Y Pwyllgor Materion Allanol a Deddfwriaeth Ychwanegol - Y Bumed Senedd

External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee - Fifth Senedd


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies
Dai Lloyd
David J. Rowlands
Huw Irranca-Davies
Laura Anne Jones

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Alison Black Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Ed Sherriff Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Eluned Morgan Y Gweinidog Iechyd Meddwl, Llesiant a’r Gymraeg
Minister for Mental Health, Well-being and Welsh Language
Emma Edworthy Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Jeremy Miles Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Pontio Ewropeaidd
Counsel General and Minister for European Transition
Nathan Cook Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Sophie Brighouse Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Alun Davidson Clerc
Claire Fiddes Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Lucy Valsamidis Ymchwilydd
Nia Moss Ymchwilydd
Rhun Davies Ymchwilydd
Sara Moran Ymchwilydd

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 14:00. 

Penodi Cadeirydd Dros Dro
Appointment of Temporary Chair

Good afternoon. Prynhawn da. Unfortunately, the Chair is unwell this afternoon and has had to send his apologies for today's meeting. In his absence, Alun Davies is nominated for appointment as temporary Chair. Are there any objections to this appointment? I can see that there are none. Therefore, Alun Davies is nominated as temporary Chair—appointed as temporary Chair.

Penodwyd Alun Davies yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

Alun Davies was appointed temporary Chair.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Thank you very much. I'm grateful to you and Members for that. I'm sure that we'd all want to wish David Rees well. In welcoming you to the meeting this afternoon, I need to remind Members that, in accordance with Standing Order 37.19, the Chair has determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting this afternoon in order to protect public health. This meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv. And in the event that I lose my connection to the meeting, I think we've agreed that Huw Irranca-Davies will take over as temporary Chair of the committee in that case. Is there any Member who would like to declare an interest before we start the session? Huw.

Thank you, Chair. Just to declare my normal interest in three groups that I chair for the First Minister, with a European dimension to each one of them.

2. Sesiwn graffu gyda’r Cwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Pontio Ewropeaidd
2. Scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition

The second item on the agenda today and the first item of substance this afternoon is a session with the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition. I'd like to welcome the Minister to the meeting. The Minister has always been very generous with his time with the committee and we're grateful to him for that. Could you introduce your officials, please?

Jeremy Miles 14:02:06
Counsel General and Minister for European Transition

I have Ed Sherriff, Emma Edworthy and Sophie Brighouse, who work on the preparedness negotiations, the trade and internal markets common frameworks strands of work in the Government.

I'm grateful to you for that. We're in a curious time, aren't we, Counsel General? We're preparing for something and we're not altogether sure what it is. Can you enlighten us at all?

Well, this is the dilemma, Chair, that people across the UK and, indeed, across Wales, of course, have been wrestling with for some time. It is really appalling, isn't it, that we are less than a month away from the end of the transition period and that we are not able to describe to people what the future trading relationship will be with the European Union. There is no reason why we're in this situation, apart from the failure of a negotiation strategy. I think what now needs to happen, Chair, is for both the UK Government and the European Union to redouble their efforts, to be as flexible as they can be, and to secure a deal in the coming days. If that doesn't happen, then the economic damage and the disruption that Wales and the rest of the UK will face will be considerable and it will be a matter of political choice if that is the outcome.

So, my call is for both parties to redouble their efforts. Obviously, it is the UK Government's role to secure the well-being of people in the UK, so we look to them in particular to step up to the plate and deliver the best available deal.

I'm grateful to you for that, and I think all members of the committee would agree with you on that. But, as the Welsh Minister in these matters—clearly the UK Government takes the lead; I accept all of that—to what extent have you been involved in this? We, the rest of us mortals, will read our newspapers, we'll watch our tvs, we will read our screens and the rest of it, and we are told by journalists the contents of the menu for supper, rather than the contents of the conversations. I'm interested in understanding the extent to which you and the Welsh Government and officials are actually involved in this conversation.

Well, Chair, you'll remember from previous discussions at this committee that we have articulated, as a Government, together with the other devolved Governments, a, we feel, pragmatic and proportionate way for the devolved Governments to be properly engaged in the negotiations, recognising that the actual negotiation is obviously a reserved function, but, plainly, it impacts any number of devolved functions right across the devolved nations. You will also recall, I'm afraid, probably, that we've had at no point any success in persuading the UK Government that that is what is the best way forward—the best way forward for the devolved nations, but also, Chair, the best way forward for the UK at large.

It has always been our case that the UK Government's voice in these negotiations will carry greater credibility and greater weight if it is able to say that it is the shared view, insofar as that is possible—you know, we are realistic about this, but it ought to be the product of at least an attempt to agree a position, and that has, bluntly, never been the case. So, these are the UK Government's negotiations, whether they succeed or fail. We have not, as a Government, been able to materially involve ourselves in that way.

I think at the margins you can see—when preferences have not, you know, cut to the bone of the UK Government's priorities, perhaps, I do think there have been opportunities that we've taken to press a particular case with success. But there has not been, as you know, that kind of systematic engagement that I think people in Wales would have expected. 


I understand that, and you have told the committee that before, but can I press you a bit further on that, Minister? You've got two former fisheries Ministers with you today, so there's a particular interest in these matters. Fisheries, of course, is one of the three areas where it's reported that there are particular problems. Next week, of course, is the annual meeting to determine fishing opportunities for the coming year, so there's an element of timing around this as well, and it is a completely devolved, to all intents and purposes, subject. Have you had any sight—or have you had any conversations, or have officials had conversations, on, say, fisheries, which is a responsibility of the Welsh Government?

Well, no. We've made our points—we've made the case on behalf of Wales, Chair, and you will know that our position is that, given the nature of the fishing stocks in UK waters and the consumption of fish in the UK, the priority from our point of view is access to markets. Quotas are important, but not as important as access in that sense.

There is a set of—. In the last period, let's just say, we've had—and I've had at a ministerial level; officials have had—readouts of the state of negotiations, if you like, to describe what is happening in the discussions. But they've been very high-level briefings, and they've in no way, really, gone into the level of detail that we would have wanted, in particular in a devolved area in the way that you describe.

My requests, which have been repeated, really, for a strategic discussion about the big trade-offs that are being considered have never materialised in us being able to have that strategic discussion, even on something that is, as you say, entirely devolved. So, we've had official-level and ministerial-level downloads, if I can use that term, of the state of play, but never, really, an opportunity to engage in that strategic way.

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da, Gweinidog. Yn nhermau unrhyw gytundeb arfaethedig efo'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, fel gwnaeth y Cadeirydd sôn, roedd y swper olaf neithiwr—efallai nid y swper olaf, ond cawn ni weld. Ond, yn y broses o unrhyw gytundeb efo'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, a allwch chi gadarnhau a ydych chi'n disgwyl y bydd yn ofynnol i'r Senedd hon chwarae rôl yn y broses o gadarnhau unrhyw gytundeb? 

Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, Minister. In terms of any proposed agreement with the European Union, as the Chair mentioned, it was the last supper last night—perhaps not the last supper, but we'll see. But, in the process of reaching any agreement with the European Union, could you confirm—do you expect that this Senedd will be expected to play a part in the ratification process?

Rwy'n credu y bydd gan y Senedd rôl, yn yr ystyr y bydd gofyn gan y Llywodraeth yn San Steffan i'r Senedd roi ei chydsyniad i unrhyw Fil ddaw allan er mwyn gwneud realiti o'r cytundeb—hynny yw, bydd LCM, rwy'n credu, yn dod yng nghyd-destun y ddeddfwriaeth a ddaw yn sgil hynny, os bydd cytundeb.

Well, I think that the Senedd will have a role, in terms of the fact that the Westminster Government will ask the Senedd to give its consent to any Bill that will emanate from the agreement to make the agreement a reality—that is, a legislative consent motion will come forward as a result of the legislation, if there is an agreement.

Felly, ar gefn hynny, a allaf bellach ofyn i chi egluro a ydy Llywodraeth Cymru yn disgwyl y bydd hi'n ofynnol iddi gyflwyno is-ddeddfwriaeth gerbron y Senedd er mwyn gweithredu telerau unrhyw gytundeb y deuir iddo cyn 31 Rhagfyr? 

On the back of that, may I ask you to explain whether the Welsh Government expects subordinate legislation to be put forward in the Senedd to implement the terms of any agreement before 31 December?

Wel, bydd angen i'r ratification ddigwydd yn San Steffan cyn diwedd y flwyddyn, fel rŷch chi'n ei ddweud. Gan nad ydym ni ddim yn gwybod ar hyn o bryd beth yw canlyniad y negodiadau, dŷn ni ddim yn gwybod beth yw cynnwys y ddeddfwriaeth er mwyn gwneud realiti o unrhyw gytundeb. Felly, allaf i ddim ateb eich cwestiwn chi gydag unrhyw fanylder. Dŷn ni ddim wedi gweld elfennau, er enghraifft, o'r ddeddfwriaeth honno.

Mae'n debyg, o ran amseru, o ystyried lle rydyn ni o ran y dyddiau sydd i fynd ac ati, buaswn i'n disgwyl gweld na fydd cymaint o fanylder efallai ar wyneb y Bil ag y buasech chi'n meddwl byddai'n ddelfrydol, jest oherwydd yr amser sydd ar ôl. Ac felly, mae hynny'n awgrymu y bydd angen deddfwriaeth eilaidd, fel rŷch chi'n sôn, ond allaf i ddim dweud wrthych chi faint o hynny fydd nac ym mha destunau—dyw hynny ddim yn glir. Ond yn sicr, bydd angen rhywfaint o hynny a bydd e mewn cyfnod byr iawn.

Well, the ratification will have to happen in Westminster before the end of the year, as you say. As we don't know at the moment what the results of the negotiations are, we don't know what the content of the legislation will be to make any agreement a reality. So, I can't answer your question in any detail. We haven't seen elements, for example, of that legislation.

It is likely, in terms of the timeline, considering where we are at the moment regarding the number of days to go. I would expect to see that there won't be as much detail on the face of the Bill as one would think would be ideal, just because of the time that's remaining. And so that suggests that there will be a need for subordinate legislation, as you said, but I can't tell you how much of that there will be—that's not clear. But certainly there will be some subordinate legislation needed at short notice.


Thank you, Chair. Minister, if I can turn to preparation for the end of transition and just ask you: how has the engagement been going between the Welsh Government and UK Government at official and ministerial levels on the end of transition action plan? We're really hopeful here in the committee, but also at a Wales level, that that engagement has been detailed and intimate and rigorous, because of the criticality of the timing now as well as the detail that we need to get through. So, has it been good? How's it been going?

