National Assembly for Wales Plenary 10.07.18
25
August

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


Full_English
Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call the Members to order. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The first item on
our agenda is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Llyr Gruffydd. Llyr Gruffydd AM: 1. Will the First Minister make a statement on
the impact of Brexit on further and higher education? OAQ52519
Carwyn Jones AM: We addressed the implications of Brexit for post-compulsory education in
our White Paper ‘Securing Wales’ Future’ and identified priorities for negotiations. We continue to press for these priorities
in discussions with UK Government officials. Llyr Gruffydd AM: Last week, in answer to
the Plaid Cymru leader here in the Assembly, you told us that you and your Government had
no plans for the Welsh NHS if there was to be, as is, of course, increasingly likely
now, a no deal Brexit. In fact, your exact words were
‘There is no planning for a “no deal” Brexit. It’s more like people running around in circles
screaming. There are no plans at all for it.’ Now, I’m not sure that’s the kind of leadership
that the people of Wales expected from somebody who stood on a promise of standing up for
Wales, but if you have no plan for the NHS, could you tell us whether that’s also the
case for Welsh universities and Welsh colleges in the face of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, and, if
it is, when exactly would you expect the HE and FE sector to start running around in circles
screaming? Carwyn Jones AM: The Member is being mischievous. He knows full well that I was referring to
the UK Government and not the Welsh Governmentóas he knows, but there’s the mischief. But he asked a question: what is the situation
in terms of what we’ve done? Well, we have the European advisory group,
bringing together business leaders, representatives from universities, trade unions, agriculture,
public services, politicians and the third sector. We have a higher education Brexit working
group, with senior representatives from the HE and FE sectors. They are providing us with advice on the implications
of Brexit for the higher education sector. We have the Council for Economic Renewal Brexit
sub-group, with senior business leaders and organisations, chaired by the economy Secretary. We have the environment and rural affairs
Brexit round-table stakeholder group, set up after the referendum. That is a forum for engagement and collaboration
between the Welsh Government and the food, fisheries, farming, forestry and environment
sectors. And you mentioned health. Well, we continue to work with key health
and care stakeholders through the main representative bodies, and we’re also working directly with
specific groups, such as Public Health Wales, the Royal College of Nursing and NHS medical
directors, in order for us to understand from them what their challenges are. Mark Reckless AM: Will the First Minister
and his party get behind a deal with the EU on education or anything else? At Chequers, the Prime Minister went a long
way towards the sort of Brexit that Labour claims to want. [Interruption.] But instead of welcoming that, they say they’ll
vote down any deal based on it to try and get a general election instead. Since that approach may lead to our leaving
the EU without a deal, will you as First Minister now support the UK Government in accelerating
preparations for such an outcome? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, Boris Johnson and David
Davis stood behind the Prime Minister with a knife and we all saw what they did. I mean, really, this is not the strongest
ground for his party to lead on, given the incredible divisions that exist within the
Conservative Party. Now, in terms of what the Prime Minister is
trying to do, she’s trying, I hope, to steer the UK towards a soft Brexit. In that, I will support that general principle. But we need to see more detail. We don’t know yet what will be in the trade
White Paper; it hasn’t been shared with us in its entirety. We don’t know that the detail will be. We don’t know what the view of the EU will
be, but what is absolutely clear is this: that the Conservative Party is absolutely
divided. The resignation of two senior Cabinet Secretaries
in the space of one day hasn’t happened since 1979, I understand. And that shows the depth of the division that
exists in Whitehall. It’s time really for the Conservative Party
to get a grip and show some leadership for this country. Michelle Brown AM: First Minister, the UK
has three universities in the global top 10. The rest of the EU has none; they’re not even
in the top 30. Has the First Minister made any assessment
of the impact on EU students, Government and non-governmental agencies and organisations,
such as the European Space Agency, were they to lose access to our world-leading academics
in educational institutions? Carwyn Jones AM: I don’t think it works for
anybody. The first thing that academics will tell you
is they rely absolutely entirely on the ability to work in different universities around the
world. And if the UK is seen as self-contained, that
will be to the UK’s detriment, and if it’s seen as unwelcoming, that will be to the UK’s
detriment. It’s absolutely essential that co-operation
continues in the future, with schemes such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020 being able to
deliver to their fullest extent. Vikki Howells AM: 2. Will the First Minister provide an update
on the Welsh Government’s plans to improve the welfare of companion animals in Cynon
Valley? OAQ52482
Carwyn Jones AM: The Wales animal health and welfare framework implementation plan sets
out our priorities for animal health and welfare, and I know that the Cabinet Secretary set
out plans to maintain and improve companion animal welfare in Wales in her oral statement
on 21 June. Vikki Howells AM: Thank you, First Minister. Tomorrow, with my colleague Eluned Morgan,
I am co-sponsoring an event to raise awareness of how Lucy’s law could improve animal welfare
by ensuring people only get puppies from rescue centres or reputable breeders, and I’d encourage
all AMs to come along. Tackling puppy farming is crucial, and many
of my constituents have suffered the heartbreak of paying hundreds of pounds for a poorly
pup that was bred in unacceptable conditions. During her statement on animal welfare, the
Cabinet Secretary said that getting a puppy from the right source is the first fundamental
step towards being a responsible owner. So, how is the Welsh Government promoting
this, and when can we expect an update on discussions on introducing a ban on third-party
sales? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, the updated welfare
code for dogs will be laid before the Assembly before the summer recess. It will remind owners of their responsibilities
when looking after and sourcing their dog or puppy. Regarding the specific issue of third-party
sales, I know the Cabinet Secretary is attending the Lucy’s law event on Wednesday, and I’m
sure this will help to inform those discussions with her. I will ask for a written statement to be published,
to update Members on developments as they progress. Andrew RT Davies AM: I do feel privileged
today to be sitting next to the rescuer of the hedgehog fancier club here, Darren Millar. Anyone who’s followed his Twitter feed would
see the rescue mission he launched last week. But I would ask you, First Ministeró. The Welsh Government commission many services
in the public sector, obviouslyóbus services and the regulation of taxis. It is important that when people with companion
dogs, in particular, seek to use those services, there is an understanding among the operators
what their obligations are, and they are not turned away from use of those services. How confident are you that the regulations,
and in particular the services you commission, do have the safeguards in place so that people
who do need guide dogs, and other companion animals, are able to access those public services? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, of course, all operators
are required to operate within the boundaries of the law, particularly the Disability Discrimination
Act 1995. I would expect every operator to ensure that,
where somebody needs the assistance of a guide dog, for example, they’re able to access bus
services, train services, and any other service. That is what the law would expect them to
do, and that’s what I think decent standards would expect them to do as well. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Questions now from
the party leaders. The leader of the UKIP group, Caroline Jones. Caroline Jones AM: Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, the UK Government is in turmoil
and apparently determined to make such a complete hash of Brexit that we have no choice but
to remain in the European Union, despite the wishes of UK voters. David Cameron abandoned the UK, unwilling
to carry out the democratic wishes of the electorate. Theresa May has bungled every negotiation
with the EU, and senior Tory Ministers are more interested in looking at their leadership
chances than the fate of our country. And this has now all reached a crescendo,
with a plan for Brexit that doesn’t deliver Brexit. The Chequers proposals mean that we continue
to be subject to EU laws, unable to alter or influence them, and we would be unable
to conduct independent trade policies, hampering our ability to negotiate trade deals outside
the EU. This would leave us subject to EU and European
Court of Justice rules and we would be forced to take rules that benefit our continental
competitors. This is not what I voted for and not what
the majority of UK voters voted for. Out means out. First Minister, do you support the position
taken by the Chequers agreement, or do you agree with me that it’s such a shambolic deal
that it’s back to the drawing board? Carwyn Jones AM: I don’t agree with either. I think what we need is a sensible solution
that sees us staying in the customs union, with full and unfettered access to the single
market. And, above all else, she is rightóthe UK
Government is in turmoil. That’s why we need a Labour Government in
Whitehall. Caroline Jones AM: First Minister, unfortunately,
the Labour Party position is confusing. The Labour MP for Aberavon strongly believes
Labour should commit wholeheartedly to a Brexit model that would see the UK continue to make
financial contributions to the EU and accept many of its laws. The Labour leader in Westminster clearly isn’t
sure what he wantsóone day, it is we need to remain in the single market and the customs
union, and the next it’s to obtain a tariff-free trade relationship with Europe and that we
develop a customs union to go alongside that. The shadow Cabinet has more resignations than
appointments, and the shadow Brexit Secretary is now calling for a second Brexit referendum,
seemingly influenced by key members of the Unite union. First Minister, what is your party’s position
on Brexit? Is it the position that you outlined with
the leader of Plaid Cymru? Is that what it is? Or, is your stance the Labour Party’s stance,
please? Carwyn Jones AM: The former. Caroline Jones AM: Sorry? Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Caroline Jones. Caroline Jones AM: Back again, is it? No answer. Okay. [Interruption.] Sorry? Carwyn Jones AM: The formerówhat we agreed
with Plaid Cymru. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: He did answer, and
sayó Caroline Jones AM: With Plaid Cymru. Thank you. Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Thank you, First Minister. I note that your Government has today outlined
proposals for farm subsidies should we ever leave the EU, and I welcome the proposals,
which, according to the RSPB, signal a new way of working. The common agricultural policy has pitted
conservationists and farmers against one another in the battle for land, so this will end this
approach. According to your Cabinet Secretary, Brexit
presents a unique opportunity to put in place bespoke Welsh policy that delivers for our
economy, society and natural environment, and I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. So, First Minister, we are clearly not going
to be able to influence the Brexit negotiations with the UK Government, which will simply
ignore our views, but we can seek to capitalise on the opportunities presented by our exit
from the EU: so, bespoke agriculture and conservation policies, bespoke fisheries policies and bespoke
trade policies. So, First Minister, do you agree that it’s
now time to focus on the opportunities ahead of us and open to us, rather than playing
up the risks? After all, we were supposed to be in a deep
recession by now. Instead, business investment is booming, which
should go some way to giving positive vibes to potential investors. So, how will you encourage investment into
Wales, please? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, first of all, it is
quite clear that many businesses are concerned about the prospect of a hard Brexit. We’ve heard Airbus say it, we’ve heard JLR
say it, and heard others say it. For them, a hard Brexit doesn’t work. It is right to say that we have an opportunity
to shape farming policy as we would want, subject, of course, to there being a commonly
agreed frameworkówhich is importantóacross the whole of the UK. The reality is that we have no guarantees
on the money. Two hundred and sixty million pounds a year
goes into farming subsidies in Wales. We can’t find that money. I can say that now. It’s impossible. It has to be set aside, to my mind, in a separate
pot by the UK Government, and distributed as it is now until there’s agreement to change
things. That’s hugely important. But, none of this means anything without a
market. The reality is that 90 per cent of our food
and drink exports go to the single market. Geography dictates that. A lot of what we produceóif we look at fish,
for exampleóis perishable. It’s just easier to sell it in the European
market than it is to take it halfway across the world to another market. So, the reality is, yes, we can look at producing
a better deal for our farmers in Wales, as long as the money is there from Westminster. But, none of this means anything unless they
can sell their produce. Unless they can get fish and perishable products,
for example, across through Dover and into the French ports as quickly as possible, they
can’t sell anything, which is why it’s hugely important that we avoid a hard Brexit. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Plaid Cymru leader,
Leanne Wood. Leanne Wood AM: Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, it’s on the record that you
said that everyone was running around screaming, when I asked you last week what your plan
is for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Westminster is in chaos, and leaving the EU
without a deal now looks more likely than ever. So, will you now commit to developing a ‘no
deal’ plan to protect Welsh jobs, wages, and the opportunities of future generations? Carwyn Jones AM: I think I just answered that
question. There is no mitigation against no deal. It would not be right to say that. The reality is that, if we have a ‘no deal’
Brexit, we will lose jobs, and we will lose investment. There is no question about that, which is
why I have fought tooth and nail against a ‘no deal’ Brexit. That does not mean, of course, that we are
not doing anything in terms of preparing for Brexit. She’ll have heard me say earlier on what we
have been doing. We also have put in place, of course, the
EU transition fundó£50 million that helps businesses, public services and other organisations
to plan for and prepare for the impact of Brexit. So, yes, we have a number of groups where
we are talking to stakeholders. We also have money on the table. But surely nobody can pretend that a ‘no deal’
Brexit can be fully mitigated, because it can’t. Leanne Wood AM: First Minister, I think we
can all agree that the Westminster Government is making a right mess of Brexit, and the
position is so weak. Last week, Plaid Cymruó. Sorry, it wasn’t Plaid Cymru that consented
to Westminster’s flagship Brexit Bill, was it? And it wasn’t Plaid Cymru that abstained on
the votes that could have kept us in the single market. And it wasn’t Plaid Cymru that voted to trigger
article 50 without a plan. First Minister, that was the Labour Party
that did all those thingsóno input, and not even sight of Westminster’s Brexit paper. Now, is this what the finance Secretary meant
when he said that his deal with the Conservatives marked, and I quote, a ‘significant step’
towards ‘equitable’ inter-governmental working, or, in hindsight, was your Government wrong
to consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which will help to further the chaos
