Y Pwyllgor Materion Allanol a Deddfwriaeth Ychwanegol - Y Bumed Senedd
External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee - Fifth Senedd05/11/2020
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies MS|
|Dai Lloyd MS|
|David Rees MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Ed Sherriff||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Emily Hole||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jeremy Miles MS||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Pontio Ewropeaidd|
|Counsel General and Minister for European Transition|
|Sophie Brighouse||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Aled Evans||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
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 13:59.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:59.
Good afternoon, and can I welcome Members and everyone to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? As Members will be aware, we continue our operation in a virtual mode. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health, but they are able to watch the meeting, which is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and there is a translation available on Senedd.tv as well.
Can I remind Members of the basic points? In the event of me dropping out the meeting because my broadband connection fails or my PC crashes, as has happened recently, then we have appointed Alun Davies to take over the Chair on a temporary basis until either I return or the end of the meeting, whichever is the first to be achieved.
We have received apologies from Laura Anne Jones, but there's no substitute, unfortunately, available, so that will be one down in the committee. Can I also remind Members that Mandy Jones, who has been a member of the committee, because of her change of party allegiance is no longer a member of this committee? Until the Business Committee makes decisions as to whether she can be replaced, we now sit as five and not six. I thank Mandy for her work and contribution to the committee in the time she spent with us.
Are there any declarations of interest to be made? Huw. You're muted.
Yes, Chair. I was trying to unmute, there. Yes, just my standard declarations on the three groups that I chair with a European interest, including ones for the First Minister.
Thank you, Huw.
We then move to item 2 on our agenda, which is a scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition. I welcome Jeremy Miles, the Counsel General and Minister, and his officials, Sophie Brighouse, deputy director policy, Welsh Government; Ed Sherriff, deputy director European transition and negotiation, Welsh Government; and Emily Hole, head of trade policy projects, Welsh Government. You're all welcome this afternoon, and thank you for your time.
Counsel General, we do acknowledge that you have now actually included international trade within your portfolio as well as the European negotiations aspect, so we will probably be looking at some questions on international trade as well. In that sense, perhaps I'd better hand over to you in a second, because clearly the negotiations in the European Union and UK have been ongoing, and are still ongoing, and perhaps you'd like to give us an indication as to where you think those negotiations are leading at this point in time and what the position is in those negotiations, and what you might see as where we will be on 31 December.
Chair, thank you for the opportunity to give some reflections on that. Obviously, as a Government we have welcomed the apparent intensification in the talks after the October council deadline was missed. The truth of the matter is, though, that it's long past time for an agreement to be reached. All over Wales, all over the UK, there are individuals, businesses, organisations, public services who are crying out for the certainty of understanding what our new relationship with the European Union will look like after 31 December, so we are way past time in terms of agreeing a deal.
These negotiations are the UK Government's negotiations, and whatever the outcome is, it will be the UK Government that is responsible for that. As you will know, Chair, we have sought and failed to secure what we think is the appropriate level of involvement as a devolved Government in agreeing a UK-wide position in these negotiations, but in order to secure a deal there needs to be flexibility, obviously, on both sides. It is the UK Government's responsibility to look after the economic interests of the UK, so we call on them to have the flexibility required to reach a deal. We shouldn't pretend that the kind of deal available at this point is the kind of deal we would regard as adequate, and it certainly isn't the kind of deal we would regard as necessary to protect Wales's interests, but it's incumbent on the UK Government now to seek a deal.
We see all around us the impact of COVID-19 on our health, obviously, but also on our economy. That is not a matter of choice for us, but for the UK Government to leave the transition period without a deal would be a matter of choice, and therefore overlaying that on the damage of COVID we think would be irresponsible.
Thank you, Minister, for that introduction and reflection upon where we are with the negotiations. It is important, therefore, we put ourselves in the context of those points. But, obviously, whilst it is the responsibility of the UK Government to look at the negotiations, the Welsh Government has some responsibility regarding preparedness as we leave the EU, or when the transition period comes to an end, and therefore we want to focus a little bit on preparedness initially. So, I'll hand over to Dai Lloyd.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd, a phrynhawn da, Weinidog. Wel, yn dilyn yn syth o'ch cyflwyniad, a dweud y gwir, a allaf i ofyn yn y lle cyntaf: yn nhermau parodrwydd i beth bynnag sy'n digwydd ar ddiwedd y flwyddyn yma a chamau gweithredu Llywodraeth Cymru, ei rhan yn y parodrwydd yna, a allaf i ofyn—? Wrth gwrs, rydych chi wedi crybwyll COVID-19, yn amlwg, ac mae'r cwestiwn cyntaf ynglŷn â COVID-19 a'r effaith sylweddol y mae hwnna'n ei gael ar bob maes, ond y cwestiwn yn benodol yn fan hyn ydy: pa effaith mae COVID wedi ei gael ar y graddau y mae staff ac adnoddau ar gael o fewn tîm y trefniadau pontio Ewropeaidd Llywodraeth Cymru, hynny yw eich tîm chi sy'n ymwneud efo’r trefniadau pontio? Pa effaith mae COVID wedi ei gael ar hynna?
Thank you very much, Chair, and good afternoon, Minister. Well, following on directly from your opening remarks, could I ask you first of all, in terms of preparedness for whatever may happen at the end of this year and the Welsh Government's action points and its preparedness—? You've mentioned COVID-19, clearly, so the first question is on COVID-19 and the significant impact that that's having across the board, but the specific question here is to ask you what impact COVID-19 has had on the availability of staff and resources within the Welsh Government's European transition team, namely your own team involved with preparedness. What impact has COVID had there?
Wel, ar draws Llywodraeth Cymru yn gyfan gwbl, Dai, mae'r pwysau o ymateb i'r sefyllfa o ran COVID wedi achosi pwysau enfawr, wrth gwrs, a gwasgedd ar dimoedd a sialensiau ar draws y Llywodraeth. Felly, mae hynny'n wir o ran y tîm ETT, fel roeddech chi'n sôn, ond mae'n rhaid edrych ar y darlun ehangach. Hynny yw, mae'r dasg o baratoi ar gyfer diwedd y cyfnod pontio yn dasg sy'n syrthio i bob rhan o'r Llywodraeth, a'r gwir yw bod y pwysau o ymateb i COVID wedi yn sicr gael effaith ar hynny. Sut ydyn ni wedi ymateb i hynny? Wel, trwy flaenoriaethu'r hyn rydyn ni'n gallu ei wneud, hynny yw y llefydd lle gallwn ni gael y fwyaf o impact ac sydd hefyd fwyaf pwysig o ran ein blaenoriaethau ni. Felly, bod yn gwbl ddisgybledig ynglŷn â phwysleisio'r blaenoriaethau hynny, ac mae hynny yn golygu, wrth gwrs, dad-flaenoriaethu pethau eraill. Rydyn ni wedi bod yn hyblyg iawn yn dosbarthu pobl ymysg timoedd ar draws y Llywodraeth i ymateb i hyn a dosbarthu gwaith ac ati. Rydyn ni wedi gallu llwyddo i ddod â rhywfaint o adnoddau o'r tu allan pan mae hynny'n bosib, ond mae'n rhaid edrych ar lesiant staff ar draws y Llywodraeth hefyd i sicrhau bod pawb yn cael y gefnogaeth sydd ei angen arnyn nhw.
Felly, dyw hi ddim wedi bod yn hawdd. Dyw hi ddim, rwy'n credu, yn hawdd i unrhyw Lywodraeth i ddelio â'r sialens o ymateb i COVID ac ymateb i ddiwedd y cyfnod pontio. Dyna, wrth gwrs, pam roedden ni'n galw ar Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol i ymestyn y cyfnod negodi er mwyn gallu delio â'r pethau yma yn eu tro ac nid gwneud y sialens a'r crisis yn waeth drwy fynnu ar y cyfnod ar ddiwedd y flwyddyn hon.
Well, across the board in Welsh Government, the pressures in responding to COVID have caused huge pressures on teams and it's posed challenges across Government. So, that's true in terms of the ETT team, as you mentioned, but you have to look at the bigger picture. The task of preparing for the end of the transition period is one that falls upon all parts of Government, and the truth is that the pressures of responding to COVID have had an impact on that. How have we responded to that? Well, by prioritising what we can do, those areas where we can have the greatest impact and those areas that are most important in terms of our priorities. So, we've had to be very disciplined in terms of emphasising those priorities, and that means that other things have to be deprioritised. We have been very flexible in distributing individuals among teams across Government to respond to this, and we've also distributed some of the work. We've managed to bring in some external resources where necessary and where possible, but we also have to consider the well-being of staff across Government to ensure that everyone receives the support that they need.
So, it hasn't been easy. It's not easy for any Government to deal with the challenge of responding to COVID whilst also responding to the end of the transition period. That's why we were calling on the UK Government to extend the negotiation period so that we could deal with these issues in turn and not to make the crisis worse by insisting on that end of this year date.
Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynna. Ateb cynhwysfawr. Jest i symud ymlaen i gwpwl o gwestiynau bach byr, efallai: allwch chi gadarnhau pryd y bydd y cynllun diwedd pontio yn cael ei gyhoeddi?
Thank you very much for that. A very comprehensive response. If I could just move on to some brief questions: can you confirm when the end of transition plan will be published?
Gallaf. Rwy'n disgwyl ei gyhoeddi fe wythnos nesaf. Roeddwn i wedi gobeithio gallu gwneud hynny ar ôl cael gwybodaeth am gytundeb, ond fydd hynny ddim yn bosib yn y dyddiau nesaf yma. Felly, wythnos nesaf, gobeithio.
Yes, we're expecting to publish it next week. I had hoped to do so having received information on an agreement, but that won't be possible during the next few days. But next week, hopefully.
Grêt. I symud ymlaen, a allwch chi ddiweddaru'r pwyllgor yma ar ganlyniad yr archwiliad o wefan Paratoi Cymru y cyfeirioch chi ato fo yn eich tystiolaeth ym mis Gorffennaf? Beth sy’n digwydd efo gwefan Paratoi Cymru?
Thank you. Moving on, therefore, can you update the committee on the outcome of the audit into the Preparing Wales website that you referred to in your evidence in July? What's happening with the Preparing Wales website?