Well, the committee will remember that there are two key buckets of activity, if I can describe them in that way, in the preparedness space. One is a set of UK-wide projects, which obviously are being led by the UK Government, but many of them have a significant devolved component and so, in those areas, the UK Government leads and we've been working with them on that. The picture in relation to that, and I'll ask perhaps Ed to give some further detail on this, is that we've never really had the kind of helicopter view of the entire body of it in a way that would give us the opportunity of identifying all of the areas that we feel we would need to know about and add value to. We've had information about the areas where the UK Government's view is that there are devolved interests. So, that's kind of one sphere of activity. But the point you're making is around the end of transition action plan, which is those projects, which, effectively, we are either leading in Wales or working on very closely and jointly with the UK Government.

So, in relation to the plan before it was published in mid-November, officials shared a copy of it with the UK Government, not least because it describes some of the responsibilities of the UK Government and says, in effect, that that's a matter for them to deliver, if you like. So, UK Government officials saw that ahead of publication, had an opportunity to give a view on it, and then, obviously, subsequently, I've shared that with UK Government Ministers and other devolved Government Ministers, emphasising throughout, obviously, the importance of working together on that. And there are discussions ongoing with the UK Government in relation to aspects where we need them to deliver, if you like, in those areas that we are leading on in Wales.

The general picture is that the pace of engagement, both at an official and a ministerial level, in relation to the end of transition planning generally, has improved, I would say, quite significantly, but from an extremely low base for quite a lot of this year. And those, in my mind—they call them 'the lost four months'; I'm not sure if they were exactly four months, but it was more or less that kind of period, and we won't be able to make that up, however well-aligned we are at this point. And so, that's obviously regrettable, but I'll ask Ed perhaps, if you don't mind, to give a bit more colour to that.

Yes, of course. So, on the totality of the UK projects, the Counsel General is correct: we still haven't seen the entire list of projects that the UK Government is managing, but where we are seeing some insights is in our attendance of the UK Government's transition readiness portfolio board, where the UK Government at official level runs through the entirety of their programme in terms of the high-level management information around progress on the programme as a whole. So, we see the macro picture of UK readiness across their entire programme. So, that's how we see the information on the UK projects. 

On the sharing of information on the end of transition action plan, at official level, we've presented our plan to that same portfolio board meeting to ensure that UK Government has got as much detail as they need on what our key priorities and actions are. So, that's been really useful to feed in our assessment of the actions that we're undertaking, and that reliance on UK Government action as well has been really useful through those avenues. 

But alongside that kind of central sharing of information, there's a lot of work going on across the individual strands at both ministerial and official level, so there's detailed work on food supply, for example, that's taken forward with the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs at both ministerial and official levels. There's a new UK-wide business readiness group as well that's discussing the key issue around how to improve business readiness, which is also a key priority within the action plan. So, at the macro level, there's central engagement on the actions, but also at the project level as well, there's regular engagement on official level on those key priorities where there are opportunities to engage on a cross-Government basis.


That's really encouraging, Ed, and Minister as well. Thanks for that. But can I turn to some of the potential funding gaps? We know that the auditor general has stated that there could be more than £50 million of activity to be delivered that is not yet funded. There might be other areas that this committee is not aware of. So, can I ask you: are you making representations to the UK Government about any funding shortfall, and, frankly, what's the plan B, if the UK Government say, 'Well, no, it's over to you'?

Well, the short answer to your first question is 'yes'. Working on the end of transition plan on a cross-Government basis has enabled us to crystallise what the outstanding needs are in terms of additional funding requirements—some of that in the way that Ed was describing is around business support and so on and some of it is now obviously impacted clearly by the larger picture around the impact of COVID. So, looking at the two things together is obviously important. 

The outcome of the spending review, of course, in relation to issues to do with EU transition, as I know I don't need to remind you, Huw, in your particular role obviously, has been frankly a complete betrayal of the promises made to people in Wales, both in terms of the replacement of structural and regional funding, but also the slashing of the agricultural funding, both of which were significant promises made and broken. So, that's the setting for the discussion, which is obviously not a positive context for the discussion. 

You mentioned the auditor general, and the answer to that is that he did identify a significant shortfall. As it happens, we think that's probably nearer—it's slightly reduced, but it's probably nearer about £40 million at this point, by virtue of working through, often with sector bodies, to understand the developing picture, if you like, of the impact, but it's still obviously a significant issue. Now, the truth of the matter is, there's huge uncertainty about what the number will end up needing to be because, plainly, we don't have the details of the deal at this point, so, clearly, it isn't possible to quantify that.

The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd is looking at what additional funding could conceivably be made available as part of the budgetary process to ensure—in so far as it's within our more modest resources, if you like—to smooth out some of those obstacles on the road of transition. But we've been very clear with the UK Government that there are a number of areas where we absolutely will require additional financial aid, really, to deal with the economic impact, both in the short and longer terms of a 'no deal' Brexit in particular, which, you know, is obviously going to be catastrophic for many sectors.

The broader picture, needless to say, is that the macro financial levers really are the ones that will need to be doing the heavy lifting in the Brexit response across the UK—you know, the welfare levers; the taxation levers—and obviously, most of those are in the hands of the UK Government, but we consistently make the case and Ministers make cases in relation to individual interventions as well.

Okay, thank you for that. If I can turn to one of the detailed areas that's flagged up in the end of transition action plan, which is the possible need for a crisis intervention scheme of the red meat and the fisheries sectors, are you also looking at a crisis intervention scheme possibly for border disruption where an agreement is in place as well—is that likely?

Well, they are obviously, as it were, the two scenarios, aren't they, at this point in time. The 'no deal' scenario, with the addition of tariffs, obviously, is going to be hugely negative for the red meat sector and dairy sector and the effect on farming would be very considerable. Now, I think even in a 'deal' scenario, the frictions at the border in the way that you were describing will cause additional—perhaps significant additional costs to the sector. So, certainly, in the 'no deal' scenario, we have submitted a proposal, together with other agriculture ministries across the UK, to the Treasury for a package of support in that scenario. 

I think in a 'deal' scenario, we would, I think, need to see what the deal is, to be honest, and then work out rapidly after that whether there's a case to be made and, if so, what kind of case for aid in that context. But it's almost certain to be less economically damaging, if I can put it like that, than the imposition of tariffs.


Okay, thank you. Can I ask how confident you are that the appropriate staffing resources are available and will be in place so that the sanitary and phytosanitary controls can be delivered?

Well, this is an area of concern, really. Obviously, committee will know that the Welsh Government's responsibilities in relation to SPS effectively apply from mid year 2021, so 1 July next year; they don't kick in on 1 January. And officials have been working with the Food Standards Agency, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and with the Animal and Plant Health Agency and local authorities, obviously, to understand in more detail what those staffing requirements are.

One of the issues, if I can be candid about it, is that, because, as part of the European Union, there hasn't been a need to capture some of the trade flows that will tell you the level of resource that you need to deploy in order to be able to meet an SPS need, for example, that data just hasn't been available in the way that we now need it because it didn't trigger anything, if you like. That picture will become clearer, because of work that DEFRA is leading on, so we expect to develop a richer understanding of the trade routes and therefore on the SPS demand. But it's clearly going to be the case, both in the context of environmental health officers and in the context of vets, that that there will be a very, very significant pressure in that space. And, actually, export health certificates into the European Union will in fact be required from day 1, from 1 January. So, that isn't deferred in the way that our own internal checks are.

I don't need to remind this committee, because we've discussed it before, environmental health officers and vets are already in very short supply. Overwhelmingly, vets are EU-trained who work in this space, as it happens, in Wales. And those who are available are obviously deployed significantly—the EHOs, certainly—in the context of the COVID response. So, there's a very significant pressure around that, and we're obviously working with the UK Government and with agencies to see what mitigations we can try and put in place.

Minister, thank you. That was a very good and frank and full response, but in the worst-case scenario, where resources are being stretched wide already, as you say—not least through COVID, and we're still trying to get through this fog of uncertainty—can we be confident that those sanitary and phytosanitary controls will be in place?

Well, obviously, we need to be able to ensure the biosecurity of Great Britain in our post-transition arrangements. What I'm describing to you is a set of very acute pressures on the resource that is available—by the way, this isn't an issue that is particular to Wales; it's common in all parts of the UK, as I understand it—and there will be a need to prioritise, reprioritise, in a very, very challenging way to meet the biggest risks that we will face. And I think that is a judgment that agriculture Ministers will need to make, with the resources available to each Government, really.

No, that's fair enough. We understand. I'm going to try and deal rapidly with a couple of other areas that might help us cut through this current fog of uncertainty. One of them is relatively simple but a very practical one, and it's to do with the Welsh Government's Preparing Wales site and the Business Wales EU transition portal websites. They can't be fully updated until we know the outcomes of the negotiations currently going on. Will they be up to speed when we know what the detail is?

Well, as it happens, they are routinely audited to make sure that they are as current as they—they reflect the state of information at any point in time. So, that is a process that happens on a cyclical basis already. Obviously, the next, as it were, significant refresh of that, will need to be at some point, I assume, in the next week or so, after details have become clear. Obviously, what we will want to do is signpost people to the information the UK Government is making available but, plainly, we're already preparing content that looks at different eventualities so that we have a foundation on which to build. But, clearly, the point will be to get them up to date as quickly as we're able to, so that they then become, I think as they have been, a reliable resource for people about what's coming next.


Okay, thank you. And what is the latest, Minister, on the two inland border control sites in Wales?

Well, the latest on that is that late engagement has meant that the pressure on the ability to deliver those in time is extraordinary, really. In the south-west of Wales there are needs there, obviously, for inland sites. We've been working with Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire councils there to identify sites for doing that. We've had consultants who've developed a short list of potential sites, which is being worked through at the moment, before recommendations are made to Ministers—that's happening as we speak. In north Wales, HMRC have been leading so far in relation to the site there. There have been a number of sites identified. One of them is subject to commercial negotiations at the moment, but there's a due diligence process happening alongside that as well. There are other options as well.

In terms of the design process for the border control post, which is quite a significant part of this, identifying the plot is one thing, but then the BCP itself is a very sophisticated piece of infrastructure. It's not a portakabin; it's a very significant thing, really. There's progress in that space, working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency and the Animal and Plant Health Agency to develop the spec for that building. The truth is, I think, that we're obviously working closely at this point, but, as I say, not to labour the point, a significant amount of time was lost during the course of this year.

Yes, indeed. There are a lot of people, yourself included, but also a lot of officials and agencies, that are going to be exceptionally busy in the run-up to Christmas. Crikey. We wish them all the best in this.

One of those other areas is the area around legal functions. The auditor general has indicated that there may be around 4,000 legal functions previously exercised at EU level that will need to be taken on. Are we online to complete that work by 1 January?

Well, the assessment is done already. Officials have been working at an extraordinary pace, and I'd like to pay tribute to those who've been involved in that, really, to identify what the new legal functions are and where they sit, which divisions they most naturally sit with. In many cases that'll be clear, but there is a significant piece of work that's now complete in relation to that. Not all of them, by the way, will be needed for 1 January, so it's a more staggered picture than that. And obviously those things—those functions, which are critical functions—will be capable of being delivered in a timely way. But, again, it's about prioritisation, isn't it, as with all of these things. But, yes, the assessment work has been completed.

