The Welsh Government has fast-tracked more than 50 new Welsh laws to deal swiftly with the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking from the Senedd in Cardiff, First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined the monumental shift in government resources to limit the damage of coronavirus in his legislative statement.
The measures include the lockdown restrictions to keep people and businesses safe, to protect public health and enable public services to continue to operate in unprecedented circumstances.
Changes to planning systems have enabled the field hospitals to be built in a matter of weeks and supported the continued provision of healthcare; schools and the entire education system have been adapted; and protections have been put in place for people and businesses who are struggling to pay their rent.
With priorities having to be quickly shifted the First Minister has said difficult decisions have had to be taken about what legislation the Welsh Government will be introduce during the remainder of this Senedd term.
Bills and regulations will be focused on the response to coronavirus and EU transition.
The challenging deadline for a significant amount of EU-related secondary legislation remains as the transition period is due to end in December. This includes work to implement new regimes being established by UK bills and the Withdrawal Agreement Act, along with those arising from the negotiations with the EU.
The legislation which will continue alongside the coronavirus response in the autumn term are:
- The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill, which will extend the franchise in local government elections to 16 and 17-year-olds, to be in place by their next elections.
- The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, introduced last week to support the new curriculum and assessment arrangements as part of a wider programme of education reform to raise standards and tackle the attainment gap.
- The Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill, will improve the rights and position of tenants in the private rented sector.
Bills which have been withdrawn include:
- The Bus Services (Wales) Bill – to continue collaboration with the sector that has been hit hard by the pandemic to establish the best approach for the future and support recovery.
- The Tertiary Education and Research Bill has been issued as a draft Bill for consultation.
- A similar approach will be taken with the Social Partnership Bill.
The Welsh Government will also target resources to:
- Extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas of hospital grounds, school grounds, and local authority playgrounds
- Implement the socio-economic duty and the new additional learning needs system
- Ending commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens
- Working with local authorities to extend 20 mph zones.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“In Wales we have championed a careful and cautious approach to tackling coronavirus, but this by no means, means slow. Behind the scenes, the government has worked rapidly to reorganise and redeploy its resources, to save lives and protect our NHS.
“Thanks to the immense sacrifices by the people of Wales in following the legislation we have introduced in recent months, Wales is at its lowest ebb of coronavirus infections since the crisis began.
“Refocusing our resources to deal with the pandemic has led to some difficult decisions being taken but we will continue to prioritise progressive change, which will make the biggest difference to the lives of the people of Wales.”