David Morris, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Strategy at Welsh Government - Supplementary written evidence (FPO0092)

 

Background:

David Morris, Deputy Director for Food gave evidence to the Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment Lords Select Committee on 10th March 2020. 

Following his attendance he was asked for further written information based upon his evidence (Annex A).

  1. Does the Future Generations Commissioner have the power to enforce sanctions? Is her work largely with local authorities or is she able to work with central government more widely?

Does the Future Generations Commissioner have the power to enforce sanctions?

The Commissioner does not have the power to enforce sanctions. The duties and powers of the Commissioner are designed so that the Commissioner acts as a guardian of future generations and to encourage public bodies take greater account of the long-term impact of their activities. 

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 establishes the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales (‘the Commissioner’). The Commissioner is an individual, public appointment, by Welsh Ministers. The position is advertised openly, and candidates are shortlisted and interviewed by a cross-party panel of representatives of the National Assembly for Wales.

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is an essential part of the architecture that will enable Wales to meet its long term goals, and work in a more sustainable way. The power and duties of the Commissioner reflect the challenge and scope of the WFG Act. 

The general duty of the Commissioner is to promote the sustainable development principle, in particular to act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs and to encourage public bodies to take greater account of the long-term impact of their activities. For this purpose, the Commissioner must also monitor and assess the meeting of the well-being objectives set by public bodies.

In carrying out her or his general duty, the Commissioner may provide advice or assistance (excluding financial assistance) to a public body or any other person that she or he believes is taking, or is seeking to take, action that may contribute to the well-being goals. This includes providing advice on climate change.

The Commissioner may also encourage best practice and promote awareness amongst public bodies as regards meeting their well-being objectives in a manner that is consistent with the sustainable development principle; and encourage public bodies to work with each other and with other persons if this could assist them in meeting their well-being objectives.

The Commissioner has the power conduct a review of the extent a public body, though this can relate to more than one public body, is safeguarding the ability of future generations to meet their needs by taking account of the long term impact what that body does. The Commissioner may review the steps taken by a body or which it proposes to take to meet its well-being objectives, the extent those well-being objectives are being met and whether in taking those steps it has acted in accordance with the sustainable development principle.

The Commissioner may make recommendations as a result of any review; this means the Commissioner may recommend a course of action that a public body should take in order to address a specific matter.

Public bodies are required to follow the course of action set out in any recommendation the Commissioner makes under section 20(4) of the Act. However, the body may disregard all or part of the recommendation should they be satisfied that there is good reason to do so. The body may also decide to follow an alternative course of action in respect of the matter to which the recommendation refers, but where it decides not follow the recommendation it must explain its response and the alternative action it intends to do instead

The Commissioner may also require a public body to provide any information the Commissioner considers she or he needs to conduct the review. The Commissioner may only request the information if the body is not prohibited from disclosing the information by any other enactment or rule of law.

Is her work largely with local authorities or is she able to work with central government more widely?

Welsh Government and other public bodies in Wales work closely with the Future Generations Commissioner who plays an important role in the implementation of the Act through supporting organisations and sharing effective practice.

There are 44 public bodies in Wales who are subject to the well-being duty in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. These include all Welsh local authorities, fire and rescue services, health boards, and national bodies such as National Resources Wales, Public Health Wales, Arts Council for Wales, Sport Wales, the National library for Wales, and Museums Wales.

Public Services Boards (PSBs), required by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, mostly operate on a local authority footprint and have an role in collectively improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of the area. PSBs are required to develop well-being assessment and publish a well-being plan and an annual report.

The Future Generations Commissioner’s advice must be sought on the preparation of the Well-being Plan, and they are formerly consulted on both the Assessment of Local Well-being and the Well-being Plan. 

Welsh Ministers are also subject to the same well-being duty as the other public bodies, but have additional duties on national indicators and milestones, statutory guidance and the future trends report.

The Commissioners duties and powers as detailed in the previous response will apply to Welsh Ministers as they are identified as a public body in the legislation.

Whilst there is a legal focus of her duties and powers on those public bodies subject to the duties in the Act, the functions of the Commissioner include providing advice or assistance to any other person who the Commissioner considers is taking (or wishes to take) steps that may contribute to the achievement of the seven well-being goals. This will be at the discretion of the Commissioner.

The Commissioner is also required to publish an Annual Report which includes a summary of the action taken by the Commissioner and a summary of the work programme for that financial year. The latest Annual Report can be found here:  https://futuregenerations.wales/public_info/annual-report-2018-19/. This includes information on the work the Commissioner has carried out with Welsh Government departments.


Annex A:

Good afternoon David,

I hope you are keeping well in these uncertain times!

I have (finally) had a chance to review the transcript of the session you attended the other week, which I believe you will have already received. I wonder if you would be able to send us a little bit of further information?

1)    Does the Future Generations Commissioner have the power to enforce sanctions? Is her work largely with local authorities or is she able to work with central government more widely?

2)    The Committee are interested in the work of the Welsh Government in terms of reformulation of products to make them healthier. Has there been any impact assessment of the effect of these efforts?

We are not in any immediate rush so if you were able to send answers through by mid-april that would be extremely helpful. Once again, we are very grateful for your attendance at the session on the 10th.

 

29 April 2020