of these proceedings subsequently as well. So, we've got no apologies. We have bilingual translation for the meeting this afternoon, as per normal, and we'll be muted and unmuted by our people in the black boxes there, behind the scenes, who will do that for us. 

2. Offerynnau nad ydynt yn cynnwys unrhyw faterion i’w codi o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3
2. Instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3

We'll go straight into business today. The first substantial item is under item 2, which is instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. Here we have just the one item. It's in you papers under item 2.1, SL(6)176. It's a made negative resolution instrument, the Renting Homes (Prescribed Forms) (Wales) Regulations 2022, which sets out 38 prescribed forms of notice that may be used by landlords or contract holders in particular circumstances where the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 requires or authorises either party to provide information in writing. We have no reporting points on this, so, colleagues, can I ask if you're happy to note this? We are indeed. We note and agree those reporting points. 

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

We move on to item 3, instruments that do raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 and 21.3. We've got a few to look at here, the first of which is a made negative resolution instrument, under item 3.1 on our agenda. This is SL(6)175, the Renting Homes (Deposit Schemes) (Required Information) (Wales) Regulations 2022. These regulations, made under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, require landlords to provide certain information about the deposit scheme to tenants in writing. These include details of the scheme administrator, where the deposit is being held, how the deposit will be repaid at the end of the contract, what deductions can reasonably be taken from it by a landlord, and the procedure for settling any disputes in relation to the deposit. Our lawyers to the committee have identified two technical points for reporting. I think our lawyers will correct me if I'm wrong, but we haven't yet received the Welsh Government response as we meet right now. Gareth, could I hand over to you for the points that you've identified?

Diolch. The regulations in one place deal with information supplied by deposit scheme administrators to landlords, but it isn't clear what duties those administrators have to supply such information in the first place. The draft report seeks clarity on that point.

The second point is about the return of deposits to contract holders at the end of an occupation contract. The regulations talk about paying a deposit to a contract holder and repaying a deposit to a contract holder. It isn't clear what the difference is between paying a contract holder and repaying a contract holder in this particular context. And, as you said, the Welsh Government has not yet responded.

Okay. Thank you very much, Gareth. Would we be expecting a response from Ministers on that, and what would our next step be then?

We have asked for a response to seek clarity on both points.

Okay. So, for the moment, colleagues, if I can ask you if you agree the reporting points we've identified. We do. Okay. Thank you, Gareth. That'll bring us on to a few of these that are related under the same Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. The next one is SL(6)177, under item 3.2 in your papers. It's the Renting Homes (Review of Decisions) (Wales) Regulations 2022. These prescribe the procedure to be followed by landlords in connection with reviews requested by contract holders in respect of landlord decisions to terminate introductory standard contracts or prohibited conduct standard contracts, landlord decisions to extend introductory periods of introductory standard contracts and landlord decisions to extend probationary periods of prohibited conduct standard contracts. Our lawyers have identified two technical and one merits point for reporting. Gareth, over to you.

13:35

These regulations are about landlords reviewing certain decisions. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 says that the review must be carried out by the landlord. These regulations say that the review must be carried out by a person who was not involved in the original decision. The draft report asks whether the regulations should be clearer, reminding readers that the requirement in the renting homes Act still applies, so, in effect, that what the regulations mean is that the review must be carried out by a person who is the landlord and who was not involved in the original decision. The second point is in the same area: what if there is nobody in the landlord's organisation who was not involved in the original decision? What does a landlord do in those circumstances?

The third point relates to oral hearings. Contract holders can request an oral hearing in respect of these reviews. Where the contract holder fails to attend the hearing, the landlord has the option of proceeding with the hearing without the contract holder being present, without even requiring the landlord to take account of the circumstances of the contract holder's absence. The draft report asks whether the landlord should be required to take account of the circumstances of the contract holder's absence. Similarly, if a contract holder requests a postponement of an oral hearing, the landlord can grant or refuse the request as the landlord sees fit. Again, there's no requirement to take account of the circumstances of the request for the postponement. The Welsh Government has not yet responded. 

