Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
Following Royal Assent of the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill on 30 July 2014, I launched a 12 week consultation on 7 August 2014 to seek the views of the Welsh public on the constitution and functions of the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales proposed under the Act.
I was pleased that the results of the initial consultation indicated broad industry support for the Panel and so, on 27 March 2015, I launched a second, more detailed consultation. This second consultation was structured around four core proposals concerning who should sit on the Panel, how stakeholder Panel members should be chosen, how independent members should be chosen and the powers and remit of the Panel itself.
The consultation closed on 19 June 2015 and 24 responses were received from a variety of individuals and organisations who took the opportunity to elaborate on their initial responses, providing constructive comments and innovative suggestions.
As the summary of responses demonstrates, a majority of respondents agreed with the Welsh Government proposals for the Panel while also providing additional commentary. Welsh Government will now consider this additional commentary as officials finalise the provisions of the Statutory Order which will establish the Panel. The summary of responses can be accessed online.
Those organisations selected to provide representatives will be requested to select appropriate candidates from their own membership to take a seat on the Panel. Organisations will be selected in accordance with the need to maintain balanced representation of employers and employees, which all respondents have stated to be of great importance. Independent members will be selected via the Public Appointment Process to ensure diverse, appropriately qualified and experienced persons are appointed to provide expert and independent input to the work of the Panel.
Given the extensive and important remit of the Panel and the time required for an effective Public Appointment Process, my intention is to have the Panel members selected and the framework in place by February 2016.
Once in place, the Panel will play a crucial role in setting a framework of fair wages and other terms and conditions of employment for all agricultural workers in Wales, contributing towards this Government’s wider Tackling Poverty agenda by reducing rural poverty and supporting rural economies and communities across Wales. The Panel will also have a role to play in promoting careers and skills development in the sector, assisting the Welsh Government’s overarching objective of modernising and further professionalising the industry in line with our Strategic Framework for agriculture.
I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to all those who took the time to consider and respond to the consultation proposals and I look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholders as the Welsh Government finalises the process of creating this historic and important new body.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.