that we’re already seeing in Westminster? Carwyn Jones AM: In terms of what she said
about this being an important step to inter-governmental co-operation, I believe that Nicola Sturgeon,
the Scottish First Minister, said the same thing. So, yes, it is an important step, but obviously
there are different positions taken by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. The reality is I can’t answer for what happens
in Westminster; I’m the First Minister of Wales. And she will know, working with her party,
we have developed what I think are the most thought-through and sensible policies of anywhere
in the UK. We have worked through policies, working with
her party, that provide for, yes, the delivery of the referendum result, but also a soft
Brexit, a sensible trade policy, sensible relationships with the EU, full unfettered
access to the single marketóall these things we’ve shared together. We are continuing to press the UK Government. It seems, we hope, that they are listening
to an extent, given that the Chequers agreement goes much further towards where we think the
UK should be than has previously been the case. Leanne Wood AM: How can you expect the UK
Government to listen to what we jointly want when you can’t even get your own party to
accept that position? Your MPs vote against the joint agreed position
that your party and my party have agreed in this Assembly. First Minister, we face uncertainty here like
we’ve never faced it before. With just weeks of negotiating time left,
and Westminster in more chaos than ever, why do you refuse to accept reality? A ‘no deal’ Brexit is looming over us, and
I don’t think that your Government is doing anywhere near enough to protect this nation. Now, as a democrat, I believe that people
should have a say on the final deal, so, First Minister, now that we know that it looks like
either a bad deal or a ‘no deal’, will you now back a people’s vote so that we can have
a chance to reject the extreme Brexit that you and I know will cause so much damage to
the people and the economy of this country? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, my view has always
been that any deal should be ratified by the Parliamentsópluralóof the UK. If that doesn’t happen, the matter would either
have to be settled through an election or indeed, possibly, by a referendum on the deal
itself. Because, if there’s no other way of resolving
it, then the people who voted in 2016 have a perfect right to decide what kind of deal
they want to approve from 2018 onwards. It seems right that that should happen. But it seems to me that the first port of
call is for the Parliaments of the UK to examine any deal and decide whether that deal should
be supported or not. If there is then, for example, a general election
if that deal is rejected, and that produces an inconclusive result, well, how else can
it be resolved other than by a referendum on the deal? I think that becomes inevitable at that stage. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: On behalf of the
opposition, Paul Davies. Paul Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, what is the Welsh Government
doing to support children and young people with learning disabilities? Carwyn Jones AM: We have done a great deal,
as he will knowófor example, the fact that we’ve helped local authorities in terms of
providing services for care for children; the fact, for example, that we’ve put so much
money into child and adolescent mental health services, where so many young people have
had benefit from the £8 million extra we’ve given to CAMHS; and, of course, we have the
children’s commissioner there, who is able to advise us in terms of what more we might
need to do. Paul Davies AM: Well, First Minister, you’ll
be aware of the very worrying report published by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales that
showed that, on a number of counts, the Welsh Government is failing to deliver the support
needed for children and young people with learning disabilities. The report showed that 83 per cent of parents
surveyed said they were worried their children were socially isolated, and many highlighted
concerns about bullying. First Minister, in light of this damning report,
can you tell us what immediate action the Welsh Government will now take to address
the concerns highlighted by the children’s commissioner and support children and young
people with learning disabilities? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, it’s hugely important
with a report like this that there is a proper response given by Government, and that response
will be given, of course, and consideration given to what the children’s commissioner
has actually said. Paul Davies AM: First Minister, the Welsh
Government has already committed to upholding the rights of children and young people across
Wales, and yet we have seen a number of recent reports in recent months where the Welsh Government
is failing children and young people. Of course, one way the Welsh Government could
better support children and young people and uphold their rights is by supporting my proposed
autism Bill, which has indeed the backing of independent bodies such as the National
Autistic Society and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and is supported by many
in this Chamber. First Minister, will you now therefore commit
to supporting the autism Bill, which will actually send a clear message to children
and young people across Wales that the Welsh Government will do all that it can to support
them? Carwyn Jones AM: We will do all that we can
to support parents and, indeed, young people with autism. That does not necessarily mean that it has
to be done via a Bill. It’s hugely important that resources are made
available and we have done that in terms of support. It’s also hugely important that we are able
to work with organisations to deliver the best package for young people with autism. So, while I’m convinced that a Bill would
do it, it’s hugely important that we look to see what further resource can be identified
in order to help those people who live with the condition every day. Neil Hamilton AM: 3. Will the First Minister make a statement on
how the Welsh Government facilitates outdoor leisure activities in Wales? OAQ52509
Carwyn Jones AM: We work closely with a number of partners, including Sport Wales and Natural
Resources Wales, to provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in a
range of outdoor leisure activities. It is important that we make use of our natural
landscape to encourage people to become more active. Neil Hamilton AM: I thank the First Minister
for that response. A constituent who is a keen off-road cyclist
has written to me from Kidwelly to complain that a large area of land near Merthyr Tydfil
that is owned by Natural Resources Wales has been leased to a private company and trades
under the name of BikePark Wales, as a result of which there’s been a restriction on public
access to that land. And I looked at BikePark Wales’s website this
morning, which says: ‘Any rider caught tresspassing on the trails
without a valid pass will be fined on the spot, this will be enforced by our marshalls.’ A rather dictatorial attitude to take in these
circumstances. Can the First Minister tell me what’s the
policy on public access to Welsh Government owned land for the purpose of cycling and
walking, and how this new policy of privatisation might affect the active Wales initiative by
banning local people from free and unrestricted access? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, I’m not aware of the
area of land he’s talking about, but, certainly, I cannot see any legal way in which people
can have money extorted from them simply because they’re standing on a piece of land. I can’t see any way where that can be enforced
in any lawful way. But, if the Member writes to me with more
details, I will, of course, be pleased to look at this in more detail. Suzy Davies AM: First Minister, at the same
time that Santander’s sponsored community bike scheme has finally come to lifeóI’m
really pleased about thatóand there are more and more cycle tracks becoming apparent in
Swansea, the local authority plan to dig up much-loved and well-used tennis courts in
Mumbles and replace them with a temporary car park. At least the Swansea council did listen to
residents’ complaints about this and have withdrawn their plans for now. At a time when we’re trying to get people
out of their cars and we have the active travel agenda, as we’ve just heard, and we want people
visiting Wales and some of our most important tourism spots, I think this was a bit of a
strange and muddled plan from Swansea council. So, do you agree that, at a time when the
city region is bringing councils together to think big picture about the regeneration
of the area, they should be looking at active travel in exactly the same way and avoiding
short-sighted decisions like this, which actually reduce the opportunities for people to take
part in activity? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, that will be a matter
for Swansea council, but we do expect, of course, local authorities to comply with the
Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and to look for opportunities to ensure more people are
able to cycle and cycle safely. I’m not familiar with the particular planning
issue that the Member talks about, but I can assure her that it’s the view of the Government
that we want to see more opportunities arise for cycling and walking in the future. Suzy Davies AM: And playing tennis. Carwyn Jones AM: And tennis. I beg your pardon. Russell George AM: 4. Will the First Minister make a statement on
eligibility to vote in Welsh elections? OAQ52479
Carwyn Jones AM: Yes. To be eligible to vote in Welsh elections
you need to be registered and 18 years of age or over on polling day. I do intend, however, to support the bid to
extend the franchise to include 16 and 17-year-olds. Russell George AM: Thank you, First Minister. I’ve been contacted by a former constituent
who’s written to me to say that he feels disenfranchised at not being able to vote in Welsh elections. He was born in Wales and raised locally and
has extensive family in mid Wales. He moved from mid Wales to Shropshire, where
his job took him, and then went to work abroad. Contacting the election office in Powys, they’ve
advised him that, as an overseas resident, he can only register to vote where he last
lived. So, as a Welsh national, he is able to vote
in a UK general election, but he can’t vote in a Welsh general election. So, this does seem to me to be an anomaly. Can I ask if you are aware of this issue? If you are, has the Welsh Government made
and could the Welsh Government make representation to the Electoral Commission? Carwyn Jones AM: I think that’s very difficult. There are two ways in which you can establish
someone’s right to vote. One is residence, obviously; the other is
citizenship. We don’t have Welsh citizenship. There are some in the Chamber, I know, who
would seek to promote that, but, in the absence of Welsh citizenship, residence is the only
way of doing it. The question then is: how far back do you
go? What if someone lives in Wales for a week
or two? Does that mean they’re eligible? I think there are lots of difficulties there
that would need to be resolved in order for a change in the law to be workable. Jane Hutt AM: First Minister, would you agree
with the expert panel on Assembly electoral reform that a reduction in the minimum voting
age to 16 would be a powerful way to raise political awareness and participation among
young people? Carwyn Jones AM: Yes, I would. I have to say, we have seen one electoral
event in the UK, namely the Scottish referendum, where 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to
vote. That precedent having been established, I
fail to see why that can’t operate in the future for all of themófor elections and
referenda. It seemed to work very well in Scotland; the
turnout seemed to be very good amongst those who were 16 and 17 years old, showing that
they were engaged, one side or the other, in the issues in 2014. That’s why I’m supportive of lowering the
voting age to 16. Gareth Bennett AM: 5. Will the First Minister make a statement on
green-belt developments in South Wales Central? OAQ52496
Carwyn Jones AM: Yes. The local planning authorities within the
South Wales Central region haven’t designated green belts in their respective local development
plans. Gareth Bennett AM: Yes, thanks for that answer. We’ve had recent press reports that the leader
of Cardiff council, Huw Thomas, wants to merge with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, principally
so Cardiff can build more houses on land in the Vale. We’ve already had housing developments infringing
on the green belt and we’re losing prime agricultural land due to this. Do you agree, First Minister, that Cardiff
council’s bid to turn the Vale into a building site is not the way forward? Carwyn Jones AM: I’m sure he hasn’t said that. I find it difficult that the Vale of Glamorgan
Council would acquiesce to a merger along those lines. I don’t think that Councillor Huw Thomas has
approached the Vale of Glamorgan and said, ‘Merge with us so that we can build on your
land.’ It strikes me that’s not the best example
of diplomacy in those circumstances. There is a duty on all local authorities to
maintain an LDP, of course, and it’s good to see now that progress is being made in
terms of the development of a strategic development plan as well to better manage the undoubted
demand there is for housing. David Melding AM: First Minister, access to
green spaces is really important today. Ninety-six per cent of Copenhageners live
within a 15-minute walk of a sizeable green or blue area, and work is indeed under way
to even improve those access rates. The city has biodiversity volunteers who play
a vital role in nurturing the city’s green areas and the city has planted more than 3,600
trees, many of them adopted by local people and companies or institutions. Do you agree with me that access to really
pleasant green areas can be inside the city as well as just surrounding it? Carwyn Jones AM: Absolutely. We’re looking at the idea of green corridors
to see how they can be developed in the future. We know that Cardiff, for example, is reasonably
well blessed with parks, and the last thing we would want to see, for example, as the
city grows, is to see developments without access to green spaces, without access to
cycle paths, without access to a rural environment. That’s hugely important in terms of well-being,
for example. We know that the way people perceive their
environment has a direct effect on their health and well-being and that means it’s hugely
important not just to plan on the basis of, ‘Let’s build houses over there’, but more,
‘Let’s create communities that are sustainable, which are easy to travel in and out of, and
have access to green areas.’ Neil McEvoy AM: First Minister, in 2012, you
denied announcing to the South Wales Echo that the green fields around Cardiff would
not be built on as part of Labour’s so-called local development plan. Your Labour colleagues stood in the green
fields, and I quote, for the record, ‘Labour does not want to build in Waterhall fields
or on any green spaces.’ Those fields are now being built on, and the
beautiful countryside around Danescourt will also be built on unless we can stop it. People in Cardiff were misled. Do you now accept that those green fields
are being built on, and that it’s happening because Labour gave these massive housing
corporations the permission to do it? Carwyn Jones AM: His position has always been
quite curious. I don’t think I’ve ever announced anything
to the Echo at any point in time. Secondly, I am not, nor have I ever been,
the leader of Cardiff city council, and in 2012 I was not the planning Minister, so I
could not anyway give any kind of permission for development in Cardiff or anywhere else
in Wales. That’s self-evident. But it is important that local authorities,
of course, are able to manage the demand. The reality is that lots of people want to
live in Cardiff. It’s hugely important that the city is able
to manage that demand, but also, of course, to work with authorities around Cardiff in
order to manage them so that people can live elsewhere as well. The idea that a local authority should only
plan for people who live and work in their own area is clearly ridiculous, because that’s
not the way it works in terms of the economy and nor should it work in terms of the planning
system, which is why strategic development plans are important. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: 6. What action is the Welsh Government taking
to improve services for asthma sufferers? OAQ52484