Thank you. My final question is this—and let my preface this by giving my own thanks to all those people who've been working in these areas. Within Welsh Government, within agencies and elsewhere, people have been redeployed from tasks, redeployed from other Government business in order to make this happen. But I want to ask you to what level we can be confident now that all EU exit essential posts will be filled by 1 January, and also, Minister, what departments are having to release staff for redeployment in order to do this. What impact will this have on other Government business and functions?

This is a question of major significance in many ways, and other Governments will face the same challenges, really. The Government is obviously bringing in new staff, as you say, but also redeploying existing staff. That's to meet what I think can best be described as a rapidly evolving picture, really, because it deals, obviously, both with the needs of EU exit, but also with the impact of COVID, and also delivering on the Government's statutory functions, but also political priorities, if you like. All parts of the Government are playing a role in that internal redeployment, so that's a common picture across the Government.

Prioritisation, as I've just mentioned in another context, is really the key here, in all candour—prioritising the most important functions and the ones that make the biggest difference and impact, prioritising what other areas we can redeploy staff from. So, it's obviously a very complex picture. The honest answer is that in many parts of the Government, resources are stretched very thin indeed, and in some areas we're looking at functions being deployed on a one-deep basis, really. So, there may be coverage, but the coverage isn't especially deep, and so that poses its own very significant challenges. If I may say, I think it's extraordinary the capacity that officials have to maintain the Welsh Government's position against that very punishing set of resource challenges, so I do want to record that, if I may.

Practically speaking, in terms of numbers, there are probably around 200 people, I think, who've been moved either across groups within the Government to cover crisis areas, if I can put it like that, or within groups to focus on areas that are perhaps more exposed to EU exit or COVID. I think about 84 per cent of staff—that is our calculation—are in some way impacted, or their roles, as it were, are impacted in some way by COVID, and many of those are people working on EU transition. So, there's some external recruitment going on, as you will have seen, for fixed-term roles, and there's also been some staff loaned in from arm's-length bodies and other parts of the civil service. You will also have seen, I think, a senior leadership recruitment programme, recognising that these impose burdens on all parts of the organisation, really.

Just one final thing that I think you might be interested to know is that the emergency co-ordination centre, ECCW, which is our COBRA, if you like, in Wales—we are working to that being fully stood up by the end of this month, at the same point as it will be across the UK. There are probably around 60 staff members that will be involved in that mobilisation when it happens, and that's building up incrementally now.


Thank you very much. That's a very sobering analysis, Minister, you've just given us of the resource implication across Government, of both COVID and this Brexit process coming together at the same time. It may be that this committee may wish to write to the Finance Committee, actually, to seek some sort of overview of that and the impact on the wider functioning of Government through this process. It would appear to me that a Government that is probably too small at best is put under intolerable strain by these matters, in particular, as you said, the officials who are working on this on a day-to-day basis. So, I'm grateful to you for that, Minister. David Rowlands.

Counsel General, can we turn to matters of international trade? You indicated in Plenary proceedings that you were broadly content with the UK-Japan agreement, but that agreement included an economic analysis of its impact on UK trade alone. So, is the Welsh Government considering in any way commissioning its own independent impact assessment for future trade agreements?

Well, I think the Japan trade agreement specifically is obviously, effectively, a continuity agreement, so, in a sense, the economic impact from that agreement would be more keenly felt, as it were, if it wasn't in place, in the sense that the point of it is, obviously, to continue the trading arrangement. So, you would expect, I think, ordinarily, that the impact wouldn't be substantially different, certainly, from the existing economic pattern. Obviously, that would be the case if the agreement had fallen away, clearly.

Now, that won't be the case in terms of new free trade agreements. I hope, certainly, that where they'll be fresh third-country agreements, that will deliver some economic benefit, and so the picture will be slightly different in that context. But the modelling, obviously, is based on UK Government modelling. Officials are, however, looking at an impact assessment template that will be bespoke, as it were, to Wales, and Chair, you might—I think, certainly from my point of view, I would be interested in the committee's views on how that could work in a way that would facilitate both assessment and scrutiny, of course. So, if the committee was interested in that, it would certainly be something that we would find helpful to hear your views on.

The broader picture, though, to be realistic about your question, David, is that, broadly speaking, the Welsh economy is, obviously, deeply embedded in the UK-wide picture, isn't it? It's highly integrated with the economy of England in particular, and so—and this is a perennial challenge, really—any specific analysis bespoke to Wales proceeds on the basis of quite a large number of assumptions, which probably isn't the most illuminating way of doing it. We are trying to build up a separate stream, if you like, of economic data, partly through the trade survey for Wales, partly through working with HMRC and the Office for National Statistics, so that we develop a more bespoke evidence base, if you like, for the particular characteristics of the Welsh economy. And as we do that, there's obviously more scope then for the analysis to draw on that.


Intriguingly, that agreement has a new chapter on trade and women's economic empowerment. I'm sure our colleague Joyce Watson would be very interested in that part of it. But there are moves to establish a working group to oversee the delivery of that. What role would the Welsh Government have in that working group? Has that been indicated to you at all?

I would hope that we would all have an interest in that, Chair. The Welsh Government certainly has an interest in that area. I did actually raise this specifically yesterday with Greg Hands, the UK Government trade Minister, in the first of the ministerial fora for trade that I have been able to attend since I took on this work, and made clear that obviously, since the devolved Governments have a role in implementation, we should also have an involvement in the working groups and committees, if you like, which relate to devolved areas, and this would be one of those relevant areas. He was open to that, and we've agreed that officials will work together to develop a way to make that happen, essentially.

Obviously, one of the very important factors coming out of this agreement is to do with SMEs. What sort of representations has the Welsh Government made to the UK Government to ensure that it plays an active role in supporting Welsh businesses? Because I was intrigued to see that it's only a tiny proportion of Welsh exports that go to Japan at this particular time, which is very strange, because we do have close contacts with Japanese companies et cetera.

It is a significant export market for us. I mean, it's obviously not as significant as the European Union countries, but it is an important territory for us, which is why we were pleased to see the continuity agreement in place. I'll ask Emma Edworthy in a second, perhaps, to give a little bit more information on this, because chronologically, it predates my own time in this role. But we have a representative office, as I think the committee may know, in Tokyo, based in the embassy alongside the UK Government's trade and invest teams, and they obviously work closely together, which is helpful from our point of view, certainly. We've had a virtual trade mission very recently, focused on Japan, for a number of SMEs, where the export team in the Welsh Government, together with the DIT teams, have provided group briefings for businesses with an interest in the Japanese market, so that that can be expanded. And there are other opportunities, I think, looking at how you take advantage of cultural and sporting events, for example. So, the Rugby World Cup and so on was a launch pad for developing and enhancing our profile as a country in Japan, and we hope that will contribute to the success of SME exports in that way. But Emma perhaps will give us a bit more context on that.

You indicated earlier that this agreement with Japan was a roll-over—

David, I'm sorry to cut across you, but I felt that perhaps Emma might be providing us with that additional information, in answer to your previous question.

Thanks, Chair. Not much to add, really, to what the Minister said, David, other than to say that from a policy perspective, obviously, we're really, really keen to see SME chapters appear in these deals. A modern way to pull these deals forward is to add SME chapters. As you all know, SMEs make up a considerable proportion, or most businesses within Wales. When you look at our exports—whether that's to the EU, Japan, or wherever—it is led by the sort of big boys, so one of the things that we have to do is bring more of our SMEs up through the chain. So, from a policy perspective, we're working really, really closely with our delivery team, and the Minister's already described some of the things that they're doing.

Thank you very much for that. And can I say that, obviously, we would ask you to come in at any time that you feel that you would like to on any of my remaining questions, or questions of my colleagues as well, of course? I was going to ask—. You mentioned, Jeremy, that the Japan deal was one of the roll-over or continuity trade agreements, so can you give us an update? I know this is quite a broad area, so I'm sure you'll be succinct, but it is an update on the remaining continuity trade agreements.


Yes, I'm very happy to do that. I will certainly take your invitation up on being succinct, if I may. There are, I think, 22 agreements that have been already signed, and I think another five agreements reached in principle, and I think 12 in the pipeline, if you like, in terms of the overall numbers. Obviously, from our point of view, we want to make sure that Welsh businesses have full clarity of trading arrangements as soon as possible, so we continue to press UK Government in this area, and obviously we're pleased to see the progress in those continuity agreements being put in place. I raised this yesterday at the ministerial forum for trade as well. We have a particular interest in some of the outstanding ones, so I would suggest maybe Turkey is a significant one for us in Wales.

Of the outstanding group, there are probably three buckets of agreements, really. One is one where there's a kind of ongoing dialogue, and where agreements could be coming forward quite soon. One is where there are links to whatever happens to the EU deal—so, the Turkey deal would be in that space because of the trading relationship between Turkey and the EU in particular. And then there's a third group where perhaps progress might be a little bit further away, because issues are more complex, and relationships more newly established. So, that's the overall picture. I hope that's helpful.

It looks as if there's not going to be a continuity agreement with Algeria by 1 January. One might think that that's not an important country, but when we think that Algeria's exports to Wales are oil or gas, and that's 99 per cent of its exports, obviously a lack of oil or gas would have quite an impact on our economy, or the ability of many of the companies to operate. So, have you assessed the potential impact of an agreement not coming into force for businesses in Wales?

So, we do know that, in terms of the overall Welsh economy, the deal with Algeria will not have as much impact one way or the other as some other deals. Obviously our focus and priority has been necessarily on those deals where the impact is greatest—not to suggest that—. Obviously we're very keen to make sure that deals are in place, and as many as possible, plainly. On the specifics of the Algeria deal, obviously we remain in ongoing discussions, if I can put it like that, with those who might be affected in Wales, but I think it's a slightly more complex picture, really, because of the impact on global oil prices over the course of the last 12 months in particular. So, I'm guessing it's a slightly more benign environment, perhaps, than might otherwise be the case as a consequence of that. But that's a kind of inexpert assessment, really. The discussions that we're having with those who are affected in Wales will be the basis on which we respond formally in that way.

Thank you very much, Counsel General. Thank you, Chair.

