Wales politics

Wales farm subsidy replacement plan law delayed until after Senedd elections

Lake Mymbyr, Snowdonia, Wales, with pink flowers in the foreground Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Farmers in Wales would be offered money to carry out work which protects and enhances the environment

A major law to replace EU agriculture subsidies will not now be introduced until after the next assembly election, which takes place in 2021.

Plaid Cymru called it a "U-turn" but the Welsh Government insisted that its reform plans have not been held-up.

Ministers are also holding off replacing EU environmental protections while talks with UK ministers are held.

First Minister Mark Drakeford set out his legislative plans in the Senedd on Tuesday.

Proposals that have been announced, and would need to be passed by the assembly, include plans to overhaul the way Wales' bus network is regulated.

Image caption Cardiff Bus is one of two council-owned bus firms in the UK

Mr Drakeford's statement to assembly members confirmed that a new law replacing EU farming subsidies will not be introduced to AMs until after the assembly election.

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said in September last year that she hoped to bring the bill forward before the end of the assembly term.

Initially the Welsh Government had hoped to phase in its plans, including a new funding scheme to replace EU farm subsidies, from 2021 but said last week that the ongoing Brexit uncertainty had held them up.

A second consultation on revised proposals is under way, with another promised for the autumn.

Farmers in Wales would be offered money to carry out work which protects and enhances the environment, under the post-Brexit proposals.

The Welsh Government insisted it was not a delay to the reforms themselves, saying it would be able to "develop new systems of support" through the powers given to ministers in the UK agriculture bill, passing through parliament.

"Our timetable for reform remains unchanged and we will publish a White Paper next year," a spokesperson said.

Plaid Cymru said the "U-turn" was the "right-decision".

"We have been alone in the assembly calling on the government to let the Brexit dust settle before introducing legislation for this once-in-a-generation change to agricultural support," said rural affairs spokesman Llyr Gruffydd.

Image caption Proposals for new legislation include votes for 16 and 17 year olds at council elections

Meanwhile Mr Drakeford will not push ahead in the next year with a new law on replacing the EU's environmental protections.

It is unclear if Wales will legislate at all, with talks ongoing with other governments in the UK about whether to implement the changes at a UK or Welsh level.

At the moment anyone can complain for free to the European Commission, who can then choose to investigate and fine member states if they are breaching environmental law.

Other proposals include:

  • Legislating to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote in council elections, while giving local authorities the option to use the single transferrable vote system for elections
  • A bill scrapping higher education funding body Hefcw and replacing it with the Tertiary Education and Research Commission

A bill extending the notice period landlords have to give before they can take back possession of a property could also be introduced.

Laws that could mean firms that sign up to fair employment practices are more likely to get government funding is planned by the end of the assembly term, but not in the next year.

The first minister said the government would "press on with important measures in respect of education, housing and transport which will lead to improvements across Wales".

"These plans will introduce positive and innovative improvements for the people of Wales," Mr Drakeford told the Senedd on Tuesday.

"The government's programme demonstrates that we are determined to drive forward ambitious plans until the end of this assembly terms, not withstanding the uncertainty that we face."

Image caption Plaid Cymru said Mark Drakeford's government had "run out of their own ideas"

Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies accused Mr Drakeford of being "haunted by his empty promises" on the environment.

"It's incredibly disheartening to see that after 20 years of Labour governing Wales, all this programme has to offer is a rehashing of the same old failed ideas," he said.

Plaid Cymru's leader Adam Price said it was a "bland legislative programme from a Labour government that has clearly run out of their own ideas".

A Brexit Party assembly group spokesman said the programme "says as much about where he won't be legislating as where he will".

The British Lung Foundation said it was disappointed Mr Drakeford had not made mention of a Clean Air Act to reduce pollution - Mr Drakeford told BBC Wales a plan would be published in the autumn.

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