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14 Nov 2022

Counsel General fields Committee queries on the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill

Mick Antoniw MS, the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, returned to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee on 14 November as the Initial Consideration of the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill starts to draw to its conclusion. The Counsel General last appeared before Committee on 11 July, just days after the Bill was introduced into the Senedd. Since that time, the Committee has carefully scrutinised the legislation, written to the Counsel General for clarification on many issues and gathered evidence from the Law Commission and stakeholders in the historic environment sector. 

The wide-ranging session covered some 30 areas of the Bill and many of the questions were focused and technical. The Counsel General received support from two Welsh Government officials: Dr James George, Senior Legislative Counsel, and Gwilym Hughes, Cadw’s Deputy Director and head. Committee members raised subjects ranging from the human rights compliance of sections of the Bill, through various issues of terminology employed in the legislation to queries about implementation. The Counsel General faced detailed questioning on a number of topics including:

  • the marine historic environment and the Bill;
  • the use of term ‘religious’ instead of ‘ecclesiastical’ in the Bill;
  • the Bill’s retention of the terminology of ‘preservation’;
  • the inclusion of the term ‘ancillary’ to describe structures or objects associated with a listed building to reflect current case law;
  • potential issues with the Bill’s provision for recording a listed building consented for demolition;
  • the reservations expressed by stakeholders about the inclusion of the provisions for preservation notices in the Bill; and
  • the Bill’s requirement for the Welsh Ministers to maintain historic environment records.

Many of these issues had been brought to the Committee’s attention by stakeholders in their written evidence, and all involved in the proceedings — the Committee members, the Counsel General and the supporting officials — offered warm thanks to the stakeholders who had submitted evidence for their useful and constructive input into the scrutiny of the legislation.

In a number of cases, the Counsel General indicated his willingness to consider amendments in light of the stakeholder evidence should the Bill progress further. He also declared that he would welcome the Committee’s views on some challenging matters.

This only gives a taste of the session which lasted for an hour and a half. The full proceedings can be viewed on Senedd TV and the transcript is available here.

The Committee will now prepare its report on whether the Bill should proceed as a Consolidation Bill. It is expected to submit that report to the Senedd on 23 December. The Senedd will vote on whether the Bill should proceed early in the New Year.