The Procedures for the Social Partnership Council.
The Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act 2023 (“the Act”) establishes the Social Partnership Council for Wales (“the SPC”) as a tripartite social partnership structure with a membership representing employers, workers, and the Welsh Government.
The Act provides that the purpose of the SPC is to improve economic, environmental, social, and cultural well-being (including by improving public services) in Wales. In order to do this, the SPC may provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers in relation to:
- the social partnership duties which Part 2 of the Act imposes on public bodies and the Welsh Ministers
- the pursuit of the "A prosperous Wales" well-being goal by public bodies when carrying out sustainable development under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (“WFGA”)
- the socially responsible public procurement functions conferred on contracting authorities and the Welsh Ministers under Part 3 of the Act
The SPC may provide information or advice on these matters of its own accord, or in response to a request made by the Welsh Ministers. Where the SPC receives a request from the Welsh Ministers, it must provide the information or advice as soon as reasonably practicable.
Purpose of this document
The Act requires Welsh Ministers to specify and publish the quorum for SPC meetings and the procedures for the SPC to follow in so far as they are not set out in the Act itself.
Part 1 of this document sets out the quorum arrangements for the SPC, whilst Part 2 sets out the administrative and operational procedures for the SPC. The relevant provisions of the Act are set out at Annex A.
Part 1: the quorum for SPC meetings
Excluding Welsh Government members, the SPC will consist of the 18 members appointed by the First Minister: 9 representatives of employers in Wales (“employer representatives”) and 9 representatives of workers in Wales (“worker representatives”).
The minimum quorum for any meeting of the SPC shall be a majority of the total number of its membership, not including Welsh Government members. That is, 10 members equally distributed across worker and employer representatives (i.e. a minimum of 5 worker representatives and 5 employer representatives in attendance).
A meeting of the SPC shall be declared inquorate if, at the beginning of the meeting, there are insufficient members present or the distribution of members fails to include sufficient representation from social partners, which is employer representatives and worker representatives (5 members from each). On declaring a meeting inquorate, the Chair shall suspend the meeting until a quorum is present. If a quorum is not present within 20 minutes, the meeting will be adjourned to a date and time to be set by the Chair.
Attendance by non-members
The Chair may, at their discretion, invite other individuals to SPC meetings, for example where the SPC has commissioned information from an external organisation on a particular issue, a representative of that organisation may be invited to present or support discussion of the topic. Observers may also be admitted at the Chair’s discretion (an observer could be someone attending on behalf of a member who is unable to attend the meeting, or who accompanies a member). Requests for observers should be made via the secretariat in advance of the relevant meeting. Observers will not be allowed to participate in SPC business and therefore will not contribute to the quorum.
Part 2: the SPC Procedures
Appointment of members and duration of appointments
Section 6 of the Act provides that members are appointed by the First Minister for a 3-year term. A member may resign or have their term ended by the First Minister in certain circumstances as set out in members terms and conditions of appointment.
Members induction and training
An induction pack and background briefing will be provided to all newly appointed members of the SPC. This will include information on the role and the remit of the SPC, an overview of the WFGA, and other relevant information.
The organisation of meetings, circulation of papers and other related matters will be undertaken through a secretariat function provided by Welsh Government officials.
Frequency of meetings
The Act requires the SPC to meet at least three times in each 12-month period. This will be a minimum requirement and will not preclude the SPC from meeting more frequently if members choose to do so. Where the SPC decides to hold further meetings over and above the minimum requirement, the SPC quorum arrangements will still apply.
Notice of meetings
A minimum of 4 weeks’ notice will be given to members by the secretariat regarding the date and time of the next meeting, save where meetings are called on an urgent or exceptional basis.
Agendas and papers
Draft agendas, as agreed by the Chair, will be circulated to SPC members a minimum of 14 calendar days in advance of each meeting, save where meetings are called on an urgent or exceptional basis. The Chair will consider requests for any additional items of business proposed by members which are received no later than 7 calendar days before the date of the meeting.
Papers relating to the business to be taken at the SPC will usually be made available to members at least 5 working days (inclusive) before the date of the meeting to which they relate. Papers may be circulated in shorter timescales in exceptional circumstances.
The secretariat will produce a note of each meeting, recording key points of discussion and actions. The minutes and actions will be produced and circulated within 10 working days of meetings. These will be sent to all members to check for accuracy and to the Chair for final approval.
