John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development
A revised draft of the Natural Resources Body for Wales (Functions) Order 2013 has today been laid in the National Assembly.
The Functions Order amends a large number of environmental and other legislation in order to confer the functions currently exercised by the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency Wales on the new body, Natural Resources Wales. It also transfers some wildlife licensing functions from the Welsh Ministers to NRW, and transfers powers to make subordinate legislation and forestry plant health functions in relation to Wales from the Forestry Commission to the Welsh Ministers.
It also contains further general powers and duties for the body, updating those provided for in the Natural Resources Body for Wales (Establishment) Order 2012 to reflect operational needs. The Functions Order also makes provision to abolish the CCW and the Welsh Environment Protection Advisory Committee and Regional and Local Fisheries Advisory Committee of the Environment Agency.
The draft Functions Order was laid on 15 November 2012 under the procedure specified by the Public Bodies Act 2011. This procedure required the Order to be laid for a period 40 days, which could then be extended for an additional 20 days should the Assembly resolve to do so or if a Committee were to recommend an extended period. I was in full agreement with the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee’s call for the full 60 days to apply.
During that 60-day period I have received a range of representations from Assembly Committees, UK Government Departments, and experts in the three environment bodies as well as from other interested parties.
Under the provisions of the Public Bodies Act I am legally required to have regard to those representations, and I have done so. I am now re-laying the Order with a number of modifications to take into account points raised since the Order was originally laid.
I very much welcome the widespread engagement that has taken place and appreciate the range of suggestions made. These have enabled us to strengthen and expand the Order. I have approved further amendments to reflect the views of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, including measures to ensure that we have not weakened the conservation duties that Natural Resources Wales will be taking forward from its three predecessor bodies. I have also taken on board the technical comments raised by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
Other key changes include the following:
- removing provisions which would have meant the Environment Agency was no longer subject to the Welsh Language Act and Measure;
- consequential amendments to some additional legislation, including Acts and statutory instruments which refer to the existing bodies due to their roles in relation to water or the countryside;
- including appropriate amendments to legislation relating to public sector pensions rather than dealing with them in separate subordinate legislation made by the UK Government;
- clarifying how certain powers to carry out works, make compulsory purchases and enter premises are divided between NRW and the Environment Agency;
- inserting specific duties for NRW and the Agency to consult one another about certain matters relating to water and flood risk management; and
- ensuring NRW is not prohibited from being consulted on Strategic Environmental Assessments for its own plans and programmes.
All the amendments, including the changes that have been made since the Order was originally laid, are detailed in the Explanatory Memorandum and its annexes.