Proposals for a new law that would make sustainable development a ‘central organising principle” of Welsh Government and the wider public sector in Wales are in disarray according to Plaid Cymru.
Concerns have been growing about the slow progress of the proposed Future Generations Bill, and just days after stating in the Assembly chamber that the bill is on schedule a letter from the Minister for Communities to Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd has now confirmed that the implementation of any new law will be delayed until at least 2016.
Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “The Sustainable Development Bill as it was initially called was supposed to be a flagship bill for this Government. It looks to put the principles of sustainable development at the core of the Welsh Government and public sector in Wales. But it’s now over two and a half years since the First Minister stated his intention to bring this bill forward. A white paper was published over a year ago by the previous Environment Minister.
"Since then the bill has been passed around like a hot potato and is now on its third Minister, the current Minister for Communities who subsequently announced a 'national conversation' around the bill.
"Only last week the Minister confirmed to me in the Assembly that the bill was on track and that the Welsh Government would become subject to its new sustainable development duties as planned from next year. Days later he now admits this will not be achieved and that it will be delayed until 2016. This will confirm the doubts in many people’s minds that the bill is in disarray.”
The proposed sustainable development duty would mean that the consideration of the effect on the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of Wales would become a fundamental requirement of decisions by the Welsh Government and other public bodies in Wales.
“Announcing the bill back in 2011 the First Minister said the approach would set Wales apart as a sustainable nation, leading from the front. But since then the government’s commitment has clearly waned and the narrative has certainly been toned down considerably. The responsibility for sustainable development within government has been pushed from pillar to post and the bill was recently described by the Minister for Communities as legislation that would merely be “a useful example” to others.
“Environmental organisations have already expressed deep concerns to the Assembly’s Environment Committee about the slow progress of the bill. This latest development will cause even greater anxiety that the government is back-tracking on previous commitments.
“Plaid Cymru wants legislation that delivers a strong and unambiguous duty on sustainable development. The Government needs to show that it too has the backbone to deliver on its earlier rhetoric.”