Committee to Welsh Government: “Tell us how much laws really cost”

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

Finance Committee
Financial Estimates Accompanying Legislation (pdf)
Published: 25th October 2017

Chair’s Statement, Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales):

“As more powers and responsibilities are devolved to the Assembly it is essential we have robust procedures for ensuring both laws and the costs that come with them are as accurate as they can be for the people of Wales.”

1. More detailed, long-term figures are needed alongside Bills

The Senedd’s Standing Orders (rules of procedure) specifically state that financial and regulatory projections need to be presented alongside each Bill – known as a Regulatory Impact Assessment or RIA for short. Civil servants work to UK Treasury guidelines and the Welsh Government are confident they approach things in the right way.

Despite this, RIAs are usually lengthy, complicated and inconsistent from Bill to Bill. AMs need a much broader idea of costs and benefits to properly scrutinise new laws and there were criticisms that estimating the benefits of new laws had become “an art, not a science”, as well as criticisms that the standard five-year time span was too short to fully assess the financial implications of a new law.

2. The impact new laws have on interested parties need to be properly considered

There were calls for draft RIAs to be published alongside consultations on new laws as it was felt the Welsh Government doesn’t do enough to engage with interested parties when it comes to calculating costs and benefits – particularly amongst those in the private sector, who may be able to double check the Welsh Government/civil service’s sums and offer pointers.

The WLGA raised the issue of unclear cost projections of new laws when it comes to local government, particularly whether additional money will come from the Welsh Government or whether councils will have to find the money themselves.

There were also recommendations that the cost impact of future regulations be properly considered, not just the proposals in a Bill itself.

3. Costs should be reviewed as an ongoing process

Now that the Senedd has tax-varying powers, keeping tabs on the cost of new laws is essential as the actual cost of a new law is a far better figure to work with than the estimates produced in the RIAs.

There’s now an expectation that the Welsh Government and Senedd committees will do this as a routine part of post-legislative scrutiny, but the WLGA argued it should be carried out independently of any policy teams involved in drafting the law.

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