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Troi nawr at faterion yn ymwneud â Bil Marchnad Fewnol y Deyrnas Unedig. Gweinidog, byddwch chi'n cofio y cawsom ni drafodaeth yn y Senedd yr wythnos yma ar wrthod cydsyniad deddfwriaethol y Senedd ynglŷn â Bil y farchnad fewnol. Felly, fe wnawn ni drio osgoi troedio'r hen dir, fel petai, ond mae yna rai materion technegol, felly, fydd o fudd i gofnodion y pwyllgor yma. Felly, allaf i ofyn yn y lle cyntaf—[Anghlywadwy.] Ydych chi, fel Llywodraeth Cymru, wedi cynnal trafodaethau efo Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig ar y gwelliannau i Fil Marchnad Fewnol y Deyrnas Unedig? Gawsoch chi unrhyw drafodaethau ynglŷn â'ch gwelliannau chi, neu unrhyw welliannau eraill? Allech chi egluro pam oedd y trafodaethau hynny'n aflwyddiannus, achos yn amlwg, nis dewiswyd eich gwelliannau chi? Diolch.

Thank you very much, Chair. Turning now to issues with regard to the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, Minister you'll remember we had a discussion in the Senedd this week on rejecting legislative consent for the internal market Bill. So, we'll try to avoid going over that old ground again, but there are technical issues that are important for this committee's consideration. So, in the first instance. Has the Welsh Government held discussions with UK Government on amendments to the UK internal market Bill? Did you have any discussions with regard to your amendments, or any other amendments? Can you explain why those discussions were unsuccessful, because clearly your amendments weren't selected? Thank you.

Do, cafwyd trafodaethau gweinidogol. Ces i fwy nag un cyfarfod gyda Chloe Smith, y Gweinidog yn Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol. Yr un diweddaraf, rwy'n credu, oedd efallai ychydig mwy nag wythnos yn ôl. Mae trafodaethau hefyd wedi bod rhwng swyddogion.

Yes, we did have discussions on a ministerial level. I had more than one meeting with Chloe Smith, the Minister in the UK Government. The most recent, I think, was just over a week ago. We've also had discussions between officials.

I might ask Sophie to give a bit more colour to the official-level discussions around amendments. 

Ond o ran beth oedd hynt y trafodaethau hynny, o'n safbwynt ni fel Llywodraeth, yr hyn roeddem ni'n ei wneud oedd dweud, 'Mae gennym ni ffordd i chi drwy'r dilema rydych chi wedi ei greu i chi eich hunain. Mae gennym ni welliannau, ac os derbyniwch chi'r gwelliannau hynny, bydd gennych chi lwybr i ddod nôl o le chi wedi cyrraedd.' Felly, ymgais ymarferol oedd hynny. Roedd e'n sicr yn wir, fuaswn i'n dweud, am gyfnodau yn y broses fod diddordeb gan y Llywodraeth yn y gwelliannau hynny, nid o ran ymrwymiad i wneud unrhyw beth cadarn yn eu cylch nhw, ond er mwyn trafod sut fydden nhw'n gweithio yn ymarferol pe bai awydd ymhlith Gweinidogion yn San Steffan i wneud rhywbeth amdanyn nhw. Ond, yn sicr, i fi, roedd rhai o'r meysydd hynny tu hwnt i unrhyw bosibilrwydd fod unrhyw hyblygrwydd yn mynd i fod. Ar ddiwedd y dydd, fuaswn i'n dweud mai un o'r sialensau—ac argraff yw hyn, gyda llaw—oedd dwi ddim yn credu bod safbwynt gytûn efallai o fewn Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol ar rai o'r pethau roeddem ni'n eu trafod.

But in terms of what the direction of those discussions was and the consequences, from our point of view as a Government, what we were doing was saying, 'We have a way through the dilemma that you've created for yourselves. We have amendments, and if you accept those amendments, you will have a path to come back from where you've reached.' So, it was a practical attempt in that regard. It was certainly true, I would say, that for periods in the process the UK Government was interested in those amendments, not in terms of a firm commitment to do anything about them, but to discuss how they would work practically if there was a desire amongst Ministers in Westminster to do something about them. For me, it was clear that some of those areas were beyond any possibility of having any flexibility on them. At the end of the day, I would say that one of the challenges—this is an impression, by the way—was that perhaps there wasn't an agreed stance within the UK Government on some of those issues that we were discussing.

But perhaps Sophie can tell us a bit more about the official level engagement, if you would find that helpful.


Ie, diolch yn fawr. Sophie.

Yes, thank you. Sophie.

Thank you. I think the publication of the Welsh Government model amendments gave us a good starting point for discussions at official level, as the Counsel General has explained. It gave us a suite of information that we could share and show that alternative way forward for options for the Bill. We had a series of discussions with UK Government officials, particularly in the Cabinet Office and in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, around those model amendments, and spent significant time explaining the detail of how they worked, the mechanisms that they contained, so that it was clear that that was a genuine alternative way forward. I think those discussions were constructive and open and honest, but I think, as the Counsel General has explained, there were just some fundamental differences at the heart of it.

Diolch am hynna—cynhwysfawr iawn. A allaf jest symud ymlaen ychydig bach? Pe bai Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig nawr yn mynd ymlaen heb gydsyniad y Senedd a heb gydsyniad Senedd yr Alban, fel rydyn ni'n gwybod, allwch chi amlinellu beth fydd canlyniadau hynna, hynny yw, y Deyrnas Unedig yn mynd ymlaen ac anwybyddu beth wnaethom ni benderfynu wythnos yma, a beth mae Senedd yr Alban hefyd wedi'i benderfynu, i wrthod y cydsyniad yma? Beth ydych chi'n meddwl fydd canlyniadau hynna, ac ydych chi wedi cael trafodaethau ar hyd y llinellau yna i olrhain y canlyniadau efo Gweinidogion y Deyrnas Unedig?

Thank you very much for that very comprehensive response. Just moving on a little bit, if the UK Government were to proceed now without the consent of the Senedd and without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, as we now know, could you outline what the consequences of that will be, with the UK Government going forward and ignoring what we decided this week and what the Scottish Parliament has also decided with regard to giving consent? What will the results of that be, and have you had discussions along those lines to talk about those consequences with UK Ministers?

Yn sicr, rydym ni wedi'i gwneud yn glir bod angen parchu confensiwn Sewel yn hyn o beth, ac na ddylai Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol fynd yn eu blaenau gyda'r ddeddfwriaeth os oedd y deddfwrfeydd datganoledig yn gwrthod cydsyniad. Rydym ni wedi rhoi cyfle, wrth gwrs, i'r Llywodraeth yn San Steffan i beidio â bod yn y sefyllfa honno. Rydym ni wedi bod yn glir bod angen diwygio sylfaenol—overhaul—ar y confensiwn. Dyw e yn sicr ddim yn gweithio i'w bwrpas yn y ffurf mae e nawr, ond, wedi dweud hynny, o fewn cyd-destun y fformiwla bresennol, dyw'r sefyllfa hon ddim yn cyrraedd y man sydd angen ei gyrraedd er mwyn dweud y gallai'r Llywodraeth fynd yn eu blaenau heb gydsyniad, yn ein barn ni fel Llywodraeth. 'Exceptional circumstances', 'unique', dyna oedd y math o eirfa roedd Michael Gove a Stephen Barclay yn ei ddefnyddio pan ddigwyddodd hyn y tro diwethaf. Fyddwn i ddim yn dweud bod yr amgylchiadau hyn yn debyg o gwbl, felly dylen nhw ddim mynd yn eu blaenau heb gydsyniad.

We've certainly made it clear that we need to respect the Sewel convention in this regard, and that the UK Government should not proceed with the legislation if the devolved legislatures refused to give consent. We've given an opportunity for the Westminster Government not to be in that position, of course. We have been clear that there needs to be an overhaul of the convention. It's certainly not working in its current form, but, having said that, within the context of the current formula, this situation doesn't reach the threshold that needs to be reached to say that the Government could proceed without consent, in our view as a Government. 'Exceptional circumstances', 'unique circumstances', those were the kinds of words that Michael Gove and Stephen Barclay used when this happened last time. I wouldn't say that these circumstances are similar at all, so they shouldn't be proceeding without that consent.

Diolch am hynna, Gweinidog, ac yn bellach i hynna, a allaf ofyn: ydy Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig wedi dweud wrthoch chi fel Llywodraeth Cymru pryd y bydd darpariaethau'r Bil yn cael eu deddfu os cânt eu pasio?

Thank you for that, Minister, and further to that, may I ask whether the UK Government has told you as the Welsh Government when the Bill's provisions will be enacted, if passed? 

Na. Fe wnaeth yr Arglwydd True ddweud rhywbeth amboutu bod dim argyfwng presennol yn hyn o beth, ond does dim arwydd wedi bod o amseru tu hwnt i hynny.

No. Lord True said something about there not being a crisis in that regard, but there's been no sign in terms of a timeline beyond that.

Reit, a'r cwestiwn olaf wrthyf i ynglŷn â hyn ydy: ydy Llywodraeth Cymru ar ganol datblygu rhestr o gamau y bydd angen inni eu cymryd i baratoi ar gyfer deddfu'r Bil os caiff ei basio?

Right, and a final question from me on this: is the Welsh Government in the process of developing a list of actions that will need to be taken to prepare for the enactment of the Bill, if passed?


Wel, dyw e ddim ar hyn o bryd yn bosib cael rhestr sydd yn ddiffiniedig, oherwydd dyw'r Bil ddim wedi cyrraedd man sydd wedi setlo yn gyfan gwbl eto, ond mae swyddogion o'r tîm yn gweithio gyda swyddogion ar draws y Llywodraeth i sicrhau bod pawb yn deall impact y Bil ar eu meysydd nhw, ac wedyn wrth gwrs dodi camau priodol yn eu lle.

Well, it isn't at present possible to have a definitive list, because the Bill hasn't reached a point that is settled, but officials from the team are working with officials across Government to ensure that everyone understands the impact of the Bill on their fields of endeavour and then to ensure that appropriate steps are taken.

Diolch i ti.

Thank you.

Before I bring Laura Jones in on common frameworks, can I just press you a bit further on some of these matters, Counsel General? The parliamentary ping-pong, as they like to call these things in Westminster, is going on at the moment, and the UK Government is looking towards, it appears to me, finding a common position with the Lords, and certainly they are putting forward amendments at the moment, and they've put forward a couple of amendments in the last few days, I understand, saying that they will seek consent or support or consult with the devolved administrations over some parts of this legislation. I presume you've responded to this. Can you share that with the committee?

Well, the letter that I saw was a letter to the Lords rather than to the Welsh Government, but the amendments, if I have the same ones in mind that you have—. Obviously, any concession is welcome, clearly, but they didn't go to the heart of the issues that we have been concerned about: common frameworks, financial assistance, state aid. You know, they don't address the fundamental objections that there are to the Bill.

I think it was Lord Thomas who proposed an amendment on three years, wasn't it? I presume you've had conversations with Lord Thomas on those matters. Is that the sort—? What I'm trying to press you on, if you don't mind, Counsel General, is: is there room, or is there space, for an agreement on this matter with the United Kingdom Government as the parliamentary processes work their way through?

