Y Pwyllgor Deddfwriaeth, Cyfiawnder a’r Cyfansoddiad
Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee14/03/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies AS|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Peter Fox AS|
|Rhys ab Owen AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Adam Turbervill||Uwch-gyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Senior Lawyer, Welsh Government|
|Mick Antoniw AS||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a Gweinidog y Cyfansoddiad|
|Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution|
|Piers Bisson||Cyfarwyddwr, Pontio Ewropeaidd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, European Transition, Welsh Government|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Gareth Howells||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Gerallt Roberts||Ail Glerc|
|P Gareth Williams||Clerc|
|Sarah Sargent||Ail Glerc|
|Sian Giddins||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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:30.
Prynhawn da a chroeso i chi i gyd.
Good afternoon and welcome, everyone.
Welcome to this afternoon's session of the Legislation, Constitution and Justice Committee. Just as a reminder, this is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and we will also be publishing the Record of Proceedings as normal. Apart from the procedural adaptations for doing these proceedings in a hybrid format, all the other Standing Order requirements remain in place. We have no apologies that have been received for today's meeting. We have a full turnout from our committee members, as we so often do.
Just some housekeeping arrangements for those here within the session physically within the building: we are not told that there are any fire alarm tests today, so if there is a fire alarm, follow the ushers and staff out of the emergency exits. If we can just make sure that all electronic devices are turned to silent. As per normal, we will be operating in the languages of Welsh and English throughout this session, so we have interpretation.
Just for our guests on the screen today, as you probably know if you are familiar with this, you don't need to operate your mute and unmute. That will be done for you by the hidden operators behind the scenes. So, with that, we have got a packed itinerary in front of us this afternoon.
We have with us on our screens in front of us our Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, Mick Antoniw. You are very welcome indeed, Minister. I just want to introduce your colleagues as well here. We have Piers Bisson, the director of European transition within the Welsh Government, and Adam Turbervill, senior lawyer in the Welsh Government as well.
Thank you all very much, not just for being with us, but Counsel General, thank you as well for writing to our committee in advance of our session today, because that was very helpful as well. Would you mind, Counsel General, if we go straight into questions, because I think that we have got a challenge in getting through everything that we want to ask you?
No, I'm happy to get straight into it.
That's brilliant. Okay, we are looking today at the inter-governmental relations review and what's come out of it. We've noticed that, when you have appeared in front of us and in the Senedd before, you have always been quite optimistic about the discussions that were going on in terms of the review, and what may flow from it. Now, I know it has only recently been published, but it is interesting. There are some things in there that do seem to take us on. So, can I ask you: what is your take on what has come out of the inter-governmental relations review? What's your broad take on it, first of all?
Well, the first thing is that it was a review that was based on work that was commissioned some two or three years ago. In my view, it is a significant constitutional step forward. It has a primary weakness. The primary weakness is that it doesn't have any legal constitutional status, so it is still very much based on a convention. But the content of it, I think, is positive.
It sets a framework that is based on mutual respect and co-operation between the four Governments of the United Kingdom. It sets a framework for ministerial co-operation. It particularly sets forward a meeting to be chaired by the Prime Minister of the heads of Government of the four nations of the UK. And, very importantly, it provides a dispute mechanism.
Now, the proof of the pudding in all of this is going to be how it actually works in practice, bearing in mind what I said at the beginning about it not having a justiciable or constitutional legislative status in that way. Nevertheless, it is based on, I think, principles that have been advanced by Welsh Government, by the First Minister, by the previous First Minister. As a Welsh Government, we have every intention of doing our best to make sure that it works, because that is in the collective best interest of the United Kingdom, but also, I think, in the particular interest of Wales itself.
Look, I think that we would welcome, as a committee, that positive approach to making this work. And we'd want to see that, not only from yourself and Welsh Government, but from the UK Government as well, to make this work, because it does depend on the willingness behind this, not just the structures that have been put in place.
But, let me just ask a couple of follow-ups before I pass to my colleagues here. First, how will the principles that underlie this be monitored in terms of how they are being followed, and how transparent will that be? Will people be able to see that those principles are being followed, and, more importantly, when they're not being followed?
Well, those are important questions, and I think, to some extent, they are built into the published format for the inter-governmental relations to take place. So, there will be, for example, an annual report from the independent secretariat. I suppose it is important to say, isn't it, that having an independent secretariat, which will be created from the four nations of the UK, is really quite a significant step forward. It was one of the things I remember as being argued for for quite some time during the Joint Ministerial Council meetings—all the problems that emerged with that. But equally important is then that the decision-making process is also accountable and capable of being scrutinised by the four Parliaments. I think there has to be one caveat to it, of course, that it does build into itself that, during discussions, there will be areas of confidentiality that have to be honoured and maintained to enable those negotiations and the co-ordination process of the four Governments to be able to work together. But that having been said, when conclusions are reached, when decisions are made, it is important that each of the respective Governments are subject to accountability and to scrutiny, and that means, also, making the information available, reporting on what those decisions are, and the basis of those decisions.
Thank you for that. Look, it's going to be a pretty safe bet, Counsel General, that at some point there's going to be a disagreement that these principles are being properly applied. It's almost inevitable. Let's hope it's not too often, but it's almost inevitable. It happens. On that basis, what does Welsh Government do? What do you do? If you do not think the principles are being applied in one particular instance, what are you going to do?
Well, you'll see the structure of it is really a sort of three-tier structure, isn't it, where you have inter-ministerial groups. You then have an inter-ministerial council, which basically is enabled to deal with all the cross-cutting issues that are there, and then you have, really, at the senior end, obviously, the meeting of heads of Government. The purpose of the review, partly, is to try and avoid disputes.
Now, one would hope that when you have a dispute mechanism, it's one that you don't actually need to use, or rarely need to use, because the mere fact that there is such a dispute process means that the parties can get together to try to resolve differences, and it's only in the most exceptional circumstances that you would expect there to be disputes. But of course there is a disputes process. The disputes process again is to be independent. How that will work in progress and the precise framework, I think there is still obviously work to take place on that, and what the status is of those decisions out of the dispute process is also something that I think there will probably need to be further discussion on.
But as I say, much of the framework is about the avoidance of disputes and coming to actual agreements. As you know, the problem at the moment with the disputes process that exists under existing devolution arrangements is that if the Welsh Government says, 'We disagree that this is reserved or not reserved,' or if it disagrees with the interpretation of a position, UK Government can just turn around and say, 'No, we disagree with you and that's the end of the matter.' So, this is a significant step forward, but of course, as I say, we have to see how it will work, but we have every intention of making it work, and it is dependent on all four Governments working in the spirit of making it work as well.
