This appeal related to whether the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill relates to agriculture or employment: agriculture is a matter within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, while employment is a matter reserved to the UK Parliament. The Bill proposes to establish a regime setting minimum terms and conditions of employment for agricultural workers, including minimum wages and sickness and holiday entitlement.

The Supreme Court unanimously concluded that the Bill fell within the competence of the Welsh Assembly. It was clear that “agriculture” could be intended to refer solely to the cultivation of the soil or the rearing of livestock, but should be understood in a broader sense as designating the industry or economic activity of agriculture in all its aspects, including the business and other constituent elements of that industry. The Bill “relates to” agriculture, as the purpose and effect of the regime are to operate on the economic activity of agriculture by promoting and protecting the agricultural industry in Wales. Provided that the Bill fairly and realistically satisfied the test set out in the Government of Wales Act 2006, s 108(4) and (7) and was not within an exception, it did not matter whether it might also be capable of being classified as relating to a subject which has not been devolved, such as employment and industrial relations. The legislation did not require that a provision should only be capable of being characterised as relating to a devolved subject. In interpreting the 2006 Act, the Court cannot consider inter-governmental correspondence that preceded the Act but was never made public or disclosed to Parliament.

For judgment, please download: [2014] UKSC 43
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII