William Powell AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman on Farming and Rural Affairs, has today confirmed that his party will not support the Agricultural Wages Emergency Bill in its current form due to a number of significant flaws in the proposed legislation.
William Powell has argued that, despite assurances to the contrary from the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, the current Bill is very different from the previous Agriculture Wages Board. William Powell has also made clear that the Welsh Liberal Democrats cannot support the Bill due to the level of undemocratic powers the Minister is attempting to amass to himself.
William said, "Due to the Minister's decision to classify this as an 'emergency', this important Bill will get very little democratic scrutiny. This is no way to make legislation in this National Assembly. Nonetheless, if the Welsh Labour Government is intent on ramming this legislation through, then the Welsh Liberal Democrats will work constructively to improve it. In its current form, we simply cannot support this deeply flawed Bill.
"The Minister claims this Bill maintains the 'status quo'. That is a distortion of the reality. It is clear that there is a big difference between what is on offer in this Bill compared to the previous Agriculture Wages Board.
"I am concerned about the almost pre-Gorbachev powers the Minister is seeking to claim for his own. The Bill doesn't even require the Minister to establish the Advisory Board - this should clearly be on the face of the Bill. It also gives him exclusive control over who serves on it and what they deal with. Likewise, there is nothing to require the Minister to even act upon the recommendations made by that board. This is completely unacceptable.
"I firmly believe that, should a Board be established, it should be politically independent of the Welsh Government. The current 'Emergency Bill' does not deliver that. It's fundamentally wrong for a Minister to have the exclusive direct power to set wages, as this unnecessarily politicalises the issue. If passed, this "Emergency Bill", as currently drafted, will be setting a very dangerous precedent indeed."