27 July 2018
On the 17 July 2018 the First Minister made a statement about the Welsh Government’s Legislative Programme for the year. He announced that the Welsh Government would be bringing forward five Bills.
The First Minister began his statement by noting the challenging legislative environment the Assembly faces:
We know the year ahead will be one of the busiest in legislative terms since Wales gained primary law-making powers. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, there will be a significant amount of work for this Assembly to undertake between now and March if we are to have a fully functioning statute book at the point of exit. This will be a challenging time and the legislative workload associated with leaving the EU should not be underestimated.
The Assembly will need to deal with a substantial programme of correcting regulations under the EU withdrawal Act between October and March. We will continue to keep under review the need for Brexit-related Bills over the coming 12 months, and it is likely that a number of UK Brexit Bills will require the consent of this Assembly. As far as possible, we must not allow this Brexit workload to limit our legislative ambitions, but we must be flexible and be ready to adapt our legislative programme should the need arise.
The Welsh Government proposes:
A Bill prohibiting the use of physical punishment of children
The Bill would provide equal legal protection in Wales to children and adults from physical punishment by removing the existing parental defence under section 58 of the Children Act 1989 of ‘reasonable punishment’. Under the law at present, provided their actions do not amount to wounding, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm or child cruelty, it is not illegal for a parent to smack their child on the basis that it is reasonable punishment (although in the case of anyone other than their child their actions might constitute assault).
The Welsh Government would be bringing forward this legislation in the context of children’s rights and its commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Bill would not create a new criminal offence, but would remove a defence to the existing offence of common assault or battery.
The Welsh Government opened a consultation on 9 January 2018 which closed on 2 April. This followed a vote by the Assembly back in October 2011 (PDF 1.04MB) to support in principle consideration of legislation to ‘end the availability of the defence of lawful chastisement’
A Legislation and Interpretation Bill
The Welsh Government plan to introduce a Bill to improve the accessibility of Welsh law and making provision about how Welsh legislation is to be interpreted. The Counsel General made a statement to Plenary on 20 March 2018 and launched a consultation which closed on 12 June. He also gave evidence to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee on 14 May 2018.
A Local Government Bill
This Bill will be introduced in the coming year and will include the reform of local authority electoral arrangements, including extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds. The Welsh Government published the Strengthening Local Government: Delivering for People Green Paper [1MB] in March 2018. The Local Government and Public Services Cabinet Secretary made a statement the same afternoon as the statement about the Legislative Programme. He said the consultation was complete and he would be issuing a summary of responses [515kb]. He also said:
The consultation has suggested that there is an appetite amongst local government to work together to progress voluntary mergers and to increase and improve regional working. I therefore intend to introduce the local government (Wales) Bill early next year to legislate to enable this to move ahead at the earliest opportunity. This, Presiding Officer, was confirmed by the First Minister earlier today. The Bill will also make provision for electoral reform, changes to the governance and performance arrangements for local government, and a number of other proposals, including the general power of competence, which has been broadly supported at consultation.
A Bill to establish a duty of quality for the NHS in Wales and a duty of candour for health and social care
A duty of candour would place statutory obligations on all health organisations in Wales to be open and transparent, and set out a process that must be followed when things go wrong and people suffer harm. This Bill will also establish a new independent body to represent the citizen’s voice, ensuring people have a stronger voice that reflects their experiences of health and social care services. It will also include proposals to require NHS trust boards to appoint a vice-chair.
The proposals were included in a White Paper launched in 2017, Services Fit for the Future, Quality and Governance in Health and Care in Wales. They were consulted on and the summary of responses published.
A Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses
An independent review, published in January 2016, supported a ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos. A petition calling on the Welsh Government to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in Wales was considered by Petitions Committee on 23 January 2018 and a debate was held in Plenary on 7 March 2018.
In his statement on the legislative programme the First Minister stated:
Animal welfare is a priority for this Government and the way we treat animals is an important reflection of our values as a society. Circuses are legitimate businesses, and it’s not our intention to outlaw all forms of circus entertainment in Wales, but the use of wild animals in this context is outdated and ethically unacceptable. We’ll prohibit their use in travelling circuses in Wales.
A ban is already law in Scotland.
Article by Alys Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service