Wel, ddigwyddodd hynny. Gwnaethpwyd y review ohono fe, yr awdit honno o'r wefan ar ôl i Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol hefyd ailwampio'u hadnoddau nhw ar gyfer diwedd y cyfnod pontio. Felly, rydyn ni'n cadw hynny nawr o dan drosolwg cyson i sicrhau bod lincs yn gweithio, ein bod ni'n cyfeirio at y pethau iawn ac ati.
Well, that review was undertaken. That audit was undertaken of the website, once the UK Government had also revised their resources for the end of the transition period. So, we are now keeping that under consistent oversight, to ensure that links are working and that everything else is working too.
Diolch yn fawr. Nawr, mae yna arolwg parodrwydd wedi cael ei gario allan gan y pwyllgor yma, sydd wedi cael lot o ymatebion, a dweud y gwir. Roedd bron i 76 y cant o'r ymatebwyr nad oeddent wedi cyrchu dim gwybodaeth a ddarparwyd gan Lywodraeth Cymru i'w helpu i baratoi am ddiwedd y flwyddyn, ac roedd bron i 53 y cant nad oeddent yn ymwybodol o'r wybodaeth a oedd ar gael. Felly, gaf i ofyn pa gamau y mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn eu cymryd i gyfleu'r wybodaeth sydd ar gael ganddi i'r cyhoedd ynghylch parodrwydd ar gyfer beth bynnag fydd yn digwydd ar 31 Rhagfyr?
Thank you very much. This committee has carried out a preparedness survey and we've had a number of responses. Nearly 76 per cent of respondents had not accessed any information by the Welsh Government to help them to prepare for the end of the year, and nearly 53 per cent were not aware of the information that was available. So, can I ask you what steps the Welsh Government is taking to communicate the information that is available to the public in terms of preparedness, whatever happens on 31 December?
Wel, yn anffodus, dwi ddim wedi fy synnu gan y canlyniad hwnnw. Mae pobl, wrth gwrs, a busnesau, sefydliadau ac ati wedi bod ymysg gwasgedd COVID, a hynny sydd wedi bod yn dominyddu, rwy'n credu, gofidiau pobl ar y cyfan. Dwi ddim yn credu bod gallu unrhyw Lywodraeth i bwysleisio yr hyn sy'n digwydd ar ddiwedd y flwyddyn hon wedi llwyddo i osgoi'r gwasgedd hwnnw, fel petai.
Beth ddywedwn i, o ran parodrwydd busnes, er enghraifft, yw bod comms—cyfathrebu—Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol wastad yn cael mwy o gyrhaeddiad ar draws y Deyrnas Gyfunol yn gyffredinol, a dim ond yn ddiweddar mae'r neges wedi newid o 'Dyma gyfle gwych' i 'Dyma fygythiad sydd rhaid i chi baratoi ar ei gyfer e.' Felly, mae hynny'n creu'r cyd-destun yn anffodus. Ond rwy'n credu, hyd yn oed gyda hynny, fod pobl wedi bod yn gofidio am eu hymateb bob dydd i COVID, yn hytrach nag edrych am wybodaeth am ddiwedd y cyfnod pontio, yn anffodus.
Well, unfortunately, I'm not surprised by those percentage figures. People, businesses and institutions have also been facing the pressures of COVID, and I think that's dominated people's thoughts. I don't think that any Governments ability to emphasise what's going to happen at the end of this year has actually overcome those COVID pressures.
Now, what I would say, in terms of business preparedness, for example, is that the UK Government's comms will always have a wider reach across the UK, and it's only recently that the message has changed from 'Well, this is a great opportunity' to 'This is a very real threat that you need to prepare for.' So, that creates the context, unfortunately. But I think, even given that, people have been concerned more about COVID than actually accessing information about the transition period at the end of the year, unfortunately.
Diolch yn fawr am hynna. Y cwestiwn olaf gennyf i, Cadeirydd, yn yr adran yma ydy un ynglŷn â'r un arolwg—yr un un arolwg â'r pwyllgor yma. Pan ofynnwyd i ymatebwyr eto a oedd y wybodaeth a ddarparwyd gan Lywodraeth Cymru i'w helpu i baratoi ar gyfer diwedd y cyfnod pontio yn ddefnyddiol, roedd bron 57 y cant o'r ymatebwyr naill ai'n anghytuno neu'n anghytuno'n gryf ei bod yn ddefnyddiol, tra bod 33 y cant yn cytuno neu'n cytuno'n gryf ei bod yn ddefnyddiol. Roedd 90 y cant o'r ymatebwyr hefyd yn credu bod angen gwella'r wybodaeth a ddarparwyd. Rydyn ni'n gwybod sut mae pobl yn ymateb i arolygon yn eithaf aml, ond a allaf ofyn i chi, sut ydych chi'n ymateb i'r canfyddiadau yma?
Thank you for that. The final question from me in this section, Chair, is on the same committee survey. When respondents were asked whether the information provided by the Welsh Government to help them prepare for the end of the transition period was helpful, nearly 57 per cent of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was helpful, while some 33 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that it was helpful. Ninety per cent of respondents also believed that the information provided needed to be improved. We know how people respond to surveys very often, but could I ask you, how would you respond to those findings?
Y cwestiwn yw beth yw 'defnyddiol', onid e? Os ydych chi'n gofyn am adnoddau sydd yn disgrifio i chi beth yw'r senario ar 1 Ionawr y flwyddyn nesaf, hynny yw dyna beth fyddai'r rhan fwyaf o bobl yn diffinio fel defnyddiol, wel, wrth gwrs, dŷn ni ddim yn y sefyllfa i allu gwneud hynny. Ar ddiwedd y dydd, mae gyda chi Lywodraeth yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol sydd yn gwybod manylion y trafodaethau yma, sy'n rhedeg y trafodaethau ac sy'n gorfod darparu adnoddau ar gyfer busnesau ar draws y Deyrnas Gyfunol sy'n cyfateb i'r hyn maen nhw'n gwybod eisoes. Nid ni yw'r Llywodraeth honno; Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol yw honno. Felly, mae'n rhaid sicrhau ein bod ni'n gallu pwyntio pobl tuag at yr adnoddau arbenigol hynny. Dyw'r wybodaeth ddim ar gael, Dai, ar hyn o bryd. Felly, rŷn ni'n gwneud y gorau gallwn ni yn y cyd-destun hwnnw.
The question is what you mean by 'helpful', isn't it? If you're asking for resources that describe to you what the scenarios are on 1 January next year, which is what most people would define as being helpful, well, of course, we're not in a position to do that. At the end of the day, you have a Government in the UK who know the details of the negotiations, who are actually running the negotiations and they have to provide resources for businesses across the UK that correspond to what they already know. We're not in that position, that's the UK Government. So, we must ensure that we can point people towards those specialist resources. The information isn't available at the moment, Dai. So, we're doing the best that we can in that context.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dai. Minister, I suppose part of the preparedness also is understanding perhaps how we can help businesses' knowledge and understanding of the ways in which operations and processes will take place following the end of the transition, and one example is the border operating model that we have all been waiting for and we know now was actually published on 8 October. We've also been told that that border operating model may well be regularly updated in that sense. So, I appreciate that what I'm asking you now is based upon what you know now and not what might be down the line, but, from you position, what are your considerations at the moment of the current iteration on the border operating model?
Well, just to say, Chair, what comes down the line ought to be something that we have an involvement in preparing in any case, given that we have major ports on our western seaboard.
Well, I would have asked that question—. That was one of my next questions.
Well, I'm happy to talk a bit more about that if you would find it helpful. But in terms of what we know, from the existing publication, at least, I think it is a broadly helpful document. I think, looking at it, bluntly, demonstrates the sheer complexity of our new arrangements, doesn't it? But with that caveat apart, it is helpful. I do think businesses should engage with it, should read it, should familiarise themselves with it. I think it is important to do that. I think it sets out clearly, if you like, within that complexity what needs to happen.
Can I therefore ask, since we've talked about it, as the iterations take place, what changes would you like to see to ensure that Welsh businesses and the Welsh ports are able to benefit from this model?
Well, we have managed to include a fair amount of additional information around sanitary and phytosanitary and around some of the concerns of our chief veterinary officer and so on. So, there have been—. If you look at the document now, our input into it has been reflected in the document. I suppose the two things that come to mind, really, are—I think, actually, there are some issues that we should put in there about trade in organic produce, for example, which is important to some exporters, but I think there's also a real gap now in understanding the Northern Ireland protocol and how that works for businesses in Wales, and I think that is going to be a key piece of guidance that businesses in Wales need to have. That clearly involves processes and new controls and so on that people are going to need to be able to prepare for. So, I think there's definitely more work that needs to come forward in that space, for sure.
What I hope, Chair, to close off the point I made in passing earlier, the history of this has been that we have had an opportunity to engage with the document, which is appropriate, but, frankly, generally speaking, with two or three working days' worth of involvement. It would be good, if this is going to be an iterative document—in a sense that I welcome that it would be—getting into a way of working where we're more integrated into that would be very helpful, I think.
In a previous answer you indicated that, clearly, you would encourage businesses to read the model and as iterations are coming through, and I appreciate that it is a UK-border operating model—. But the question I suppose I want to ask is what are you going to do to help businesses understand it? Because someone can read it, but it doesn't mean to say they understand it. So, how is the Welsh Government going to work with Welsh businesses to ensure they understand the model, so that, as we get ready for those exports, you are there giving help and assistance?
Well, we do a lot of work, Chair, through Business Wales, through working with sector bodies like the food and drink industry representation bodies, through chambers of commerce and so on to try and raise awareness of the changed landscape that lies ahead. We're doing a fair amount in terms of export support in particular, through the export hub. We've taken on international trade advisors that can provide a next tier of support, if you like, above Business Wales front-line support for those businesses who might need particular guidance to get through some of this. We've taken on new people to deliver that role, and that is a scalable offer from the Government's point of view. I will draw additional resources to expand that offer if demand merits it. So, we are taking some pretty proactive steps, I would say, to support exporters in particular to understand the new landscape and to take advantage of it, really, where that's an opportunity.