Publication of agendas, papers, and minutes
Meeting agendas and papers marked as ‘Unclassified’ will be published on the SPC’s website.
Documents sufficiently marked with ‘Protect/members only’ will be treated as confidential and issued for members’ consideration only.
Meeting locations and remote attendance
Meetings of the Council can be held in-person or through remote attendance. The Act provides that the SPC may hold a meeting remotely, by means of any equipment or other facility which enables persons who are not in the same place to speak to and be heard by each other (whether or not the equipment or facility enables those persons to see and be seen by each other).
Forward work programme
The SPC secretariat will prepare a draft forward work programme to be tabled for consideration by members at the first meeting of the SPC. The work programme will be reviewed at each meeting thereafter.
The provision of information and advice to the Welsh Ministers
The SPC’s core purpose is to provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers in relation to the matters covered by section 1 of the Act (the social partnership duties established by the Act, the pursuit of the “A Prosperous Wales” well-being goal, and socially responsible public procurement). The function to provide information and advice is wider than merely advising the Welsh Ministers and could include the creation or provision of, among other things, statistics, factual summaries, copies of documents (whether publicly available or otherwise) and so on. There is no explicit restriction on the type of information or advice that the SPC can provide to the Welsh Ministers.
The purposes for which the SPC may provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers are to improve the four types of well-being (economic, environmental, social, and cultural) promoted by the WFGA.
In relation to providing advice on the “A Prosperous Wales” well-being goal, the SPC’s remit includes the pursuit of that goal by all public bodies required to carry out sustainable development under the WFGA. For example, the SPC would be able to provide information or advice to the Welsh Ministers about activities public bodies may be taking to improve the economic well-being of Wales if those activities are linked to the “A Prosperous Wales” goal. In effect, this will allow the SPC to discuss matters including fair work, and the delivery of public services in so far as they relate to the pursuit of the “A Prosperous Wales” goal (including where those services are delivered by a private entity).
The Act provides for flexibility as to how SPC advice or information is instigated (it can be initiated by either the SPC itself or the Welsh Ministers). The SPC is therefore able to act on its own initiative if it becomes aware of a topic in relation to which it determines it should provide information or advice.
The SPC secretariat will be responsible for sending completed information or advice from the SPC to Welsh Ministers. Sensitive material may be redacted from information or advice. In cases where the information or advice relates wholly to a sensitive matter, it will be at the discretion of Welsh Ministers to publish such information or advice. The only exemption would be the receipt of a FOI request, where Welsh Government procedures would need to be followed.
Members attendance and conduct
Members of the SPC have individual and collective responsibility for ensuring that the SPC complies with all applicable statutory requirements. In doing so, they will be required to absorb and interpret detailed information and give advice and views on a broad spectrum of policy and/or operational issues in furtherance of the functions conferred on the SPC under section 1 of the Act. Members will also be required to display sound judgement and good communication skills with the ability to work constructively with other SPC members to achieve a common consensus and also engage others to support the SPC’s work.
Members are expected to attend all meetings. Where this is not possible then they should inform the secretariat as soon as reasonably possible. Frequent nonattendance could result in removal from the SPC.
Members are expected to be able to devote sufficient time to their SPC duties and attend meetings regularly (including subgroups where applicable), as participation at these meetings is an essential part of a member’s role and thus the effectiveness of the SPC and its subgroups. Record of attendance at meetings will be taken into account when the case for reappointment is considered.
Resolving disagreements between members
Information and advice to be submitted to the Welsh Ministers by the SPC must be agreed by all members present at the meeting, subject to paragraphs below:
- Where agreement cannot be reached, any member will have the opportunity to present their argument with the aim of finding some compromise or common ground. Where consensus cannot be reached, then a compromise is required. This will be based on a majority decision, and advice may be submitted to the Welsh Ministers with a caveat that some members were not in agreement, including their reasoning, and with any alternative approach/es proposed included as part of the advice.
- Disagreements over matters of policy or procedure will be recorded in the minutes. Individual dissension on matters of general agreement shall be recorded at the request of any member.
Declarations of interest
Members will be required, when submitting proposed agenda items, and at the start of each SPC meeting, to disclose to the secretariat any interest relevant to agenda items and discussions where there could be a perceived or actual conflict.
Whilst the Welsh Language Standards as set out in the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 do not directly apply to the SPC, the SPC will not treat the Welsh language any less favourably than English and where possible will conduct its business bilingually.