[Inaudible.]—Peter, here on the committee. Do you think we will see, not just when there is a big blow-out on a dispute over whether the principle is applied, but to see some, not all of them—we wouldn't want to, and we appreciate what you're saying about confidentiality—but knowing when sometimes there is the potential for a falling out that has been resolved, are we likely to see that in the annual reports, in what is made public from your discussions on the three different committees? Sometimes, it's those smaller instances that show how well, or otherwise, this is working, because otherwise there is a tendency—and I say this as a former Minister—to tidy up the notes of the meetings and so on, as if everything was hunky-dory and we had tea and biscuits. Are we going to see some of the workings out here as well, when problems are avoided?
It's difficult to say, isn't it, really? Because it depends on what the level of the disputes are, how serious they are, the extent to which they are escalated, and the importance of them, because at the moment, in inter-ministerial meetings on UK Bills, for example, there is a lot of backwards and forwards discussion that takes place over areas of dispute over legislation, over particular clauses and so on, and I don't think you'd want a situation where the volume of those is itemised in detail, because they are almost backwards and forwards ongoing discussions that quite often ping-pong backwards and forwards between Governments, then became become subject to inter-ministerial meetings.
But I think where there are significant constitutional issues that arise in legislation and resolution is made, I think it may become quite important that those are there, because to some extent they may actually set some sort of convention precedent in terms of the interpretation of whether an issue is reserved or not. If something goes through the disputes process, I would have thought almost certainly that it's something that is going to be made public, because the disputes process is the pinnacle of the agreement, in a sense, that is, where the Governments haven't been able to reach agreement and you've gone out independently. And I think in terms of scrutiny and transparency, Parliaments will want to know what the nature of the dispute was, what its importance was to them, how it was resolved, or what the outcome of the dispute process was, and the extent to which that decision on the outcome has actually been honoured and complied with.
Thank you, Huw, and good afternoon, Counsel General. Following the conclusion of the review, could you give us an insight into the status of the existing memorandum of understanding?
Yes. To some extent, the existing memorandum, I suppose, is being surpassed now by the new review. It may influence, to some extent, arrangements and principles and so on, but I think what's more likely to happen is that as the framework and the implementation of the review takes place, I suppose what you will want to see is some sort of codification of it as to how it works in terms of the structure, the structure of the staffing, and some of the processes that are involved.
So, I think it remains there; I think it remains there as something to potentially be referred to, but I think this is actually moving into a new domain. I think we are taking a step forward; we're moving into a new area of co-operation between the four Governments in the UK, and therefore, I don't think we want to sort of be held back by past memoranda in that sense, other than the extent to which they have influenced the issues around respect and co-operation and so on, which are built into the review. It's a difficult one to give a clear answer to, but I think we're moving into really something that will be an updating and an upgrading of the sort of framework within which the inter-governmental relations take place.
Thank you for that, then. I think you've answered my next question, really, about whether there are any plans for a revised memorandum of understanding, recognising that you've moved on a bit, and I've got a flavour that that would be highly likely. What would the consequences be of any uncertainty about the status of the current memorandum? What would they be?
I don't think there should be any consequences, because I think, as I said, we're moving into a new territory, new relations based on principles and so on. So, I think we'll be sort of creating those as we move forward. You've seen in the review itself that it is set out very clearly about positive and constructive relationships, building, maintaining trust, et cetera, sharing information, respecting confidentiality, resolving disputes according to a clear and agreed process, and I think that in itself sets the framework of what any future memorandum or framework document—whatever you want to call it—will actually contain. So, I think there will be discussions about this, but I don't think anything has been formalised. I don't know—perhaps we'll go over to Piers—whether there's been any more discussion about how that might operate.
Go ahead, Piers.
Thank you, Counsel General. So, what we've been focusing on since the inter-governmental relations review concluded was to try and make sure that we're pressing ahead with the establishment of the IMGs. I think it is anticipated that we would look back at the MOU in due course and look, probably, to have a refreshed document at a later point. As the Counsel General said, in the meantime, it is there as a reference document and sits, therefore, alongside the inter-governmental relations review. But I think we would look to return to that text in due course; it's just that, at this point, the primary focus is on trying to make the most of the outcomes of the IGRR and, in particular, to strengthen the ministerial engagement between the UK Government and devolved Governments.
Thanks for that. Moving on to, perhaps, the outcomes of the review, I wonder if you could give us an insight on progress so far with those outcomes.
You mean in terms of the establishment now of the review and the secretariats and so on?
Yes, I think so.
Well, I probably best refer to Piers on this. As I understand it now, the discussions are under way in terms of drawing together the sorts of resource and staffing from the four Governments and how that would operate, then, independently. As I say, I think having a secretariat—I remember the previous First Minister Carwyn Jones frequently making this particular point, and I know, of course, it's been made by the First Minister more recently as well—is an important cornerstone of the review. But in terms of the status to where we are in terms of the creation of that, perhaps I could refer to Piers on those discussions.
Yes, very happy to expand. There are discussions that are ongoing between officials of the four Governments to look at the right size, the right grade composition and then the exact recruitment mechanisms that are used to then pull together that impartial secretariat. We're hoping, I think, that, over the course of the coming weeks, we'll be able to come up with an agreed approach, and then be able to start the recruitment. And in the meantime, then, colleagues from the four Governments are working together, I would say, in a good an collaborative way to try and make sure that the work involved in establishing the IMGs and the work to create the first meeting of the IMSC—that those are being progressed in the meantime, whilst then the recruitment of the secretariat can be progressed in the weeks and months ahead.
Certainly, Chair, my understanding is that the first meeting of the inter-ministerial standing committee is likely to be taking place in a week or so, and the same with the FISC, the financial equivalent. So, things are beginning to move, but there is, obviously, still a lot of work in progress.
What sort of priorities are likely to be in that first meeting when it takes place?
It's difficult to me to say. Piers.
So, we're working through to finalise the agenda, and we try and make sure that it can be live to events. I think there are two things that we would, in particular, want to make sure are covered within an early discussion. One is an overview of where we are with implementing the IGRR as a whole, and, secondly, the situation in respect of UK Government legislation. Those are two areas that are on our minds—looking to try and make sure we have an opportunity for discussion at the first meeting—but we're just waiting to try and finalise the exact arrangements for the IMSC, which, as the Counsel General said, we're expecting to meet possibly as soon as next week, to a similar timescale to the FISC's first meeting.
Thanks for that. I hope that all goes well. Could you give us an insight into the progress being made in establishing any new inter-ministerial groups and progress in ensuring that existing ministerial groups implement the conclusions of the review?
