Farm groups in Wales have warned the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill gives Welsh Ministers too much power to introduce ‘draconian’ policies after Brexit without proper scrutiny.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) and NFU Cymru told Farmers Guardian of their concerns after the release of a report by the Welsh Assembly’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee.
The committee’s report said the Agriculture Bill was an appropriate vehicle for the Welsh Government to continue to provide financial support to farmers in the short-term, but pointed out the provisions in the Bill went well beyond this purpose.
“They enable Welsh Ministers to establish a completely new approach to support for agriculture,” the report read.
“The effect will be to severely limit the Assembly’s ability to scrutinise the Welsh Government’s support for agriculture.
“This is not an acceptable approach and should be a matter of serious concern for the Assembly.”
In order to solve the problem, the committee recommended Ministers should be required to consult before bringing forward any new regulations under powers granted by the Agriculture Bill.
It also suggested the Bill should contain a ‘sunset clause’ which would limit the amount of time Welsh Ministers were able to exercise the powers set out in the legislation.
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome the fact that the committee has reflected many of the concerns raised by the FUW in our evidence to the Assembly, in particular our concern about the absence of proper scrutiny.
“Without checks and balances, Ministers would be able to introduce draconian regimes which are far more burdensome and intrusive than those currently in force.”
NFU Cymru’s political adviser Huw Thomas echoed these concerns.
He said: “NFU Cymru is concerned about the way the Agriculture Bill will confer upon Ministers in Wales very wide powers to develop post-Brexit agricultural policies for Wales.
“We do, however, note the Welsh Government view the UK Agriculture Bill powers as transitional until a Wales Agriculture Bill is brought forward.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said the UK Agriculture Bill powers will only be used until a Welsh Agriculture Bill is brought forward, which should be by the end of this Assembly term.
“The use of the UK Agriculture Bill will require separate secondary legislation, giving the Assembly opportunity for full and proper scrutiny,” the spokesman added.