Carwyn Jones AM: An updated respiratory health delivery plan for Wales was published in January. It sets out the approach to tackling respiratory
disease over the next 12 months. Investment in respiratory care in Wales has
increased from £338 million in 2009-10 to £432 million in 2016-17. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Thank you very
much for the reply, First Minister. The provision of a basic level of asthma care,
as set out in the clinical guidelines, contributes to keeping sufferers out of hospital and,
ultimately, to saving lives. According to Asthma UK, Wales is the worst
place in the United Kingdom to be an asthma sufferer, with just over a quarter of people
receiving every element of basic care, compared to over a third in England, and nearly half
in Northern Ireland. What action will your Government take to improve
services for asthma sufferers so that more people in Wales receive every element of basic
care? Carwyn Jones AM: The national respiratory
implementation group does obviously recognise the significance of asthma as an illness. It has put in place a national work stream
and appointed a lead clinician for Wales to co-ordinate health board activity. It’s hugely important that patients receive
a comprehensive asthma review; that is a priority for us. We are also looking to develop all-Wales prescribing
guidelines, paediatric asthma guidance and the establishment of a difficult asthma group
for the management of more complex cases. There’s also a broader focus on the national
review into asthma deaths and measurement of standards through the national asthma and
chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases audit programme. Mark Isherwood AM: 7. What support does the Welsh Government provide
for children with epilepsy? OAQ52488
Carwyn Jones AM: The neurological conditions delivery plan for Wales sets out our expectations
for the future delivery of safe, sustainable and high-7quality care for people who have
neurological conditions. That includes, of course, supporting children
and young people with neurological conditions such as epilepsy. Mark Isherwood AM: Last week, I hosted and
chaired the Epilepsy Wales annual Epilepsy Aware event in the Assembly, and we heard
that people with complex epilepsy were not able to access treatment, including the keto
diet, although recommended as a first-line treatment by the National Institute for Health
and Care Excellence. This included children with epilepsy after
unsuccessfully trying two first-line drugs, which is also recommended by NICEóchildren
who have a GLUT1 diagnosis. How do you therefore respond to their call
for provision within Wales of the necessary treatments and levels of care as outlined
in the NICE guidelines, a ketogenic team, and accepting the offer from the Daisy Garland
foundation to fund a dietician in Wales for a year with immediate effect, alongside similar
proposals in a list of ideas that would, finally, if delivered in Wales, meet the needs of these
people and, as they say, impact positively on the finances of the NHS? Carwyn Jones AM: The Member is quite correct
to say that, currently, services for patients in south Wales who require access to support
for a ketogenic diet are provided in Bristol. That is correct. The service can be accessed through an individual
patient funding request. I can say to the Member that officials do
know of discussions between Cardiff and Vale university health board and the Welsh Health
Specialised Services Committee about the possibility of those services now being provided more
locally. So, those issues are ongoing as far as south
Wales is concerned, and I look forward to a positive outcome of those discussions to
see whether we can actually provide the service closer to south Wales at this moment in time
than is presently the case. David Rees AM: First Minister, I appreciate
the treatments that we have talked about, but one of the big problems is actually taking
a child who has a severe seizure to the hospital in the first place. I’ve got constituents who have phoned for
ambulances and, in fact, family who lived over half an hour away got there before the
ambulance got there. A lone parent cannot take a child to the hospital
with their child having a seizure in the back of the car; it’s dangerous. They need the response from the ambulance
quickly because the child sometimes stops breathing as a consequence of this. Will you ask your health Secretary to look
at the discussions with the ambulance service to ensure that, for these children, they can
get responses quickly so a parent doesn’t have to see a child suffer whilst they’re
waiting for an ambulance? Carwyn Jones AM: The Member will be aware,
of course, of the assessment system to determine the clinical priority of a patient. The type of response sent to a child who has
experienced a seizure will depend on the information provided by the person who’s dialled 999,
but I can say in response to his particular concern that the chief ambulance services
commissioner is currently overseeing a review of the amber category, which will make recommendations
for improvement in the autumn, and it’ll be important that this issue that he has raised
is part of the examination that’s taking place at the moment. Leanne Wood AM: First Minister, whilst Mark
Isherwood and I might not see eye to eye on many political issues, we have worked closely
together on the question of medicinal cannabis with the MS Society. So, I wonder whether I can ask whether an
assessment has been undertaken of how many children in Wales have severe epilepsy but
could also benefit from the availability of cannabis oil like Billy Caldwell. And will you also see that preparations are
made to ensure that the NHS in Wales is prepared to meet the demand for medicinal cannabis
and prepared to prescribe it to patients if and when restrictions are relaxed by the UK
Government? Carwyn Jones AM: It’s difficult to provide
a figure because it depends on the individual, of course, but she does ask an important question. This is tied up, as she will know, in the
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which is not devolved, either in Wales or in Scotland. So, there are issues there that surround the
ability of practitioners to prescribe drugs that are caught up in that Act. We know that cannabis derivatives can play
a role in treating some medical conditions. That’s why Sativex, of course, is available
in Wales. I can say that, on 18 June, the Home Office
Minister Nick Hurd, assuming he is still the Home Office Minister, announced plans to establish
an expert clinicians panel, led by the UK chief medical officer, to advise Ministers
on any applications to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. That panel will consider the merits of each
individual case and make a clinical assessment of an exceptional and unmet clinical need. Now, what is not clear to us at the moment
is how that will affect us in terms of prescribing. However, the chief pharmaceutical officer,
Andrew Evans, is a non-voting member of the panel. So, even though we’re talking about a devolved
area, because the misuse of drugs isn’t a devolved area, we need to make sure that restrictions
are removed from London in order for us to be able to prescribe here in Wales. But I do hope that there is a proper examination
of the possibilities of cannabis oil and what it might deliver for the welfare of some patients. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: 8. What is the Welsh Government doing to support
heritage projects on Ynys MÙn? OAQ52516
Carwyn Jones AM: The Government funds an array of heritage projects on Ynys MÙn. These range from community projects involving
a number of local volunteers such as those at Newborough and Bryn Celli Ddu, through
to major-scale investments such as improving visitor services at Beaumaris castle. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: Thank you very much. We, like every other constituency, are very
proud of our heritage, and there are a number of exciting plans afoot at the moment to reopen
Marquess of Anglesey’s Column in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and to reopen the Amlwch train line. There are a number of proposals already in
operation to celebrate our industrial and transport heritageóI’m thinking about the
Copper Kingdom in Amlwch and the Breakwater park in Holyhead. But another important proposal, and one that
needs the help of the Welsh Government, is to open the museum telling the story of the
bridges in Menai Bridge. Now, there was a blow to that particular programme
recently when the trust heard that they wouldn’t qualify for funding for the Building for the
Future programme. I hope that you as First Minister would agree
with me that this is a very good time to look at investing in such a museum, given the steps
that have been taken towards dualling the Britannia bridge, and I would be grateful
for some support from you as First Minister, and that you, in collaboration with the Minister
for heritage, can look at every possible alternative means of investing in this project, which
would be a crown on the recent development of Menai Bridge. Carwyn Jones AM: Of course, we always, when
the money is available, wish to invest in important heritage projects, One example,
of course, is Llys Rhosyr and the fact that we want people to visit there and understand
the heritage and history of the area. But any kind of bid would have to be submitted
to the Government to see in which way we could support that bid. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Mark Isherwood. Mark Isherwood. Mark Isherwood AM: Of course, Ynys MÙn/Anglesey
is an incredible place and its history goes back a long way. How do you think we can incorporate into the
promotion of that island the period when it was the Rome of the juridic world, the fact
that it was on the Roman imperial trading route even before Rome conquered this island,
its wonderful Arthurian links and its links to the legends of Avalon and Avallach, the
fact that it was occupied by the Vikingsóhalf of it was occupied by the Vikings for two
centuries, having a massive impact on local culture and dislocation at the timeóand much
more, aligned to the history we hear much more about as well? Carwyn Jones AM: If the Member was taken by
surprise by that question, he did a sterling job, I must say, of selling Anglesey as a
result of what he has said. It’s hugely important for us to ensure that
people visit all parts of Wales to understand the rich history that we have. I know, for example, if we talk about Llys
Rhosyr, which I mentioned earlier on, that the Minister is preparingóor Cadw, rather,
is preparing a leaflet at the request of the Minister on the castles and the sites of the
lords and princes of Wales, and that will include Llys Rhosyr as well. It’s part of our history that I think has
been neglected, actually, over the years, because we know that Welsh history was not
well taught in schools for many, many years and in some ways, as a nation, we’re not well
aware of our own history. So, all that we can do to encourage not just
our own people but others as well to understand more of our medieval history, I think, is
something to be welcomed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Lynne Neagle is not
here to ask question 9 [OAQ52517], so question 10óAndrew R.T. Davies. Andrew RT Davies AM: 10. Will the First Minister make a statement on
Welsh Government funding of transport infrastructure projects across Wales? OAQ52512
Carwyn Jones AM: Yes. The national transport finance plan, last
updated in 2017, sets out an ambitious programme of road, rail, bus and active travel improvements. Andrew RT Davies AM: Thank you, First Minister. One of the schemes that the Welsh Government,
via the Vale of Glamorgan Council, is promoting is the new road from the Miskin junction,
as it’s known, in the Vale of Glamorgan to Sycamore Cross. Can the First Minister confirm that if this
project is to go ahead it will require Welsh Government funded money to be made available
for its construction and that that money is within the budget as currently laid out? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, where we are at the
moment is that we allocated a £60,000 grant to the council in 2017 to undertake an appraisal
for the provision of those improvements. We commissioned Peter Brett Associates to
assess the case for change for addressing connectivity issues for strategic employment
sites in the Vale. Things are at a very, very early stage at
the moment. I understand the council itself has extended
the consultation until 17 July. So, any comments, of course, should be directed
to the council, but inevitably, if it was to move ahead, it would be a large project,
and it’s difficult to see how the Vale of Glamorgan could finance such a project itself. Darren Millar AM: 11. Will the First Minister make a statement on
maternity services for patients in north Wales? OAQ52494
Carwyn Jones AM: Yes. Betsi Cadwaladr university health board offers
women from the north a full range of maternity services from birth at home or in hospital,
including both midwifery and obstetric-led care and specialist facilities, and these
services have been supported by the Welsh Government’s £18 million investment in the
sub-regional neonatal intensive care centre, which became operational last month. Darren Millar AM: I’m very grateful for the
fact that that service is available to people in my own constituency. The First Minister will be aware, however,
that some people from north Wales avail themselves of maternity services in Chester at the Countess
of Chester Hospital. There’s been a recent scandal there with a
nurse who has been arrested on suspicion of taking the life of eight babies. Some parents in north Wales who have lost
children are obviously very concerned about that news and want to have the deaths of their
children investigated. What support is the Welsh Government putting
in place for parents from north Wales who have lost children and are very concerned
about the nature in which they were lost and whether there is an implication for them as
a result of this ongoing investigation? Carwyn Jones AM: Well, as the Member will
understand, this is an ongoing police investigation. There’s not a great deal I can say about it. What I can say is that should any Welsh residents
have been involved in what has happened there, we would expect the health board to provide
support to the families affected and to seek the appropriate assurances from the NHS trust
concerned regarding any Welsh residents currently under their care. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Thank you, First
Minister. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next item, therefore,
is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the leader of the house to make
the statementóJulie James. Julie James AM: Diolch, Llywydd. There’s one change to today’s agenda. Later this afternoon I will be making a statement
on the review of gender equality, otherwise business for the next three weeks is as shown
on the business statement and announcement found amongst the meeting papers available
to Members electronically. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Cabinet Secretary,
may I ask for a statement from the Welsh Government on the Centre for City’s report that says
that the struggling city centres should end their dependency on retail by replacing shops
with offices and housing? According to this report, offices in successful
city centres like Bristol and Manchester made up two thirds of the commercial space available,
and retail made 18 per cent of that. In Newport city centre, 54 per cent of commercial
space was in retail, and 28 per cent of the shops are vacant. Also, the number of people living in Cardiff
city centreóan increase of 88 per cent between 2002 and 2015. In Swansea city centreó63 per cent over the
same period. In Newportóan increase of only 20 per cent,
Minister. Could we have a statement from the Welsh Government
on the findings of this report, and on how we can breathe life back into cities and towns
such as Newport, please? Julie James AM: Yes, a very interesting report,
and a lot of work has been done on the changing nature of city centres. The Cabinet Secretary has made a number of
contributions to that debate, and we’ve been working very hard with partners on the city
deals in order to take account of what the Member is outlining, which is the fundamental
change in the way that people shop, the effect of, obviously, internet shopping on retail
space, and what needs to be done to make those vibrant places that people want to go to for
something other than a retail experience. The Member has pointed out the findings of
the report very much. I know the Cabinet Secretary’s very well aware
of them. Simon Thomas AM: First of all, leader of the