Okay. So, just to get—[Inaudible.]—you've actually taken on additional staff or additional expertise to be able to advise businesses in that sense. Can I ask, therefore—? I've seen quite a lot of UK Government adverts on television, for example, reminding people that 31 December is approaching—'Get yourselves ready.' Have you seen an increase in requests from Welsh businesses as a consequence of those advertisements and advertising?
I can't comment on what it's a consequence of, but I think there has been an uptake, though, Chair. I can't give you a sense of the scale of that directly, but there has been an uptake, which, obviously, we welcome, because one of the risks we all discuss frequently, including in committee discussions like this, is the low level of business awareness and preparedness. So, clearly, we absolutely welcome more people coming and knocking on our door and Business Wales's door for that, and that's actually why, as I was just saying in passing earlier, as well as having these additional advisors who are a second-tier support, or escalated support, there's also a means of accessing support outside of Government that would then be available to those businesses as they come through. I mean, actually, quite a lot of the contact and a lot of the need is served, we hope, by that first-tier engagement, but this additional resource now exists where the need is more complex, perhaps, for some of those exporters.
Many people would consider, perhaps, larger organisations, larger businesses being the main people involved in export, but, of course, a lot of small and medium-sized enterprises are involved in the export business. So, are you confident that you are addressing all the businesses, including the SMEs, to ensure that they have the right support as we come close to 31 December?
Well, SMEs play a significant part of the Welsh economy, as we know and, generally speaking, may be harder to reach, perhaps, for the reasons that you give, not least because of numbers but also spread. So, what we are doing is what is within our capacity to do, if you like. So, using the Business Wales website, using the regular newsletter that goes out from Business Wales to its contact base, using the Sell2Wales database to communicate with people. Ken Skates, the economy Minister, I think next week, if I'm not mistaken, is writing to all businesses with whom we have a relationship, to remind people that next week it will be basically 50 days until the end of the transition period. And people will be coming out of firebreak, so it just felt like the right time to do that. So, taking advantage of all of that, and obviously our social media and other channels. Also, working increasingly, I think, with business intermediaries—so lawyers, accountants and banks and so on—so that we get information to them that they can cascade to their client networks as well.
But we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge. It's common to all parts of the UK, and I think, at the heart of it—not to belabour the point, Chair—is that when you say to people, 'You need to prepare for the end of the year', obviously the next question that organisations and businesses under immense financial and resource pressure are going to ask is, 'What does that look like?' Today, there is not a clear answer that can be given. I just want to give that as context, really, because it does feed into, I think, what is a set of risk judgments that businesses are making about the extent to which they want to commit until they know what the picture looks like, and in a sense, that's hard to criticise.
I understand that, and I understand the situation; it's very difficult to identify where businesses may wish to expand and grow into because we don't know what the future land looks like. I'll bring you in now, Ed, in a minute. But it's also a question of continuing business as it is now, and we know that certain areas, for example the exports going into the EU, will have different controls upon them as of 1 January compared to what we'll have on 31 December, for example. So, I understand what you're saying, but there's also a continuation of where we are. Ed, did you want to come in on something?
I was just going to add one additional point just in addition to the advice that's going through Business Wales and the export advisers. There was also the funding that was made available through the third round of the economic resilience fund, which was a forward-looking business development grant scheme that was there to adjust to the challenges both of the pandemic but also looking forward to the challenges from EU transition issues. So, that funding was available up to £100 million through that phase to support businesses to meet some of those practical challenges. Like I say, even respecting that there is that uncertainty right now, there is that forward-looking piece to provide funding to support those challenges going forward.
You'll open up a can of worms if you're not careful. I understand the business development fund was oversubscribed and closed down very quickly. So, in that case, perhaps you could ask the question—. You might want to give us an indication—not now, but maybe in writing—as to how many businesses applied to that for that particular purpose. It would be helpful to understand that, perhaps.
Chair, can I just come in on that point? I think you make a very important point, but I think it illuminates a larger problem, which is that the resources available to the Welsh Government are not capable of addressing the concerns of all businesses in Wales to deal with the situation. This is part of the message we need to convey to people: it is not possible to mitigate the impacts. That's why we've been so keen to try and find ways of avoiding them. But we have been providing support. In fact, you'll recall last year when we were talking about the £9 million or £10 million—I can't remember what it was—from the European transition fund, which is going to businesses so that they can manage to diversify or to deal with these changing environments, really. But the point you make is actually right, Chair: the funding, whilst generous, simply is not going to be sufficient to meet the level of demand that this will create in the economy. Our view is that the UK Government needs to step in to provide an economic package across the UK to respond to that.
Thank you for that additional point. I want to come back a little bit, in a sense. I'll come back to this in a second. But linked to the exports, clearly, is the export health certificates, particularly with SMEs, again, which may be in relation to animal products or animals themselves. The stakeholders we've met with have given us some deep concerns over the capacity of the official veterinarians in relation to the offering of export health certificates. Where are we, and are you confident that there are sufficient veterinarians in Wales to be able to meet the needs of Welsh businesses in the export health certificates?
Well, Chair, I'm not surprised to hear the concerns that have been raised because it is a significant issue and there's certainly been increased demand. I think, in reality, it's hard to be certain, if you like, about the level of need for certification in the market because it's based on a set of assumptions. Of course, that trade currently isn't trade for which data is captured because it happens in a way that doesn't require certification. So, where the information exists is within businesses, and, to that extent, is commercially sensitive. So, it's actually not possible to be certain about the level of demand, but it is true to say that there is an issue here in terms of capacity. It's not, I'm afraid, confined to Wales; it's also true in other parts of the UK. We are trying to do what we can to mitigate it. Some of that is about funding training for official vets, creating a certified support officer-type role, which can provide some ancillary support, if you like. But each of these judgments effectively involve diverting vets—and we all know from other discussions how much pressure there is on that profession in Wales—to do other work, so there's a very difficult judgment to be reached there. But there is a work stream between ourselves, DEFRA, local government, the FSA and others to try and find mitigations for this. So, that may be about sharing resources across different local authority areas and so on. So there's some imaginative thinking going on to recognise that there is certainly an issue here across the UK.
I appreciate the imaginative thinking going on, particularly with environmental health officers, because clearly, with COVID-19 as well, there's a huge increase in demand upon those officers within local authorities. So, I do hope that perhaps we look very carefully at how we can balance that workload as well at this point in time. It's slowly getting to a perfect storm, in one sense, where lots of things are coming together on 1 January. The Welsh Fishermen’s Association also know that the majority of Welsh seafood is exported during what is deemed 'out of hours', not the normal nine to five on a Monday to Friday. So, in a sense, I suppose they want to have confirmation that this role will not be a nine-to-five, Monday to Friday-type role and that it will be covering all the week so that products can go, because they can't afford to wait two days before they can go. So perhaps you could give us an update on where that's going.
That's part of the thing I mentioned earlier about the discussions between DEFRA and local authorities. Essentially, the deployment is an operational question for local authority colleagues. Not to minimise it, by the way, because it's a significant issue, but those are the kinds of issues that we're trying to work through, really, with colleagues, in terms of practical responses to that.
Okay. I'll go back now to the ports agenda. Because when we had stakeholders in, they informed us of the possibility of development, or sites being developed, near ports to undertake some of this work—at Holyhead and somewhere in Pembrokeshire for both Fishguard and Pembroke Dock. The UK Government on behalf of England have actually introduced changes to planning laws to allow them to take decisions and not local authorities, to speed up the process. Is the Welsh Government looking at similar situations, so it can actually—? Because you're going to have two sites in Wales, so are you looking at speeding up the planning process for these two sites by taking responsibilities under the Welsh Government rather than local authorities for these planning applications?
There will need to be inland sites. I'm happy to talk more about those if you would find it helpful.
Yes, we would.
There will be timelines that are punishing and that raise a serious delivery risk just in terms of the time frames involved. That's partly because of the late point at which we've been engaged in the process. Having said that, we are now engaged in the process, and there is a much better rhythm of engagement with the UK Government on much of this, at both inter-ministerial level through XO meetings and at official level, specific to this but also in the portfolio board meetings more broadly. On the planning point specifically, I think you're talking about the special development Order that the UK Government has brought in for England. That isn't the intention of the Welsh Government. Essentially, what the SDO does is to circumvent the need to deal with local authorities; that's bluntly what it does. We think in fact we can probably make faster progress by working with local authorities and actually we are doing that effectively, I would say, at the moment. There are some other limitations in the SDO model. I think I'm right in saying—perhaps someone could correct me if I'm wrong—that it's not appropriate for where you have sites that require environmental investigation, environmental impact assessments, for example, so it isn't the panacea, perhaps, that it appears to be on the surface. It's the choice the UK Government's making for England, and that's up to them, but we think we can work with local authorities to deliver this in a very collaborative way. I just want to be clear, though, Chair: we are talking about extremely punishing timelines in terms of planning and in terms of construction.
And have you identified those sites yet?
In the north, HMRC are leading on the development there. As you may know, it's intended to be a multifunctional site that is inland. It would deal both with border checks from the HMRC perspective, but also SPS controls, which are obviously devolved to Welsh Ministers. They, generally speaking, won't come into effect until next July, whereas the customs checks obviously come in on 1 January. So, we're working together with the UK Government on that site. They will lead on the contracting, and we're obviously working as a partner in that. I would say, at this point now, we are making pretty—in the last few weeks we've made pretty fast progress in terms of identifying two sites, which are the subject of commercial negotiations, Chair, at the moment. But there are two sites in scope. And then the task will be, obviously, to reach a commercial agreement when one site has been decided upon, get the planning under way and then construction in due course. So, there's an inland site there for north Wales, for Holyhead.
There's then the question of a site that, as you say, is for the south-west Wales ports. That is not as advanced, partly because it has not been as clear until recently whether the UK Government has needed to have an inland site. It now appears to be the case that they do not, and so the Welsh Government will lead on a site for the south-west Wales ports. It's also been dependent on progress in north Wales in terms of contracting of that site, because we're using the same contractors and the same structures actually. But work is under way. There are a number of sites that have been identified, but it hasn't been narrowed down in the way that we've been able to narrow it down in north Wales. But we are working as quickly as our late engagement in the process allows, and working together with the local authorities, obviously, in relation to that.