Members of the SPC will be asked prior to their first attendance at an SPC meeting what their language preference is for contributing during meetings and for receiving correspondence, information, and papers. Meetings will be organised according to the members’ preferences (e.g., by providing simultaneous interpretation and Welsh language versions of papers for meetings).
Any papers produced and commissioned by the SPC will be published on llyw.cymru/gov.wales bilingually.
To facilitate openness of discussion, certain documents for discussion at SPC meetings will be marked as ‘Protect/Members Only’ and will be issued for members’ consideration only.
Members must not contact the press or other media to discuss any ‘in confidence’ matters classified ‘Protect/Members Only’ or discuss them in any context where they may become public knowledge, or be picked up by the press/media, without first contacting the Welsh Government secretariat.
However, in the event that such an approach is made by the press or media and a member is asked for their views on the SPC’s work and/or policy concerns, they should proceed as follows, if:
- the question relates to confirmation of a matter about which a member is confident is already in the public domain, they should confine their comments to factual information. They should not give an opinion on the issue as this could be taken as the collective view of SPC. They should also let the First Minister and the secretariat know about their conversation immediately after the event
- the question is clearly sensitive and could well make headlines, the member should not comment and should refer the journalist directly to the First Minister and the secretariat
- a member inadvertently makes comments about the SPC to someone whom they later realise is a member of the press or other media, they should inform the First Minister and the secretariat as soon as possible
- except with the prior written consent of the Welsh Ministers, members shall not make any press announcements or carry on any activities in their role as member of SPC. This shall apply during the continuance of this appointment
All public records held by the SPC will come under the ownership of the Welsh Government and therefore fall under existing public records policies.
The SPC is not a separate legal body. Therefore, any personal data possessed by the Welsh Government will be subject to data processing requests to Welsh Government in the normal way.
Freedom of Information requests
Documentation, including meeting notes may be subject to access to information requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Where such requests are received, the Welsh Government's standard Freedom of Information procedures will be followed.
Review and amendment of procedures
These procedures will be reviewed every three years. However, following consultation between Welsh Ministers and the SPC, amendments to these procedures may be made at any time. Any such amendments will be published as soon as reasonably practicable.
Annex A: relevant provisions of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act 2023
1. Social Partnership Council for Wales
1. There is to be a Social Partnership Council for Wales (“SPC”).
2. For the purposes of improving economic, environmental, social, and cultural well-being (including by improving public services) in Wales, the SPC may provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers in relation to:
- the social partnership duties which this Act imposes on public bodies and the Welsh Ministers (see Part 2)
- the pursuit of the “A prosperous Wales” well-being goal by public bodies when carrying out sustainable development under the WFGA 2015 (see Part 2)
- the functions conferred on contracting authorities and the Welsh Ministers under Part 3 (socially responsible public procurement)
3. The SPC may provide information or advice on a matter referred to in subsection (2) of its own accord or in response to a request made by the Welsh Ministers.
4. Where the SPC receives a request from the Welsh Ministers under subsection (3), the SPC must provide the information or advice as soon as reasonably practicable.
2. Membership of the Social Partnership Council for Wales
1. The SPC is to consist of the following members:
- members from the Welsh Government (“Welsh Government members”)
- 9 representatives of employers in Wales (“employer representatives”), and
- 9 representatives of workers in Wales (“worker representatives”)
2. The Welsh Government members are to include the First Minister and, where invited by the First Minister from time to time:
- any other Welsh Minister
- any Deputy Welsh Minister
- the Counsel General
- any member of staff of the Welsh Government
3. The First Minister must appoint all the employer representatives and worker representatives (collectively, “appointed members”).
4. The First Minister must take all reasonable steps to appoint the initial 9 employer representatives and the initial 9 worker representatives within 6 months beginning with the day after this subsection comes into force.
5. In this Act, a reference to the “Social Partnership Council for Wales” or “SPC” is a reference to the members of the SPC acting jointly; accordingly, a function expressed as a function of the SPC is a function of each member that may only be exercised jointly with the other members.
3. Employer representatives
The employer representatives are to consist of individuals who the First Minister considers represent public body employers, private sector employers, voluntary organisation employers, higher education employers and further education employers.
4. Worker representatives
The worker representatives are to consist of individuals who the First Minister considers represent staff working for each category of employer referred to in section 3.
5. Nomination of appointed members
1. Before appointing employer representatives, the First Minister must seek nominations from persons or bodies who the First Minister considers represent the views of the categories of employer referred to in section 3.
