First Minister Carwyn Jones’ statement to the National Assembly today
In keeping with our usual practice, I will be formally announcing the Government’s full Legislative Programme in July. However, I said that I would come forward with an outline of my government’s legislative priorities after the half-term recess.
Those of you who were Members of the last Assembly will recall John Griffiths, when he held the office of Counsel General in the previous Government, recommended a move away from an annual legislative programme towards a five-year programme to better reflect the Assembly procedures and better align with the programme of Government. I have accepted his recommendation and on 12 July I will be announcing the Welsh Government’s five-year programme of legislation.
We know that we face challenging times ahead of us and we will have to make some tough decisions with regard to public spending. But Welsh Labour’s focus remains on improving public services and creating opportunities for everyone. We will of course seek to use the new powers that we received following the referendum in March when we need to but we will not create legislation for the sake of it.
Presiding Officer, the economic challenges facing Wales will inevitably put additional strains on families who may need a helping hand – this Government want to make sure that the right kind of support is there when it is needed. To this end we will bring forward a Bill which will build on the Children’s Rights measure enshrining it and the learning from its early implementation in Welsh legislation.
We will introduce a Bill to simplify the web of legislation that currently regulates social care in Wales in order to make access to services much easier and more understandable to those who need them. This will be based on a thorough review of the current legislative and regulatory framework for social work and social care services. The Bill will also provide for a robust and coherent statutory framework to safeguard children and adults – including measures to strengthen the scrutiny of care services and the voice of the service user. We will take measures to improve and standardise services for children who live away from home and provide for national eligibility criteria for access to all social care services.
Education is fundamental to building a just, inclusive and fair society. We are committed to the comprehensive system of school education and will introduce funding and structural reforms to drive resources to the front line.
We will seek to put local authority ‘Welsh in Education Strategic Plans’ on a statutory basis. We will also consider the need for legislation to bring coherence and efficiency to higher education in Wales through the establishment of a single strategic planning and funding body.
We believe in a Welsh Public Service with a strong public service ethos, which is accountable to the people of Wales. The bodies who scrutinise the effectiveness of public bodies should also be accountable and we will therefore seek to legislate to modernise the governance and accountability arrangements for the Auditor General in Wales and the Wales Audit Office.
We will be seeking to legislate to embed sustainable development as the central organising principle in all our actions across government and all public bodies. A Sustainable Development Bill will put in place a new independent sustainable development body for Wales, following the UK Government’s decision to scrap the Sustainable Development Commission.
This Government wants to create communities which are safe, sustainable and attractive places for people to live and work, where people and families have good access to services and enjoy good health. Because in many parts of Wales, the demand for allotments is not met by supply, and in order to support local communities to become more sustainable and healthier, we will seek to legislate on the amount of land to be used for allotments.
We will introduce a Cycling Bill to build on the significant investment of recent years by introducing a duty to provide cycle-routes in key areas.
We will also seek to bring forward a Heritage Protection Bill which will strengthen the protection of listed building in Wales.
We will also pursue opportunities for consolidating law in areas that are clearly overdue for an overhaul – planning law being an obvious example.
And of course it won’t be a surprise for you to hear that we will be bringing forward an Organ Donation Bill to provide for an opt-out system of organ donation, backed up by a comprehensive education programme.
In formulating our legislative programme we will be reflecting upon lessons learnt from our experiences over the past four years in taking legislation forward. A five-year legislative programme should permit greater planning and flexibility in bringing items forward, so that they are fully developed and consulted upon prior to introduction.
We will work with others in the development of policy and legislation and where appropriate will seek to publish draft Assembly Bills for consultation.
There is often tension between what a Government puts on the face of legislation and what a legislature considers appropriate. We will aim to strike the right balance between what is on the face of an Assembly Bill and what detail is left to subordinate legislation. We will ensure opportunities for enhanced scrutiny of significant items of subordinate legislation. We will introduce a system to ensure that such items are referred to a committee for some form of pre-legislative scrutiny.
There will continue to be an annual oral statement to the Assembly on the Government’s legislative programme, with the initial statement setting out the headline items in the five-year Government Programme and the detail of those Government Bills to be brought forward in the next 12-months. Subsequent annual statements will announce which Government Bills will be introduced during that year.
Before the legislative programme is introduced it will be subjected to a far more rigorous scrutiny with a set of criteria which bids for legislation must meet, in order to ensure that all proposals for legislation meet the standards required for them to be included in the legislative programme. Ministers are currently finalising their proposals for the government’s five-year legislative programme for announcement on 12 July.
I acknowledged when I was elected First Minister on 10 May that the government benches did not have the numbers to pass government legislation without the support of other parties, and I hope that there will be many occasions when we can find common ground and move forward together to pass legislation that will work for the good of the people of Wales.
It is inevitable and proper that the opposition will seek to hold this government to account. However, I welcomed the positive comments from the opposition leaders when they said that they would be a constructive opposition, seeking to work together to find consensus where possible. You will of course have an opportunity to judge the strength of our legislative programme when I formally announce it on 12 July.