Legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 17 December 2018.

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“(1) The Government of Wales Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 108A (legislative competence), after subsection (4) insert—

‘(4A) References in subsections (2)(b) and (3) to Wales include, in relation to a relevant provision of an Act of the Assembly, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A provision of an Act of the Assembly is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’

(3) In section 157A (devolved Welsh authority), after subsection (8) insert—

‘(9) References in this section to Wales include, in relation to a relevant function of a public authority, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A function of a public authority is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’

(4) In Schedule 3, in paragraph 9 (Parliamentary and Assembly procedure applying to exercise of legislative function transferred to Assembly under GOWA 2006), after sub-paragraph (6) insert—

‘(6A) References in sub-paragraph (6) to Wales include, in relation to a relevant function or activity of a cross-border body, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A function or activity of a cross-border body is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’

(5) In Schedule 7A (reserved matters)—

(a) in paragraph 9, after sub-paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) References in this paragraph to Wales include, in relation to a relevant function of a tribunal, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A function of a tribunal is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’

(b) in paragraph 195, after sub-paragraph (3) insert—

‘(3A) References in this paragraph to Wales include, in relation to a relevant function of an authority, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A function of an authority is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’

(6) In Schedule 11, in paragraph 33 (Parliamentary and Assembly procedure applying to exercise of legislative function transferred to Assembly under GOWA 1998), after sub-paragraph (6) insert—

‘(6A) References in sub-paragraph (6) to Wales include, in relation to a relevant function or activity of a cross-border body, the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.

A function or activity of a cross-border body is “relevant” if it relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health.’”—

This new clause would extend the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales to include provision about fishing, fisheries or fish health in the offshore part of the Welsh Zone.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 9:00, 17 December 2018

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 5 essentially addresses an inconsistency between the devolution settlements for Wales and for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Unlike the devolution settlements for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the National Assembly for Wales does not currently have legislative competence in relation to fisheries in the offshore area, although it already has executive competence for those areas. The Bill, combined with our withdrawal from the European Union, will mean that the devolved Administrations will have more powers than ever before, and we believe it is right for this modification to be made so that the Welsh Government can exercise their legislative competence as set out in the Bill.

The new clause, therefore, will enable the Assembly to make primary legislation on fishing, fisheries and fish health for the whole Welsh zone. The Welsh offshore region is the area of sea outside the territorial sea—that is, beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast, but within the exclusive economic zone. It is a relatively small area, stretching at its greatest extent to 30 nautical miles from the coast of Wales. Without this new clause, the National Assembly for Wales could not make its own primary legislation relating to fisheries in the Welsh offshore region and the management of fisheries in Welsh waters would be more piecemeal and less effective.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water)

There are a couple of points I want to make on this new clause. I understand that the Welsh Labour Government have raised concerns with the Government regarding the National Assembly’s legislative competence for fisheries matters beyond Welsh inshore waters. The Welsh Government are seeking to bring the National Assembly’s competence in line with Welsh Ministers’ Executive competence, which would make the introduction of a pan-UK framework less complex. The Minister’s letter to the Committee about new clause 5 explained that this is designed to address the need for an extension to the Welsh Government’s legislative competence to bring Wales in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Can the Minister formally confirm for the record that new clause 5 adequately addresses the issues raised by the Welsh Government regarding the Bill, and that they have been consulted on and have agreed to the terms of new clause 5? Can he also explain why this issue was not addressed at an earlier stage, so that the Bill could be introduced in a more complete form? Furthermore, I understand that the Welsh Government have also raised concerns in relation to clause 18 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Can the Minister tell the Committee when discussions on those issues will be concluded, and whether he plans to table further amendments to deal with them during the Bill’s progress?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I can indeed confirm that we have developed the new clause in conversation with the Welsh Government. It was a specific request that they made after the Bill had been published and as it approached Second Reading, and we needed to go through the Government write-round process to get agreement to make the change. Obviously, there was earlier legislation as recently as two years ago in which Executive competence was given to the Welsh Government. At that point, they did not ask for legislative competence; I think everybody can agree that that was probably an oversight at the time and it is now important that they have that legislative competence. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that this amendment, as drafted, enables the Welsh Government to have the legislative competence that they seek, that it has been developed in discussion with them and that it therefore addresses their concerns in that regard.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 5 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 22