You have indicated that there are time pressures upon you a consequence, and I understand, of course, we are basically less than two months away from 1 January. I suppose the question is: if you're going to the south-west at a later date, because of what's happening in the north, is that going to have an impact upon the ports in the south-west?
Just to be clear, Chair, neither the north site nor the south-west Wales site—the SPS aspect of it—will be delivered by 1 January, because it isn't required by 1 January, but there will need to be HMRC controls, obviously, for that date. They'll be delivered, as we understand it, in port for ports in the south-west, and there'll be other arrangements made in relation to Holyhead. So, that is where we are, effectively. From an SPS point of view, the most relevant timeline is July of next year, and when I say to you that the delivery timetables are punishing, I mean they're punishing to hit that deadline, not 1 January. So, just to give it a sense of context. But we are, I think, in a much better way of working together now in terms of the Governments, local government, port authorities and so on. So, that's moving forward.
Thank you. Dai Lloyd.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. Troi rŵan at fasnach ryngwladol—a llongyfarchiadau ar ehangu eich cyfrifoldebau i'r maes yma. Allaf i ofyn yn y lle cyntaf i gael eich ymateb chi i'r cytundeb partneriaeth economaidd cynhwysfawr rhwng y Deyrnas Unedig a Japan, ac effaith hwn ar Gymru?
Thank you very much, Chair. Turning now to international trade—and congratulations on the expansion of your responsibilities into this area. Can I first of all ask for your response to the UK-Japan comprehensive economic partnership agreement and its impact on Wales?
Rwy'n croesawu, wrth gwrs, y datganiad ddiwedd fis diwethaf gan yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol dros fasnach bod y cytundeb wedi ei gytuno. Mae e on course, fel petai, i gael ei gymeradwyo erbyn y diwedd y flwyddyn a dod mewn i effaith, felly mae hynny, wrth gwrs, yn beth positif. Mae'n caniatáu estyniad i fusnes presennol, wrth gwrs; dyna'r prif impact. Ar hyn o bryd, rydw i, wrth gwrs, yn bwriadu cyhoeddi dadansoddiad economaidd o impact y cytundeb ar Gymru. Bydd hwnnw'n seiliedig ar y cyfan ar waith mae Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol wedi'i gomisiynu o ran modelu economaidd ac ati gan bobl y tu allan i'r Llywodraeth, ond byddwn ni'n cyhoeddi fersiwn o hwnnw sy'n seiliedig ar hwnnw yma i Gymru. Ar y cyfan, mae'n haws modelu effaith tollau nag yw e effaith newidiadau sydd ddim yn berthnasol i dollau, oherwydd mae'n fwy pendant, mae'n fwy sicr. Ac ar y cyfan, mae'r berthynas o ran tollau nawr yn un eithaf positif beth bynnag, wrth gwrs. Felly, pan welwch y dadansoddiad, byddwch chi'n gweld hynny rwy'n credu—ei fod e'n haws i ddadansoddi'r impact o ran tollau nag yw e y manteision eraill. Ond, yn sicr, mae manteision eraill yn y cytundeb hefyd i Gymru.
I welcome the statement made at the end of the last month by the Secretary of State for trade that the agreement had been signed. It's on course to be approved by the end of the year and will come into effect, and that's positive, of course. It allows an extension to current business; that's the main impact of it. Of course, we do intend to publish an economic impact analysis of the agreement on Wales, and that will be mostly based on work commissioned by the UK Government on economic modelling and so on. That's been done by people outwith Government, but we will publish a version pertinent to Wales based on that. Generally speaking, it's easier to model the impact of tariffs rather than changes that are non-tariff, because there are more assurances. And generally speaking, that relationship is quite positive already. So, when you see the analysis, you will see it reflected, I think, that it's easier to look at the impact in terms of tariffs and tolls, rather than the other aspects. But certainly, there are other benefits to Wales too.
Diolch yn fawr. Allwch chi ddiweddaru'r pwyllgor ar y cynnydd a wnaed fel rhan o'r rhaglen trafod a chydgysylltu parhad masnach, a pha gamau y mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn eu cymryd i baratoi busnesau sy'n masnachu efo gwledydd lle na fydd cytundeb parhad ar waith cyn diwedd y cyfnod pontio?
Thank you very much. Can you also provide an update to the committee on the progress made as part of the continuity negotiations and co-ordination programme, and what actions the Welsh Government is taking to prepare businesses who trade with countries where continuity agreements will not be in place before the end of the transition period?
Mae 22 o gytundebau eisoes wedi'u cytuno gyda rhyw 51 o wledydd, ac mae, dwi'n credu, 17 ar ôl i'w cytuno. Y rhai pwysicaf o'n safbwynt ni fel gwlad yw'r rhai gyda Canada, Twrci a Norwy. Mae swyddogion yn yr adran yn cael diweddariadau cyson ynglŷn â statws y trafodaethau hynny. O'm safbwynt ni, beth yw'r cynllun os na fydd y rheini yn dod i fwcwl? Wel, os byddwn ni'n cael gwybodaeth bod hynny'n digwydd, mae'r timau rhanbarthol economaidd sydd gyda ni, a'r timau allforio yr ydym ni wedi bod yn sôn amdanyn nhw eisoes, yn barod, yn sicr, yn gyflym, i gysylltu gyda'r busnesau ŷn ni eisoes yn gwybod sydd yn fwyaf exposed i'r marchnadoedd hynny i, felly, eu cefnogi nhw. Fel y gwnes i sôn i'r cwestiwn gyda David Rees yn gynharach, mae'r cynghorwyr masnach ryngwladol rheini ar gael hefyd i gydweithio â'r busnesau yna i allu ymateb i'r sefyllfa honno os daw i ddigwydd.
There are 22 agreements already agreed with some 51 nations; I think there are 17 remaining. The most important from our perspective as a nation are those with Canada, Turkey and Norway. Officials within the department receive regular updates on the status of those negotiations. From our perspective, what's the plan if they're not delivered? Well, if we receive that information, the regional economic teams that we have and the export teams that I've already mentioned are ready to quickly contact the businesses that we already know are most exposed to those markets in order to provide support. As I mentioned in response to David Rees's question earlier, the international trade advisers are also available to work with those businesses in order to respond to that situation if it does come about.
Diolch yn fawr am hynna. Allwch chi gadarnhau pa ymateb y mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi'i gael gan Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i'w llythyr a anfonwyd ar 23 Medi ynghylch y grŵp cynghori ar fasnach, TAG, y grŵp cynghori ar fasnach strategol, a'r Comisiwn Masnach ac Amaeth? Pa ymateb ydych chi wedi'i gael oddi wrth Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig?
Thank you very much for that. Can you confirm what response the Welsh Government has received from the UK Government to its letter sent on 23 September regarding the trade advisory group, TAG, the strategic trade advisory group, and the Trade and Agriculture Commission? What response have you received from the UK Government?
Dwi wedi cael ymateb yng nghanol y mis diwethaf yn rhoi diweddariad ar ddelio â rhanddeiliad allanol, mewn ymateb i lythyr a ysgrifennwyd gan Eluned Morgan, wrth gwrs. Mae'r llythyr yn disgrifio sefydliad grŵp cynghori undebau llafur newydd, ac aelodaeth ehangach ar gyfer y grŵp strategol. Maen nhw'n cynnwys ystod ehangach o sectorau nag oedd yn wir cyn hynny. Mae hefyd yn sôn am gyhoeddi cofnod o drafodaethau STAG, fel bod hynny yn gyhoeddus hefyd.
I received a response in the middle of last month providing an update on dealing with external stakeholders, in response to a letter written by Eluned Morgan, of course. The letter describes the establishment of a new trade unions advisory group, and broader membership for the strategic group. They include a broader range of sectors than was the case prior to that. It also mentions publication of the minutes of the STAG, so that that would also be publicly available too.
Diolch, ac ar gefn hynny allwch chi gadarnhau a ydych chi wedi derbyn sicrwydd y bydd swyddogion Llywodraeth Cymru yn cael eu gwahodd i arsylwi yng nghyfarfodydd y grŵp cynghori ar fasnach, TAG, neu a fydd cofnodion y cyfarfodydd hynny yn cael eu rhannu efo Llywodraeth Cymru?
Thank you, and in addition to that can you confirm whether you have received assurances that Welsh Government officials will be invited to observe TAG meetings, or if minutes of those meetings will be shared with the Welsh Government?
Wel, dwi ddim wedi cael cadarnhad y bydd swyddogion yn cael gwahoddiad i arsylwi, na chwaith y byddwn yn cael copi o'r cofnodion, yn anffodus. Mae cyfarfod wythnos nesaf, dwi'n credu, ddydd Llun nesaf gyda Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol, i drafod sut, ar y cyd, ŷn ni'n delio â rhanddeiliad allanol, fel ein bod ni'n gallu cael rhyw elfen o gydweithredu ar hynny. Felly, byddwn ni'n defnyddio'r cyfle hwnnw eto i wthio am bresenoldeb swyddogion yn y trafodaethau hynny, fel eu bod nhw'n gallu arsylwi.
Well, I've not received confirmation that officials will be invited to observe, neither have I received confirmation that we will receive a copy of the minutes. There is to be a meeting next week, next Monday, I believe, with the UK Government to discuss how we jointly deal with external stakeholders, so that we can have some element of collaboration on that. So, we will take that opportunity once again to push for observer status for officials so that they can oversee the process.
Diolch yn fawr. Cwestiwn ar yr un un maes, yn sylfaenol: a allech chi gadarnhau a ydych chi wedi derbyn sicrwydd gan Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig eto y bydd unrhyw argymhellion a wneir gan Gomisiwn Masnach ac Amaeth Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig wedi eu haneli at Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig ar faterion a gedwir yn ôl—hynny yw, reserved—yn unig?
Thank you. On the same theme, can you confirm whether you have received assurances from the UK Government that any recommendations made by the Trade and Agriculture Commission of the UK Government will be aimed at the UK Government on matters that are reserved only?