Well, the existing inter-ministerial groups, of course, are still taking place, and, of course, there have been—. You see there was an indicative list of what the areas for the inter-ministerial groups would be. They very much mirror, I think, some of the key areas of governmental work at the moment, some of which are already being dealt with and they'll be taken forward. As part of the review, you'll see they're looking at the issue of business and industry, net-zero elections, tourism and sports, Cabinet and so on. So, those are listed within the review, but, of course, inter-ministerial groups will be created as issues emerge and develop, and sometimes that depends on the legislative programme of the Government or other aspects of governmental programmes and so on, or things that develop. So, I could well see, for example, that you could have an inter-ministerial group that's really going to be looking specifically at the issue of the refugee situation that may be emerging. You can see things like that that would be things that would develop where it's necessary for the four Governments to be working collaboratively together in common interest.
Are you hopeful, then, that there will be good opportunities for the Welsh Government in the establishment of those groups and there'll be plenty of opportunity to engage with things, certainly including justice and Home Office matters?
I think there will. And, of course, justice is one of the ones that are in the indicative list and I think the whole purpose to the inter-governmental review is to actually provide a framework within which common areas that need to be discussed collectively are able to be dealt with. So, one of the suggestions there is that the Home Office as well—that could deal with a whole range of things, including, as I mentioned, for example, the refugee issue. But I think that those will develop as time goes on and it may be that you'll even have some that are there for just a specified time limit to deal with very specific problems. There will obviously be a lot of inter-ministerial work that needs to take place in terms of the issues around European law and the reform agenda there that has been identified, and certainly, I think, probably in other areas.
Thanks, Counsel General. The last point from me, then, the last question from me: how should the inter-governmental relations secretariat be resourced? How many staff do you think should be allocated to the secretariat? What progress—? We heard earlier about some of the progress around it, but I don't know if there's anything further you want to add.
I'm not sure that there's much I could add on that other than you'd want it to have the resources to enable it to do its job properly, effectively and efficiently. In terms of the actual scale and size of that, I don't know, Piers, whether you've got any more information on that.
We're working through exactly what the programme of work the secretariat will need to do is. Obviously, it is secretariat for the IMSC and also, then, for the Prime Minister and heads of government council and then would have responsibility in respect of disputes. Now, it's a little bit uncertain at this moment in time exactly what the rhythm and the size of business of work on the disputes will be. So, we're looking to have a relatively small secretariat in the first instance and then that could be extended further. So, I would anticipate a few officials—probably around three or possibly four in the first instance—but that's some of the detail we're working through with colleagues in the other Governments, and then we'll be looking to establish the recruitment mechanism that enables us to bring in officials, hopefully, from a number of the Governments to help support that secretariat. I hope that's useful.
Okay. So, my very last point: I take from that, then, that there are plans to second some of our officials onto that secretariat.
The answer, I think, is 'yes', isn't it?
Yes, absolutely. We'd be looking across the four Governments to see whether there were colleagues who'd be in a situation to take up roles. It will depend a little bit on, as I say, the exact size and the exact grade mix, but, absolutely, we'd expect to make sure that it was comprised of more than one, several, Governments.
Yes, thank you.
Thanks, Peter. Rhys, you wanted to come in.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. It's more of a point I wanted to make with regard to the secretariat team. Obviously, from reading into this, the secretariat will have a crucial role to make sure that—. The proof is in the pudding—well, the secretariat will have a real role to make sure that this pudding actually is tasty and is worth having. Now, I agree that it doesn't have to be big, but the grade composition is very important. We will need to have some pretty senior civil servants as part of that secretariat team, because of the role that they'll be playing, making sure that senior civil servants in various Governments have satisfactorily discussed everything before they move on to the dispute resolution, the role they play within the dispute resolution. You know, they will need to have the standing that will give them respect from senior civil servants in the various Governments. And I would encourage Welsh Government to push that the secretariat is comprised of some pretty serious senior members of the secretariat.
Listen, I certainly agree with that, because the purpose of the review, I think, is to deal with very serious matters. I think it's also again necessary to look at the three stages of it, because, obviously, at an inter-ministerial governmental level, where Ministers get together in specific portfolio areas, well, of course, to some extent, you have an enormous amount of collaboration that already takes place between officials. So, that is a sort of informal secretariat that works at that particular level. But it's when things get escalated, either to the cross-cutting areas, but, ultimately, when you move forward to those areas that become perhaps more sensitive or more disputable, and particularly when you move to the meeting of the Prime Minister and the heads of government that, obviously, that will be being dealt with, I would have thought, at a very significant and very senior level.
It seems to me also that one of the issues that was always raised in the past was, of course, when the joint ministerial council met, there was no formal secretariat in that way, so there wasn't the consistency from one meeting to the other, there weren't necessarily set agendas and programmes of work that developed through that. So that is part and parcel, I think, of the new regime, the new framework that works, but I think the points you've raised are very well made, Rhys.
Thank you for that. I'm going to bring Alun in just in a moment, but I wonder if I could just go back to one of Peter's points here about the role of Welsh Government in engaging, proposing, and identifying opportunities for new potential groups. And this could go both ways, by the way, but what if Welsh Government did say, for example—let's be cheeky now for a moment—there was something that covered the area of tackling fair work and poverty together that involved issues of social security and benefits, but also included, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the interplay with mechanisms we have on the ground? Is that the sort of thing that you would envisage—? Are there things in your mind already that you think, 'There's potential here for a mature inter-governmental relationship to work together on'? And would you also accept pushback from UK Government to say, 'Well, we'd be interested in that'? And my final point, Counsel General, is: what if the combined Parliaments of the devolved nations actually came from the floors of their chambers and said, 'We think there's potential'? Would you take that forward yourself? Sorry, I know it's really early days, and I know I'm being cheeky, but you've excited us now. [Laughter.]
Well, Chair, I'm glad to see that you are excited. Listen, the answer is 'yes', but, of course, don't forget, the whole basis of this is that there is basically almost a four-nation agreement on this in terms of the direction and the way forward. So, you're not talking about something where one or two nations get together and say, We want this against the opposition of two others', because, if that's the case, then, quite clearly, it isn't going to work. But it does come back, doesn't it, to those founding principles? I mean, just to remind you again of them: maintaining positive and constructive relations; building and maintaining trust; sharing information; promoting understanding of, et cetera. I think all those build into it, and I think it ultimately comes down to that if there is that genuine goodwill between the four Governments, then where an issue was raised, even though it may be a higher priority for some Governments than others, that clearly has the potential for much greater inter-governmental collaboration in those particular areas, in the way that also respects devolution and the decentralisation of power.
Well, exciting times. Alun, over to you.
