Senedd stock image
The Senedd

A proposed law to reform the planning process for major infrastructure projects passed its first hurdle despite concerns it “undermines” the role of the Senedd.

MSs held a debate on the Infrastructure bill, which would streamline the consent process for significant renewable energy infrastructure with the goal of creating a “one-stop shop”.

Alun Davies criticised the Welsh Government for failing to provide full responses to Senedd committee recommendations ahead of the “stage-one” debate.

The Labour MS for Blaenau Gwent accused ministers of doing “great disservice” to the work of the Senedd’s committees and clerking teams.

On behalf of the legislation committee, which made 50 recommendations, Mr Davies raised concerns about ministerial powers within the bill.

The backbencher criticised the inclusion of “Henry VIII” clauses which would allow ministers to change the law in future without full parliamentary scrutiny.

He explained: “We have concerns that five of the 14 Henry VIII powers in the bill could be exercised by the Welsh Government without the Senedd having any knowledge that the law that it has approved has been modified.”

Mr Davies said the bill, which contains more than 80 delegated powers, does not constrain ministers’ powers as fully as it should.


He told the Senedd: “Including many regulation-making powers to future-proof a bill takes away powers from future parliaments and is not an acceptable practice.

“These powers will rest with the executive, with ministers, with a government that is as of now unelected for the future.

“These are enduring powers. They are not one-off powers we’re being asked to delegate.”

Llyr Gruffydd, who chairs the climate committee, which made 20 recommendations, raised similar concerns, saying the bill is over-reliant on delegated legislation.

He said: “This approach not only undermines the Senedd’s capacity to conduct thorough scrutiny, but also casts doubt on how effectively the bill will deliver on its policy intentions.

“The anticipated one-stop-shop approach that the minister has heralded, for example, remains nebulous without these critical details.”

Mr Gruffydd told MSs that the bill requires significant amendments to make it a workable and effective cornerstone of the planning process.

The Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales said the bill includes scant detail on engagement “which frustrates genuine public involvement and hinders transparency”.

Mr Gruffydd also criticised a lack of detail around transitional arrangements between current and future systems, with the new process set to be implemented by mid-2025.


South Wales East MS Peredur Owen Griffiths, for the finance committee, which made six recommendations, called for more robust cost estimates to back up ministers’ claims about the benefits of the bill.

Peredur Owen Griffiths at the Senedd on December 7, 2021
Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Peredur Owen Griffiths

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Conservatives’ shadow climate minister, raised concerns about a shortage of council planning and legal officers.

She said: “Considering our current infrastructure-approval process is putting Wales at a disadvantage to other parts of the UK, the case for change is unquestionable.

“It’s disappointing, though, that it’s taken over five years from the original consultation in July 2018 to reach this point today.”

She argued the bill is a step back from the Planning Act 2008, which specifies time limits.

Ms Finch-Saunders said her party would support the bill during the debate on Tuesday December 5 but “numerous fundamental problems” must be addressed in future.

Delyth Jewell, her Plaid Cymru counterpart, raised the importance of balancing major infrastructure development with the need to safeguard the environment.

South Wales East MS Delyth Jewell speaking in the Senedd
South Wales East MS Delyth Jewell


Julie James, responding for the Welsh Government, stressed that she would consider committees’ recommendations and respond fully in writing following the debate.

She said ministers have sought to limit Henry VIII clauses to small and specific matters, pointing out that the legislation committee suggested an additional nine powers.

Wales’ climate minister argued the right balance has been struck between provisions included “on the face of the bill” and those set out in subordinate legislation.

Ms James said: “The bill introduces a modern and simplified regime for the consenting of significant infrastructure projects in Wales, both on the land and in the territorial sea.

“I am committed to an efficient and effective consenting regime that makes a positive contribution to our social, economic and environmental prosperity.”

The bill now moves to “stage two” which will see the Senedd’s climate committee consider amendments proposed by MSs.