house, can I say that I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t had an oral statement on the
consultation on land-use management and the future of common agricultural policy payments,
which is going to be hugely important over the summer? I understand it’s a long consultation, but
it will feature strongly in the summer shows. I think an oral statement would have been
suitable for such a consultation, and I no doubt will return to this tomorrow when the
Cabinet Secretary is due to answer questions. But I think it deserves a particular session
in this Chamber, to look at and examine that consultation. Can I ask for two further possible statements? First of all, does the Welsh Government intend
to make a statement on water over the next week or so? We’re not in a position of drought yet in
Walesójust to be sure that we’re very clear about thisóhowever, we do have a situation
where we’re starting to look at a situation that might arise with drought. Two months in a row of way-below-average rainfall
is one of the triggers for droughtówe’re getting on for that. We’re much better prepared than the summer
of 1976, which I think we both can remember, but it’s certainly true that there is some
concern now about water use in Walesóa potential water shortageóand, of course, we’ll be on
a break over the summer, so if the Welsh Government does intend to support any kind of water-use
restrictions, or needs to do that, because we may well have rain, but if it’s not of
sufficient quantity, we could still be in August with some problemsó. So, will the Welsh Government make a statement,
and in particular, will the Welsh Government make a statement on the use of the new joint
powers in the Wales Act 2017 with the UK Government around water resources in Wales? I’m perfectly happy that our water is shared
throughout the United Kingdom; I think it’s right and proper that a common resource is
shared. But I also think it’s right and proper that
the right price is paid for the use of resources. I think it would be very difficult politically
if we saw any drought restrictions in Wales and water was flowing, shall we say, through
English factories and towns without there being a quid pro quo in some of that. We just need to understand where the new powers
under the Wales Act will be used by the Welsh Government to have discussions with the UK
Government about the joint management, and appropriate management, of water resources
in Wales. The other situation I’d like to request a
statement on specifically, or perhaps a letter from the Cabinet Secretary would be appropriate,
is the situation of dentistry in Wales, and in particular dentistry at a consultant-led
level. I have a constituent who’s happy for me to
name him, Mr Boff, who has been waiting for two and a half years for restorative dentistry,
having lost all his teeth. He can’t get that done by a restorative dentist
in Betsi Cadwaladr, because they’ve never been able to retain a restorative dentist,
but they’re not willing, either, to pay for him to get it done where their previous restorative
dentist has gone, which is in the west midlands. So, they’re not prepared to pay for him to
go there, but they don’t have a dentist who can do it in the health board area, and they
sent back £1 million to the Welsh Government for dentistry last year, because they couldn’t
spend the money. In the meantime, my constituent has actually
been warned by his general practitioner that he now faces malnutrition because he literally
does not have the teeth to eat properly. This is something that could be solved so
easily if health boards had a way of utilising the resources that they’ve been given by Welsh
Government to spend outside their area, to make sure that our constituents do get the
healthcare that they need. Now, the last timeóI could read this out;
I’ve got a very long list of interactions on this, and a lot of people have been involvedóbut
the last time, most recently, a couple of weeks ago, a response from the Cabinet Secretary
did show a little bit of urgency and a realisation that the health board can’t continue sending
holding letters to meóseveral weeks agoóon this matter, and that Mr Boff does need his
full treatment. I would appreciate some response before the
recess on what’s being done to restore this service, which must be affecting other constituents,
because Betsi has not had a restorative dentist for at least a year now, and is not able to
provide a very essential service. Julie James AM: Llywydd, in time-honoured
fashion, going in reverse order, I’ll make sure that the Cabinet Secretary is aware of
the issue, and finds out for the Member where he is on the response to his constituent’s
concerns. In terms of water, we have not yet got to
the point that some of us remember from the long, hot summer of 1976. I have to say, many of my Cabinet colleagues,
of course, were not born in that time, but, sadly, I was. But we are keepingóforgive the punóa weather
eye on it and I’m sure that the Minister will bring forward a statement if we get to the
point where that’s necessary. I don’t want to jinx the lovely weather, Llywydd,
as I’ve an important family wedding, which I very much hope it will last until, just
after recess. In terms of land management, obviously we
are out to consultation, and the Cabinet Secretary, once we’ve had the consultation, will be coming
back and giving us an outline of that consultation. The Member himself pointed out that there
are a number of events over the summer where it will be discussed in some detail, and the
time to bring a statement forward will be when we have the results of the consultation. Jane Hutt AM: Leader of the house, I’m particularly
concerned to safeguard my constituents in the western part of the Vale of Glamorgan,
where there’s a long-standing practice of using the services of the Princess of Wales
Hospital. Can you provide an update on the proposed
health board boundary change in Bridgend? Secondly, I would be grateful if the leader
of the house could confirm that the Welsh Government will respond, as a matter of urgency,
to the report from the independent medicines and medical devices safety review, which has
concluded that there must be an immediate pause on the use of surgical mesh for the
treatment of stress urinary incontinence. You will know that I held a meeting last week
of the Welsh mesh survivors group. Does this accord with a statement made by
the Cabinet Secretary, Vaughan Gething, on 8 May, where he drew attention to his support
for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence new guidance in December last
year, stating that transvaginal mesh repair for vaginal wall prolapse should only be used
in the context of research? And also, in his statement, he stated his
support for the recommendation from the working group that the NHS supports women with pelvic
health problems, moving to a focus on prevention and conservative therapies, with surgical
intervention as a last resort. Julie James AM: It’s a very important issue,
and as Jane Hutt correctly said, the Cabinet Secretary has already made some remarks on
that. We are advising the NHS to restrict the use
of vaginal mesh in Wales, ensuring its use is continued only in those with very specific
need and who fully understand the risks. That is in line with the recent recommendations
of the report from the review panel, which Jane Hutt just mentioned, and the Chief Medical
Officer for Wales has written to medical directors reiterating that advice. We expect sufficient levels of clinical governance,
consent, audit and research are in place in health boards to ensure that all women can
be confident that the appropriate safeguards are in place. We have evidence of a significant reduction
in the number of vaginal mesh procedures in Wales. So, that largely suggests, Llywydd, that a
pause is already in place, driven by a change in clinical decision making during recent
years. However, it’s our expectation that that will
continue to be the case until the requirements for increased safeguards can be met. So, I think the announced immediate curb in
England very much reflects the Wales position. So, they’re basically following our lead in
implementing those safeguards. In terms of the health board boundaries, I
know that theóLlywydd, obviously, my constituency is one of the ones affected, just to remind
Members of thatóchairs of the health boards have issued a joint statement on this change
and invited all elected Members to raise any concerns directly with them. If you haven’t received that, I’ll make sure
you have a copy and that the invitation is extended to you, if that hasn’t happened. There’s no intention to change front-line
health services in the Bridgend local authority area. We are obviously very keen to reduce duplication
and bureaucracy, and to encourage simplicity. The proposals for realigning the health board
boundaries are intended to offer such opportunities, empowering local government to be strong and
capable and make decisions based locally on clear accountabilities and to work effectively
with a consistent set of partners, so it realigns the boundaries, as I know Jane Hutt is already
aware. Welsh Government is continuing to work with
the health boards and other partners as preparations for the boundary change are developed, and
the relevant legislation will be brought forward in due course. Obviously, any further health service change
proposals will be the subject of separate public engagement and, where appropriate,
consultation in line with usual procedures for the consideration of such boundaries. So, this isn’t the harbinger of another set
of changes to come. Mark Isherwood AM: I endorse the call for
a statement on mesh operations. England hasn’t followed Wales. NHS England has announced a stop to NHS operationsófull
stop. In that context, I would welcome a statement. Secondly, I’d welcome a statement on the contribution
that heritage railways can and can further make to Wales and our local and regional economies. Last week, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas hosted
a Worshipful Livery Company of Wales event with the magnificent Ensemble Cymru from Bangor
University at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, playing, at which we heard the chair of the Worshipful
Company was related to the family who had saved the Snowdonia mountain railway. Last Friday, at the Prince of Wales PRIME
Cymru awards in Llandudno, I was speaking to a representative of the Ffestiniog and
Welsh Highlands Railway. Last Saturday, we saw Channel 4 screening
its fifth and final episode of its Great Rail Restorations series, operating its time train
on Llangollen Railway, promoting the wonderful railways setting between Llangollen and Carrog,
but, of course, now going to Corwen as well, their ability to operate the heritage train,
and the efforts of all those involved. For many years, we’ve heard of the Welsh Government’s
support for some heritage railways, a celebration of Welsh heritage railways, but we still need
a joined-up tourism officer with through ticketing, enabling regional visitors to extend their
stays and have the fantastic time we know they can have. Therefore, I call for a statement accordingly. Julie James AM: The Member highlights a really
great part of Welsh heritage, and I’m delighted to say that I recently was in Llangollen for
their heritage railway event there, and it was really fun to see, and the enthusiasm
of all of the crowds that came to greet the train was also great to see. I know the Minister takes it very seriously
indeed, and will be considering how we can best join up those services to make sure that
we put our best foot forward in the offer that we have. I know the Member is very enthusiastic about
those railways, as am I. I’m sad to say I haven’t been on the Snowdon railway very recently,
but I’m hoping to make good on that over the summer. So, I’ll speak with the Minister about the
best way to ensure that the Member’s concerns are highlighted properly. In terms of vaginal mesh, as I already said,
I haven’t really got anything to add, Llywydd, to what I said earlier about the mesh issue. Obviously, we are very acutely aware of the
issues that the Member raises. Dai Lloyd AM: Leader of the house, you’ll
be aware of the recent British Council research comparing the soft power of sub-national countries
and regions, and examining how they can build their international profile. There was a meeting here involving Rhun ap
Iorwerth recently. The research looked at the people, brands,
political values, culture and sport of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and seven other
broadly comparable regions and countries. In terms of overall results, Scotland come
second after QuÈbec, with Wales in sixth place. Now, clearly, perception and branding are
important to our tourism sector in terms of attracting international visitors. Last year, all nations within the UK experienced
increases in the volume of international trips, but Scotland and London performed particularly
strongly. Whilst the number of trips to Wales also increased,
spend in Wales during the same period decreased by 8 per cent, in contrast to spend growth
across the rest of the United Kingdom of some 11 per cent. So, despite Welsh Government efforts, it is
clear that more can be done to grow Wales’s profile and international visitor numbers,
and therefore, I would be grateful if the Minister for tourism were to bring forward
a statement on the work that is going on in this field, his response to the British Council
report, which identifies potential challenges and opportunities, and also to set out his
vision of how he sees the international tourism strategy developing over future years. Julie James AM: Yes, we were very pleased
to see the increase in visitor numbers, and I was particularly pleased with the cruise
ship arrangements in Ynys MÙn, which we hope, very much, to be able to duplicate elsewhere
in Wales. The Minister’s indicating to me that he’ll
be more than happy to bring forward a statement to that effect, so I will liaise with him
about the best timing for that. Jack Sargeant AM: Leader of the house, every
six minutes someone in the UK suffers a sudden cardiac arrest and their chance of survival
is less than 10 per cent. Within Wales, it’s less than 3 per cent, yet
in many other countries across the world this person would have a 50 per cent chance of
life. Sadly, children and young people can suffer
sudden cardiac arrest as well as the older generation. Medical experts believe many children could
be saved if a defibrillator were used within minutes of the collapse. I know that the charity Welsh Hearts have
worked with the Welsh Rugby Union to try and install defibrillators in every single rugby
club across Wales, which is a great initiative, and I know the Member from across the Chamber,
Suzy Davies, has done some work in the past on this issue. But could we have another update, because
we did receive a very useful update from the Cabinet Secretary in December 2016? But could we have another update on this extremely
important issue? And also, can I request a second update from
the Cabinet Secretary for Education on mental health services in schools? It’s almost a year since the Welsh Government
announced its £1.4 million investment to strengthen the support from specialist child
and adolescent mental health services to schools, and it would be extremely useful again to
have an update on what work is being done to improve the services within our school
system. Julie James AM: Jack Sargeant raises two very
important issues. There isn’t a specific programme for schools
to have access to a defibrillator as such, but all schools, of course, should have arrangements
in place for dealing with emergency situations. As part of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
plan, which we published in June 2017, work is under way with partners to map out the
organisations that provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation training within communities
across Wales. We have effective partnership working, which
will mean that people of all ages in Wales are not only given every opportunity to survive
a cardiac arrest, but are also provided with the CPR skills and resources, like defibrillators,
to enable them to assist in saving a life. And, as Jack Sargeant’s just pointed out,
the provision of defibrillators in appropriate public places, including rugby clubs, combined
with investing in first responder training for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and ensuring
the fastest possible ambulance response times, does significantly increase the chance of
survival and recovery for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. The Welsh ambulance service and third sector
organisations are working with schools across Wales to promote CPR and the use of defibrillators