2. Before appointing worker representatives, the First Minister must seek nominations from the body representing trade unions in Wales known as Wales TUC Cymru.
3. When appointing employer representatives, the First Minister must have regard to any nominations made under subsection (1).
4. When appointing worker representatives, the First Minister must only appoint individuals who have been nominated under subsection (2).
6. Duration of appointments
1. Appointed members are appointed for 3 years unless:
- the First Minister terminates the appointment by notifying the member in writing, or
- the appointed member resigns by notifying the First Minister in writing
2. The First Minister must fill any vacancies as soon as reasonably practicable.
7. Meetings, procedures and administrative support
1. The SPC must meet at least 3 times in each 12 month period beginning with the day after the First Minister has made all the initial appointments mentioned in section 2.
2. Where possible, the First Minister must chair the SPC’s meetings.
3. Where it is not possible for the First Minister to chair a meeting, the meeting must be chaired by a Welsh Minister or Deputy Welsh Minister nominated by the First Minister.
4. Within 6 months beginning with the day after this subsection comes into force, the Welsh Ministers must specify and publish:
- the quorum for SPC meetings, and
- the procedures to be followed by the SPC, in so far as they are not specified in this Act
5. The Welsh Ministers may, after consulting the SPC, revise anything specified under subsection (4) and must publish any such revisions.
6. The SPC’s procedures must include:
- the procedures for arranging meetings including notice to be given to attendees and how attendees may add items to the agenda for meetings
- the procedure for resolving a disagreement between members relating to the exercise of the SPC’s functions
- the procedures for providing information and advice to the Welsh Ministers
7. The Welsh Ministers must make administrative support available to the SPC.
1. The SPC may establish subgroups.
2. A subgroup may:
- carry out any function delegated to it by the SPC
- help the SPC carry out its functions in any ways specified by the SPC
3. A subgroup:
- must be chaired by a member of the SPC, and
- may include other members of the SPC and other individuals
9. Public procurement subgroup
1. The SPC must take all reasonable steps to establish a public procurement subgroup within 6 months beginning with the day after this subsection comes into force.
2. Within 6 months beginning with the day after this subsection comes into force, the Welsh Ministers must specify and publish—
- the quorum for public procurement subgroup meetings, and
- the procedures to be followed by the public procurement subgroup, in so far as they are not specified in this Act
3. The Welsh Ministers may revise anything specified under subsection (2) and must publish any such revisions.
4. The public procurement subgroup’s procedures must include:
- the procedures for arranging meetings including notice to be given to attendees and how attendees may add items to the agenda for meetings
- the procedure for resolving a disagreement between members relating to the exercise of the subgroup’s functions
- the procedures for providing information and advice to the SPC and the Welsh Ministers
5. The Welsh Ministers must issue guidance about the composition of the public procurement subgroup (including for the purpose of achieving an appropriately representative membership), and the SPC must have regard to that guidance.
10 Provision of information and advice to the SPC by public procurement subgroup
1. The public procurement subgroup may provide information and advice to the SPC about the functions conferred on contracting authorities and the Welsh Ministers under Part 3 (socially responsible public procurement).
2. The SPC may:
- provide to the Welsh Ministers information or advice received from the public procurement subgroup, or
- revise such information or advice and provide it as revised to the Welsh Ministers
3. If the Welsh Ministers request information or advice from the SPC about a matter referred to in subsection (1), the SPC must:
- seek that information or advice from the public procurement subgroup, and
- provide it, or revise it and provide it as revised, as soon as reasonably practicable
4. If the Welsh Ministers consult the public procurement subgroup under section 30(2)(d) or 36(2)(d), the procurement subgroup must provide the Welsh Ministers with such information and advice as it considers appropriate as soon as reasonably practicable.
5. If a public procurement subgroup has not yet been established under section 9 (1), the SPC may nevertheless provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers about a matter referred to in subsection (1).
11. Meeting remotely
The SPC or a subgroup may hold a meeting by means of any equipment or other facility which enables persons who are not in the same place to speak to and be heard by each other (whether or not the equipment or facility enables those persons to see and be seen by each other).
The Welsh Ministers may meet the expenses of:
- an employer representative
- a worker representative
- a member of a subgroup
13. Supplementary powers
The SPC may do anything which is calculated to facilitate, or which is conducive or incidental to, the exercise of its functions or the functions of a subgroup.