Eto, dwi ddim wedi cael y cadarnhad hwnnw. Dyna wrth gwrs yw ein safbwynt ni fel Llywodraeth, mai dyna'r cwmpas priodol ar gyfer gwaith y comisiwn. Doedd y llythyr roeddwn i'n sôn amdano fe, er enghraifft, ddim yn ateb y pwynt wnaethom ni ei godi yn y cyd-destun hwnnw. Rŷch chi wedi gweld, wrth gwrs, fod bwriad gan Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol i ddodi'r comisiwn ar sail statudol, ac felly dwi'n bwriadau ysgrifennu at Greg Hands yn y dyddiau nesaf i sicrhau ein bod ni'n cael yr addewid bod y strwythur newydd honno yn ffocysu ar faterion sydd wedi eu cadw nôl. Mae gwelliant wedi dod ymlaen hefyd i'r Bil Amaeth, sydd yn golygu bod rôl gan y comisiwn mewn adroddiadau sy'n mynd o flaen y Senedd yn San Steffan. Rwy'n gwybod bod Lesley Griffiths, y Gweinidog amaeth, wedi bod mewn cysylltiad â Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol i sicrhau mai jest rôl ffeithiol fydd honno, yn gyntaf, a hefyd ei bod yn gyfyngedig i faterion sydd wedi eu cadw yn ôl.
Again, I've not received that confirmation. Of course, that is our view as a Government, that that should be the appropriate scope of the work of the commission. The letter I mentioned, for example, didn't respond to the point that we raised in that context. You will have seen, of course, that there is an intention from the UK Government to place the commission on a statutory basis, and therefore I intend to write to Greg Hands over the next few days to ensure that we receive an assurance that the new structure will focus on issues that are reserved. An amendment has been tabled to the Agriculture Bill too, which would mean that the commission would have a role in reports placed before the Westminster Parliament. I know that Lesley Griffiths, the agriculture Minister, has been in touch with the UK Government to ensure that this is only on factual issues and that it is restricted to those reserved issues alone.
Diolch yn fawr am hynna. Y cwestiwn olaf gennyf i heddiw, Gadeirydd, ydy: allwch chi, i orffen, amlinellu, Gweinidog, pa mor aml y mai grŵp cynghori polisi masnach Llywodraeth Cymru yn cwrdd, ac a oes bwriad i gyhoeddi cofnodion cyfarfodydd y grŵp yna?
Thank you for that. One final question from me, Chair: could you, Minister, outline how often the Welsh Government's trade policy advisory group meets and is there any intention to publish the minutes of the group's meetings?
Maen nhw'n cwrdd mor aml ag sydd angen, o leiaf tair gwaith y flwyddyn. Mae'r cyfarfod nesaf, sef fy nghyfarfod cyntaf i, yn mynd i fod ym mis Ionawr rhywbryd—dwi ddim yn gwybod beth yw'r dyddiad, ond ym mis Ionawr rhywbryd—a’r bwriad yw y bydd cofnod o’r drafodaeth a bydd hwnnw’n mynd ar wefan Llywodraeth Cymru.
They meet as often as necessary, at least three times a year. The next meeting, which will be my first meeting, will be at some point in January—I'm not sure of the date, but it will be in January—and the intention is that there will be a minute of that discussion and it'll be on the Welsh Government's website.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dai. Minister, before I move on to the next set of questions, on the continuity agreements that were being mentioned, you mentioned Turkey being one of interest to us as a nation. I suppose I’m picking on this—. Have you had discussions with the UK Government, because that’s an odd one in one sense, because Turkey is a member of the customs union? Whereas other nations might be third country nations and, therefore, the customs agenda is part and parcel of the agreement, but with Turkey being a member of the customs union of the EU, there’s going to be, actually, a difference in the way in which that’s approached. Have you had discussions with UK Government Ministers in relation to how they’re addressing that aspect?
Well, Chair, my emerging into my new responsibilities hasn’t quite reached that level, yet. So, I will ask Emily, if I may, to perhaps help us with that, if you don’t mind.
Not at all.
We have had discussions with the UK Government about all CNC programme countries, but they have been fairly broad in scope. I think we have touched on the complexities of Turkey, particularly because of the customs union point, but I don’t believe that we’ve gone into a lot of detail on it.
Okay. But it’s something that you are aware of and will be ensuring that, if it’s a nation of interest to us, we ensure that it’s done to our benefit, in one sense, and that that type of thing isn’t going to damage us.
We’ll keep pushing UK Government.
Thank you. We’ll move on to common frameworks now and Alun Davies.
Thank you. I’m grateful to you for that. Minister, one of the issues that we’ve been trying to chase, if you like, over the last period has been how the process of creating common frameworks is being pursued by both the Welsh Government and the United Kingdom Government and where that fits into other processes that have been, in some cases, running parallel to it, and in other cases, cutting across it.
One of the things I think would be useful is if we could take stock, to some extent, this afternoon, of where we are and where you think we’re going. So, it’d be useful for us to understand first of all, in terms of that taking stock: where do you think we are today? How many provisional frameworks will be published for scrutiny by the end of the year? Are we where you’d anticipate being? Are we ahead or behind? Are you comfortable with where we are? Do you think that the approach that’s being taken at the moment, both in Cardiff and in London, is one that is reasonable and going to take us in the direction we need to go?
Yes, I’m happy to give an update on that, Chair, obviously. The big picture, of course, is that, obviously, we are behind where we’d hoped to be, but we’ve discussed that in the past, if you like. So, we anticipate that there’ll be three—or four, hopefully—provisional frameworks published for scrutiny by the end of the year: emissions trading system, nutrition, hazardous substances and, hopefully, the food and feed safety and hygiene provisional framework, as well. So, they will be available for scrutiny to start, if you like, before the end of the year. We are still expecting that all other frameworks will have framework outline agreements in place by the end of the year.
In a scenario in which that might—if that doesn’t happen, for example, we still anticipate that it will, but if it doesn’t happen, we will operate an interim arrangement probably based on ministerial correspondence, which, obviously, will be public. But we don’t anticipate needing to do that at this point. So, the plan with those frameworks is still that there’ll be ministerial agreement on a provisional basis, if you like. They’ll be operable in that draft form, but they won’t obviously be a framework until they’ve gone through scrutiny, which will be next year. But that’s the current state of play.
In terms of where we are on relations and co-operation around them, I would say that that’s in a positive place. Things had slowed down in some areas, bluntly, but that seems to be picking up again, now. So I think as we get into some of the more granular questions, there are areas where people are saying, 'Well, heavens, can we agree this?' but none of that has yet caused a disruption that can't be managed, if I can put it like that.
It's quite often the case that the need for that granular conversation actually does focus minds, and, actually, ironically, improves some difficult relationships, and I'm grateful to you for that. I think the three or four that you've described are all critical and, in some ways, in terms of animal feeds and the rest of it, should be relatively straightforward, although the ETS stuff, maybe, is far more policy rich, if you like, and requires probably some greater debate. Does the Welsh Government—? I presume the Welsh Government is ensuring that there is sufficient time for both scrutiny and debate about these things, because, you know, if you're looking at an ETS framework, that is a really important thing and we can't simply be rushed to a conclusion on that.
Oh, no. Indeed, we are happy to be led by the legislature's demands in terms of scrutiny. Obviously, as I say, there will be three that will come out for scrutiny at the end of this year. I've been invited to give evidence to the House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee if it comes in next week or the week after. So, that process has started in some legislatures already. As I say, the intention is still to deliver that by the end of the year. There will be a supplementary set of documents that go alongside them as well, which is a set of concordats that, essentially, have a more detailed level of inter-governmental arrangements around dispute avoidance and that sort of thing, really, and generally about the governance of them, but that's working to the same time frame.
Thank you for that. It would be useful, Minister, if you're providing written evidence to the House of Lords that you could provide the committee with a copy of that written evidence. I think Members would find that very interesting and useful. I'm grateful to you for that.
In answering those questions, you seem to be saying—and correct me if I've misunderstood you—that the interim frameworks, where there are no provisional frameworks in place, will be covered by ministerial correspondence to ensure that there is a level of cover for those areas during that period.
Well, that's not even plan B, really; that is a fallback if we need it. But part of the reason, bluntly, to be direct about it, is that, in our discussions with the UK Government, we wanted to be very clear that we felt—and it's a position that the Scottish Government also shares—that we would want to operate whatever was in place by the end of this year, because we felt that was a better basis for moving forward, really, that we will make progress in relation to all of these, as I say, even the ones that don't—. Well, if there are ones that don't get over the line as a framework outline agreement, there will be substantial progress for those discussions, so it's a question of capturing that and operating it. The whole point, if you like, about common frameworks, even when they're concluded, is that they are nimble and evolving and capable of responding. That's at the heart of it, really.
But in terms of democratic accountability and scrutiny, it also needs to be a framework within which that policy work continues, to enable scrutiny to take place and to enable Government, as well, to understand what its commitments are. In terms of those wider commitments, I understand that the United Kingdom Government's new framework analysis states that legislative frameworks that link to these matters must link to primary legislation being developed for the end of the transition period.
Well, I think—
Is that your understanding?
Well, my understanding is, and this is the case, that some frameworks require legislation, or elements of legislation, and some don't. So, we've described from the start, really, non-legislative and legislative frameworks. So, not all of them, anyway, need legislation; the ones that do—I think I'm right in saying, so if you will remind me if I'm wrong—but I think the discussions around fisheries led to aspects of the Fisheries Bill being part of the legislative solution to some aspects of that. But the point about the time frame is that it isn't necessarily linked to the end of transition, because these are, as I've just said, really, in a different context, evolving things, aren't they? So, they're capable of being able to pick up that legislative underpinning at any future point, really.
So, there would be, for argument's sake, no requirement for the Welsh Government to present primary legislation to the Senedd in this period—[Inaudible.]—Government's view at all. But there may well be some elements of secondary legislation that would be required in order to give legislative life to these matters. You've indicated fisheries. Wearing different hats, of course, as we do in these matters, it would certainly be my expectation that secondary legislation would be affirmative legislation, or taken forward under the affirmative process and subject to scrutiny by the Senedd. Yes, okay.
At this point in time, Chair, we're not in a position—. Identifying the legislative outturns of the common frameworks, I can't today give you a list of those, because some of them are obvious, some are less obvious, really. But I can certainly recognise the point that you're making about the need for a proper Senedd voice in these things.
I'm a victim of a decade on the relevant committees, and you're hardwired, as soon as a Minister says such a thing to you, to ask those questions. In terms of where we are, taking this forward, you mentioned the nutrition framework. My understanding is that that includes text that is yet to be agreed on the internal market and international obligations. Are there any disagreements over these matters for other frameworks?