through initiatives such as Shocktober and Restart a Heart Day. There were 53 secondary schools involved in
Restart a Heart last year and, in total, 10,622 secondary school pupils were trained in CPR. Thirty-two primary schools took part in Shocktober
2017, and 2,146 pupils were taught CPR as a result of that. They also covered when to ring 999 and what
to do in emergencies such as choking as well. So, it’s a very important issue and we look
forward to seeing the extension of that this year as part of the campaign. Darren Millar AM: Leader of the house, can
I call for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs on
big cat sightings in Wales? The leader of the house may be aware that
there was a further big cat sighting in north Wales just over 10 days ago on the A5, and
that’s in addition to, of course, the 10 big cat sightings between 2011 and 2016 reported
to North Wales Policeóa number of which have been recorded by the Welsh Government. I’m sure that you will agree with me that
we do need to understand whether there is a population of big cats in the Welsh countryside. There have been sightings in my own constituency
in and around the Clocaenog forest and, of course, many farmers are concerned about the
safety of their livestock as a result of these animals, should they be in the Welsh countryside. So, I wonder whether the Welsh Government
can make a statement on whether they will be commissioning any further research into
this subject, in order that we can establish whether there is a population in Wales and
what risk they may pose to livestock and the public. Julie James AM: The Cabinet Secretary is indicating
that, obviously, she answered a question from you, and she expects that a letter from her
to you should be received at any moment. Bethan Sayed AM: Could we have a statement
on the issue of British Steel pensions, which were swindled from workers by Celtic Wealth
Management and their partners? I have raised this with the First Minister,
but he seemed to fudge the response. We know that Celtic are not a financial advisory
firm, so they will not be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and so to try
and claim that the FCA are looking into this issue is not something that I accept. We know that the firm has been offering sports
tickets to pension holders, to get them to take their pensions out of the British Steel
pension scheme and the PPS. And there needs to be an investigation by
the Welsh Government as to how this grant was given, on what premise it was given, and,
since November, you’ve known about the problems that have emanated from this particular firm,
and I would like to see an investigation carried out by the Welsh Government before we’re waiting
for more problems to emanate in relation to other pension holders in the Port Talbot area. I’d also like to ask for another statement,
with regard to your communications with the police in relation to the death of a young
Sudanese man in Newport last weekóMustafa. Obviously, I understand that the law needs
to be enforced, but when there is a serious incident such as this, resulting in a death,
after or during an enforcement operation, we need to be thorough, and we need to ensure
that, in future, incidents like this do not happen again. We don’t want to see anybody die in this way. Whilst we do not know his immigration status,
this man was employed and came to this country for a better life, and it should not have
ended with his death. I know that immigration isn’t within the confines
of the Welsh Government’s powers, but I really would urge you to assure the Welsh population,
who have contacted me, who want to know what’s happening in this regard, so that we don’t
see instances like this happen again. Julie James AM: That’s a very important issue. Actually, I’d like to reassure the Member
that I have asked for more details myself, as the equalities Minister, to find out exactly
what happened there. When I have those details, I’m happy toóI’ll
probably write to all AMs once we have them. I’m in the process of having that conversation
at the moment. And in terms of the British Steel pensions,
if the Member has any further informationóspecific informationóthat she’d like to share with
me, I’ll make sure that we take that very seriously. Suzy Davies AM: Can I just endorse the remarks
made by Jack Sargeant earlier on? I think it’s a very important issue that he’s
raised, and I’m glad you took it so positively. In the figures that you gave us, though, I
didn’t see anything about the repeat engagement of students over timeóa one-off hit is not
going to create a nation of life savers, I’m afraid. So, if there is a statement to come on the
now-belated anniversary of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest plan, then perhaps that information
could be included. Could I just ask for a statement, pleaseóprobably
from the Minister for tourismówell, an update really, on the state of cruise tourism, specifically,
within the Welsh picture at the moment? We heard a lot about this in the last Assembly,
but I don’t think I’ve heard about it at all in this Assembly. And it’s not just visitor numbers I’m interested
in, but the development of local businesses, and local provisionóquality of providers,
and so forthóto meet the expectations of cruise passengers, which are obviously pretty
high, and what the Welsh Government investment has been in that area of activity, as well
as in the marketing of Wales to cruise companies. Thank you. Julie James AM: It’s a very important point. As I said, I know there’s been a big increase
in cruise visits to Ynys MÙn. Suzy Davies is of course right: we did hear
a lot about cruise tourism in the last Assembly. I know that the Minister’s been working very
hard to make sure that we could get an embarkation point in Wales, which would be the holy grail
of the cruise industry. When those conversations are well advanced,
I’ll be sure to help the Minister make an update to the Assembly on those discussions. And in terms of the defibrillators, my understanding
is that that’s a rolling programme. If I’m wrong in that, I’ll make sure that
I let the Member know. Nick Ramsay AM: Leader of the house, you’ve
already given the Minister for culture one namecheck today, or I should say another Member
did. I was delighted to welcome the Minister to
my constituency for a meeting with Cadw and local residents at Raglan castle last week. The meeting was primarily about the successor
to Cadw’s resident access scheme, but attention quickly turned to the dangers for local residents
crossing the busy A40 from the village to the castle, with a relatively high speed limit,
and without a crossing or a bridge, or any means of crossing safely at that point. Would it be possible for the Welsh Government
to bring forward a statement on possibly having an access review to Cadw’s sites across Wales,
as soon as possible? I’m sure that Raglan castle is not the only
Cadw site affected by similar issues. It’s brilliant, on the one hand, to be revising
the resident access scheme and to be increasing the ability for local residents, and indeed
residents from other areas, to access Cadw sites, but if the physical access to those
sites is limited for pedestrians, then you’re either asking for trouble, with the increasing
likelihood of accidents, or people just won’t be able to get there in the first place in
order to access these wonderful sites and places of heritage and interest that are found
across Wales. Julie James AM: Yes, that’s a very good point. The Minister is indeed getting a lot of namechecks
today. I’m sure he won’t have any problem with that
at all, and he’s also nodding happily that he’s looking into that issue and will bring
something forward in due course. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Thank you to the
leader of the house. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next item, therefore,
is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services: ‘Our
Valleys, Our Future’ progress report. I call on the Cabinet Secretary to make the
statement. Alun Davies. Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, I am grateful
to you for the opportunity to update Members about the progress that the Valleys taskforce
has made since the ‘Our Valleys, Our Future’ action plan was published last July. I would like to start by placing on record
my own personal thanks for the taskforce membersí work and support over the last 12 months,
including my colleagues, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, the Leader
of the House and Chief Whip, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, and the Minister
for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning. The Valleys taskforce was set up to create
lasting change in the south Wales Valleys: an area that has immense opportunities, but
also more than its fair share of challenges. Iím pleased to report today that the taskforce
has planted the seeds of that change. At the heart of both the action plan and the
delivery plan that accompanies it and which we published last November, there are three
key priorities: good-quality jobs and the skills to do them, better public services,
and my local community. There are more than 60 individual actions
across each of the priorities, which have been developed following extensive engagement
with people living and working in the south Wales Valleys. We believe that these actions will deliver
real and lasting change for Valleys communities. The taskforce is today publishing a first-year
progress report, detailing the breadth of the work over the last 12 months and, Presiding
Officer, I would like, with your consent, to share some of that progress with you today. A year ago, the taskforce set the challenging
target of closing the employment gap between the south Wales Valleys and the rest of Wales. This means helping an extra 7,000 people into
fair work and creating thousands of new, fair, secure and sustainable jobs in the Valleys. Over the last 12 months, more than 1,000 economically
inactive people living in Valleys taskforce areas have started work through Welsh Government-led
employment programmes. Nearly 1,000 people and small businesses have
been helped through advice and business support. And more than 100 new enterprises have been
created within the Valleys taskforce area. The seven strategic hubs were originally conceived
as areas where public money and resources would be focused to create opportunities for
the private sector to invest and create new jobs. Over the last 12 months, we have made good
progress in the development of these hubs. Local authorities in each of the hub areas
have led the development of the plans, which are unique to their local area. Each area has been developing a blueprint
for future investment, and we are identifying key projects to support long-term transformation. The early work on the hubs is highlighting
the benefit that a joined-up approach to this type of investment can bring. We have seen this already with the Taff Vale
project, which will provide the new headquarters for Transport for Wales, and help to revitalise
Pontypriddís high street. The Tech Valleys strategic plan has been published,
providing strategic direction for investments and programme activity for Ebbw Vale, alongside
a £25 million commitment between 2018 and 2021. Presiding Officer, we are all aware in this
Chamber of the metro and the welcome announcement made by my Cabinet colleague Ken Skates about
the new rail franchise and the plans for a world-leading rail testing complex for the
top of the Dulais valley. The metro is now becoming a reality, but as
we have made clear all along, we need to ensure that it delivers far more than transport benefits
alone. That will require the active support of a
range of organisations, and we are already working across the region to deliver for Valleys
communities. Last week, the First Minister announced that
he has appointed Linda Dickens, emeritus professor of industrial relations at the University
of Warwick, as chair of our fair work commission. On behalf of the taskforce, I would also like
to extend my own thanks to Professor Dickens for agreeing to support us on this journey. The Welsh Government has an ambition for Wales
to be a fair work nation, and this work is extremely important to what we’re trying to
achieve in the Valleys. From the outset, the Valleys taskforce has
highlighted the importance of engagement with Valleys communities. That has continued to be a vital element of
our work over the course of the last 12 months. Alongside our traditional methods of engagement,
the taskforce has been working closely with three communitiesóin Llanhilleth, Ferndale,
and in Glynneath and Banwen. We have been looking at how we can improve
local services and make them better integrated. Each of these pathfinders have agreed a number
of actions or activities, and the learning from this work will feed into the wider taskforce
approach. Presiding Officer, the taskforce will be taking
forward three digital pilot schemes for the Valleys. We will explore extending public sector broadband
networks to create a series of free Wi-Fi hotspots open to all across Valleys communities. We’re investigating the creation of an Uber-style
app, which would bring together all providers of community transport, making it easier for
people to order transport to health appointments. We want to increase the use of online data
mapping technologies as a means of promoting the Valleys. This work is closely aligned to the priorities
identified by the Cardiff capital city region. It is also another area where the taskforce
is acting as a catalyst for wider change. We all recognise the importance of digital
technologies in the creation of high-quality jobs. The Valleys landscape park is key to a third
of the priorities in ‘Our Valleys, Our Future’. It is at the heart of our ambition to help
Valleys communities celebrate and make the most of our natural resources and heritage. We want communities in the Valleys to feel
that they are a place that we can be proud to call ‘home’ and where businesses choose
to operate. We want communities to be empowered and to
show pride in their environment that is easily accessible and widely used. The taskforce has spent much of the last year
working on developing this exciting and dynamic approach that will co-ordinate, drive and
promote activities related to environment and tourism across the south Wales Valleys. We all know just how much the Valleys have
to offer, but I want the rest of Wales, the UK and the world to learn more about our history,
our culture and our breathtaking scenery. We have developed the idea for the Valleys
landscape park with local communities, with key stakeholders and different interest groups. The aim is for it to deliver ambitious plans
that will connect what we are calling ‘discovery locations’ across the Valleys with walking
trails and cycle routes. It is my intention that this will be developed
within a defined boundary and supported by a designated land status for the Valleys. We want the Valleys to be a recognised tourist
destination. We want to grow the tourism economy in the
Valleys to benefit from the economic impact that we know it can have. We are currently working with a number of
proposed high-quality tourism developments, which, if realised, will attract new high-spending
visitors to the Valleys. I’m very pleased that this week the Minister
for Culture, Tourism and Sport announced the approval of two projects that will make a
significant difference to their areas within the Valleys. The £4.6 million Monmouthshire and Brecon
Canal Adventure Triangle project will develop outdoor recreation, tourism and leisure activity
along the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal in Torfaen and Caerphilly, and will be able to
connect the upland area of Mynydd Maen. The project will be delivered by a partnership
between Torfaen council, Caerphilly council, the Canal and River Trust, and the Monmouthshire,
Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust. It will create a focus for visitors interested
in outdoor recreation and adventure sports, bringing together a range of facilities to
stimulate overnight visitor stays, and will help exploit the economic potential of the
currently underused southern section of the canal and surrounding uplands. Also detailed in the progress report is the
upgrade of Llechwen Hall, a three-star country house hotel just outside Pontypridd, set in
six acres of grounds. Welsh Government funding has been offered
to expand the hotelís capacity, add a gym and spa facilities and upgrade to a four-star
hotel. There is inspiring community work taking place
across the Valleys. We want to build upon this and support people
to take it further. Presiding Officer, I’m sure you will agree
with me that there is still very much to do, but, by working with our partners and with
