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Autumn 2017: What's coming up in Welsh politics?

The National Assembly for Wales returns from the summer recess next Monday. We take a look at what you can expect over the next few months in the Senedd.

Legislation

Back in June, First Minister (Carwyn Jones) outlined the five new bills that the Welsh Government hopes to take forward over the course of the Fifth Assembly's second year.

The Public Health (Minimum Pricing of Alcohol) Bill is arguably the most high-profile legislative proposal, but it is currently dependent on the outcome of the Scotch Whisky Association’s Supreme Court appeal against the Scottish Government’s attempts to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. Expect push-back from UKIP and some Conservative AMs if the Bill goes ahead.

Housing policy is again under the spotlight with a Housing Bill proposing the abolition of letting agency fees, and a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) Bill which will seeks to reclassify RSLs back into the private sector in order to encourage the development of new affordable housing. Along with the expected abolition of the Right to Buy, the RSL Bill will contribute to the Welsh Government’s target of building 20,000 new social housing units in the Fifth Assembly.

A Childcare Bill will be introduced to pave the way for the Welsh Government’s pledge to offer 30 hours of free childcare to parents of three-to-four-year-olds by 2020, and once pilots have been rolled out. Questions over whether Wales has an adequate childcare workforce are sure to be raised as this Bill proceeds through the Siambr.

A long-awaited Local Government Bill, which will realign the relationship between the Welsh Government and local government and promote transparency, could see the vote extended to 16- and 17-year-olds in local council elections, while local authorities could be given the choice between First-Past-the-Post or Single Transferable Vote systems.

The Welsh Government has also announced its intention to consult on legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment, while Minister for Lifelong Learning & Welsh Language (Alun Davies) announced that he would consult on a new Welsh Language Bill, with proposals to scrap the role of the Welsh Language Commissioner. While the Welsh Government has said that it will not allow Brexit to get in the way of its manifesto commitments, plans are also in place to introduce an EU Continuity Bill if the UK Government does not make satisfactory amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

Scrutiny of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill and the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill will continue into the autumn term, as both pieces of legislation face stage 2 committee sessions during the first week of October.

Committee business

The Assembly’s committees have been busy consulting on a number of inquiries over the summer.

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has set out its priorities for 2017/18, with inquiries into suicide prevention and the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales planned. The Committee will first focus its attention on an inquiry into the physical activity of children and young people in Wales, having launched a consultation on the matter over summer.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee will continue taking evidence on its inquiry into teachers’ professional learning and education, and is also consulting ahead of an inquiry on the emotional and mental health of children and young people. The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee will be undertaking an inquiry into human rights in Wales, alongside its ongoing work on poverty in Wales.

The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee will be taking evidence on its inquiry into food in Wales, while the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has been undertaking consultations on two areas: non-public funding of the arts, and the historic environment.

The Public Accounts Committee is finishing off a number of shorter inquiries, including those looking at medicines management and Welsh Government funding for the Circuit of Wales project. It will also be undertaking an inquiry into care experienced by children and young people, with the consultation stage currently ongoing.

The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee will be focusing on an inquiry on selling Wales to the world, currently also at consultation stage. The Committee will also be considering the Development Bank of Wales, while the Finance Committee will be taking a look at the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget proposals for 2017/18.

The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee and Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee have agreed to undertake a joint inquiry on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and its implications for Wales. Also expect the Standards of Conduct Committee to present the findings of its inquiry into lobbying in Wales.

Any other business?

Wales’ economic policy is in for some changes as Cabinet Secretary for Economy & Infrastructure (Ken Skates) prepares to present a new economy strategy for Wales, while we also expect there to be movement on the proposed National Infrastructure Commission for Wales. Decisions are expected soon on the future Wales and Border Rail Franchise, and the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, though the UK Government has been accused of dithering on both projects.

The Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales will be debated in plenary on the first Tuesday of term, while we can also look forward to the annual budget process during the autumn months. Be sure to look out for reaction from the Assembly as the UK Government’s long-awaited review of S4C gets underway.

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Photo credit: shining.darkness via Flickr

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