Well, absolutely there is. That's the entire basis for the amendments that we put forward, Chair. The practical reality of how this goes through ping-pong, as you will know, is that only a smallish number of issues end up being in dispute, for reasons that are obvious, I suppose. So, it is unlikely that all our concerns, obviously, will be addressed, even if the UK Government wished to do that. And I think, in relation to some of the concerns, there's been no indication that the UK Government will wish to meet our concerns in relation to those. I hope that in other areas they will. 

What is the intensity of engagement at the moment? Are your officials, or are you as Ministers, involved in conversations? It would appear from an earlier answer, when you said you'd seen a letter to the Lords rather than to yourself, that these matters are not being actively discussed.

Well, they're being discussed between the UK Government and the Lords, which I think is—. You know, they're the Lords' amendments; the Welsh Government has no locus in the Lords, obviously, so I think that may well be the right—to be fair—kind of formal channel. But certainly, the UK Government knows what amendments we wish to see to the Bill. As I say, they've indicated some interest in some of them, but nothing that has been substantive at this point.

Actually, I should make one exception to that, in all fairness, in relation to the issues around the office of the internal market. There have been a considerable number of amendments in that space that have met a number of our concerns, so I should set those to one side, if you like, in the points that I'm making here, because there has been progress on that. But obviously we've been in discussion with peers who have shared our views about the shortcomings of the Bill, and those discussions continue.

Okay. I don't want to pursue this for too long, but the Welsh Parliament yesterday refused legislative consent, and it's a very rare event, actually, in terms of our processes. I presume that information will be communicated formally to the UK Government and it's happening at the moment. Do you have any plans, therefore, to speak to an opposite number in the UK Government on the basis of this refusal of consent, because I think it's in all our interests to ensure that the constitutional arrangements, such as they are, are actually made to work rather than to collapse?

Yes. There isn't anything, I think, scheduled specifically, Chair, but I think at this point, in all candour, I think we both understand, as it were, what our—. The UK Government's—. Well, actually, I don't know this, to be honest. I don't have a clear understanding of what the UK Government's position is on some of these issues, but they have a very clear understanding, I think, of what our position is on them. And I have been candid throughout about the challenge of securing consent and the impossibility of securing consent unless our objections have been met and they haven't been, so—.


Unmuted? Yes. Good afternoon, Counsel General. I wonder if I could start by asking you some questions on common frameworks, and if I could start by asking if the Government will be providing the Senedd with the framework arrangements that are in operation from 1 January, even if they're not deemed ready for formal scrutiny.

Well, I would like to provide as much information as I can, to be clear, but they are co-owned, if you like, across the four Governments, so I'm not in a position, if you like, to do something that is not on an agreed basis. But I am really very happy to raise that with other Governments and see how quickly we can get those forward to the Senedd and other committees and other Parliaments. 

Okay. Thank you. I'm just wondering if the Welsh Government has assessed the risks of the decision to move a number of planned common framework areas, including GMO marketing and cultivation and elements of tobacco regulation, to 'no action required', given its concerns that the market access principles and the internal market Bill could lead to a race to the bottom on standards.

Yes, well, those concerns are continuing and legitimate and, I think, about to be seen in the reality of their application. But the process of deciding that no action is required isn't a recognition that there isn't a need for high standards; it's that the current arrangements are appropriate, for example. So, that is a judgment that has been reached on a four-Government basis, effectively, and taking into account the principles in the 2018, I think, document, which established the process for common frameworks. So, it reflects those principles, really, rather than any concern about standards.

Thank you for explaining that. Would you be able to update the committee on the impact of the internal market Bill on the progress of the common frameworks programme?

Well, our view as a Government is that the common frameworks programme is at the heart of the internal market, effectively. That is the work—that is how the internal market can be regulated, if you like, in a way that is both nimble and unbureaucratic on the one hand, but also maintains standards and respects the devolution settlement on the other. So, we think that this is the part that does the heavy lifting, if you like, of taking forward a kind of internal market that we would like to see as a Government, really.

So, the concern that we have, which isn't immediate in its application today, but if the UK Government has a mechanism through this Act—if it becomes an Act—that enables the lowest standards in any part of the UK to prevail in all parts of the UK, that just undermines the imperative, if you like, for Governments to work together on the common frameworks. I should be clear that we see a role for common frameworks in any event; we actually think that that should still be the way that Governments work together on the basis of agreement, regardless of what the statute says. We think that is the right way of doing it, anyway. But I think—it won't have made progress any easier; let's just put it like that.

The Welsh Government states in their letter to the committee on food and feed safety and the hygiene framework that the Welsh Government has suggested alternative wording on the international obligations for frameworks. Could you inform the committee of what exactly that alternative wording is?

I might have to ask you to give me a little bit more time on that, because that wording is being discussed with other officials in other Governments through the project board, which is the official-level forum for engaging on these things. But I do think that it will be settled this side of Christmas, and so, when it is, if you'll allow me, I'll share it at that point with the committee.

That would be very helpful, thank you. Could you lastly—? Last question, Counsel General, you'll be glad to hear: would you just explain in what ways changes to EU law that apply in Northern Ireland by virtue of the protocol will be considered by Governments in all parts of the UK through the common framework process?

Well, yes, absolutely. The practical outturn, if you like, of the protocol won't be fully realised, I think, until the new year. And we've obviously seen an announcement this week in terms of trading in Northern Ireland, and so how that works will be one of the major issues, I think, that officials will need to look at as we move from the outline agreements, if you like, to the final version, if you like. So that, I think, will be a very important part of the analysis about how we get from here to there, really. We'll be looking at that in that part of the process.


I'm grateful to you for that. Counsel General, you've been very generous with the committee this afternoon, both in the time you've given to us and also in the candid nature of your replies to our questions, and we're grateful for that. We're all aware that we're not aware fully of how these different matters are going to play out over the coming weeks. We've discussed a number of different areas, mainly two areas, no deal and deal—those are the shorthand areas we've tried to cover, particularly in terms of preparedness and the rest of it. But are you preparing as well for what, personally, I would anticipate a very good reality would be, that there's a bit of a fudge that comes out of Brussels ahead of Christmas, that there's a provisional agreement, where some things are agreed and other things aren't agreed? We're aware of the different structures of governance at the European Union and the rest of it, and shared areas of competence between the Commission and the member states, but a provisional agreement, which—. Would that create more confusion and more difficulty for the Welsh Government? Is it something you're considering, is it something you're planning for, is it something that you have on your horizons? Have you noted that sort of possibility, as we run into these weeks before Christmas? 

Well, I would—. Firstly, I think we should all be pretty allergic to the idea of a fudge in the context of the negotiations for leaving the European transition period. Fudge is what we've had for too long, quite honestly, and what businesses, organisations and individuals want at this point is clarity. Obviously, to be clear, we want the right sort of clarity—so, not clarity at any cost, so to speak. We want the certainty of the best available agreement at this point. 

I think, though, Chair, what will become clear, certainly in a 'no deal' scenario and, I would suggest strongly, in a 'deal' scenario at this point in time, is that the trading arrangements that that provides are not an adequate basis for the UK to trade with the European Union into the future. I think, even in a 'deal' scenario, you have got to assume that this is a sort of down payment on a set of ongoing negotiations that will continue in a different context, different guise, and a different political context as well, beyond the end of the transition period. Because I think it will become rapidly very clear that the costs that businesses have to bear, even in the context of the sort of deal that looks like the best available deal at this point in time, are not going to be acceptable to most businesses, and certainly not to support their growth, profitability and competitiveness into the future. So, I think there will be an ongoing set of discussions to improve the position—improve the trading position—for companies and the UK economy at large.

Okay, I'm grateful to you for that and I'm grateful to you for your time again this afternoon, Minister, and to your officials as well. You will, of course, receive a transcript as usual. If you are able to check that transcript for accuracy, we'd be very, very grateful to you for that.

In wishing you a very merry Christmas, Minister, the sting in the tail is that we might ask to see you again in the new year, dependent on how these matters do play out, but we're always grateful to you for your time—we've been very grateful to you for this afternoon. Thank you very much—diolch yn fawr.

The committee will now stand adjourned for around half an hour. We will start our next session at 15:40. Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 15:04 a 15:42.

The meeting adjourned between 15:04 and 15:42.

4. Sesiwn graffu gyda'r Gweinidog Iechyd Meddwl, Llesiant a'r Gymraeg
4. Scrutiny session with the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language

Can I welcome Members back to this committee meeting this afternoon? I particularly want to welcome the Minister, Eluned Morgan, who's Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language. I think this is the first time you've appeared before this committee with this new role, so we very much welcome you this afternoon, Minister. Could you introduce your officials, please?

Eluned Morgan 15:42:55
Minister for Mental Health, Well-being and Welsh Language

Yes. I've got Nathan, and I'm afraid I don't know the name of the other lady because I only met her just now.

That's okay—Alison Black.

Okay, I'm grateful to you for that. We're going to start with Dai Lloyd.

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da, Gweinidog. Dŷn ni'n sôn yn fan hyn, wrth gwrs, am y fframwaith cyffredin ar labeli bwyd, safonau bwyd ac yn y blaen, ac, wrth gwrs, mae nifer helaeth ohonom ni wedi bod yn ymdrin â'r mater yma mewn ffordd ddwys a manwl ers wythnosau bellach.

Felly, awn ni i mewn i'r cwestiwn cyntaf ynglŷn â chwmpas y fframwaith yma, hynny yw, sgôp y fframwaith yma: allwch chi nodi sut y bydd y Llywodraethau—hynny yw, mwy na un Llywodraeth, y Llywodraethau mae pawb i fod i gydweithio â nhw ar fframweithiau cyffredin—allwch chi nodi sut y bydd y Llywodraethau yn sicrhau bod y fframwaith yma yn cysylltu'n effeithiol efo fframweithiau ar gyfer meysydd polisi cysylltiedig, er enghraifft, safonau bwyd, cyfansoddiad bwyd a labeli, diogelwch a hylendid bwyd a bwyd anifeiliaid, a phla-laddwyr? Mae yna bob math o safonau eraill—sut maen nhw'n cysylltu efo'i gilydd, Gweinidog?

Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, Minister. We're talking here about the common framework for nutritional-related labelling and so on, and, of course, a number of us have been involved in this issue in a very intensive way for several weeks now.

So, we'll go straight into the first question with regard to the scope of this framework: could you set out how the Governments—more than one Government, of course, that will collaborate on the common frameworks—will ensure that this framework links effectively to frameworks for related policy areas, for example, food composition, standards and food labelling, food and feed safety and hygiene, and pesticides? There are all kinds of other standards—how are they interrelated, Minister?

Wel, diolch yn fawr, Dai, a jest i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni i gyd yn deall beth yn union sy'n digwydd fan hyn, wrth gwrs, yn y gorffennol, yr EU sydd wedi bod yn gyfrifol am sicrhau ein bod ni'n gwybod beth yn union sydd yn ein bwyd ni, ei fod yn saff, ac, wrth gwrs, wrth inni dynnu allan o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, mae'n rhaid inni ail-greu system ein hunain tu fewn i Brydain.

