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Oral - Proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Agriculture and Rural Development) Order 2008
I am pleased to be able to present this legislative competence Order before you today for your consideration. Welsh Ministers already have significant devolved powers within the field of agriculture. The purpose of this Order is to confer on the National Assembly for Wales the first legislative powers in this field. Specifically, the LCO will allow the National Assembly to approve Measures relating to the red meat industry in Wales.
Our red meat industry is responsible for the production, processing and marketing of animals or animal products from cattle, sheep and pigs. We in Wales cannot consume all the red meat that we produce and therefore the export market is critical to the success of our red meat industry. In 2007, it is estimated that more than 20,000 tonnes of lamb and just less than 9,000 tonnes of beef were exported from Wales, with a value to the Welsh economy of some £55 million and £19 million respectively. The direct purpose of this Order is to overcome the restrictions imposed by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, and to give the National Assembly greater flexibility to designate the arrangements for the collection of levies from the red meat sector in order to promote the Welsh red meat industry.
Many of you will be aware that the 2005 Radcliffe review of the agricultural and horticultural levy boards in the UK suggested that one overarching UK levy board, a non-departmental public body, be established and act as a holding company for six sectoral companies covering beef and lamb, pigs, horticulture, cereals, dairy and potatoes. The role of the new UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and its sector companies is to increase efficiency, productivity, marketing and sustainability in the UK’s agriculture sector and to develop it. It is funded from industry levies.
It is worth placing the Radcliffe review in an historical context. Prior to the review, Welsh red meat levies were raised by the GB Meat and Livestock Commission and passed to Hybu Cig Cymru for the development, promotion and marketing of the red meat industry. In accordance with the findings of the Radcliffe review, the Meat and Livestock Commission was wound up on the last day of March 2008. The Radcliffe review stated that the devolved administrations should have the flexibility to create levy and promotional boards that would operate within their own countries in accordance with their own specific needs.
Following a Welsh Assembly Government public consultation on the review recommendations, it was concluded that, given the importance of the red meat sector to Wales, separate arrangements should be established in Wales for red meat. Despite that, it was decided that Wales should be a member of the UK levy board for all other sectors.
The current arrangements set out in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 transfer a specific power to Welsh Ministers. However, there is only one option available to us, namely to create a separate body to raise levies and undertake promotional activities for the development of the Welsh red meat industry. By transferring legislative competence to the Assembly in this area, we will be able to be more flexible in defining the arrangements for Wales in this area and we will be able to reflect the priorities of the industry.
I will briefly outline the scope of the Order. It is aligned closely to the provisions of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, and it reproduces the wording of that Act, which sets out the role of the boards in relation to the promotion and development of the red meat industry. The LCO clarifies the terms 'cattle’, 'sheep’ and 'pigs’, which often vary significantly between different Acts. Milk and milk products related to the red meat industry are excluded from the LCO, as they are the responsibility of the dairy sector. This group is accountable to the UK levy board. It also excludes wool, as the British Wool Marketing Board administers a separate marketing scheme.
The Order will provide the National Assembly for Wales with wide-ranging legislative powers in relation to the following: increasing efficiency or productivity in the industry; improving marketing in the industry; improving or developing services that the industry provides or could provide to the community; and improving the ways in which the industry contributes to sustainable development.
Our red meat industry has a great opportunity to position itself in the UK and world markets as a high-quality producer. The global demand for food is growing, and it is predicted that 50 per cent more food will be needed by 2030. Consumer preferences are changing; consumers are more conscious of their health, the environment and animal welfare issues, and that is a good thing. We must ensure that we take every opportunity to promote and market our produce.
We need to encourage and influence our farmers to be more market-focused and to produce goods in a way that considers the environment and respects animal welfare, providing consumers with reassurance. That will require innovation and collaboration across the supply chain. In turn, that will help to increase farm profitability and will protect and enrich the countryside. We must ensure that the countryside is attractive and retains its customers so that it contributes to the sustaining of rural communities and the tourism industry.
To conclude, this LCO is the first in the field of agriculture. It will enable the Assembly to define the arrangements in Wales to develop, promote and market the red meat industry at a crucial time in the history of this industry. I am pleased to be able to present this legislative competence Order before you today for your consideration. Welsh Ministers already have significant devolved powers within the field of agriculture. The purpose of this Order is to confer on the National Assembly for Wales the first legislative powers in this field. Specifically, the LCO will allow the National Assembly to approve Measures relating to the red meat industry in Wales.