[Inaudible.]—to note that. Sorry, my apologies, I think something went wrong with the sound then. Do we have any comments from colleagues or are we happy to note and agree that? We are. Okay, thank you very much. Thanks, Gareth, and we note that we're awaiting the response from Welsh Government on those.

Let's have a look, we have—. Apologies, colleagues, bear with me. I'm just checking here whether I'm missing one of these relating to the renting homes deposit schemes. Gareth, am I missing one here? 

Item 3.3, SL(6)178.

Yes, my apologies for that. Sorry about that. Item 3.3 is the third in this set of made negative resolutions here, SL(6)178, the Renting Homes (Safeguarding Property in Abandoned Dwellings) (Wales) Regulations 2022. Again, these fall under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. These particular regulations make provision regarding how property other than the landlord's property left in an abandoned dwelling must be dealt with, and the regulations also make provision regarding the disposal of such property by a landlord. Gareth, you've identified three merits points for reporting, but this falls, once again, within the batch where we haven't had a Government response to these points yet. 

The regulations set out what happens to property left in an abandoned dwelling. The regulations treat all property in the same way, so the first point asks whether that is appropriate where the property is an animal or a pet. Are there any animal welfare issues that should be considered?

Secondly, where property is left in an abandoned dwelling, generally, the landlord may sell the property after four weeks. This raises the question as to whether the person who buys the property gets good title to that property. In other words, how does legal ownership transfer when property in an abandoned dwelling is then sold by a landlord and then bought by someone else? The draft report also asks what safeguards are in place where a third party might own property that is left in an abandoned dwelling. The third party might simply have loaned something to the contract holder that the contract holder then abandons and the landlord then sells.

Finally, where a landlord does sell property, the landlord can apply the proceeds of sale towards any unpaid rent. The draft report asks whether the Welsh Government considered allowing landlords to apply the proceeds of sale towards other amounts owed to the landlord, for example to cover the costs of repairing any damage caused to the dwelling by the contract holder.

I appreciate some of these things may tend toward policy decisions, but equally they stood out as things that were unclear and therefore required clarification. The Welsh Government has not yet responded, so going back to your earlier point, Chair, we're going to wait to see how the Government responds and then take it from there.

13:40

Thank you, Gareth. Are we content to note and agree those points? Thank you very much. Thank you, Gareth.

That takes us then on to a made affirmative resolution under item 3.4, SL(6)182, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Alteration of Expiry Date) (Wales) Regulations 2022. We've got a draft report and a written statement there of 22 March 2022. These regulations amend the Coronavirus Act 2020 by extending the expiry date of two provisions that give the Welsh Ministers emergency powers to respond to the pandemic. They extend provisions in relation to the temporary continuity of education, training and childcare providers and protection from forfeiture under business tenancies to the end of the day on 24 September 2022. They would otherwise expire at the end of the day on 24 March 2022. There's one merits point that you've identified for us, Gareth.

It's just a standard merits point noting the Welsh Government's justification for any potential interference with human rights.

Thanks for that. We're familiar with that. I think we'll be happy to note that.

That brings us on to a composite negative resolution instrument, item 3.5, which is SL(6)180, the Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) (Amendment) Regulations 2022. There's a draft report in your papers on this as well. These regulations amend the Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) Regulations 2009. They implement a one-year freeze on the plan 2 student loan repayment threshold and the interest rate thresholds for Welsh borrowers, and they maintain the repayment threshold bands and the lower and higher interest rate threshold bands at the current levels for borrowers who are resident overseas. Gareth, you've identified one technical point for reporting for us. 

Only to note that these regulations are made by both the Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State, therefore the regulations have been made in English only. 

Thank you very much, Gareth. I think we'll be happy to note that and agree that.

That brings us on to item 3.6, a made affirmative resolution instrument, which is SL(6)185, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2022. You have a draft report and a letter from the First Minister to the Llywydd of 25 March 2022. These regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2022, what we know as the principal regulations, to provide that those regulations expire at the end of the day on 18 April 2022 rather than 28 March 2022. They also amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Functions of Local Authorities etc.) (Wales) Regulations 2020, to change their expiry date to 18 April 2022 as well. And, Gareth, you've identified two merits points for reporting to us.

