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.
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.
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