Law to safeguard and strengthen Welsh agricultural industry receives Royal Assent

A new Welsh law to protect low paid agricultural workers and strengthen the agricultural industry has been granted Royal Assent by Her Majesty the Queen.

The Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014 will retain the current level of protection for agricultural workers in Wales, promote up-skilling and professionalism, and contribute to the sustainability of the agricultural sector in Wales.

The Act will require the Welsh Ministers to create an Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales, to prepare draft Wages Orders for submission to the Welsh Ministers, to promote skills development and career progression within the agricultural industry and to advise the Welsh Ministers on other agricultural matters.

Now that the Bill has received Royal Assent, the Welsh Government will shortly be launching a 12 week formal public consultation on the proposed constitution and functions of the Panel.

A Bill receives Royal Assent when Letters Patent under the Welsh Seal signed with Her Majesty’s own hand signifying Her Assent are notified to the Clerk of the Assembly. The Bill then becomes an Act of the Assembly.

The First Minister, as Keeper of the Welsh Seal, applied the Seal to the Letters Patent in a ceremony in Cardiff earlier today [Wednesday 30 July 2014].

First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said:

“Had we not introduced the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act, the UK Government’s decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales would have had a negative impact on the whole of Welsh agriculture and wider Welsh economy.

“As a Government, we have a proud track record of introducing ‘made in Wales’ solutions to the issues affecting us as a nation. This Law will safeguard agricultural workers here in Wales and strengthen the agricultural industry as a whole, as well as individual farm businesses.”

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Rebecca Evans, said:

“Having a well-trained and well-motivated workforce is essential for a resilient and sustainable agricultural industry. The Act underpins this key element of our “Working Smarter” programme which promotes professionally-run farm businesses, which in turn contribute to a prosperous Welsh economy.

“I’m delighted that the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act has received Royal Assent. One of its main provisions is the establishment of an Agricultural Advisory Panel to promote careers in the sector and advise Ministers on issues affecting the industry. I will shortly be launching a 12 week consultation and I urge everybody with an interest to take part.”

The Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill was introduced following the UK Government’s decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales from 25 June 2013 without the consent of the National Assembly for Wales.

Earlier this month the First Minister welcomed a “significant” Supreme Court ruling that the Bill was lawful. This followed the decision of the Attorney General for England and Wales to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court as he was not convinced that all of the provisions of the Bill were within the legislative competence of the Assembly.

The Supreme Court concluded that the Bill was within the Assembly’s legislative competence, the second such judgment on an Assembly Bill in under two years. Speaking at the time, the First Minister said that while the decision was welcome, the fact that yet another Assembly Bill had been referred to the Court clearly showed that the current devolution settlement lacks clarity and that a move from a conferred to a reserved powers model of devolution for Wales is needed.

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