people living and working in the Valleys, we will deliver results. Mark Isherwood AM: During January’s debate
here on the ‘Our Valleys, Our Future’ delivery plan, I noted that the value of goods and
services produced per head of population in the west Wales and the Valleys sub-region
was still bottom across the UK, with the Gwent valleys second only to Anglesey as the lowest
in the UK. I also noted that the Bevan Foundation’s ‘Tough
times ahead? What 2018 might hold for Wales’ report said
that unemployment performance was unlikely to be enough to boost those parts of Wales
where unemployment stood well above the UK figure, such as Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau
Gwent, that there is nothing to be gained by pretending that all is rosy, and that performance
was also unlikely to help young adults, with more than one in eight 16 to 24-year-olds
out of work in Wales as a whole. This plan includes within it an action: working
with people who live and work in the south Wales Valleys and with the Cardiff region
and Swansea bay city deals, UK Government, businesses and the third sector. In January, I asked how you were monitoring
to ensure, if you believe you should, that this involves true co-production, turning
the power thing upside down, if the Welsh Government is not to repeat the approaches
of the last 18 years, thereby enabling people and professionals to share power and work
in equal partnership. Today’s statement by the Bevan Foundation
that the ‘Our Valleys, Our Future’ programme to improve the south Wales Valleys is bland
and not reaching those who most need it is concerning. How do you respond to their statement today
that this amounts to more of the same? How do you respond to their statement that
recent investment in Taff’s Well and Nantgarw was not in core Valleys areas? You state that 1,000 people started employment
programmes. How many completed them? How many went into employment, of those 1,000? How do you respond to the Bevan Foundation’s
statement today that the target to get 7,000 into work sounds really impressive, but, if
you look a bit deeper, that it’s not very ambitious at all, that it’s around about the
numbers achieved over the last few years, and that if we carry on doing more of the
same, the Valleys won’t change? How do you respond to their statement that
unemployment is 25 per cent of young males in some areas, and that there have been job
losses in retail and small factories? And how do you respond to their statement
that they are puzzled as to how the Welsh Government could live with deprivation virtually
on its doorstep, without sufficient proposals to push investment and skills? Alun Davies AM: I’m grateful to the Conservative
spokesperson for those questions. Can I say first of all that I did read the
response of the Bevan Foundation? I actually enjoyed it. I thought it was a very good response, actually. I thought it was very well articulated, and
I thought it made some very fair points. Can I say more than anything that I share
the same frustration? I want to see a greater tempo of change. I want to see a greater tempo of delivering
very real change to the communities that I represent and elsewhere. I think it’s right and proper that that sense
of impatience underpins a lot of our debate and much of what we say. I don’t believe for one moment, and I don’t
seek to make any claims, that all in the garden is rosy, and I don’t seek to make any claims
that we have, in a little more than 18 months, turned around nearly a century of decline. I think it would be absurd were I to come
to the Chamber and make those claims, and I think it would be absurd were the Government
to seek to make those claims on our behalf. That’s not what we are saying. In my statement, I said we were planting the
seeds for sustainable transformation, and that is what we are seeking to do. I reject any claim that we’re not being ambitious
enough. When I look at projects such as the landscape
park, I look at something that is really transformational, and transformational in the sense of not simply
putting investment in infrastructure or in a particular industrial complex, but inspirational
in the way that we regard ourselves and our communities. One of the real tragedies of recent years
is that too many people in the Valleys feel that there is very little hope for the future. We need to turn that around, and we need to
turn that around not simply by making the physical investments that we need to be able
to doóand we must do, and we will doóbut also by investing in our people, our culture,
our heritage and our environment. The landscape park brings together all of
those different aspects of what we’re seeking to achieve, and seeks to package it in a way
that transforms not just the physical expression of who we are, but a cultural understanding
of who we are as well. I think that speaks to the ambition of what
we seek to achieve. Now, I understand the debates about whether
Taff’s Well or Nantgarw are ‘Valleys’ enough. Are they deep enough into a particular Valley
or not? Are they in the Valleys at all? I have to say that it’s not a debate I intend
to join, either this afternoon or at any point. I think the more fundamental point that was
made by the Bevan Foundation is more important, and that is the importance of investment in
the Heads of the Valleys area and parts of the upper Valleys region where there are more
significant and deep-seated problems and difficulties. For those of us who campaigned for the dualling
of the A465óthe Heads of the Valleys roadósomething like a decade ago now, we did that not to
build a bypass past our communities, but to create an opportunity for real connectivity
between the Heads of the Valleys area and the wider economy. What we saw that as being was a means of developing
an industrial strategy for the Heads of the Valleys. I’ve already held one seminar on how we do
that and how we maximise the advantage of that investment, and we’ll be returning to
that in September, because, for me, what is important is that we put in place the investments
that we need to put in place to create sustainable and well-paid employment, but we also put
in place the investments to ensure that that employment and that way of living is sustainable
for the future. So, certainly we will not be living with deprivation. We do not wish to live with deprivation, and
I’ll say to the Conservative Member for North Wales that I see deprivation all too often
when I return to my constituency after my duties here. I am impatient to change that. That is why I came into politics in the first
place, and that is what I and this Government seek to do. Adam Price AM: Alun Davies is right, of course,
that in the near enough century of economic crisis we’ve witnessed in the former coalfield
communities, since the collapse of the coal price in 1924, we’ve had a series of interventions
and initiatives and strategies, and I think they can all be summed up, really, as micro
progress and macro decline. The question that I think we must pose to
him, and I’m sure he poses it to himself, is: how can this initiative escape that fate? We’ve had, time after time, raised expectations
and dashed hopes, and that would be the ultimate disservice to these communities. So, I welcome the progress report. There are many things in it that it’s difficult
not to like at the micro level, but, if it is to be genuinely transformational, then
I think we need to engage with the kind of critical challengeóand I’m glad that he was
positive about the critique offered by the Bevan Foundation, because I share some itó. Are we targeting the right things, is the
focus correct? You referred to geography, and that’s a critical
question as well. Are the interventions collectively on a sufficient
scale compared to the challenge, and are the structures right? I’m just digging very briefly into some of
this. Jobs: the only figureóthe major figure that
we have in targetsóis the 7,000 jobs. There is a little bit of confusion there because,
actually, if we look at the job creation record, or the number of jobs in the Valleys taskforce
area, actually, over the five-year period to 2016, it went up to 22,000. So, at least on the face of it, unless you
can correct me, it seems that the target is less ambitious than the trend rate over the
previous five-year period. Even digging a little bit further than that,
isn’t really the issue the quality of those jobs? The problem now in many of these Valleys communities
is not the number of jobs per se; it is the quality, it is the low-skill and low-paid
nature of many of those jobs. It’s a productivity problem and then it’s
about investing in skills. On the issue of whether it is of sufficient
scale, if you look at some of the earlier initiativesóthe strategic regeneration areas,
for example, under a previous administration, the One Wales Governmentóthere were designated
pots of money in what were effectively versions of the strategic hubs that he’s created. We still don’t have any clarity about the
amount of global investment that is going into this programme or, indeed, attached to
those strategic hubs. When will we get the assurances that, actually,
we’re going to get significant investment over the course of a generation, which, actually,
is necessary in order to effect change? And, finally, when we compare the Valleys
taskforceó. And I also pay tribute to the incredibly impressive
engagement that’s gone on and the volunteers that sit on the taskforce, but, when you compare
that to the structures of the city regionsóthe city regions, which, through their governance
structures, involve many of the key agencies, including local government, and have huge
budgets attached to themóthen it’s an unequal equation at the moment and it’s no surprise
that there is this concern that what is happening is the magnet of the M4 corridor within those
city regions is continuing to wield its enormous power. And how can the Valleys taskforce drive the
necessary investment in a different direction to the core Valleys areas
that he referred to earlier? Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, before
answering the questions from the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, I think that Members on all
sides of the Chamber would like to join me in welcoming him back to this place and congratulating
him and wishing his family well in the future. I think all of us on all sides of the Chamber
want to pass on our good wishes to you. Can I say this? In terms of where we are today, you’ve asked
some very fundamental questions and, if I’m completely honest with you in answering them,
I will say to you, ‘Is the focus correct? Are the interventions correct? Are the structures in place?’ I hope so. But let me say this: I am impatient for change. I am not content and I will not come here
simply to say that what we’ve put in place over the last 18 months or so will remain
in place. I’m continually looking at the structures
and the processes that we have in place, and, if I do not believe that they’re delivering
the change we want to see, then I will have no hesitation at all in making the changes
to ensure that we do achieve the change that we want to see. So, I hopeó. His characterisation of previous initiativesómicro
progress and macro declineóis a well-made criticism and that is a criticism that we
hope to learn from rather than repeat. It is not my wish, this afternoon, to simply
come here and say, ‘We have a report, and, come what may, whatever criticisms are made
of that report, I will defend it in a ditch’. That is not my purpose. My purpose is to come here and report honestly
and clearly and to learn from the critiques made, both by Members here and by the wider
community, which is why, like youó. I probably enjoyed reading the Bevan Foundation’s
report slightly less than you did, if I’m completely honest, but I thought the arguments
were good and well made. So, in terms of the scaling up of our ambition,
that is the key challenge facing us. Ensuring that we’re able to put the investments
in place in strategic hubs, which will then successfully lever in the private sector investment,
is the key challenge. Ensuring that we do have the relationship
with city regions and other strategic bodies is a key challenge. And I’m not convinced that we have that in
place at the moment, if I’m completely honest in my responses. But let me say this: the taskforce itselfó. And this is one area where I am concerned
about where this debate goes sometimes. Too often, people believe that the taskforce
is itself a Government body that has a life of its ownóits own headed notepaper and flag
and a headquarters building somewhere. It isn’t. The taskforce is a way of focusing Welsh Government
approach and policy on the Valleys of south Wales. So, when we talk about the taskforce, what
we’re talking about is the approach and policy of the Welsh Government and not simply a group
of civil servants or a single Minister or a group of Ministers acting independently
of Government. So, all the resources we have available to
us are the resources of Government and those resources need to be brought to bear on the
issues of deprivation that were very well described by Mark Isherwood. And, in terms of what we’re seeking to achieve,
the target is 7,000 people rather than 7,000 jobs. But the overall criticism made by the Plaid
Cymru spokesperson is well made again. We are looking at the quality of work and
we are looking at Wales as a fair work nation. The reason I wanted to specifically acknowledge
the work of Professor Dickens in my opening statement was to make that very point. We recognise and we know that if we look at
employment levels alone in the Valleys we don’t tell the true story. In fact, we learn the wrong lessons. All too often, people in employment in many
parts of the Valleys, including my own constituency, and I’m sure parts of the Member’s constituency
in Carmarthenshire as well, are working in poorly paid jobs that are insecure and don’t
have the opportunities for skills development that we would wish to see. So, what we need to do is not simply ensure
that people have that sort of low skilled, insecure, poorly paid work available to them,
but that we have the sort of jobs that will lead to careers in the Valleys and in the
Heads of the Valleys and in all parts of the Valleys. That is our ambition and, in developing the
target for 7,000 people, what we wanted to doó. The target didn’t appear out of thin air;
where it came from was to bring the Valleys parts of the local authorities in question
up to the same levels as the rest of Wales, and to achieve that in five years. That is the scale of our ambition. The Member is a very good and skilled economic
historian; he knows the difficulties that have faced the Valleys over decades. What we seek to do is to plant the seeds of
change, and that will take more than 18 months and it’ll take more than two years. But what I hope we’ll be able to do is to
demonstrate that we have in place the foundations for a very different future for our Valleys. Gareth Bennett AM: Thanks to the Minister
for today’s progress report on the Welsh Government’s ongoing Valleys initiative. When opposition spokesmen and politicians
discuss your plans, we normally do have a little bit of prelude about lots of Valleys
plans that have been before, and Adam’s given us that prelude again todayóa very informed
oneóbut we know that we need to get away from the past failures. We in UKIP are hopeful that this initiative
will lead to some progress in the Valleys and there are good things contained in the
update today. We think, overall, of course, any initiative
is a good one as long as it has good intentions and it means to be meaningful. You stated last time around that what you
didn’t want to do was to create any new bureaucracies. You didn’t want a secret conclave of politicians,
but what you did want was to bring the people of the Valleys into the discussion, and I
agree with you that we don’t want to create things that appear to be more tiers of government. It is crucial, I think, that we do bring the
voice of the Valleys into this discussion and that we allow people in the Valleys to
have a meaningful say in plans for their own future. So, I’m encouraged by the talk of the local
authorities that have been involved, bringing events like summits and workshops into play,
so that we do get that engagement with local people. But, of course, Adam has raised the issue
that, in some ways, this kind of reacts against, perhaps, the city region plans, which will
be focusing on the fact that the Valleys are proximate to the M4 corridor, whereas what
you want to do with the Valleys plan is to actually bring investment into the upper Valleys. Of course, we do have to consider what the
Valleys actually constitute and that there is a meaningful difference between the southern
