Melanie DavidsonWhether, on the proper construction of the Government of Wales Act 2006, s 108, Sch 7, the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill 2013 was within the legislative competence of the National Assembly of Wales

Judgment was handed down by Lords Reed and Thomas, with whom the other Justices agreed, in the case of Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill – Reference by the Attorney General for England and Wales on 9th July 2014.

The reference was brought by the Attorney-General for England and Wales under the Government of Wales Act 2006, s 112(1), on the question of whether the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill 2013 is within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales.

The Bill was passed on 17th July 2013, following a long series of discussions on the powers devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. The proposed Act was, first and foremost, to establish a scheme for regulating agricultural wages in Wales. Up until this point this area had been under the auspices of the Agricultural Wages Act 1948, through the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales.

With the abolition of this Panel by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, the Welsh Government sought to retain the regime. A Bill was therefore drafted to implement this policy. The Assembly contended it had this power per s 108 of and Sch 7 to the 2006 Act.

The scope of the powers in s 108 and Sch 7 was disputed. Both the Attorney General and the Counsel General for Wales submitted that any interpretation of this provision had to be against the legislative background of the regulation of agricultural wages and the devolution settlements in the UK. The Attorney General considered that the Bill related to employment and industrial relations. The Counsel General for Wales contested that the Bill did in fact relate to agriculture.

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Melanie Davidson works in the Marketing Team at Justis. She completed her Masters degree in Public International Law, writing her dissertation on the persecution of minorities. Her predominant legal interest lies in the areas of state crime and international human rights.