Y ffaith yw bod yna gysylltiad rhwng y gwahanol fframweithiau—y fframwaith ar gyfer food and feed safety and hygiene food composition, standards and labelling. So, mae yna gysylltiad agos iawn. Mae'r fframweithiau i gyd wedi'u datblygu gyda guidance a template sydd yn yr un lle, felly, dylai fod yna gysondeb rhyngddyn nhw.

Pan fyddwch chi'n sôn am gwympo mas, am dispute resolution, wedyn mae mecanwaith ar gyfer hwnna; mae hwnna yr un peth. A hefyd jest i sicrhau bod y concordat i bob un o'r rhain hefyd. Felly, bydd alignment rhwng y fframweithiau hyn i gyd, ac, wrth gwrs, beth sy'n bwysig yw bod yna botensial hefyd inni sicrhau bod yr alignment yn gallu digwydd hyd yn oed yn agosach yn y dyfodol. Felly, dyna yw'r prif bethau. Ond jest i'w gwneud hi'n glir, o ran y pesticides—a dwi ddim yn gwybod pa air ddefnyddiwch chi yn y Gymraeg am pesticides

Well, thank you very much, Dai, and just to ensure that we all understand what exactly is happening here, of course, in the past, it's the EU that's been responsible for ensuring that we know exactly what is in our food, that it's safe, and, as we leave the EU, we have to recreate our own system within the United Kingdom.

The fact is that there is a connection between the different frameworks—the framework for food and feed safety and hygiene and food composition, standards and food labelling. So, there is that close relationship. All of the frameworks have been developed with guidance and templates that are kept in the same place, so there should be consistency between them.

When you talk about dispute resolution, then there is a mechanism for that; that remains the same. And just to ensure that the concordat is applicable to all of these. So, there will be an alignment between all of these frameworks, and, of course, what's important is that there is potential too for us to ensure that that alignment could be even more closely aligned in future. So, those are the main issues. But just to make it clear, in terms of the pesticides—I don't know what word you'd use in Welsh—


Plaladdwyr, diolch yn fawr. Dylwn i wybod hwnna fel Gweinidog y Gymraeg, ond diolch yn fawr. Dyw hwnna ddim yn rhan o'r fframwaith rhagor, achos doedd yna ddim digon o gysylltiad rhyngddyn nhw, felly dyw hwnna ddim yn gysylltiedig yn yr un ffordd. 

Thank you very much for that. I should know that, shouldn't I, as Minister for the Welsh language, but thank you for informing me there. But that isn't part of the framework any longer, because there wasn't enough of an alignment between them. So, that isn't related in the same way. 

Wel, diolch yn fawr am hynna, Gweinidog. Ac yn arwain ymlaen o hynna, wrth gwrs, ac fel rydych chi wedi'i grybwyll, mae'r fframwaith yma yn nodi bod rheoliadau 1169/2011 yr Undeb Ewropeaidd sy'n cael eu dargadw yn y cwmpas yma. Nawr, mae'r rheoliad yma yn cynnwys gwybodaeth am fwyd i ddefnyddwyr, sydd yn allweddol bwysig, yn naturiol. Felly, a allwch chi jest gadarnhau ac esbonio'n bellach sut y bydd y Llywodraethau'n cydweithio efo'i gilydd drwy'r fframwaith yma, ac efo'r safonau bwyd rydych chi wedi eu crybwyll eisoes, i wneud yn siŵr bod defnyddwyr yn gwybod beth sydd yn digwydd?

Well, thank you very much for that, Minister. Leading on from that, of course, and as you've stated, this framework does note that EU regulations 1169/2011 are retained are in the scope of this framework. Now, these regulations cover information about food for consumers, which is vitally important, of course. Could you just explain how the Governments will work together through this framework, and the food labelling standards that you've also mentioned, to ensure that consumers know what's happening?

Wel, o ran y labeli, mae'r labeli yn cael ei arwain gan yr FSA, y Food Standards Agency, ac, wrth gwrs, mae yna fframwaith ar gyfer cydweithredu ar draws y Deyrnas Brydeinig eisoes. Mi wnes i gwrdd â chadeirydd yr FSA yr wythnos diwethaf, jest i sicrhau fy mod i'n deall yn union sut oedd hwn yn mynd i weithio. Dŷn ni wedi penodi cadeirydd newydd i'r FSA Cymraeg yn ddiweddar—Peter Price—ac un o'r pethau oedd wedi dod drosodd yn glir iawn o'r cadeirydd presennol oedd bod yna ddealltwriaeth cadarn iawn ynglŷn â datganoli, ond, yn fwy na hynny, eu bod nhw'n wirioneddol yn gwerthfawrogi beth sydd gyda ni i gynnig yma yng Nghymru. Felly, roedden nhw'n edrych arnom ni, er enghraifft, a'r ffordd dŷn ni wedi sicrhau bod yna ofyniad i bob restaurant ac ati i ddangos eu safonau iechyd nhw. Dyw hwnna ddim wedi cael ei wneud yn Lloegr, ac mae nhw'n edrych arnom ni fel rhywbeth i efelychu. 

Felly, dwi yn meddwl ei bod yn bwysig ein bod ni'n cydweithredu, ac yn nes ymlaen—. Dwi hefyd wedi cael cyfarfod gyda Lord Bethell, achos maen nhw yn y broses o benodi cadeirydd newydd, a'r hyn wnes i'n glir iawn iddo fe oedd bod yn rhaid i'r cadeirydd nesaf gael ymwybyddiaeth o'r anghenraid i gydweithredu ar draws y Llywodraethau. 

Well, in terms of the labelling, the labelling is being led upon by the FSA, the Food Standards Agency, and, of course, there is a framework for collaboration across the United Kingdom already in place. I met with the chair of the FSA last week, just to ensure that I understood exactly how this was going to work. We've appointed a new chair to the FSA in Wales now—Peter Price—and one of the things that came over very clearly from the current chair was that there is a very robust understanding with regard to devolution, but, even more than that, they genuinely appreciate what we have to offer here in Wales. So, they were looking at us, for example, and the way that we've ensured that there is a requirement for every restaurant and so on to display their hygiene standards. That hasn't been done in England, and they're looking at us as an exemplar to emulate.

So, I do think it's important that we do collaborate, and later on—. I've also had a meeting with Lord Bethell, because they're in the process of appointing a new chair, and what I made clear to him was that the new chair has to have an awareness of how vital it is to collaborate across the Governments. 

Wel, bendigedig, os caf i ddweud. Diolch yn fawr. Y cwestiwn olaf gen i yw un ar egwyddorion cyffredinol. Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi dweud bod pob un o chwe egwyddor Cyd-bwyllgor y Gweinidogion yn berthnasol i'r fframwaith yma ar labeli bwyd ac ati. A allwch chi esbonio sut daethpwyd i'r casgliad yma, a sut y bydd y Llywodraethau yn mesur bod meini prawf Cyd-bwyllgor y Gweinidogion yn cael eu dilyn?

Well, excellent, if I may say so. Thank you very much. The final question from me is a question on general principles. The Welsh Government has said that all six Joint Ministerial Committee principles apply to this framework on food labelling and so on. So, could you explain how this conclusion was reached, and how the Governments will measure adherence to Joint Ministerial Committee criteria?

Wel, dwi'n meddwl bod yn rhaid inni gofio bod yna broses sydd yn gyffredin, ond dwi'n deall bod hwn yn un o'r fframweithiau cyntaf sydd wedi mynd drwy'ch pwyllgor chi a'ch bod chi wedi craffu arni. Ac, felly, mae angen jest bod yn ymwybodol bod hwn yn mynd i fod yn fframwaith sy'n cael ei ddilyn gan bob un o'r fframweithiau eraill. Mae yna chwech pwynt i fi, ac mae rhai yn amlwg yn fwy priodol nag eraill ar hyn o bryd. Felly, yn amlwg, mae angen inni gael marchnad cyffredin Prydeinig. Ar hyn o bryd, mae hefyd yn sôn, er enghraifft, am drafodaethau rhyngwladol. Wel, ar hyn o bryd, dyw hwnna ddim yn bwynt pwysig, ond efallai y daw hi'n bwynt pwysig. Felly, er bod y chwe egwyddor yma, bydd rhai yn fwy pwysig nag eraill ar hyn o bryd. 

Well, I think that we do have to remember that there is a process that is held in common, but I understand that this is one of the first frameworks that has gone through your committee and that you've  scrutinised. So, we do need to be aware that this is going to be a framework that is followed by all the other frameworks. There are six points, and some are more relevant than others at the moment. So, clearly, we do have to have a common market on the UK level. At the moment, it also talks about international discussions and negotiations. Well, at the moment, that isn't an important point, but perhaps it will become more salient. So, even though there are six principles here, some will be more important than others at the present time. 

Diolch yn fawr. Ardderchog, os caf i ddweud. Diolch yn fawr. Cadeirydd. 

Thank you very much. Excellent, if I may say so. Thank you, Chair. 

Thank you, Chair. I wonder, Minister—good afternoon—if I could turn to some of the workings of the expert committees. And, first of all, it would be interesting for us to know how the establishment and appointment of members to the UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee was done, and what involvement Public Health Wales and Welsh Government had within that. 

So, Welsh Government were involved in the initial terms of reference for the committee. We were involved in drafting the job descriptions. We made sure that the adverts were circulated widely within Wales. Unfortunately, we didn't get any applicants from Wales, so, despite all those efforts, nobody actually applied. That was a real shame and something maybe we should consider in future. But I guess all this is a pretty new process.

I think the thing to underline, really, is that membership is not determined on a geographic basis, and this is very much going to be seen as a very expert committee, where you need to have the right qualifications and suitability for the role, and there were very clear criteria that were specified. And it was an open competition, so I don't think we can complain about the involvement. I think we probably have to prepare better next time to try and tee people up to encourage them to put their names forward.


And when does the next round of appointments happen? How frequent or infrequent are these rounds? Are they staggered, as you often see with appointments to these committees?

This is the first time that the appointments have been made, so, obviously, they will be in place for at least three years. I wonder if one of the officials could give a little bit more detail on when we expect the time frame for those appointments will end. 

Yes, the Minister is correct—they're three-year appointments. Obviously, in terms of reviewing and making sure new members are coming forward in the future, I think we'll make sure that we continue working with academics, et cetera, in Wales to make sure that happens.

Okay, thank you for that. Do we understand, by the way, why—and I totally accept what you're saying, that this is not a geographically sponsored committee; it's very much an expert-led one, but we have many experts in Wales—do we have any understanding why we didn't have applications? Was it simply that our academics were not sighted on this?

We targeted them, so maybe Nathan could give a bit more detail, but I think, next time, we'll need to be headhunting almost, to make sure that we get our own people on there. Nathan, would you like to—?