Thank you. And I too am excited on these matters, Counsel General. I was a bit worried by the response of Piers to the earlier question in terms of the numbers and the nature of the secretariat, because he seemed to be describing what we've seen, in many ways, as the secretariat for the Irish-British ministerial work, which is very much administratively focused and based, and does provide support for the organisation of events. And I would see this secretariat here as having, potentially, a far more significant role. Because if, for example—and I know the Chair wants to return to dispute resolution later on in this session—. Most of the disputes, as far as I can understand them, that we've had between our Governments in recent years have been around money, and that is not surprising. If the secretariat is bringing in expertise to deal with those matters, they're likely to be bringing in that expertise from somewhere like the Treasury, and if that is the case, then the arguments and the people dealing with some of these dispute matters—resolution—are also from one of the parties to the dispute. To me, the real opportunity, and my excitement around this potential, is that you can have an agreement and a secretariat that sustains and supports that agreement and that mechanism that isn't the child of an individual Government, but of the collective Governments as a whole. Once you accept that principle, then you can operate in a very different way, so that you can have a secretariat that develops, over time, a specialism in federal finances, for example, or the finances of allocations between different Governments and then, in due course, the whole levelling-up agenda as well, the regional policy and the rest of it, and have policy areas that aren't the ownership of a particular Government, but which are in the ownership of the Governments as a whole. Do you see that as being a realistic opportunity for the future?
I think it is certainly a realistic opportunity. There are certainly opportunities there, and, again, we have to see how it will develop, and I think it may potentially develop its own momentum in terms of the way in and scale at which it develops. There is, obviously, I think, a challenge in terms of the structure, and that is the separation of finance into its own structure. That is always an issue, because no matter what you discuss and how you discuss things that you want to do, many of them ultimately come back to money and to finance. So, that will be one of the challenging parts of the relationship that I suspect will need quite a bit of work, but it is what it is. So, finance is one of the areas.
I think the other potential area that is going to be challenging is going to be in terms of international issues, and international trade in particular. Those are areas, where, of course, there are a lot of subtle concerns that we have, and some obviously not so subtle concerns, and with international trade being a reserved matter, but having a very significant interface into devolution, that will be one of the areas where I think there is going to be a lot of, I think, important work to go on, to take place. But I think the fact that it is there and that it is identified is, in itself, an important step forward, because, previously, it's been one of those sort of unspoken things that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. There has been quite good co-operation in that area, actually, in recent times, but it has been, as I understand it, sporadic from time to time. So, this at least provides a better framework for that to have to take place. So, hopefully, that answers, I think, the point, the questions, that you raised, Chair.
Yes. I'd like to come back to some of the international issues in a moment. I largely agree with your analysis, Counsel General, in terms of the structures as a whole and your analysis of the primary weakness of the structures, in that it is not a statutory framework, it's one that exists by agreement and consent. Were there any discussions between the Governments on having something that is underpinned by law?
I don't think underpinning by law was ever anything that was from the original framework of discussions when this took place in, I think, 2018 it was launched. I don't think it was specifically excluded, but I don't think there was ever any talk of, effectively, providing, I suppose, what would have been the embryo of a written constitutional framework. I wasn't there at that early stage on this, so I'd refer to—. I don't know, whether it's Adam or Piers, whether that issue ever arose. We know it isn't there at the moment, but I don't know whether it ever formed part of any discussion.
So, obviously, it's a long-standing Welsh Government position around looking to establish a stronger legislative basis for this, and that would have been consistent with the publications around 'Reforming our Union' when it first came out, and then, obviously, subsequently, the refreshed version last summer. So, it's something that we have taken into discussions at times. It wasn't something that there was an ability to reach agreement on within the confines of that review. But, of course, that is the Welsh Government position on how you would look, in the future, to strengthen it further.
So, it was brought up as part of those early discussions?
I'm struggling to think back to the origins of the inter-governmental relations review, which I think started almost four years ago. There would have been times when, particularly alongside us publishing 'Reforming our Union', when we would have advanced our arguments for being able to put in a legislative base to underpin this. I don't think those conversations went a long way, because I don't think there was the appetite amongst the discussions that we had with the other Governments to then be able to progress that. But it has been something that we have raised—
Okay, that's fine. That's fine.
—and continue to raise with Governments in line with our overall position.
One of—. We had what I felt was a very good conversation with the House of Commons public administration committee last week, and we discussed there, Counsel General, some of the different issues around the coincidence, if you like, of our accountability and scrutiny between the different Parliaments and legislatures of the United Kingdom. And one of the issues we discussed last week, of course, was trying to find the new balance between accountability and scrutiny of Governments whilst implementing the common frameworks and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. What structures do you believe, Counsel General, the new agreements put in place that will enable both greater transparency between Governments in agreeing these common frameworks, but also opportunities for the legislators to hold Governments to account in the operation of, for example, the Office for the Internal Market, but also the wider operation of that legislation?
It's a very interesting question. In fact, I also attended the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee meeting when they came down from Westminster last week, and this is one of the areas that certainly I raised in terms of the issue of accountability and scrutiny. I think, when you have what is a significantly better framework for inter-governmental relations, and that's taking into account all the weakness that we've already identified, but, when you have something that clearly has a more structured framework, the issue of accountability becomes, I think, different. There is, obviously, the individual accountability for Governments to their own respective Parliaments. But there is also a benefit, I think, from collective, pan-parliamentary scrutiny. The point I make—and it's one I made, of course, when, previously, I was involved in the inter-parliamentary forum, which, although set up in the post-Brexit-referendum environment, nevertheless, I think, was clearly developing its own cohesion, its own identity and, clearly, was a very interesting way of looking at that pan-parliamentary scrutiny of what happens on that collective basis. And I'm certainly of the view that I think there is considerable benefit to looking at a more formalised inter-ministerial committee or inter-parliamentary committee that plays a particular role. Not one that undermines, of course, the individual rights of the individual Parliaments, in terms of their scrutiny role, but one that enables the processes to be looked at collectively, to look at the common interests and the areas of dispute and so on that emerge. That seemed to me to be something that is well worth exploring, so I made that point to PACAC, and I'd be interested to see what their views are when they complete their reports.
I'm grateful to you for that, Counsel General. I think we would want to continue that conversation when we have the opportunity to do so. I want to bring you back to two related issues. First of all, international policy and, secondly, representation in UK-EU affairs. Do you believe that the review and the current agreement of the UK Government provides for sufficient Welsh Government engagement in international policy, and do you believe that it enables sufficient scrutiny of that engagement? Secondly, we've had a long-standing disagreement and concern over the place of Wales in the new UK-EU relationships. Do you believe that the structures that are being established will help address those issues?
I think—. Well, listen, the first thing is the loss of the sub-national role that we played within the EU is one that it's quite difficult to replicate, but it's certainly one that needs to be replicated within a new structure. In the inter-governmental review, it does seek to address those. Now, I'm not going to underestimate that this is a very challenging area, in my view, but it's, again, one that is very dependent on genuine engagement. So, effectively, international relations are one that actually bring in and respect not only the devolution settlements, but also effectively almost seek to replicate the international nature of the UK that the review seeks to create a sort of framework for.