corridor end and the upper Valleys. I know you acknowledged that there is a difference. We don’t want to get too much into it, because
investment in the Valleys as such is a good thing, but I think there is a distinct difference
between the two ends of the Valleys. So, we have to be a bit focused about where
we do put any investment. Now, going back to the public engagement,
how will you ensure that the voice of local people will continue to be represented in
your plans, and will that voice lead to meaningful change? You did mention the relationship with the
city regions and that the shape of it at the moment isn’t as you would like it to be, so,
if you could shed a little bit more light on that, that would be good. The primary need is the need for good quality
and sustainable jobs. Yes, they need to be high-quality jobs, notó. We need to move away from low skills and try
to get people into higher skilled jobs, so, clearly, that involves a need to retrain people
and a big factor is giving an increased opportunity to train and retrain people so that people
of all ages in the Valleys will be able to access those jobs. What specific commitments will be given to
retraining? You’re going to have to work with employers,
with local colleges and with careers advisors, so what will your engagement be with employers
and colleges and with Careers Wales as you take your plans forward? Particular points were raised last time, in
fact, by Hefin David, who has got a lot of experience, clearly, of higher and further
educationóhe mentioned that more part-time study and more franchised study was needed
and that local colleges would have to take that responsibility on. So, what are your thoughts on those precise
points? Transport is going to be key. Mick Antoniw and Adam Price have both in the
past cited the need for a circle line around the Valleys, which the current plans for the
south Wales metro do, to some extent, provide for. So, I think we need to make sure that the
metro doesn’t end up just being another route into Cardiff; we do need it to have that interconnection
between the Valleys. What will you be doing to ensure that that
interconnecting idea remains in place as plans for the metro progress, and can you offer
anything to assure us or to help keep the metro from perhaps bypassing these plans in
future? Perhaps, if it scales down its investment,
there is a danger that that interconnecting idea could disappear. We also have local schemes; a couple of them
were mentioned today. That’s very welcome. The canal scheme sounds like a good initiative. I met last week with several people involved
with the Rhondda tunnel scheme. So, I wonder what part schemes like that will
have in your thinking, and are you looking to develop more local transport schemes as
we go forward? Diolch yn fawr. Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, one of
the issues that was raised with us at almost every public event we’ve done over the last
two years has been the issue of local transport. Most people raise issues around local buses
rather than the metro system, and I think it’s important that we do recognise that,
in developing the metro, we are developing and delivering a transport network that does
go beyond simply the trains that quite often form the highlights of that. So, we will be ensuring that transport links
lie at the heart of what we’re doing. When we identified the seven strategic hubs,
we identified areas that were accessible by public transport and areas that would be served
by the metro in the future so that we do have a spatial and strategic view of where we will
be focusing investment in the future, and the metro will form an absolutely essential
part of that. In terms of the issues that the UKIP spokesperson
raises on apprenticeships and training, clearly, we will be ensuring that the employability
programme that the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning has launched is active
in the Valleys, and it has a focus on the Valleys. We’re also developing a shared apprenticeship
model in Merthyr Tydfil that will ensure that we are able to develop and learn the lessons
of some of the other projects, such as the Aspire project, based in my own constituency,
which will ensure that we have a means of delivering skills, training and apprenticeships
that is sustainable and reaches all the different parts of the Valleys, and the different skills
required for sustainable jobs in the Valleys. But can I say that the UKIP spokesperson makes
a point of ensuring that local people are involved in the design of all of these different
projects and programmes? We have rooted all that we’ve done in the
ambitions that have been shared with us from people in and around the communities of the
Valleys. This hasn’t simply been co-produced in the
way that the Conservative spokesperson has said, but it’s been rooted in the ambitions
and the visions of people throughout the whole of the Valleys region. We have spent time and we have invested time
not simply in talking with people, but listening to what those people have said to us. And one of the key things they’ve said to
usóand the Plaid Cymru spokesperson referred to this in his remarksóhas been that all
too often expectations have been raised only for those hopes to be dashed. What I want to be able to do through this
programme of listening and talking, and by publishing a delivery plan, is to be held
to account for the promises that we make, so that people hereóMembers on all sides
of the Chamber hereówill be able to hold us to account for what we deliver and what
we say we will deliver, the timetables and the targets that we set, but, at the same
time, people across the Valleys will be able to hold us to account as well. And I think, in terms of winning and rebuilding
trust in politics, that is essential for the future. Dawn Bowden AM: Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary
for the update? I think there is, Alun, much to welcome in
the statement that you’ve presented today. Like you, representing a Valleys community,
I’ve been hugely supportive of the work of the taskforce, what it has set out to achieve
and the way in which it has engaged with communities right the way across the Valleys to get to
the point that we’re at now. But you will appreciate that I’m going to
make no apologies for, once again, taking this opportunity to make a parochial point
about the upper Rhymney valley. While I welcome the kind of investment that
we’ve seen in things like the delivery of the new Idris Davies School in Abertysswg,
for instance, I do remain concerned that Rhymney is becoming a forgotten corner of the Valleys. There’s been no obvious or substantial economic
investment coming its way, despite it being so strategically placed next to the Heads
of the Valleys road. As has already been mentioned, I think this
is the point that the Bevan Foundation were trying to make in their statement, particularly
in relation to the metro investment in Taff’s Well. And I know you don’t want to go into that
and I know that others have mentioned it, but I will repeat it: it’s closer to Cardiff
than it is to the Valleys. I have raised this before and I think it is
a question of economic priorities in terms of investment, and that’s the reason I’ve
questioned that. Because I think that such an investment like
that, if that had been in the Rhymney valley, would have been transformational in terms
of the quality jobs that it would have provided, the skills it would have brought with it,
and the positive knock-on effect on the wider economy, not just in Rhymney, but across the
Heads of the Valleys. It would have ticked every box in the Valleys
taskforce objectives, as well as in the Government’s Better Jobs Closer to Home programme. So, given the Welsh Government has to lead
on the delivery of investment in our Valleys communities and that it does hold the levers
of economic power in so many areas, I’m pleased that the Cabinet Secretary for the economy
is coming to Rhymney on Thursday, when he’s going to be meeting with local representatives
and some businesses there, and he will be able to see first-hand and hear from them
what’s expected. So, my question to you, as Cabinet Secretary
for public services is: will you also visit Rhymney with me and discuss the progress in
our Valleys strategies for these communities and give some assurance that this Valley will
not be left behind? Because frankly, while, of course, I totally
understand that things can’t happen overnight, and I know that you’ll agree with this, if
‘Our Valleys, Our Future’ doesn’t deliver in places like Rhymney, then it will have
failed. Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, the Rhymney
valley has some great advocates speaking on its behalf. I know that Dawn Bowden, the Member for Merthyr
and Rhymney, speaks for the upper Rhymney valley and our colleague Hefin David speaks
for the lower parts of the Rhymney valley with equal ferocity, shall we say. I understand the points that have been made,
and I recognise those points. I’m very happy to come across to Rhymney at
any point to speak and to visit and to have these conversations. But I think the fundamental point you make
about the communities of the upper Valleys, of the Heads of the Valleys, is absolutely
correct. I think you attended a seminar back in April
to discuss some of those particular issues. All too often, we look at the Valleys as a
whole without understanding the differential in the different communities and the importance
of having a very focused strategy to address some of the more deep-seated issues. For me, the Heads of the Valleys will provide
the litmus test for us for whether we succeed or fail. The points made by the Plaid Cymru spokesperson
were well made, and if we are to pass the tests that have been set by you and others
here, it will be in places like Pontlottyn or Rhymney that that will be seen. So, let me say this: we brought together a
group of people in the spring to look at how the dualling of the A465, the Heads of the
Valleys road, can be used as a catalyst for change, and I believe that we need to now
look at what steps and what investments we have to make in the infrastructure of the
upper Valleys to realise that ambition. I can see the Member for Cynon Valley is here
as well, and we know that from Hirwaun right across to Brynmawr, our communities face some
very significant challenges that are beyond those faced by other areasóand we can debate
as to whether they are part of the Valleys or not at perhaps another time. The key issue of the upper Valleys is firmly
in the centre of my mind, and I hope that what we’ll be able to do in the early autumn
is to have in place an industrial strategy that is aimed at those upper Valley communitiesóan
industrial strategy for the Heads of the Valleys, which looks to see how we can secure sustainable
employment in and around the area of the Tower Colliery site in the upper Cynon valley, across
to Merthyr itself. I think the Crucible project that we’ve debated
before will provide a real boost for Merthyr in the way forward, and the upper Rhymney
valley needs exactly the sort of investment that you’ve described. For my own constituency, it’s about developing
places like Tafarnaubach industrial estate or Rassau industrial estate, ensuring that
the Tech Valleys investment doesn’t simply stay in Ebbw Vale, but is able to act as a
boost for investment across the whole of the Heads of the Valleys region. That is the ambition that I think we all share,
and we need to make that a reality. So, I very much agree with the points that
have been made. Vikki Howells AM: Thank you, Cabinet Secretary,
for your update here today. You’ll know that I’m an enthusiastic supporter
of the Valleys taskforce and its delivery plan, as are so many of my constituents as
well. It’s good to see you referencing the former
Tower Colliery site, which I believe has excellent potential due to its unique connectivity links. I look forward to seeing what can be done
with that site with Welsh Government help in the future. I have a few questions for you today. Firstly, in relation to the Valleys landscape
parks, and particularly joining those up, you may have seen recently in the news that
RCT council has been appointed as the lead authority to take forward the reopening of
former railway tunnels, including the Abernant tunnel, which links Cwmbach in my constituency
with Merthyr Tydfil. With your comments around heritage and tourism,
do you agree with me that these structures, including the Abernant tunnel designed by
Brunel, could be used as levers to support tourism being brought into the area and also
to encourage active travel? How can the Welsh Government support taking
these projects forward? Secondly, a number of interventions around
health were mentioned in ‘Our Valleys, Our Future’ and with last week’s timely seventieth
anniversary of the NHS, and that institution’s strong links to the Valleys, are you able
to say any more on Welsh Government actions to meet these goals? Thirdly, and finally, I recently spoke at
a conference organised under the umbrella of the mutuals alliance, which highlighted
how co-operative and mutual models could be used to deliver services in a range of areas. How are you linking into this sector and encouraging
the development of real grass-roots, co-operative alternatives? Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, the points
made by the Member for Cynon Valley are very well made. In terms of health and co-operatives, of course,
we have just celebrated what many people described as the seventieth anniversary of the national
health service. Of course, for those of us from Tredegar,
Presiding Officer, it is simply the seventieth anniversary of the Act of Parliament that
created the national health service. We have been celebrating the one hundred and
twenty-eighth anniversary of the founding of the Tredegar medical aid and sick relief
fund that led to the creation of the health service. And that’s a very well-made point, because
those of us who are Members of the co-operative party recognise that there are ways that active
citizenship can be used in order to deliver significant change in our communities, which
takes us back to many of the themes that have run through our conversation this afternoon. My ambition for the Valleys isn’t simply doing
things to the Valleys whether the Valleys like it or not, but active citizenship determining
our futures throughout the Valleys. The future that we would want to see in the
Sirhowy valley and in Blaenau Gwent may well be very different to the view of the Member
for Neath on the Neath valley and the Dulais valley, where we were very recently, where
we’d have a different set of priorities and a very different set of ambitions. But it is right and proper that we put in
place the means of enabling active citizens to take control of their own futures and to
ensure that we provide the means and the funding and the structures to enable people to do
that. When I think of the great history and heritage
of the Valleysówe talked about the Abernant tunnel this afternoon, but we’ve also talked
about the tunnel in the Rhondda valleys on previous occasionsóthere are opportunities
here for us to change the future of the Valleys. I think the Valleys landscape park is one
of these very, very exciting initiatives and concepts that could actually do far more than
it says on the tin. It can actually change the way that we look
at ourselves, which is absolutely crucial for me. When I was talking to people in Aberdare,
in the Dare Valley Country Park, a couple of months ago about their ambitions for the
future, it struck a chord with me about my own ambitions, and that we share that vision
for the future. When I think of the landscape park, I think
also of gatewaysóareas into the valleysóand I think the Dare Valley Country Park could
be one of those areas. I think Merthyr could be one of those areas. I think areas around my own constituency,
with the heritage of the national health service, could also be one of those, and you can bring
in Blaenavon with Big Pit, and other areas as well. There are a number of ways in which we can
transform the future, but we will only do it if we root our visions with the visions
of people living in the valleys at the same time. When we were talking about the economy of
the Heads of the Valleys, it was great to see Tyrone O’Sullivan, the great miners’ leader,
talking there about his ambitions for the future of the Tower site, and what that can
continue to offer the people not just of Hirwaun and Aberdare, but people of the whole of the
Heads of the Valleys region. It’s that ambition that I hope we can unleash
in the future. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Finally, David Rees. David Rees AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Cabinet Secretary, I thank you for your statement
