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Judgement 'a humiliation' for UK Government - Labour

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has claimed that the UK Government wasted "huge amounts of court time and taxpayers money on a pointless court case" when the Attorney General referred Welsh farm wages legislation to the Supreme Court.

I congratulate the Welsh Labour Government for standing up for social justice and Labour values in Wales, by fighting to ensure that low paid agricultural workers get a fairer deal. This second judgement in favour of the Welsh Labour Government is a humiliation for the Tory led UK Government. So determined were the Tories to slash wages of low paid agricultural workers in Wales that they allowed it to cloud their judgement.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Mr Smith also said that the ruling shows the need for Labour's proposal that the Assembly is put on the same "reserved powers" basis as Scotland. It would spell out what the Assembly could not do.

Meanwhile the Welsh Secretary, David Jones, gave his reaction, concentrating on how the judges have rejected a narrow interpretation of the Assembly's powers.

The Government is grateful to the Supreme Court for providing clarity on this issue. In its judgment, the court has favoured a broader interpretation of the provisions in the Government of Wales Act that govern the Assembly’s competence.

We now need to study the judgment in detail and consider its implications. The Government is committed to working with the Welsh Government for the benefit of Wales and will continue to make every effort to ensure that the legislative arrangements for Welsh devolution work effectively.

– Secretary of State for Wales David Jones MP

Union welcomes Supreme Court decision over wages

Unite, the union that represents farm workers, has welcomed the news that agricultural wages will continue to be regulated in Wales, as they are in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The union also wants the system restored in England, where it was abolished last year.

This is wonderful news for thousands of low paid agricultural and rural workers in Wales. It demonstrates that the robust stand taken by the Welsh Government has triumphed and it will give us extra impetus in our campaign to get the Agricultural Wages Board for England restored as the impartial arbiter of agricultural workers' pay.

– Julia Long, UNITE

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'Sloppy' law bad for farming say Tories

The Conservatives have said the Welsh law on farm workers' wages, which has survived a challenge in the Supreme Court, is sloppy legislation, which caused doubts about whether it was valid and months of uncertainty for farmers.

Welsh Conservatives continue to believe that the Agricultural Wages Board is all about jobs for the boys on another quango. It is out-dated, complicated, and scrapping it puts farmers on an equal footing with other Welsh employers.

– Antoinette Sandbach, Conservative AM for North Wales

Plaid Cymru argued that the Supreme Court case shows the need for an improved devolution settlement. The party also claimed that the Welsh Government should have been more ambitious when it asked the Assembly to pass the legislation.

Plaid Cymru has always welcomed the establishment of a Welsh Agricultural Wages Board. More than 14,000 agricultural workers could be affected by this decision.

I want to see a new board with a much broader remit so that it can play a role in driving forward skills and training, and promoting careers in the agriculture industry.

Plaid Cymru attempted to amend the bill in order to outlaw the use of zero-hour contracts in the sector, but the Labour Welsh Government voted against stating that it would risk having the legislation challenged in the Supreme Court. This happened anyway.

– Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru communities and food spokesperson

Judges hand Welsh Government farming victory

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Welsh Assembly was entitled to pass a law regulating agricultural workers' wages and conditions of employment. The Welsh Government introduced the legislation after Westminster scrapped a system that covered both England and Wales.

The Attorney General referred the bill to the Supreme Court. He argued that the legislation was primarily to do with employment, which is not devolved, rather than agriculture, for which the Assembly is responsible. The bill could not be sent for Royal Assent unless the Welsh Government won.

The judges said that "agriculture" doesn't just mean cultivation or rearing livestock but refers to the entire agricultural industry in all its aspects. All five judges ruled that the bill can be "aptly" classified as relating to agriculture and found in favour of the Welsh Government.

This is not however a case in which the court has to turn to a dictionary in order to find out the meaning of an unfamiliar word. It is clear to us that agriculture cannot be intended to refer solely to the cultivation of the soil or the rearing of livestock, but should be understood in a broader sense as designating the industry or economic activity of agriculture in all its aspects, including the business and other constituent elements of that industry.

– SUPREME COURT JUDGEment

Our interpretation of the law was right. It's very good news for Welsh farm workers; they will now be protected. If we had a clearer devolution settlement these things wouldn't happen. The only people who benefit are lawyers. It's a quite an interesting judgment, it makes it clear that we are able to pass laws even when they touch on areas not in our power.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

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Decision to be made on Welsh farm workers' wages

The Bill has been referred up to the Supreme Court. Credit: ITV News

A decision will be made by the Supreme Court later today on whether to give the Welsh Government the power to set wages for farm workers.

A Bill had originally been passed by the Assembly last year, allowing the Welsh Government to set minimum wages and benefits for agriculture workers.

However, Royal Assent of the Bill has been delayed after the Attorney General referred it to the Supreme Court, arguing that it was a law regarding employment issues and not agriculture.

International sales of Welsh meat hit £224m

Exports to Scandanavia started three years ago. Credit: Nick Potts/PA Archive/PA Images

International sales of Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef were worth more than £224 million to the economy of Wales last year.

That's according to Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales.

It says exports of certified Welsh lamb products were worth £154.7 million in 2013 - up by £7 million on the previous year.

Meanwhile overseas sales of certified Welsh beef stood at £69.4 million, the same as in 2012.

  1. Kevin Ashford

Farming unions 'disappointed' by subsidy cut news

Farming unions say their members are getting a bad deal as the Welsh Government warned today that farmers must learn to manage with less help from the taxpayer.

Alun Davies, the minister responsible for agriculture, was spelling out why he's making bigger cuts in farm subsidies than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

Mr Davies said he's transferring as much money as possible into projects to make farming more efficient, more environmentally friendly and better able to cope when subsidies are cut again in future.

Minister defends farm subsidy cuts

The Welsh Government minister responsible for agriculture has strongly defended his decision to cut direct subsidies for farmers by 15%, the maximum permitted under EU rules. Natural Resources and Food Minister Alun Davies told AMs that he's switching the money to funds that help rural businesses.

He said it would have been "irresponsible" not to act when the overall Common Agricultural Policy Budget is shrinking. He argued that rural Wales has to to prepare for further cuts and that means diverting available funds to prepare for the future. £286 million will be transferred by 2020.

I believe that the reduction of the CAP budget for 2014-20 agreed last spring, while regrettable, is the first step in real terms -and perhaps absolute- decline in direct payment support for farming. It is very important that Wales uses the coming period to 2019 to put its farming industry on the best possible footing to face further public funding reductions from 2020.

Income support ... is important for an industry that faces risks from a range of sources but ... cannot be a never-ending subsidy. I believe it also serves to stifle the modernisation and innovation that are crucial for the future competitiveness of our industry in Wales.

– Alun Davies, in a letter to the Assembly Environment Committee

How farm subsidies are calculated will also change, from historic payments, based on production subsidies, to money linked to the size of each farm and the quality of the land. But most alarm has been caused by the cut in direct payments, which is very high in Wales compared with other countries.

  • Wales 15%
  • England 12%
  • Scotland 9.5%
  • Northern Ireland 7%
  • Germany 5%
  • France 3%
  • Ireland 0%
  • Italy 0%

While there may be promising improvements – any constructive change is severely outweighed by the 15 per cent transfer. This reform leaves Wales at a competitive disadvantage in the market place.

It is a misguided move that hit farmers hard at a time when the industry in Wales is already struggling under Labour management. Far from minimising disruption to farming businesses – this change leaves them in limbo. While Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour may claim they are making Welsh farming more competitive, in reality, they have hamstrung the industry.

– Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Antoinette Sandbach AM
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