Again, I think it will depend upon how it works and the extent to which there is that respect. The starting point for me is that there is very early engagement, and genuine engagement, whether it be trade deals, or what the nature of those international relations actually is, whether they're in areas of education, health and so on. Those are absolutely fundamentally important, because, if those relations don't work, then what you then have is you have constitutional conflict in terms of what the roles of devolved government are within areas that clearly are not reserved, that are clearly devolved responsibilities. That then really creates a subsidiary role for devolution in terms of the reserved power of international relations. So, I think it is a very difficult one, and I think it's a very complex one, and I think it's one that needs to be monitored very, very carefully.
Now, we've seen a lot of trade agreements that have been formed. Many of them, actually, are really just replicating existing trade and co-operation agreements with the EU, so they don't change things very much. But there are others that potentially have more concerns that may actually intrude into devolved areas, and the extent to which that works is going to be dependent on the quality of that early engagement, and then the respect for reaching agreement. I think, as I say, this is one of the really challenging areas. I can't, probably, say any more than that, as to how that will work. I don't know whether, Piers, there's anything you could or even would want to add, really, to that.
I think the only thing I was going to add in relation to the UK-EU relationship is to draw attention to the written statement issued by the Minister for Economy around the intended first meeting of that group, which was last month. That did not get off to the start that we would have wanted. We will be following up further with officials, and we hope that future meetings can work in a better way, but that was one example where I think there is an opportunity for these structures to provide important engagement, but we need to make sure, then, that the spirit underlying the inter-governmental relations review then can be achieved in the way in which the meetings function and the discussions that can then happen at those meetings.
Alun, I think—. Sorry, I wonder if I could intervene, because sometimes the public looking in at this or reading the transcript will struggle to understand what we're talking about. But, just to make it clear, the economy Minister issued a statement last week, which is in our papers today, at item 8.3, explaining that there was only two hours' notice of an important meeting of the UK-EU relations inter-ministerial group, meaning he couldn't participate. Some of us will know there was a good reason why he could not participate, but he was summoned to that meeting. The First Minister, in the letter of 10 March, item 8.4, referred to the regrettable circumstances around that meeting and said
'the arrangements will need to improve fundamentally in future'—
and this is the start of the process—
'to reflect a more respectful approach to working with the devolved governments as agreed in the Intergovernmental Relations Review—if this IMG is to function as intended.'
I mean, look, clearly we've been disappointed in the committee at this, because we've expressed our optimism that this can be made to work, but what discussions have you had subsequently with UK Government about that and how that happened?
Well, I think that the Minister there will have raised those, and I know with the First Minister as well. What I can say, of course, is that one of the areas that I've been involved in, as you will know, is over the issue of EU retained law. And I think the whole issue of post-Brexit relations and legal change is one that is, again, very challenging, and certainly the way in which meetings have been organised or been taking place has not been acceptable. You'll be aware of the one that I attended with regard to the Brexit opportunities and EU retained law issue as well, where we were again given very, very short notice. So, as you say, if you take that as the norm, as though that was going to be the standard, then I think we are in very difficult waters.
What I would hope is that those are very early teething troubles and that the principles underpinning the inter-governmental review are ones that will enable that to be overcome, and there will be a whole new regime. And one would also hope that the fact that there will be an independent, and that there will actually be, a common secretariat will mean that those sorts of things should not be happening. But, we will have to wait and see. We will certainly work to make sure they don't happen, but clearly what has happened in the past is unacceptable and has to be significantly improved upon if those relations are not to cause problems in the future.
My apologies, Alun. Back to you.
No, I'm grateful. I think it may be useful for us, Chair, as a committee, to look again over some of these matters in a year or so's time when we're beginning to see these things bedding in, because the Counsel General has said himself that there are some difficult issues to resolve around some of the international issues, and we know the potential damage done to the agricultural industry in Wales by the agreements in Australia and New Zealand—or could be. And I think it's important that people feel that they have an opportunity to participate in debates around these matters before they are concluded. So, it might be useful for us to return to these matters. In conclusion—and I know we're running late on time—Counsel General, could you set out your response to the Court of Appeal's judgment on the Welsh Government's legal challenge to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020?
Yes, thank you for that. As the members of this committee will know, we went to the Court of Appeal to argue our case. The Court of Appeal hasn't rejected our case; what it has said is that the way for it to proceed is to actually bring a piece of legislation before it so that they can actually test the constitutional issues that we have raised about the internal market Act's lawfulness before it. So, they wanted to be able to apply the issues that we raised practically against that.
Now, the point we would make is that we think there are matters of principle there, constitutionally, that the court should have addressed. So, we have appealed now to the Supreme Court—we've sought leave to appeal. I'm hopeful that we will get leave to appeal and that, at some stage, we will be in the Supreme Court. But, we are also looking very much at the issue in the event that the Supreme Court were to actually agree with that interpretation. So, that's where we are at the moment, but obviously it'll be a while before we hear from the Supreme Court about the appeal. We've filed the necessary papers and set out our case, and we are now waiting for the UK Government's response.
I might just ask Adam, in terms of the timescale on this, we've filed our papers, but there's a time period now, isn't there, for the UK Government to respond to our application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court? Adam.
I believe it's 14 days, but I would need to check that. But, yes, it's imminent, anyway, that we'll get a response from the UK Government.
So, on that particular issue, then, as soon as I know that, I will obviously inform the Senedd of the outcome and we'll consider our position when we know whether or not we have obtained leave to appeal.
I've got no further questions, Chair. It might be useful if we asked the Counsel General if he could continue to keep the committee in touch with these matters through correspondence.
That's great. Thank you, Alun.
I will do.
That's brilliant. Okay, now I just want to check—. We've probably got at least two hours or more of questions we want to do with you and you're only with us for an hour. Are you absolutely flying off at half past? If you are, we fully understand. If you've got another 10 minutes, it might help us.
I'm afraid I probably do have to go at half past because I'm going straight into, or shortly into, a Cabinet meeting. So, I've got a little bit of preparation to do for that as well.
Not to worry.
If we go for another five minutes, I'm okay with that, but I've got a little bit of other work to do to prepare ahead, if that's okay. If there are any matters, of course, as I say, two things: one, I'm happy to deal with any questions you want to put in writing, but, as you know, I'm more than keen to attend as and when required before this committee as well, because I see the relationship in terms of your work and mine as very much needing to be in harmony, to some extent.