Well, there are two aspects of language that are currently still being discussed in that way, which are cross-cutting, really, or potentially cross-cutting, at least. One is the international obligations language. That's made progress, basically, so there's language that I think is pretty close to agreement, basically, so that will then apply both in that framework and in any other where it's relevant, so I think, in that issue, that will be solved.
In relation to the internal markets aspect, that, obviously, is picked up in a number of frameworks as well. Needless to say, that is much more contentious for reasons that this committee will understand very well. So, that obviously isn't resolved, because we have a different view of what the Bill should be doing. It's important, but it is that issue, if you like, that is unresolved.
I'm interested in that relationship between the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill—and we're going to come on to that now in a moment—and the place of the common frameworks. The Minister may remember from our previous exchanges that I'm concerned to have an overall legislative framework for these common frameworks, because that enables scrutiny and accountability to take place and for the frameworks to operate on a statutory basis, but I wouldn't have chosen the internal markets Bill to do that, clearly, and I don't think the Minister would have either. I think it's the most dangerous piece of constitutional trash I've come across in my time in politics. It is what it is; there's no point exercising that now. Do you believe that the internal market Bill is going to make it more or less difficult for us to reach agreement on common frameworks and the understanding of what those common frameworks are? Does it mean that the work that, as you said earlier, has been moving forward in a very positive way is going to be disrupted by the internal market Bill?
Well, the amendments that we've put forward as a Government are designed to turn the presumption of the Bill on its head, if you like. So, the point you identify in your question is exactly the mischief, if you like, that our amendments are designed to solve, in which, as you say, you start with the common frameworks, they've got dispute-resolution mechanisms, they've got a flexibility in them, they will deliver an internal market. If that has failed, then there is a statutory backstop, if you like, in very narrow areas, that needs to be switched on specifically by Parliament—there's a regulation-making power that's subject to court oversight in the usual way, so the usual range of constitutional protections consistent with the kind of constitution that we have.
But the point about what the Bill does to the frameworks in its current form is very much more thorny, isn't it, because the Bill provides a mechanism by which the UK Government doesn't need to continue engaging on the frameworks, really, because it has this ace card in its back pocket, if I can put it in that way, and we think that will be profoundly the wrong outcome, which is why we've objected to the Bill in the way that it's been drafted from the very start. It's heavy handed, and it's not necessary to repeat the points I've made before. So, does it make it more difficult to agree them? I think it probably does, actually, yes, in that sense, because it doesn't incentivise the UK Government to continue in the way that it has. I very much hope the UK Government will continue to do that, because we've been able to point to the common frameworks area throughout, haven't we, as an area where there's been good inter-governmental working, broadly speaking.
But it also breaks the fundamental nature of the relationship between the constituent parts of the state—the UK. I've just done an interview with the BBC where they pointed out all the members there are of Yes Cymru who now live in Blaenau Gwent, and who I represent. You can't blame people for saying, frankly, 'This isn't a state that takes any interest in me and where I am, and the place that I live in and bring up my children', and the rest of it; they're interested in exercising political power that is derived from other people elsewhere. It's an incredibly destructive approach, I'm sure you'd agree, anyway. What do you think is the consequence of the internal market Bill and the political debate around it for our relationships and for our ability to run common frameworks in a way that is rooted in mutual respect for mandates and for democratic scrutiny, because I'm not sure it leaves me in a very comfortable place?
Nor me, and the Bill as currently drafted plainly makes almost no concession to those priorities; it does the opposite, doesn't it? So, the point of our amendment is to try and rescue the Bill from itself, really, and to say, 'There is a means by which this could be relevant in very narrow, given circumstances', but you get to that point when you've exhausted the process of engaging as a Government should engage, in a relationship of parity and respect, and constructively. So, the fact the Bill doesn't start from that point is indication enough, it seems to me, that that isn't the top priority of the Government in bringing it forward, and I think, in more reflective moments, it's immensely frustrating, quite honestly, because there is such an obviously available alternative that we can point to as having demonstrated progress. So, if you're looking at it from a benign point of view, in a context of frustration, that is your answer, but there's a political context to it as well, which, as you say, is antagonistic to the devolution settlement at the very least.
Chair, we're wandering into an afternoon's discussion on the internal market Bill, a post-lunch discussion, possibly, but I'll leave it at that. I'm grateful to the Minister.
Well, you might wish to come back, because we are moving into the internal market Bill, and that's the next set of questions, from Huw Irranca-Davies. So, Huw.
Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon, Minister. I've got some detailed questions that I want to go through with you on the internal market Bill, but just picking up for a moment on the thrust of Alun's last questions, we've been doing so much—this committee has been doing so much, the Welsh Government has been doing so much—on common frameworks over the last year or so, and then we had this Bill come along. Is there anything more that you want to reflect on as to why this Bill suddenly appears in the form that it is? It seems to me, as a humble committee member, to almost negate much of the work we've been doing on common frameworks and the scrutiny we've been giving to common frameworks. It pretty much puts—well, I hesitate to say it—two fingers up to that work and says the UK Government has decided on a quite different approach. Am I wrong?
I'll answer that this way, if I may, Huw—whatever happens to the Bill, we obviously very much hope that the UK Government will respond to the very widespread criticism that it has received, not only from amongst the devolved Governments, where perhaps people might anticipate the criticism to come from because they're affected so directly, but also from the very broad coalition of opposition in the House of Lords, for example, from politicians, from crossbench peers, former judges, bishops, archbishops, and so on. There’s a very broad range of opposition, and the UK Government, obviously I hope, will respond to that. That’s what a wise Government would do. But wherever this Bill ends up, there is going to need to be a set of discussions between the Governments on an ongoing basis to take forward something like a common frameworks programme. Now, clearly, doing that against the backdrop of a Bill that, as I say, has an ace in the back pocket if you don’t like how the discussions are going, is going to be very much more difficult, but we must not allow that to take away from the obligation, I would say, on the UK Government to engage constructively in that.
Thank you, Minister. When you mentioned there that you’re hopeful that the UK Government will listen to, as you said, the very strong representations and some really well-focused amendments being put down in the House of Lords on the Bill, are you saying that you’re hopeful because you’re genuinely hopeful and that you have some reason to hope that the UK Government is willing to shift on some of these key amendments, some of which I’ll come to in a moment, or is it just a form of words? We often say, ‘We’re hopeful that the UK Government will listen.’ Is this realistic?
Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word. I am hopeful, but it’s based upon—. I certainly have not had assurance from the UK Government that they intend to take forward any of our amendments. But, having said that, there has been, certainly at official level, what feels to us to be constructive engagement in why we’ve put forward these amendments, how they would work if they were taken forward, what the detail of them means. But I can absolutely not say to you that that has led to an assurance that any of them are going to be certainly approved or even taken forward in a different form. I’m not in a position to give you that assurance, because I haven’t received it.
Okay. Thank you. One further question before I go on to some detailed points. Let me be for a moment a UK Government Conservative Minister, who says to you, as they’ve said, ‘We absolutely accept the principles of the Sewel convention. We absolutely accept the principle that we shouldn’t normally be doing things of this nature because we’d want consent from the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Assembly, and so on, but this is exceptional; this is one of those exceptions. Taking down these powers from the EU is exceptional.’ Are they right?
No. I don’t think they are right. I think they would struggle very much to justify this being exceptional. We received, and we’ve discussed in this committee previously, the correspondence that came from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the EU exit Minister at the time in the UK Government, which was very clear, in different formulations but essentially the principle was that these are unique circumstances. This was back in the early part of this year, when the three devolved legislatures withheld their consent to the withdrawal agreement Bill. Now, if that is to mean something, it can’t simply be applied whenever there’s an inconvenient risk of a legislature opposing a piece of legislation.
We have argued, and your question cuts to the heart of this, that if the Sewel convention—. Well, the Sewel convention needs reform, plainly, and the sorts of circumstances, if it’s to continue having this ‘not normally’ concept at the heart of it, is that that needs to be understood. It needs to be clear when that applies and when it doesn’t apply. And that’s the least of it, it seems to me, in terms of reform. I, myself, would argue for the language to be ‘never’, rather than ‘not normally’. There’s definitely a discussion to be had around that, it seems to me. But we cannot and should not be in a position where this is a speculative endeavour, frankly, as to whether the convention is going to lead to legislation being taken forward in the teeth of the withholding of consent by a devolved legislature.
Thank you, Minister. Let’s try to rattle through some really detailed questions here, in respect of the internal market Bill. First of all, can you confirm that it is the Welsh Government’s view that no provisions in the Bill as drafted increase the competence of Welsh Ministers or the Senedd?
That’s correct. It does not increase the competence of Welsh Ministers, and it has an adverse impact on the competence of the Senedd, because it’s a protected enactment, which prevents the Senedd—. Well, it does it in two ways: apart from the hollowing-out arrangement, it specifically changes the devolution settlement in relation to subsidies and state aid. So, that’s a new reservation. And secondly, it will be a protected enactment, which means the Senedd will not be able to amend any provision of it.
By the way, I recommend to the committee, if it’s not yet had a chance to read it, the report from a range of academics, which deals with the devolution consequences of the Bill and, in relation to this point, describes the asymmetrical impact of it. So, for the Government of the UK, on behalf of England, effectively, it will not be a protected enactment, because Parliament is able to override that, but, for the devolved legislatures, it will be, and therefore puts us at a disadvantage.
That's very clear. Are you aware, Minister, of any legal, constitutional, academic experts or anybody else, apart from the odd UK Government Minister, who argues contrary to that point that you've just made?
Well, I myself haven't come across that analysis.
Okay. Thank you. If the Bill does become law, could you set out your views on how the provisions in Parts 1 to 4 of the Bill will affect any legislative programmes in the sixth Senedd?
The legislative programmes of the sixth Senedd will be for the new Government in the new Senedd, obviously, but, having made that point, I think there are two aspects to this, really. Apart from the point that I've just made about the change in competence, there will be, if this Bill is passed and becomes law, a range of areas where the formal competence of the Senedd hasn't been diminished expressly, but the capacity of the Senedd to make that law enforceable on the ground in Wales has been removed, and then it will be in a position where it can pass laws but it cannot effect them on the ground. It could against Welsh producers, by the way, but not against producers from other parts of the UK. So, there's an inherent imbalance in that in its own terms. So, that is the hollowing out that we've talked about. It's absolutely—it's a very serious risk, though, isn't it?
