In true Westminster tradition, unless you actually knew what the bill contained, something you won’t necessarily get from its name, you might have been at loss about the significance of the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill. While this bill is part of a fairly dull and unambitious mid term programme of legislation, much of which is, at first glace, irrelevant to Wales, as with many things, the devil is in the detail, as noted by Devolution Matters.
The Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill, which was an idea originally suggested by Plaid Cymru back in 2004, with its provision for an ombudsman, should benefit the thousands of people working within the agricultural sector. While this is an excellent if fairly belated idea, the ombudsman will only work if the Bill ensures that said Ombudsman has some real powers over the milk industry.
Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd MP has responded to the Queen's Speech by expressing disappointment at the lack of ideas to boost the Welsh economy, despite the inclusion of some welcome legislation such as a Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill and a Green Investment Bank Bill.
Speaking shortly after the State Opening of Parliament, Mr Llwyd said:
"While the Queen's Speech contained some measures that Plaid Cymru welcome, it is disappointing to see that Wales has yet again been largely overlooked.
"The Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill, an idea first suggested by Plaid Cymru back in 2004, will benefit the thousands of people working within the agricultural sector, but it's vital that this ombudsman has real teeth, including powers over the milk industry, in order to deliver positive change.
"The Green Investment Bank is also good news, but if it is to transform the green economy, it will require significant financial backing, not just fine words. The same is true of banking reform proposals which should take place as soon as possible.
"There were, however, some very concerning suggestions in the Queen's Speech, and we are very worried in particular about the Public Sector Pensions Reform Bill and proposals to reduce employee's rights at work.
"It is also very disappointing not to see any proposals relating to matters that would truly transform Wales' economy, environment and transport infrastructure.
"These include the devolution of consent over energy generating powers, a JobCentrePlus for Wales, the creation of a Welsh legal jurisdiction, and a bill to electrify the railways in Wales - all progressive proposals that would move Wales forward and ensure that our nation isn't left lagging behind the rest of the UK."
The Con Dem Government’s Draft Water Bill which aims to allow every business and public sector body in England and Wales to switch their water and sewerage supplier, yet makes no provision to bring in water meters for households. Both the RSPB and WWF-UK are reportedly disappointed that measures to reduce waste by domestic users were missing. I mention water meters because they would save most members of the public money, but, of course such a course of action would impinge on company profits and shareholder dividends (at least in England).
Water in Wales is likely to remain an understandably touchy subject for the foreseeable future, one no doubt that Labour in Wales whole heartily wish would go away. It is worth noting that the Government of Wales Act (passed by a Labour Government) specifically excludes the National Assembly from making any laws relating to water supply. One very firm bottom line has to be that our water resources should belong to the Welsh people, not to Private corporations or to the UK Government.