Okay, then. We'll try not to go too far overlong there. We'll try and get to half past, and Rhys very kindly has said we can follow up this in separate ways, including on the floor of the Senedd, and we'll follow up in terms of writing to you as well. But let me just touch on a couple of things. A very straightforward question: the dispute resolution mechanism that's built into this, which you've talked about, do you think it is strong enough, adequate enough, fit for purpose, because it's not universally held amongst all observers, including some of the whispers we've picked up from UK Parliament committees themselves, that it isn't strong enough? What's your view?
Look, I think any process that doesn't have a justiciable status, or a formal constitutional written status, has challenges, because it is dependent on the acceptance of the outcome of the process. And, as yet, we have no examples of what's going before it, how it will operate, and so on. What I would say is that I think having a disputes process in the first place is a very significant step forward. Also, having one that has a mechanism for independence, both in terms of its staffing and also in terms of the chairing of the dispute process is, I think, again, very significant. And, ultimately, where you don't have that degree of justiciability or that written justiciability, it ultimately comes down to, doesn't it, if you do have significant disputes that need to be resolved and you have a process and the parties agree that this is an issue that should go before the dispute process, the question is the extent to which everyone then buys into the outcome of that. So, in many ways, it's a form of dispute or arbitration process, although it's not called that, and moves to establish a binding arbitration process I don't think were successful during the actual discussions.
In terms of where we are, we are so much further forward than where we were before that I think you have to say that it is not only a massive improvement, but a groundbreaking step. Where within UK constitutional relations have we ever had a system where there is now an independent dispute process between the four Governments? How it works, again, I think, Alun, as you suggested earlier, maybe if we review this in a year's time, we'll be able to form a more detailed analysis of it. It may be that there has been nothing that has actually gone to it, because merely having a dispute process means that often disputes actually do get resolved. Disputes tend to not get resolved when there is no dispute process, or where one party controls the rule book, which has very much been the case up until now. So, I think we have to see, but I'm very positive about it.
You are indeed. Counsel General, we're starting to get suspicious—you're so positive about this. [Laughter.] But you are right in that we're only going to see how this works further down the line, the numbers of disputes coming forward, if there are any, and how they're dealt with. Can I just ask you some technical things that are of interest? One is, why only have the ability to seek third party advice after the meeting of the inter-ministerial standing committee? Why is it you've agreed between yourselves that that's the point at which you actually can go and seek advice? Surely having it at an earlier stage would be helpful.
Well, I think that that's because that was where the common ground ultimately was, in terms of the actual steps needed to establish a dispute process, and a dispute process that was the end of the line rather than very early on, so that you would have to go through the processes of the first tier, the second tier and possibly the third tier before you actually engaged the process. So, once you got to the most serious level, where it looked as though something serious was going to go to the dispute process, that stage then would be the opening of the door for further advice because it would mean that you were going now to the ultimate stage of resolution of the dispute. Now, that's my understanding of it. Piers, I don't know, in terms of the background to this, whether there was any more to it than that.
Piers, I wonder if you could tell us as well, in your response, whether the third party advice that is given will be published in full, as part of the reporting process.
Thanks. I'm happy to come in on this. So, yes, as the Counsel General said, that was the feeling as to where the independent advice could potentially add most within the overall approach. We have obviously not had the dispute mechanism triggered so far, so this is something that we will need to keep under review as we then see it operating in practice. But, it was a feeling that there was a particular window there where, having had the discussions in an IMG and having had it broadened out then through an IMSC, that might be the opportunity to bring in some independent advice, at that point. So, that's the situation there.
In terms of the independent advice, because we've not worked through it yet, I'm not able to give a firm commitment now. I would anticipate that, where we are getting factual information in, that's something that Governments would be wanting to try and make sure is available at the point at which the dispute has reached a conclusion. But, we've got to work through with the other Governments as to exactly what inputs are published at which point. So, once we have had further discussions, then obviously we can share a little bit more about how we see that working in practice.
Thank you, Piers. If I can just skip forward a little bit, we are talking about disputes that may arise, and the Counsel General is optimistic that, hopefully, we won't get many of these. We have got plenty of them ongoing right at this moment, and we are really curious as to whether the existing disputes will form part of this process that we now have in place. Or, what happens to those, otherwise?
So, we have got a dispute over the UK Professional Qualifications Bill, which needs to be resolved, either separately or within this process, or managed, given the UK Government's decision to proceed without Senedd consent. We have escalating disputes over legislative competence. I suspect, based on our experience of the last year, we are probably going to see some more of those coming past this committee and through the Senedd.
We have the Scottish Government's request for an exclusion from the Act in terms of single-use plastics legislation itself. Now, I know that this is not the Welsh Government, but it has those implications in terms of ongoing disputes. Are those going to fit within, Counsel General, this new process that we've got, or are you doing them on a case-by-case basis?
Well, at the moment, those disputes are still within the inter-ministerial discussions. The most significant of those that you raised there is obviously the professional qualifications one, where consent has been refused. Obviously, the issue of Sewel again has been raised very strongly by the Minister. There are others—the Subsidy Control Bill, for example, is one that raises particular issues. Now, those are issues that—. I just think that, as we start looking at those issues, what the outcomes may be and what the status of Sewel may be within them, I think that the first matters, if they aren't resolved in any way, have to be significant issues that are taken through the dispute process. They have to be ones that everyone recognises raise common issues. So, hopefully, there will be some mechanism for resolution.
But, you're right—we have enough areas of disagreement at the moment, but we have a new process coming into play, and I think that we just have to—. I suppose that I'd say that we just have to look very, very carefully at how we use the new processes, in terms of taking those areas that we think raise significant disputes and how we work through. The one thing you don't want is every single issue where they may be disagreement becoming a dispute. I think the dispute processes are for matters of substance, either financially, constitutionally and so on, at that particular level, and that's where I would see, if those issues exist, that there may be opportunities there in a process that, let's be fair about it, we haven't had before, so I think we need to think carefully how we do proceed.
Okay. Thank you, Counsel General. We don't have time to explore this further, and I do want to let you get away, but it is interesting for us what you refer to as matters of significance of dispute and so on, which in the new process we would expect to be resolved at an early point, even without this process, between official engagement and ministerial, but, if not, within the lower-tier committees, and if not, escalated to a higher-tier committee, and if not, maybe some sort of dispute resolution and seeking third party advice. But some of the ones that I referred to at this moment, I suspect from this committee's point of view, would be ones that are of significant dispute because we've seen them identified on the floor here. So, maybe I could just ask you just that one final question. Do you anticipate that any of these existing ones, which we would probably regard as significant—? Because if they're a matter of dispute publicly between the Governments and they're a matter of dispute in whether there's consent or not between here and the other place up the road there, we're curious at to how they're going to be resolved or managed—if not in this, where is it? Are any of those going to end up, the existing disputes, within this mechanism?