And then the other aspect that goes with that is what I would also describe as a broad chilling effect in the Senedd's appetite for legislating, I would suggest, if it's not capable of being certain that that is deliverable on the ground. That's clearly going to cause devolved Governments, devolved Parliaments, to look afresh at how they approach legislation. And don't forget part of the market-access principles specifically is about saying, 'If these laws are—'. So, it, broadly speaking, protects divergence, as it were, that exists before the Bill becomes law, but any modification after that engages a whole range of new restrictions to the Bill. So, there'll be an element of Government and legislature in the new Senedd having to look at each modification to the law and wondering does it open up a whole new world of applying these market-access principles.
Okay. And, clearly, I think, members of this committee who've served far longer than me in this place—when it was the Assembly, now that it is the Senedd—would worry that there was a chilling effect that might take us back to previous periods, where you had to seek permission, in effect, of Westminster. I was in that position as Under-Secretary of State for Wales, receiving the old legislative competence Order procedures coming up to us to be considered by our committees and then by the Government and so on. Crikey. But could I ask you, then—? I'd like to give you the opportunity to give us some examples in terms of, if this Bill was to be passed—could you give us some examples of regulations in relation to the sale of goods, or authorisations or regulatory requirements in relation to services, or the regulation of professional qualifications, that could be affected if this Bill is passed into statute?
Yes, certainly. So, there are goods, there are services and there are qualifications. In relation to goods, the example that I've used elsewhere is around food standards—animal welfare standards and so on. So, we have said, haven't we, that we would not have beef on sale in Wales which has had hormones injected into it. That happens to be a common position at the moment across the UK. If that were to change in another part of the UK, then it would not be open to us in Wales to enforce that ban, effectively, in Welsh supermarkets. So, that would drive a coach and horses through that commitment, which we've held for a very long time in Wales. The other one, which I know will be dear to your heart, Huw, is in relation to the banning of single-use plastics. We're consulting in Wales on banning nine of the categories. The UK Government for England has chosen to ban only three, so the six that would not be subject to a ban in England, effectively, we could not enforce a ban on sale in Wales of those. Now, in terms of goods, in terms of supermarket sales, there is a view—I don't share it, but there is a view—that says, 'Well, ultimately, it's a consumer choice. Consumers make judgments about organic eggs and all sorts of other things day in, day out. So, tell the consumer and let them decide.' That also wouldn't be possible, because a labelling requirement could fall foul of the non-discrimination principles in the Bill. So, it wouldn't even be possible for us to put the consumer in a position of making a choice for themselves. They would simply get what they're given, as it were. So, that's the picture in relation to goods.
A slightly more complex picture in relation to services just by virtue of how some of the exemptions cut across the sorts of things you might want to do—. And, by the way, I think that's a good example of how complex the Bill is. I'm, obviously, myself a lawyer. It is a litigator's dream, this Bill; it will end up being litigated to kingdom come, frankly, and will create incredible uncertainty for consumers, for retailers, for regulatory bodies right across the UK. It's going to end up causing a significant litigation issue, it seems to me. But that aside, the sorts of things from service provision that might be captured and we think would be captured by this are—. Two examples from Wales would be the requirement in the 2014 housing legislation for landlords to be registered—so, provision of a service by a registered landlord would quite possibly fall foul of this Part of the Bill.
The other example that occurs to me is in relation to the public health legislation passed at the start of this Senedd, which introduces a licensing requirement for tattooists and body piercing and so on—not in effect yet—and it provides Ministers with regulation-making powers, which could introduce new criteria, as I recall it. That could easily fall foul of the provisions in the Bill.
From the perspective of qualifications, we have a regime that, at the moment, and in a rational way, has a mutual recognition qualifications arrangement for teaching. If at some future point that is changed because we saw qualifications in other parts of the UK not keeping pace, it's an option for a future Senedd to do that. Then, in certain scenarios, which aren't particularly unlikely, that would mean that you couldn't enforce a new recognition regime; you'd be required to accept qualifications from other parts of the UK even if they didn't meet standards that we set in Wales.
Now, all of this is based on a narrative of Wales having these standards and other parts of the UK, obviously, dropping theirs, but this is obviously common to all parts of the UK—each Government in the UK would face this risk, as it were, on decisions taken in other parts of the UK entirely outside their control.
And to be absolutely clear, this is not a question of saying that it is one political party's priorities in Government that could be affected; this could be any future Government of any political colour who decided under the current regime we have that they wanted to do something slightly different, but, even within a common framework of a different type, they wanted to do something different. The original conception of Wales as this laboratory of experimentation, where it could do things differently for the good of its own people— what you were saying is that there would not only be a chilling effect, there would an absolute definite legal effect on any future Government of any colour.
Well, I've chosen examples that, as it happens—not that it was deliberate, but, here, in answer to the question, the examples I've given have had a broad cross-party appeal, by and large, so it just shows you how far-reaching some of these provisions are, really. You could easily imagine a Government of any colour falling foul of them.
Okay, thank you. Could you just briefly—I know we've touched on this already—set out why you believe as Welsh Government that this Bill is actually more restrictive than the provisions currently applicable under the EU single market? Because UK Government Ministers will answer, 'This is just replicating what's already there, but it just changes it into a UK single market rather than an EU single market.' Why are they wrong?
Well, there's the very broad point, which is there's no floor of standards here and the mechanism being introduced is not one being brought in by agreement, and those features are features that exist in the current arrangements as part of the European Union and they do not feature as part of this legislation. So, that's the broad political framing for it, if you like. But, if you look at the Bill on its own terms, there are terms like 'non-discrimination' and 'mutual recognition' and so on—all feel familiar, in that they're from the existing European Union regime, but the definitions are very different. The scope of the Bill is broader than retained EU law, to start with—so, its compass, if you like, extends beyond that which is currently regulated by the European Union, and a number of the exceptions, which are very important because they provide a release, if you like, from the reach of some of these principles, are more narrowly drawn than the broadly equivalent exceptions of the existing EU regime. So, there are a number of very clear ways in which it's much more overreaching and much more intrusive than the existing regime operated as part of the transition period and part of our membership in the past.
Okay, thank you. And certainly, in terms of managing divergence, we've got myself and Alun here, who've been used to, previously, engaging at a European Union level, and managing that divergence—[Inaudible.]—and negotiated procedure through our role as the UK at the top table, and negotiated with other heads of nations on that basis. But you've set out quite clearly that, if this goes through as it is, that ability to manage divergence in the UK is significantly curtailed—[Inaudible.]
Yes. Okay. Well, in that case, let's move on to what will be happening with this Bill as it goes through, because we are interested as a committee in the Welsh Government's approach to, in terms of the Bill, in what would make you happy to signify consent, because, at the moment, you've made it clear that, as it is, you are not content to recommend consent. So, for example, Minister, if Parts 1 to 4 were amended, but the reservation on state aid remained in the Bill, at that point, would Welsh Government recommend consent?
Well, Chair, I'm not—. At this point, we are seeking to have the Bill amended in the way which we have described is required in order for consent to be conceivable. I think there are obvious limitations in me describing to you what might be acceptable, but I'll be honest with you and say that you will have seen the nature of the objections that we have, and most of them are not marginal. Most of them are absolutely core to the way many of these Parts are constructed. There are some, perhaps, at the margins that might be less concerning for all of us, but each Part of the Bill, unfortunately, brings forward a significant set of issues for us. And that's why we've put forward the amendments that we have, all of which, I think I'm right in saying, have been introduced to the House of Lords. One of them has had some change made to it, but I think that tells you that there is a body of opinion that supports the breadth of the concerns that we have.
Well, I did my best to try and get your tactical approach to this out of you, but I wasn't expecting it, but you can't blame me for having a try. We notice, of course, that the Scottish Government, who are adamantly opposed to the Bill, have also signalled that they are supportive of the amendments that are being put forward, whilst they maintain a clear opposition. So, I, for one, will be wishing those in the Lords all the very best in arguing this, and I notice that there is a groundswell behind these amendments; the Lords seem to get this in a way that, unfortunately, the Government and the Commons doesn't.
Okay, if I can't wheedle out of you your tactics going forward for the moment, could I ask you, then, to outline the discussions that you had at the JMC(EN) on 29 October on the Bill, and, particularly, whether or not the Government, the UK Government, indicated it was considering any amendments to the Bill in light of the Scottish Parliament's decision to refuse consent to the Bill, and in light of their knowledge of your position as a Welsh Government as well? Are they signalling any leeway here?
In terms of the discussion at JMC(EN), perhaps needless to say, we made it very clear that our opposition to the Bill, clearly, is undiminished, and I think I may have said—I can't remember from memory—that we were obviously pleased that there were official-level discussions around the amendments that we put forward. Because there has been, I think—. I would describe it—Sophie, I think, perhaps you could bear this out—as being genuine engagement, really, around some aspects of it, but that's on the technical implementation, how would this work if it were to find itself in the Bill sort of level, rather than, 'We're interested in taking up this amendment—how do we best take it forward?' It's definitely not in the latter category.
Okay, thank you. And look, I'll try again in a different way, and thank you for really clarifying—and we would expect no less—that you, Welsh Government, have made clear at the JMC(EN) exactly what your position is, as you are telling us now. Did UK Government—? Are you able to tell us whether UK Government signalled any willingness to work with those amendments? Now, you may not be able to tell us, I fully understand, but, if you can, it would be great to know whether the Minister sitting opposite you around that virtual table said something like, 'We are happy to listen to these arguments as it goes through the Lords, we're happy to work with them; there might be something we can do on x, y and z.'
[Inaudible.]—Minister, to get some sense.
I think what I would say is they have obviously recognised the scale and breadth of the opposition on the kinds of issues that we are putting forward. I'm not in a position, Huw, to say to you that I'm confident that turns into a commitment to take forward any of the amendments or amendments addressing those particular issues. But, you know, there's a kind of acknowledgment that there's a body of opinion that opposes significant parts of the Bill.