13:45

And they are just standard coronavirus-related merits points.

Thank you. In which case, I think we'll be happy to note and agree that.

And it brings us to our final item under section 3, which is item 3.7, SL(6)186, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 8) Regulations 2022, and we have a draft report and the letter from the First Minister to the Llywydd of 25 March 2022. These regulations also amend the principal regulations, with effect from 28 March 2022. Members will be familiar with some of the changes now in force, indeed, which include the removal of the requirement in law for a person to self-isolate following a positive COVID test, and changes to the list of places where a legal requirement to wear face coverings will remain. And, Gareth, you have two merits points for reporting here.

Again, they're just standard coronavirus-related merits points.

That's great. In which case I'm sure we'll be happy to note and agree those. Thank you, Gareth.

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

We'll go on then to item 4, instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3 that we have previously considered as a committee. And the first of these comes under item 4.1, SL(6)118, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 23) Regulations 2021. And we have three papers related to this, including two letters and a report. We considered this instrument at our meeting on 10 January. We laid our report later that day. So, I'd invite Members to note the latest response from the First Minister to the committee concerning the publication of summary impact assessments for the regulations and all other regulations that amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020. Are you happy to note this, or is there anything you want to raise? We can return to it in private, of course. Happy to note that. Thank you very much.

5. Fframweithiau cyffredin
5. Common frameworks

Which brings us then on to common frameworks, under item 5. And I draw your attention to the letter from the Health and Social Care Committee to the Minister for Health and Social Services, outlining the committee's views on these provisional common frameworks. So, it's simply to note for now if you're happy with that.

And then we'll go on to item 5.2. We have, again to note, the letter from the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, seeking further information on the provisional chemicals and pesticides common framework. So, again, unless there's anything that anybody wants to raise, we'll just note that for now.

And we'll go on to item 5.3, to note the letter from the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, outlining the committee's final recommendations on the provisional animal health and welfare common framework. Are we content to note that? Just shout at me if there is anything.

We'll go on to, again to note, under item 5.4, the letter from the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, outlining the committee's final recommendations regarding the provisional fisheries management and support common framework. So, again, we'll note that. If there are any of those we need to return to in private, of course, we can.

6. Cytundeb cysylltiadau rhyngsefydliadol
6. Inter-institutional relations agreement

It brings us on to item 6, the inter-institutional relations agreement. I'd just ask Members, under 6.1, to note the committee's response to the First Minister's letter, informing it of the first meeting of the inter-ministerial standing committee, which the committee noted and we discussed at our last meeting. So, hopefully, that letter corresponds with the discussion that we had and our decision to write to the First Minister. So, we note that.

13:50
7. Papurau i'w nodi
7. Papers to note

We have some papers, then, to note. First of all, under item 7.1, just to note a letter from the Minister for Social Justice, providing the committee with an update on the progress of the Nationality and Borders Bill at the UK Parliament, and the Welsh Government's intention to lay a supplementary legislative consent memorandum.

Then we have, under 7.2, to note the letter from the Minister for Finance and Local Government, providing the committee with an update on the electoral pilots being delivered as part of the local government elections in May.

Item 7.3, to note the letter from the Minister for Climate Change, providing the Welsh Government's response to the committee's report on the supplementary legislative consent memoranda, memorandum No. 3 and memorandum No. 4, on the Building Safety Bill. And we can return to this, of course, in private session along with any other correspondence, but for now, if we're happy to note those.

That takes us on, then, to item 7.4, again to note a letter from the Minister for Climate Change, informing the committee that a 'Developing the UK Emissions Trading Scheme' consultation has been launched, and it outlines the next steps following the consultation. And that brings us to the end of correspondence to note.

8. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
8. 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.

So, unless there's anything else Members want to raise right now, we can move, under Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. Are we happy to do so and move into private session? We are. Thank you very much. We'll go into private session and wait for our clerking team to let us know we're in private. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 13:52.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 13:52.