Well, obviously, they could be, and it depends on the attitude of the four Governments in terms of the sorts of issues that will come forward to dispute, if they're not capable of resolution. What I think is probably more likely to come forward in terms of the discussions is going to be around the actual status of Sewel, and it seems to me that nearly all paths seem to lead back to Sewel, don't they, and the real need for a relaunch and revamp of Sewel. I think the Government's view is that we would like to see a Sewel convention that actually then becomes justiciable. That isn't the case at the moment, but we certainly need a Sewel that operates more clearly, and that we also have a greater clarity as to what 'not normally' means, because at the moment the lack of any real framework as to what 'not normally' means, I think, leads to a lot of inclarity in discussion as to when it applies, when it doesn't apply, whether it's being abused, whether it isn't, and so on. So, I think that is more likely to be the framework of discussions that somehow needs to be resolved. I mean, that is ultimately a political question, isn't it: whether you would have a particular piece of legislation or a particular dispute going forward through a dispute process in order to be the exemplar of resolving Sewel or delineating Sewel. That might be something that happens. But I'm speculating at the moment. It's always difficult, because you speculate over things that may or may not happen, and how they will be resolved. I think a lot of this is work in progress. I think everybody is alert to all the challenges that exist, but at least we have a framework where there is a potential to take them forward, whereas previously that didn't exist.
Counsel General, Minister, thank you very much indeed, and your officials as well. We always appreciate your time. We've gone over as per normal. We'd like to have you here longer, but to be honest you give us a lot of time regularly, so thank you very much. We will follow up, Counsel General, with some ones we haven't got to, and my thanks to colleagues for their latitude as well in giving up some areas of questioning so that we could get to others. But we will follow up in writing. We will also send you the transcript, obviously, for accuracy as well. We love speculation, by the way, Minister; it takes us into uncharted territory. But we really appreciate your time, and thank you very much for spending it with us today.
Thank you very much. Where would a lawyer be without the capacity to speculate? Thank you very much.
We'll leave the Minister and colleagues go now, and as they leave us, we'll get ready, then, to head on to our other business that we have in public session today. I'm just waiting for the officials to leave. Otherwise, they will have to accompany us through the rest of our business. They've gone. Okay.
Colleagues, if we can go on to our normal business. Under item 3, we have instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Orders 21.2 or 21.3. The first of these is item 3.1, SL(6)164, the Relaxation of School Reporting Requirements (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2022. I just want to check that we don't have any reporting points from this. No. So, we're happy to note. Thank you.
We turn then to affirmative resolution instruments under 3.2, which is SL(6)166, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (Additional Authority) (Wales) Order 2022. This amends the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to ensure that corporate joint committees, which we're now becoming familiar with, will need to have due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of their functions on, and a need to do all that they can reasonably can do to prevent, in their respective areas, crime and disorder, the misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances, and reoffending. Again on this one, we're content that there are no reporting points. Are we happy to note? Okay.
We move on then to item 3.3, SL(6)168, the Corporate Joint Committees (General) (Wales) Regulations 2022, making provisions in relation to corporate joint committees, again established under the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021. This is part of a package of instruments underpinning the establishment of corporate joint committees and that seek to ensure they're subject to the same administrative and governance requirements as for local government. Again, we have no points for reporting. Are we happy to note, colleagues? We are.
That brings us then to item 4, instruments that do raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. The first of these is a made negative resolution instrument under 4.1, SL(6)163, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2022. We're familiar with these coming through this committee. This, coming into effect on 20 February 2022, provides an exhaustive list of the premises where the requirement to wear a face covering applies. We have three merits points for reporting.
Diolch. They are just the standard coronavirus-related merits points.
As they are the standard ones, I'm assuming that we're happy to note those and agree those reporting points. Thank you.
That brings us to an affirmative resolution instrument under item 4.2, which is SL(6)167, the Council Tax (Long-term Empty Dwellings and Dwellings Occupied Periodically) (Wales) Regulations 2022. We have here regulations that amend the Council Tax (Long-term Empty Dwellings and Dwellings Occupied Periodically) (Wales) Regulations 2022, to provide that for a financial year beginning on or after 1 April 2023, a billing authority in Wales may increase the council tax payable in respect of a long-term empty dwelling in its area or one that is occupied periodically by no more than 300 per cent; currently the maximum is 100 per cent. This is something, as you know, that's had quite a deal of airtime there, but it's not the policy issue that we're looking at primarily with us as a committee. But Gareth, you've identified three merits points for reporting.
The first merits point asked the Welsh Government how it considered human rights when developing this policy. As a result of these regulations, there could be interference with possessions because a person may have to pay more money, and there may be interference with home life, and such interference requires justification. That's not to say there's any breach of human rights; it's just asking the Welsh Government to set out its justification. The second merits point notes that the majority of people consulted did not support the increase, and that there was limited evidence that this policy would have a positive effect in addressing second homes issues.
The Welsh Government response was received this morning. As regards human rights, the Welsh Government simply says it is satisfied that the regulations are compliant and there is no further analysis. As regards consultation, the Welsh Government says it has taken full account of all consultation responses and that the regulations are proportionate. Also, the Welsh Government says that sticking to the current policy would not further the Welsh Government's commitment to addressing local housing market issues, the sustainability of local communities and reform of council tax
So, we've had a fulsome—literally this morning—response from Government to the points that Gareth raised on behalf of the committee. Do you want to note that and return to it in private? Are there any issues you want to raise now?
Just for clarity, would an equality impact assessment have to be done for this? We're waiting for some response regarding equality, but is that a full-depth equality impact assessment we're expecting?
We haven't raised it as a reporting point, but the Welsh Government should carry out an equality impact assessment, and then it has a duty to make such arrangements as it considers appropriate to publish a report of that equality impact assessment, so we can keep an eye on to see what it is publishing under its duty, and then come back to the committee if there are any concerns around that.
Thank you. I thought it was important to raise that in open session.
On the substantive policy issue, the Local Government and Housing Committee are, of course, reviewing this policy area at the moment and will be reporting on it in due course.
That's helpful to know as well. Okay. Thank you.
And that subject was raised at the last meeting.
Very good. Okay. In which case, if you're happy to note it—. We might want to return to it in private session as well, but it's good to know that the thematic committee is looking at this as well. Thank you, Gareth. We'll agree those reporting points.
We'll turn to item 5, instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.7. We have, with paper 12, statutory instruments with clear reports, beginning with a draft negative resolution instrument, item 5.1, SL(6)165, the Security and Emergency Measures (Water and Sewerage Undertakers and Water Supply Licensees) Direction 2022, which gives Welsh Water and sewage undertakers and Welsh water supply licensees directions, under the Water Industry Act 1991, in the interest of national security and for the purpose of mitigating the effects of any civil emergency. Gareth, we have not identified any points for reporting there. Are we happy to note? We are.