Yes, absolutely. I think one of the critical things with this as well is that it's a new committee, so, obviously, we have to replace EFSA functions in Wales. Actually, four of the committee have had previous EFSA experience as well. So, I think, to ensure we've got robust scientific advice up and running, it's been important to make sure that we've had a real focus in terms of looking at the relevant rigour that we would expect from the committee.

Okay, that's brilliant. Thank you for that. Leading on from that, can I ask how Welsh Government is going to be involved in the ongoing oversight and work of the committee?

We are going to have Welsh Government officials who have equal standing to those officials from other nations, and they're going to be official observers on those committees. And the expectation is that these officials will obviously then inform the department of any issues that will be of relevance to Wales. And on top of that, of course, they have the opportunity to inform the committee of any science and policy matters that may be unique to Wales, to bring those to the attention of the committee.

And can I ask you, Minister, is that observer status that we have—which it's good to hear of—the same as would be afforded to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ministers in England?

That's right. So, all committees are represented in terms of observer status on that committee.

Sorry, the point I'm driving at is that they have equal observer status; there's no superior status for anybody from different parts of this island nation that we are.

I don't think so in the sense that this is really about experts. This is driven by experts, and supposed to be. It's not really meant to be a kind of geographic fight. So, my understanding is that we are all absolutely equal on that committee. Can you confirm that, Nathan?

Yes, absolutely. And I think, from a science committee perspective, they're independent from being—. They're following the evidence and following the science. But we all have equal status, absolutely.

That's excellent. Thank you for that. Very important to us here on this committee, and the Senedd itself, can you tell us how this is going to be accountable to the legislatures here in Wales and across the UK, but particularly, of course, to the Senedd, because we do have public funds being put towards this work?

We're very aware of that and have made that point very strongly to this organisation. So, just to be clear, the agendas and the minutes are going to be posted on the committee's website. So, obviously, the committee will be able to access that. Any opinions on nutrition and health claim applications will be published as soon as possible, and they will set out the evidence also. But, on top of that—and this is something that we've pushed for—we have asked for an annual report to be shared with the Senedd committee.


Okay, that's very good, and I think, from a Senedd perspective, we'd appreciate a report that was full of detail rather than a cursory, high-level report. But that's really helpful. Could I ask you about the legal basis for the committee and, of course, the committees that it has replaced at EU level? Are the legal bases the same?

No, they going to be slightly different because the whole point here is that what we're looking for from this committee is independent scientific advice, but the decisions will be made by Ministers. So, there's a very different approach from the one that is followed elsewhere in the European Union. I think that's why there is a different legal approach.

And could you just expand on that as to what the pros and cons of that different approach are?

I guess the point is that you take the politics out. You go on the basis of scientific evidence, but the accountability, then, rests with the Ministers. So, that's the approach that is being followed here, which is slightly different from the approach that is followed in the European Union. Could you expand a little bit on that, maybe, Nathan?

Yes, of course. Obviously, the principles of the committee have been set up as for any other science committee—the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, for example, has been set up. So, in terms of underpinning, it's making sure that where the legislation lies, it still lies with Ministers in terms of that decision-making process. The committee there is to provide advice to different nations.

Thank you, Nathan and the Minister for that. But, of course, we're aware that the committee has no explicit legal basis for carrying out its functions. So, all that we've heard so far makes absolute sense, on its accountability, the transparency of its decision making and so on, but it has no explicit legal basis. Is there not a risk with that?

I don't think so because they have to work within a very set framework. So, these are not committees that can go off and do what they want. They have some very clear guidelines within which they have to work. So, there's a code of practice in terms of how they work in a scientific capacity, and that code of practice is common to other committees of similar standing. So, I think this is a similar pattern to what is done elsewhere. You know, there are lots of committees that are similar to this, but it's just that, in this instance, because the EU used to do it, this particular type of committee didn't exist in Britain.

But there are very similar ones. So, for example, there's a committee on toxicity of chemicals in food that existed before, and they follow the same procedures. So, there will be a consistency in approach.

Okay, thank you. Just a final question on this specifically. The scientific advisory functions can be carried out by other expert committees—you've just mentioned a couple there. So, why are those other expert committees not named in the framework and their rules and relationships to the Government not clearly set out?

Well, I think it's because there are lots of different committees and they are all sanctioned and endorsed by the Minister, if they follow a code of practice and a particular scientific procedure, and they need to meet professional standards. So, I guess this is about ensuring that you've got the breadth to test out in different areas, if you need to do that, and there'd be a way that you may leave some off. But the fact is, we're not talking hundreds of committees here, I don't think, either.

We understand that, and you've gone into the essential role of these committees and the function of them, but not really answering why they aren't named specifically within the framework. I don't know whether you or Nathan want to clarify why that isn't a reasonable thing to do.


Nathan, have you got anything? This is not something, I don't think, that was felt necessary, but, Nathan, is there something you could add?

Yes. I think, in the framework, we obviously do reference the advice we're going to have to take from other committees. In terms of the establishment of this particular committee, obviously there was a huge gap, in that we didn't have this function across the United Kingdom, so we've had to set the committee up in order to be able to fill that. But what we will be able to do with the other committees is, as they've obviously got a remit to cover other areas in terms of where new functions are coming, obviously, to work with those and get advice in terms of when we need to look at the evidence, as well.

Okay, thank you. I wonder if I can turn to issues around operation now, and first of all I'll ask you how the decisions on applications and requests to modify lists and registers of vitamins, minerals and other substances, foods for specific groups, and vitamins and minerals for use in food supplements, will be made. How will that take place?

Well, all of the process is set out within the framework, and let's remember that we're not deciding policy here, we're deciding how policy is made here, effectively—what is going to be allowed. So, what happens is, when the application is received, it's going to go to the four-nation nutrition risk management group, and they'll determine, then, which domestic scientific committee will be the most appropriate. So, for example, if they'll be looking at children's food, then there is a specific committee called SACN, and they've got a specific remit for infants, vulnerable groups and the elderly. So, it may be that we'd want to send something there specifically. If it was something that looked like it was going to be poisonous, you'd want to send it to the toxicity of chemicals committee. So, that's sent off to the scientific committee, and then, once they give their opinion, it'll be considered again by the four nations and then the common recommendations will be made for ministerial consideration. There is then time for joint decision making, and there is obviously a dispute resolution mechanism as well.

Okay, that's really helpful and very, very clear, Minister. Now, time is of the essence in many of these applications, but also in terms of any disputes on those applications and things like requests to modify the lists and the registers as well. So, what can you tell us now and what can you say to stakeholders about how such disputes or modifications can be done in a timely way?

So, they will be meeting regularly, but if a request has been received that requires more urgent action, then they can call a specific meeting. I don't think any specific timing has been set for dispute resolution at ministerial level, but there is an absolute understanding that there will be a need to deal with these as a matter of urgency, I think.

Thank you very much. Now, all of the questions that we've been through so far have been about procedure and process and technicalities and legalities. This is more, really, a fundamental question I'm going to ask you here, which is the assessment of the Welsh Government of the role of the precautionary principle in retained EU law, in the event of a dispute under the framework and in Government's arrangements more generally. Now, how important is the precautionary principle? Is it important, and, of course, the subtext of my question is, Minister, whether there is any difference in emphasis on the precautionary principle amongst the nations and the regions and the Ministers of the UK?

We're starting off on the basis of where the EU is at the moment, and you will know that the EU follows the precautionary principle, which is very different from the approach taken by the US, for example. That is certainly the approach we will be taking as a Welsh Government. At the moment, we haven't heard that there is likely to be any divergence from that, but who knows? In time, that could happen. But let's just be clear, as far as we're concerned, if you can't prove it's safe, it won't get a licence.

[Laughter.] Minister, I won't push you further today, but we've certainly heard Ministers in another significant Parliament on these islands talk about whether or not a more risk-based approach might be more appropriate than a precautionary approach, going forward. So, that'll be an interesting one in years to come, but thank you for that answer. It's good to know that, from this instance, you, and, it seems, from what you're saying, other Ministers are agreed that the drop down from the EU approach of a precautionary principle is what we start with.


That's certainly the baseline. Now, you've all been watching the Brexit negotiations, and it's all about whether we're in step and we ratchet up alongside them. That's going to be the difficulty for us in future, but I guess that discussion is ongoing.

Good afternoon, Minister. Minister, obviously, one of the most important factors with regard to these arrangements is, in fact, in the areas of competence. Now, I understand that the framework appears to create a presumption, that even when a business has only made an application for authorisation of a claim in one part of Britain, the Government, and, I emphasise, Governments must determine whether a common approach across Great Britain is needed. Could you explain this approach?

Let's just remember that the facility for making these decisions is a UK facility now, because we've all pooled our resources, so we don't have our own experts to make those judgments. So, it would have to go to that particular committee. The assessment then will be up to each individual Minister to determine whether they want to go along with that.

So, to assess the practical effect on the competence of the Welsh Ministers of allowing the Secretary of State for Wales to make a decision on behalf of the whole UK in the event a dispute, even though the 2019 correcting regulations will require the consent of the Welsh Government to take such decisions. Can you make a comment on that?

Yes. We will not give the Secretary of State permission to take a decision on our behalf—that's not where we're at.

Can we just explore the implications for future divergence and the internal market Bill? Now, we're looking at this with the background now that the Senedd voted yesterday not to ratify that Bill, as far as we were concerned in Wales. So, there may be implications of that. But can you explain how the Welsh Government understands that divergence will be accepted where—and the words are so important, aren't they—'necessary' and 'proportionate'? And perhaps you could give us an example of where that might apply.

Look, all of this is very difficult, because we've been negotiating this framework in good faith with the other parts of the UK, including the UK Government, and then all of a sudden the internal market Bill comes in and cuts the legs from under us. So, it is quite demoralising for people like Nathan, who spent a lot of time getting this to the right place, to know that after all that work, that this would come in and undermine it.

In relation to what is necessary and proportionate, we'll be making judgments on that. So, for example, we may find that there is a specific health issue in Wales where we would want to focus in a way that they don't have that particular issue in the south-east of England or something. So, we may want to place a slightly different emphasis. I guess it's a bit like coronavirus at the moment—people want to target different areas because of the way—. So, it's just being proportionate. We're going to have to wait to see how this works out, I think.

Okay. Nathan, would you like to add anything to that, or—?

Yes. I think the Minister's correct. Another example is front of pack labelling, which, I think, we're all familiar with at the moment. It's a voluntary scheme, but if we decided in Wales that we wanted to mandate it at the moment, we could, with the new powers, but, obviously, if England decided not to, those kinds of goods could still come across the border without those kinds of labels being put on them. So, the Minister's provided some good examples there.

You think about things like obesity, which is a problem in Wales, and it seems to be a bigger problem in certain parts of Wales and in Wales compared to other parts, for example, of the United Kingdom. It may be that we as a Welsh Government say, 'Well, actually let's put some labelling; make it easier for people to be able to determine what they put in their shopping trollies.'