Thank you, Minister. Look, it's clear you're fighting the good fight there—keep it going. Chair, thank you very much; that's all my questions.
Thank you, Huw. Minister, Huw tried to get out of you, as much as he can, where your red lines were, and you were very diplomatic. But your letter to the Lords, I think, actually included 35 amendments—your suggested amendments you would like to see. The question really has to come down to—. Because, at some point, you're going to lay a supplementary LCM, and, at some point, you're going to ask us to vote on consent or not consent, and it would be helpful for us to understand, of those 35, which ones are you prepared to see not be accepted, and which ones do you think are the red lines you have to have accepted to be able to give consent?
Well, I'm not anxious to characterise this as red lines, Chair, because we know, in other contexts, how limiting that analysis is, really. But I think what I would say is this: we are not wedded to the specific language of particular amendments; we are wedded to finding solutions to the issues of substance that we've set out in the LCM. If anyone comes forward with other ways of addressing those problems that are creative and meet the same outcome, we are definitely entering that territory. So, it isn't a 'my way or the highway' type approach; what matters to us is the impact on the Bill, and fixing the fundamental problems of the Bill. If others have suggestions that can deliver that outcome as well or better, we are certainly interested in hearing from them.
I suppose many will say the easiest solution is to scrap the Bill, and that would give you solutions, because, as you say, we have common frameworks, which are trying to do it. I suppose—. Is the Welsh Government thinking that—? This Bill is intended to create a single internal market within the UK. Is it possible that it could actually end up breaking up the UK?
Well, this is a Bill that is described, I think, politically, as intended to strengthen the union; I think it does precisely the opposite. I think the way you do that is to work with the devolved Governments in relation to matters that are devolved, and to do that in a way that is respectful, based on parity of esteem and engagement and an understanding of the basic constitutional architecture of the modern UK. This Bill does none of those things, unfortunately. It seeks to turn the clock back, in many ways, to a pre-devolution era, in certain aspects certainly, and I think that is incredibly damaging to long-term relationships between the Governments. And that's why—. As a Government that wants a better-functioning union, that is why we have been so clear in our opposition to the Bill, and also constructive in engaging about how it can be improved. Now, as Members said earlier, this Bill is not a Bill that we think needs to be introduced, and we definitely don't think it needs to be introduced as nothing, frankly, apart from difficulties. But the Bill has been introduced and we can't ignore that; we have to engage with it and try and limit the damage.
I've got Dai Lloyd and Huw, then, with supplementaries. Dai.
Ie, diolch, Cadeirydd, a diolch am y dystiolaeth ar y Bil farchnad fewnol. Mae'n glir iawn, Gweinidog. Cyfle i chi athronyddu am ychydig bach: nawr, dros y blynyddoedd, byddwch chi'n gwybod bod y Senedd yma, y Cynulliad gynt, wedi gallu arloesi efo deddfwriaeth gyfan gwbl unigryw i Gymru, i ddechrau. Mae rhai ohonom ni'n ddigon hen i gofio'r gwaharddiad ar ysmygu mewn mannau cyhoeddus 20 mlynedd yn ôl; fe ddaeth o'n fan hyn yn gyntaf, yn nannedd gwrthwynebiad dwys iawn gan San Steffan, doedd ddim yn eisiau'r peth o gwbl. Ac mae'r un peth yn cael ei ddweud efo pethau fel rhoi organau—roedden nhw yn erbyn hynna yn San Steffan ac inni ei gyflwyno fo yn fan hyn. Ac mae yna nifer o esiamplau tebyg rydych chi wedi eu holrhain y prynhawn yma.
Nawr, rydym ni wedi dod â deddfwriaeth isafswm pris alcohol i mewn i rym yma yng Nghymru, â San Steffan yn gaeth yn erbyn y fath syniad o gwbl. Nawr, petai ni heb gyflwyno deddfwriaeth ar isafswm pris alcohol, sut fuasai hynny'n digwydd o hyn ymlaen o dan amgylchiadau Bil y farchnad fewnol? A dweud y gwir, unrhyw syniad arloesol rydym ni'n ei gael yma yn y Senedd—pa obaith am lwyddiant os ydy o'n dibynnu ar Senedd-dai eraill yn cytuno efo'r syniad?
Yes, thank you, Chair, and thank you for the evidence on the internal market Bill. It was very clear, Minister. Just an opportunity for you to philosophise a little, here: over the years, you know that the Senedd, the Assembly as it was, has been able to innovate with uniquely Welsh legislation. Some of us are old enough to recall the ban on smoking in public places 20 years ago; it came from this place, originally, in the face of great opposition from Westminster, who didn't want it at all. And the same thing has been said about organ donation—they were opposed to that in Westminster, and we introduced it here. And there are a number of other similar examples that you have referred to this afternoon.
Now, we have brought minimum alcohol pricing in here in Wales, and in Westminster they are bitterly opposed to any such concept. Now, if we hadn't introduced legislation on minimum alcohol pricing, how could that happen from now on, given the proposals within the internal market Bill? To be honest, any innovative idea that we bring forward here in the Senedd—what hope is there for success if it relies on other Parliaments agreeing to the basic concept?
Wel, mae hwn yn bwynt pwysig, a buaswn i'n dweud dyw e ddim wedi cael gymaint o gydnabyddiaeth, efallai, ag a dylai fe wedi, felly rwy'n falch eich bod chi wedi codi fe. Roeddwn i mewn trafodaeth ddoe, er enghraifft, gydag academyddion o Gaerdydd a Gogledd Iwerddon ac o'r Alban, yn trafod yr union bwynt yma—ein bod ni'n colli'r cyfle i arloesi, ac mae'r arloesi hwnnw yn fudd i bob rhan o'r Deyrnas Gyfunol ar ddiwedd y dydd.
O ran y pwynt penodol ar isafswm ar alcohol, mae'r diwygiadau mae Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol wedi'u cyflwyno—eu bwriad nhw yw sicrhau dyw'r cynllun presennol, o leiaf, ddim yn dod o fewn cwmpas y Bil, ond y sialens, wrth gwrs, fel rydym ni wedi trafod mewn cyd-destun arall, yw, os byddai diwygiad i hynny yn y dyfodol, ac, wrth gwrs mae'n agored i unrhyw Senedd yn y dyfodol i wneud hynny, mae risg sylweddol y byddai'r diwygiadau hynny yn syrthio o fewn cwmpas yr elfen wrth-wahaniaethu sydd yn y Bil. Felly, byddai hynny yn rhan o'r chilling effect dŷn ni wedi bod yn trafod eisoes.
Well, this is an important point, and I would say that it hasn't been given the recognition that it deserves, so I am pleased that you've raised it. I was in discussion, yesterday, for example, with academics from Cardiff and Northern Ireland and Scotland, discussing this very point—that we will lose our ability to innovate, and that innovation is of benefit to all parts of the UK at the moment.
In terms of your specific point on minimum alcohol pricing, the reforms that the UK Government have introduced—their intention is to ensure that the current scheme wouldn't fall within the remit of the Bill, but the challenge, as we've discussed in other contexts, is that, if there were to be an amendment to that in the future, and it's up to any future Parliament to do that, then there's a grave risk that those amendments would fall within the scope of the non-discrimination elements. So, that would be part of the chilling effect that I've already referred to.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Okay, thank you. I have to highlight that I think it was the Scottish Parliament that was probably innovative in the minimum alcohol pricing, before us. Huw.
Thank you, Chair. I know we're up against time here, but, Minister, it partly follows on from Dai's point here. It would be curious for somebody like me, who's chosen to come back from Westminster because of the excitement of what we can do in Wales, to suddenly find that we were in any shape or form hindered in our ambitions to do just that. Now, I think, personally, the Welsh Government is to be commended on its overall approach to this type of negotiation with the UK Government, which is to try and be constructive and to see if, in the grand scheme of things, we can win concessions for Wales and for the devolution settlement and have that respect. But I'm just curious—if it does get to that point, with the amendments laid in the Lords being rejected, where it's clear that we are going to have our wings clipped in Wales, from what you're saying, Welsh Government does not take it off the table that it will say, it will recommend, a refusal of consent on this. Because there is no downside. At a certain point, if the amendments aren't accepted, there is less of a downside to saying 'no'—even if they steamroller over it, at least we've said 'no'.
Well, firstly, they should certainly not steamroller over the Senedd's objection to this legislation, and I can absolutely the confirm that the Government's position, that the Senedd is recommended not to support this Bill, would not change if the Bill is not amended. The Bill as introduced is not a Bill that the Government is able to recommend is given consent by the Senedd. If that situation doesn't change, then the advice to the Senedd won't change.
Thank you, Minister. I'll call time there, because we've come to the end of our session. Can I thank you very much, and your officials, for attending this afternoon? As you are fully aware, you will receive a copy of the transcript for identification of any factual inaccuracies. If you do see any, please let our clerking teams know as soon as possible so that we can have them corrected. So, thank you, all, for your time. Thank you very much.
For colleagues, we move on to the next item of business, which is papers to note. The first one is correspondence from the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee to the Llywydd regarding scrutiny of COVID-19 regulations. Are Members content to note that? Thank you. The second one is correspondence from the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee to the Minister for Housing and Local Government regarding the draft framework outline agreement for hazardous substances. Again, are Members content to note that? Thank you. The third one is correspondence from the Counsel General regarding the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association negotiations. Do Members wish to note that? Thank you—they are.
The fourth one is correspondence from the Counsel General to myself regarding the inter-governmental relations. Do Members note that? I note that they do. Thank you. The fifth one is correspondence from the Minister of State for Trade Policy to myself regarding trade advisory groups. Are Members content to note that letter? The sixth one is correspondence from the Counsel General regarding the trade advisory groups. Again, we've had that discussion this afternoon. Are Members content to note that? The seventh one is correspondence from the First Minister, highlighting the fact that there will be a British-Irish Council meeting held this week. Are Members content to note that? And the eighth one is from the Counsel General regarding the Trade Bill 2020 and the LCM. Are Members content to note that letter? Thank you. In that case, we'll note all eight of them.
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.
The next item on the agenda is a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today’s meeting. Are Members content to do so? I see that they are. Therefore, we will now move into private session for the remainder of the meeting.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:32.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:32.