Item 6, then, instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3 that we've previously considered as a committee. The first of these is item 6.1, SL(6)126, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Public Health Information to Travellers) (Wales) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022. Within this, we have a report under paper 13 and a Welsh Government response under paper 14. We looked at this in our meeting on 17 January and we laid a report later that day. I just, at this moment, invite Members to note the Welsh Government response that we've received. Are we happy to note? We are. Thank you. Any comments on that? No. Okay. Thank you.
Item 6.2, SL(6)157, the Food (Withdrawal of Recognition) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional Provisions) (Wales) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022. We have, again, a report and the Welsh Government response under papers 15 and 16. We considered this in our meeting on 28 February and we laid a report the next day. Again, unless we have anything to note on this—. We do.
Very briefly, the committee asked the Welsh Government whether it had considered the UK internal market Act, given that these regulations deal with trade, food products and mutual recognition. The Welsh Government confirms it did consider the UK internal market Act and says that the act and its mutual recognition principles will apply in this context.
Thank you very much for that, Gareth. Happy to note and agree that? Thank you.
We'll go on to item 7, then—again, familiar to those who tune in to us on Senedd.tv—common frameworks. Under item 7.1, we have correspondence from the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being to the Health and Social Care Committee in respect of the provisional food compositional standards and the labelling common framework, along with the related concordat that has been shared. Is there anything to raise in respect of that? No, just to note it for now. Okay. Thank you.
Item 7.2, then, correspondence from the House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in respect of the agricultural support framework. Happy to note that? Okay.
And then item 8, inter-institutional relations agreement. Under 8.1 in respect of this, we have correspondence from the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd on the Ivory Prohibitions (Civil Sanctions) Regulations 2022 and the Ivory Act 2018 (Commencement No. 2 and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2022. The letter there of 3 March, we have, and within that correspondence, we learn that the Minister has given consent to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to lay that set of regulations that will come into force on 6 June 2022. So, we're happy to note that, I think. We are—[Interruption.] Yes, indeed.
[Inaudible.]—the point in the Minister's letter, she says,
'It is normally the policy of the Welsh Government to legislate for Wales in matters of devolved
We see that as a preamble to saying, 'We're not going to do it', of course, on a number of occasions. But she does say here,
'Without such consent, Wales would be left out of alignment with other UK administrations in
its approach to ivory sale prohibition.'
That's not true. The Welsh Government could propose regulations that would bring Wales into such alignment, but they have chosen not to do so. And that's a different issue, of course. And I think, at some point—I don't suggest this afternoon—perhaps the next time the Counsel General or First Minister is with us, we may wish to raise some of these matters with those Ministers who lead the Government's legislative programme, rather than individual portfolio Ministers, I mean.
Yes, absolutely. It's a good point. It's an itch we keep scratching at with Welsh Government Ministers and I think we will, Alun, definitely come back to that. So, we'll note that item today, which gives rise, as Alun was saying, to a wider theme that we're focusing on as a committee as well, which we'll return to.
Under item 8.2, correspondence from the Minister for Climate Change informing the committee that a virtual meeting of the inter-ministerial group on net zero, energy and climate change would be taking place on 9 March—happy to note that.
And then, item 8.3, a written statement by the Minister for Economy in respect of the first meeting of the UK-EU relations inter-ministerial group, which took place on 17 February 2022, and we might want to return to that and some of the issues raised in the statement when we go into private, but for now, if we're happy to note.
We've got a couple of other items of correspondence as well to go through and to note for the record. One of these is correspondence from the First Minister regarding the trade and co-operation agreement in response to the concerns raised and the request for further information by the committee. So, we have the letters in papers 22 and 23 of 10 March and 15 February respectively, if we're content with that.
And then we have correspondence from—and in fact, I'll rattle through these, so Members can just shout at me if there's something that they want to raise here—correspondence from the Minister for Finance and Local Government in respect of the finance inter-ministerial standing committee, the first meeting of which will take place on 21 March. So, the Minister has provided an overview of the agenda for that meeting. And this is interesting in terms of our earlier session with the Counsel General, that these processes are now starting to swing into place, so we're happy to note that.
And then we have some papers to note. Again, unless anybody shouts out, we'll rattle through these for the public record. Under item 9.1, we have correspondence from the Minister for Health and Social Services to the Health and Social Care Committee in response to that committee's report on the supplementary legislative consent memoranda, memoranda No. 2 and No. 3, on the Health and Care Bill, which we note.
We also have correspondence under item 9.2 from the Minister for Education and Welsh Language in respect of the supplementary legislative consent memorandum No. 3 on the Professional Qualifications Bill. And, within the letter, the Minister informs the committee that further amendments have been tabled by the UK Government to this Professional Qualifications Bill, but as outlined by the Minister, as there won't be an opportunity for the Senedd to consider these amendments before Report Stage is complete, the UK Government is proceeding with the Bill without securing legislative consent from the Senedd or any of the devolved Governments, which is a breach of the Sewel convention. I held back from quizzing the Counsel General further on this, but we might want to return to this in private. For the moment, are you happy to note that?
And then, under item 9.3, we have a written statement by the Minister for Social Justice and the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution in respect of the Welsh Government response to the UK Government consultation on proposals to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a bill of rights. Now, clearly, this will be something that will interest us a committee, but for the moment, is there anything anybody wants to raise, or are we happy to note that and return to it? Okay. Let me just check now out that we haven't—oh, we still have. Yes, sorry. We've had quite a deal of correspondence over the last week or so.
Item 9.4, we have correspondence from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in respect of the legislative consent memorandum on the Subsidy Control Bill. It's a response to our letter seeking the Secretary of State's views on the committee's second recommendation in the report on the Welsh Government's legislative consent memorandum on that Bill. Happy to note? We are.
Item 9.5, a written statement by the Minister for Economy with an update on border control posts. Now, this provides the Senedd with an update on the interim and the permanent arrangements for border control posts in Holyhead and in south-west Wales.
And then, item 9.6, we have correspondence from the Minister for Finance and Local Government in respect of the Welsh Tax Acts etc. (Power to Modify) Bill. So, if we note that response from the Minister. It's in response to the committee's letter seeking further information following the evidence session of 14 February. And again, we might want to return to this and to other matters in private session.
Now, I'm just checking with our committee colleagues, but also with our clerking team, whether we've omitted anything here. We haven't. I think we're okay. So, we've covered what we need to in public session today.
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.
So, could I ask Members if they're content under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting, so we can go into private? We are content, and we will do that.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:52.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:52.