The Agricultural Sector in Wales: future directions and constitutional clarity

15 July 2014

Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image by Rachel Davies from Wikimedia Commons. Licenced under the Creative Commons

Image by Rachel Davies from Wikimedia Commons. Licenced under the Creative Commons

 

On 9 July 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the competence of the National Assembly for Wales to enact the provisions of the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill.

The UK Government abolished the previous Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales on 25 June 2013. In response, the Welsh Government had introduced the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill to the Assembly on 8 July 2013 to preserve the Boards existence in Wales. The Bill was referred to the Supreme Court in August by the Attorney General for England and Wales for a decision to be made about whether certain provisions of the Bill namely those in relation to wages and employment were within the legislative competence of the Assembly.

About the Bill

The Bill contains provisions that:

  • Preserve the current level of statutory protections for agricultural workers pay and terms and conditions;
  • Provide the Welsh Ministers with the power to make future Orders prescribing agricultural terms and conditions;
  • Provide Welsh Ministers with the power to establish an Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales to carry out similar but more modified functions of the Agricultural Wages Board;
  • Enable the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales to carry out functions related to the operation of the agricultural sector, including promoting careers in agriculture and making recommendations to the Welsh Ministers to specify minimum terms and conditions;
  • Assist the foundation for a resilient, sustainable and well-trained agricultural sector in Wales; and
  • Promote upskilling in the agricultural sector.

Next steps

In a statement on 9 July the First Minister welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and stated that the Bill will shortly be submitted to Her Majesty the Queen for Royal Assent, and is expected to become an Act later in July. Until July the provisions of the 2012 Agricultural Wages Order will remain active in Wales. Following Royal Assent of the Bill, the Welsh Government will launch a 12 week formal public consultation on the proposed constitution and functions of the Agricultural Advisory Panel.