Have you had any indications as to explain what role, if any, the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, which were obviously retained in EU law, will play in determining where divergence is acceptable here in the UK?

Well, I think it's for us to determine when we want to diverge, and we will find out later whether other people find this acceptable or not, but we will not start off on the premise of asking what is going to be acceptable to the rest of the UK. We will cut our own course and see what we can do to deliver on the policies that we want to prioritise.

Okay. How do you assess the impact of the market access principles in the internal market Bill? And, again, we're coming back to the internal market Bill, and I'm sure we'll all hope that the UK Government will take into consideration some of the amendments that both Wales and the Lords have made to that Bill when they find out we haven't agreed to it. But could you make an assessment of the market principles in the internal market Bill on Wales-only local enforcement legislation in this policy area?

So, there's no question that the internal market Bill undermines the good work that we have carried out in relation to this policy area, so that a product that is placed on the market in one part of the UK could now legally be sold in a different part of the UK if the internal market Bill goes through. So, that is completely unacceptable to us, and it could lead to a race to the bottom, which could undermine the high standards that we may want to retain in place or even ratchet up. So, I think that is a problem for us. And then, just on enforcement, enforcement is up to each part of the UK, so that's a slightly different matter.

Lastly, Minister, given your explanation, how would you assess whether local enforcement legislation should be brought within the framework's scope?

Well, enforcement is slightly different in all parts of the UK, so despite the fact that it's local authorities, generally, who pursue infringements in this area, because of that difference, it was deemed that enforcement was out of scope of this framework, so that's why it hasn't been included, because it's out of scope.

Okay. Well, thank you, Minister, for those comprehensive answers. Chair.

Thank you, Chair. Afternoon, Minister. Just bringing you on to everyone's favourite subject at the moment, the EU and UK relationship, I was just wondering: can you set out how the Welsh Government will monitor and assess future EU developments on nutrition labelling, composition and standards policy through the framework, including as they apply in Northern Ireland?

Well, the four nations that—the policy group that is organised, and obviously, Northern Ireland will sit on that, as a part of their routine discussions, they will consider relevant EU developments. So, the EU is not going to stand still in this framework, and it makes sense for us to keep an eye on what is happening on the continent, because we may or may not want to import those foods that they have labelled as being safe and that we may want to buy or trade with them. The other thing, of course, is we will keep an eye on the relationship with Northern Ireland, and, of course, Northern Ireland will now be aligned with EU law. We will analyse the risks in relation to that as we go along.

Thank you, Minister. On international obligations, framework documents from the UK Government and the Welsh Government explicitly state that there are no applicable international obligations. Can you just set out how the Welsh Government reached this conclusion?

Well, I think, at the moment, there are very few international obligations, because, actually, we have so few trade agreements at the moment, but, obviously, that is going to change in time, and so, whilst this is not an area that will impact on trade at the moment, it may be that this will become a more important issue in time. We know, for example, that the genetically modified organism debate in the United States is going to be something that at some point is going to be played out. We know that we'll be talking about chlorinated chicken, but at this point in time, that is not something we need to consider. It will be certainly something that is considered in the future. And just to give you an idea of the kind of numbers of foods that we're talking about, the EFSA thinks that they will get about 300 applications for new foods in the first year.


Thank you, Minister. Can you confirm whether the Welsh Government expects the finalised framework to make reference to UK international obligations, such as the withdrawal agreement, the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol or international standards?

The framework's already been revised and will continue, of course, to be revised to reflect the developments as they arise, so obviously, we're waiting to hear whether there's going to be a deal with the EU. If there is a deal with the EU, then we would certainly want to have a close relationship with the European Food Safety Authority advisory service, because why would we not talk to them and have a relationship with them, when they've got all their scientists looking at food? So, that relationship needs to be quite tight. Obviously, under these circumstances, that's quite difficult at the moment, but clearly, whatever happens—deal or no deal—we will have to see how close we can get that arrangement, because there will be plenty of room for us to be just assessing together, working together, or at least just having a look at what they're giving as advice.

On top of that, there's going to be a regular scheduled six-month revision of the framework, and then there's going to be an annual basis on top of that, and on top of that then, if any party requests a revision, then that's something as well. So, there's plenty of flexibility in here. I think that's one of the beauties of having it as a non-legislative approach, in that it's a concordat with that kind of flexibility that at the moment we certainly need.

Yes, it seems sensible and beneficial for both sides to do that. So, Minister, can you set out whether the Welsh Government is satisfied that the Welsh Government and Wales's agencies will be proportionally represented in the formulation of UK foreign policy in this area in the future?

I've been to talk to this committee about this with a different hat on, and certainly, you'll be aware that that concordat discussion is—that never-ending story about whether we're going to get a concordat is ongoing. Of course, we have made it absolutely clear that if we have responsibility for certain areas—and in this instance we do—then we will want to have a say in what happens in trade agreements relating to our powers.

Thank you. Minister, the framework doesn't take into account direct relations between devolved Governments and relevant international bodies; for example the Welsh Government's recently concluded memorandum of understanding with the World Health Organisation. Could you just set out what impact this might have on the framework?

I think we've looked at what our MOU with WHO suggested, and I don't think there were any areas where it would have impacted directly, but obviously, things may change, and it may be that there are other areas where we would want to create relationships with other parts of the world. And if that happens, then that would be raised then for consideration within the four nations policy group.

I'm grateful to you for your time this afternoon, Minister. Can we just conclude by understanding a little about the relationship with the sector and the wider environment? The committee is aware that in evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee, the stakeholders' representatives there—including the Food and Drink Federation—didn't feel there had been sufficient engagement, and it appears that they were quite disappointed by that. So, to what extent and how do you plan as a Government to ensure that there is sufficient engagement with people in the sector and the rest of it as the framework continues to develop?

I think the first thing to say is that food policy in general already contains a legislative requirement for stakeholders to be consulted, so if that hasn't been done, there's a problem, and that should be looked at.


Yes. So, that's the first thing. We haven't heard that there are any issues within Wales, but if there were, then we would have to understand why they feel they haven't been consulted. But we're certainly very keen to make sure that we keep in touch with stakeholders within Wales. 

The other thing is, if there is a new scientific opinion on an application for a new food, or a new health claim, or a new nutrition, or whatever, then it is important that there is an opportunity for those stakeholders to be able to look at that and to engage with it as well. Just to say that, also, as I've said, there's ample opportunity to review the framework in future, and that would take account of any feedback that comes from stakeholder engagement. So, if you do hear that there is an issue with stakeholders in Wales, I'd be very keen to hear how they feel they haven't been engaged, if they feel they haven't been engaged, so that we can do something about it. Obviously, we've got responsibilities within Wales, but this is a UK body now, and we may need to put on further pressure, if we get any evidence that that is the case. 

I'm grateful to you for that commitment. Can I just press you on one other matter? Both Huw Irranca-Davies and Laura Jones in their questioning discussed with you the balance between statutory and non-statutory underpinning of some of these structures. Now, there's always a tension that, of course, governments don't like statutory underpinning—they like the flexibility to chop and change things, whereas as a legislature, we like the idea of everything having a statutory underpinning, because we can hold you to account for what you're supposed to be doing. It's right and proper that there's that tension, of course. I'm not suggesting the current Welsh Government would do this, but there is precedent, of course, for Ministers getting rid of advisers if they don't particularly like the advice that they're getting. So, to what extent is this—. From my point of view, I want all of these different frameworks and everything on the statute book. I want to know who's there, what they're doing, what they're doing it for, for how long they're going to be there, how I get rid of them, how you get rid of them, and how we hold them to account. To what extent does that flexibility mean that we don't have that much harder line of accountability that we would have, potentially, through statutory underpinning?

I think that's a fair question. What I would say is, at the moment, everything is so fluid. We are living in a time where, actually, to write something in law when everything around us is collapsing is probably not the right time to be writing these frameworks, to be writing something that has a legislative underpinning. Even during this process, when we've been developing these frameworks, it's been fatally undermined by the internal market Bill. So, now would not be the time to put something into legislation. I take your point as a principle. I think, in the UK, we do tend to go for these scientific experts, and you're quite right—'Whose scientific experts?' is always a good question. I guess one of my answers to that would be that, actually, the fact that there are four nations involved in this, there's a degree of safety in numbers as well, because we're not afraid of holding other people to account as well. So, if we found that there was some advice that seemed to be slightly off kilter, then we could certainly raise that in a way that, if it were completely centralised and just a UK body, that may be more difficult. So, the safety in numbers argument is, I think, something that is valid here as well. 

Well, I certainly wasn't suggesting anything that was centralised in that way. But I do take your point about the current fluidity of the situation, shall we say, but I'm a natural optimist. I'm from Tredegar, so it comes naturally to me. I assume that we will get through this fluidity, shall we say, at some point, and will come through the other end, and at that point we need a UK that works, and a UK that people can understand, and a UK where there are bodies linking us as well as bodies that we have operating in different parts of it, and we need to understand the relationships between those bodies, the relationships between those bodies and the Ministers here, and the relationships between Ministers in different parts of the UK. It appears to me that at that point in the future, that level of flexibility could lead to a fog of confusion, and a lack of accountability, and a lack of sense of direction, rather than the sort of flexibility that is required as a lubricant to make a machine work. So, it may well be that perhaps we may want to revisit this at some point, Minister.


I think there is scope to revisit all of this. I think we're in a state of flux, constitutionally, at the moment, and now is not the time to try and fix a tiny part of the jigsaw over here, when actually the main structure hasn't even started to be worked out. So, I don't think now is the time to look at that, but I do take the point of the need to get some more solidity behind these frameworks in the future. I understand the point you're making there, absolutely.

Okay, and I'm sure we will return to these matters. I'm grateful to you for your time this afternoon, Minister, and I know the committee is grateful to you and your officials. You'll be aware, of course, that a transcript of the meeting is available to you, and if you could make any corrections for accuracy then the committee would be grateful for that and for your time. But I'm grateful to you.

Diolch yn fawr ichi, Weinidog. Mae'n rhywbeth dŷn ni'n gwerthfawrogi, bob tro.

Thank you very much, Minister. We very much appreciate your attendance every time.

5. Papurau i’w nodi
5. Papers to note

Moving on, for members of the committee, we do have some papers to note this afternoon. Paper 1 is correspondence from the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition to the Chair of our committee and Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee regarding the ministerial forum for trade that was held on 7 December. I invite Members to note the paper. Are Members content to do so? Members are. 

And the second paper to note is a paper we referred to in the earlier session with the Counsel General, actually: correspondence from Lord True, the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office to the Chair, regarding the UK internal market Bill. Are Members content to note this paper? It is something we may wish to return to, depending on proceedings in Westminster.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I'd now like to move a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content? Members are content, so we'll now move into a private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:28.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 16:28.