this afternoon. I very much welcome the taskforce and its
ambitions, and I want to see it work. Obviously, I want to be able to see the lessons
learned from that apply to all the valleys in south Wales, because, as you know, the
Afan valley is not included in your hub areas. You’ve actually identified the Valleys landscape
park as one opportunity, and Vikki Howells has mentioned the Abernant tunnel. The one she didn’t mention was the Rhondda
to Blaengwynfi tunnelóto ensure that that all works as well. But there are developments in the Afan valley,
which is not included, that have looked at projects that will develop the tourism industry
there, with the Afan Valley resort project or the Rhondda tunnel project. These are projects focusing upon bringing
tourism in. Will you confirm to me now that, because we’re
not in the hub areas, we will not be missing out on the opportunities to benefit from the
Valleys landscape park, so that we can build into that and work together? Alun Davies AM: I can absolutely make that
confirmation today. When you take decisions about strategic investment,
you do create that sort of situation whereby some people feel they’re in and others feel
that they are not. I recognise that, and I know that others have
made very similar points to me at different times. But let me say this: I think all of us who
have travelled through the Afan valley and have travelled up to Blaengwynfi, and over
the top there, have seen a landscape that is comparable with anywhere in the world. It’s a fantastic place to be; it’s a fantastic
proposition, if you like, for tourism. It brings together some fantastic opportunities,
and certainly, the conversations that we’ve had about the future of tourism in the Afan
valley are, I think, some of the most positive conversations I’ve had about the future of
the valleys. Certainly, the investments that we’ve debated
and discussed in the Afan valley, I think, will transform not just the Afan valley, but
the perception of the valleys and the place of the valleys, both in terms of tourism from
Wales and the rest of the UK, but also our own perception of ourselves. I think the Valleys, in terms of tourism,
have more potential than almost any other part of Wales; that potential is currently
untapped. What we have to do is to ensure that we put
in place the structures that enable tourism to be a key part of our future, but alsoóand
this is important for me in finishing, Deputy Presiding Officeróthat the benefits of that
tourism stay within the valleys, and that we see Valleys communities benefiting from
that in a very real way, and also, returning to the point made by the Member for the Cynon
Valley, that we do also ensure that it’s a part of who we are in the future in terms
of public health, and in terms of providing opportunities for people to explore and understand
in a way that we’ve been losing in the last few decades. So, the reopening of the tunnels is one way,
an understanding of our heritage is another way. Opening up access to the hills and the mountains
and the countryside around the Valleys, and within the Valleys, I think, is a way of reconnecting
ourselves with our past to create a very different future. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Item 4 on the agenda this afternoon is a statement by the leader of the house on the review of
gender equality. I call on the leader of the house, Julie James,
to make the statement. Julie James AM: Thank you, Deputy Presiding
Officer. On International Womenís Day, the First Minister
announced a rapid review of our gender and equality policies, and wanted to bring new
impetus to that work. The initial phase of this review has been
supported by the equalities charity Chwarae Teg, and the Wales Centre for Public Policy. I am very pleased today to be able to update
Assembly Members on progress and to set out next steps. Chwarae Teg and the Wales Centre for Public
Policy have today published an important report, gathering evidence from Wales, the UK and
other countries. I am extremely grateful to them for their
work, and also extend my thanks to the many stakeholders who contributed to the evidence
gathering, and who put forward proposals for consideration. The Chwarae Teg report identifies mechanisms
to strengthen the way Welsh Government, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Welsh
public sector work, and to be more ambitious about the development of our policies in ways
that actively promote equality in relation to gender. The report focuses on three key themes, the
first being vision and leadership. The Welsh Government is challenged to be clearer
about our vision for a Wales in which gender is at the heart of our policy making. We need to set a clear vision of equality
in Wales, identifying goals and desired outcomes, and making sure that this is well understood
within the Government, with our stakeholders and the general public. Wales has some world-leading legislation,
and we have been challenged to do more to consistently use this to its full potential
to have a greater impact. The Welsh Government also has an important
role to play in leading by example, both as an employer and a policy maker, to drive lasting
change. The second theme, policy in practice, looks
at the way the Welsh Government designs and implements policies and legislation. The report has identified areas of good practice,
and made recommendations about how this can be delivered more consistently. It focuses on areas such as the budget-setting
process, how we engage, and the importance of effective equality impact assessments. The final theme, external scrutiny and accountability,
finds that external scrutiny is welcomed, and that effective scrutiny drives behaviour
change. The report identifies that there is scope
to strengthen and better integrate existing accountability mechanisms across the legislative
and regulatory framework. The report also highlights the importance
of putting such action in the context of equality more widely, recognising that intersectional
factors, such as disability, race and poverty have a great impact on life outcomes. Conversely, a strong focus on gender equality
has the potential to drive forward equality and fairness for everyone in Wales, including
the most disadvantaged groups in our society. The Wales Centre for Public Policy report,
annexed to this report, examines international approaches to embedding a gender perspective
in decision and policy making. Scandinavian and Nordic countries consistently
score well in indices that measure how well countries are closing gender inequality gaps. The report recognises that some polices implemented
by these countries cannot easily be transported to Wales, where we have a very different welfare
regime, mostly determined by the UK Government. However, they are well worth considering in
terms of what we can learn from their sustained efforts to promote gender equality. The WCPP report recognises the challenges
of including a gender perspective in all decision making, finding that we need the right cultural
and behavioural conditions, cross-cutting Government working, equalities expertise,
and the inclusion of the voices of people affected by mainstream policies that are otherwise
assumed to be gender neutral. The WCPP concludes that proactive, creative
and collaborative use of gender-mainstreaming principles and tools will assist with setting
a vision for equality in phase 2 of the gender equality review, and recommends areas to explore
in our next phase. These reports have posed challenging questions
we need to ask ourselves, and presented recommendations for action to strengthen the building blocks
for achieving gender equality. These recommendations provide areas for action
in phase 2 that we can move forward on immediately, and others that will need further exploration. I will publish a full response in the autumn. The second phase of the review will begin
as soon as possible, and will provide the opportunity to explore these recommendations
in greater depth. [Interruption.] Excuse me for that, Presiding Officer; I thought
that was on silent, but it’s vibrating in a very unhelpful manner. And I’ve completely lost my focus now. This will include clarification of the costs,
issues and risks involved, and move to action. I will set up a steering group to facilitate
the progress of phase 2, and the analysis of the phase 1 recommendations. We have achieved important successes with
regard to equality in recent years, including the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales)
Act 2015, and the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales)
Act 2015. Nevertheless, it is clear that we must make
better use of the levers of Government if we are to achieve the ambition to be a gender-equal
Government that truly puts gender at the centre of our policies. We need to strengthen the current vision and
leadership in Wales, and build on our existing legislative and regulatory framework, to advance
gender equality and womenís empowerment. The report makes it clear that this framework,
and how the various pieces fit together, is not well understood by stakeholders, and is
consequently perceived as not fully integrated. We can and we will do better. Suzy Davies AM: Thank you very much for the
statement. I’m happy, actually, to join with you in congratulating
your success, as a Government, obviously supported by this Assembly, in the two Acts that you
mentioned at the end of your statement there. I think there is quite a lot to be proud of
there. To turn to the rest of the statement, though,
I wonder if you can deal with these for me: the first one isóI’m just wondering, is this
intended to be a sort of pathfinder for the private and social enterprise sector as well? I accept that we have a very small small and
medium-sized enterprise sector in Wales and there’ll be lots of businesses that are too
small to take a lot of what we’re talking about on board here, but I’m just wondering
what your plans are for perhaps rolling this out, or sharing the good practice that we’ll
see as a result of this, hopefully, with the private sector, and whether there might be
any plans to incentivise some businesses to take these on. I mean, my argument being that there shouldn’t
be a need to incentivise them, but it’s always worth considering, isn’t it? Just to go back to your first point, policy
and practiceóno, sorry, the vision and leadership part of your statement, equality and sustainability
were embedded in this Assembly when it was created, so I was perhaps a little worried
to hear that a clear vision of equality may not be as understood within Government as
perhaps we might have expected. Do you have any internal policy on this issue? Surely, you must have, because the Assembly
itself does, but if you do, can you say whether the gaps are visible in any particular directorate
or particular policy area, and what it is that you will be expecting, from the vision
and leadership, to fix precisely? Turning to equality impact assessments, Iím
wondering if the process for compiling these has changed significantly over the years. I remember reading budget documents and there
certainly was a time when these were referred to and then routinely ignored in making decisions. So, if there have been any movements forward
in what is considered during the course of making impact assessments, I think that would
be quite helpful for us to all know, actually. I havenít seen the report itselfóIíll be
honest with you thereóbut I was quite interested in your remarks on scrutiny and accountability,
not just in the role of this Assemblyó. Obviously, itís clearly the role of this
Assembly, but civil society in Wales as a whole has a huge role to play here as well,
not least our media. Do you have any concerns that there may be
some quarters who are nervous of criticising the outcome of Welsh Government policy, lest
they be received less favourably for Welsh support in the future? And then, looking at the mainstreaming of
principles and tools, which you mentioned, Iíd like to come back to a particular area
of interest for me, which is the vocational choices that tend to be made by young women,
post 16. One of the things I particularly wanted to
mention was the lack of enthusiasm on the part of Welsh Government here for an apprenticeship
route into occupational therapy, as they have in England. Now, this is an area of work that is already
very attractive to women, and I think this lack of an apprenticeship route is actually
a barrier for women coming into an area of work where, actually, theyíve got a massive
career opportunity, with plenty of routes of progression within the profession. Similarly, weíve discussed peer pressure
before, about the choices young women make at 16. Alongside any work that encourages them to
go into the less traditional areas than health and beauty and social care and so on, how
will your steering group consider how further education courses that traditionally attract
young women can be geared better and promoted better to students so that they view these
as the beginning of an ambitious career programme, rather than just assuming that itís got limited
expectations, which perhaps unfairly characterises some of these courses, I have to say that,
so that theyíre looking at it with an ambitious eye, rather than just a, ëWell, this is what
I can do, because my academic qualifications werenít so greatí? Thank you. Julie James AM: A very excellent set of questions. I’ll try and just talk about them as we go
through. Apologiesóthe report has been published today. I’m not at all, therefore, surprised that
Suzy Davies hasn’t had a chance to read it in any depth. However, there is a summary report included. It’s published on the Chwarae Teg website. Also, the Welsh policy annex is also very
interesting in terms of international examples, if you like. I think, Deputy Presiding Officer, it’s fair
to sayóand I’ve said this to Cabinet colleagues as wellóin reading that report, I experienced
an almost epiphany in the way that I thought about gender. It’s very interesting and I hope that Members
will be able to read it. The statement today is the beginning of a
process, so we’re not formally responding to the report. I can answer some of the questions from what
I know now, but what we’re doing is launching the report. What I very much hope we can do, Deputy Presiding
Officer, is have a good conversation across this Chamber and civic society, and all society
in Wales, about what on earth to do about it. The epiphany is thisóthat in the Scandinavian
and Nordic countries, they start from an agreed place that women suffer discrimination at
all levels in society. So, obviously, the suffered discrimination
is in proportion to where else they are in that society, so a white, middle-class woman
will suffer less discrimination than an ethnic minority or disabled woman and so on. But, nevertheless, that discrimination is
there, as against the male counterpart. Therefore, they look at all of their policies,
not to see that they don’t discriminate, but at what they do to advance the cause of equality,
which is the flip side. And as soon as you start to look at it like
that, it looks very different. So, you ask yourself not ‘Will this policy
discriminate against women?’, because that is what it describes as gender neutral. In other words, it will do nothing about the
relative place of women at the moment. It won’t discriminate against them, but neither
will it advance them. I think that a conversation needs to be had
about whether we want to flip that the other way round. So, I think that is a real difference in the
way that this report presents itself to us. And then, when you view our policies through
that framework, they look different. We’ve done very well in eliminating discrimination. What we haven’t done well at is advancing
equality, and I do think that those are very important. So, in your series of questions, that’s what
the clear vision is. It’s not that we don’t have a clear vision
about preventing discrimination, it’s that we lack the clear vision for advancing equality. So, if you flip it like that, all the way
through, you can see. So, when you look at our equality impact assessments
and flip them, you get a slightly different result and slightly different policies, and
that goes all the way through. If you do the scrutiny on that basis, you
get a different result. So, the report is very interesting, Presiding
Officer, and has the basis for us to do it differently in the way that countries that
are a lot further advanced than us are still doing in numbers, because nowhere in the world,
I’m sorry to say, are women actually equal to their male counterparts in the society
that they live in. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: I too welcome the publication
of the first part of this review of gender and equality policies, but we have to acknowledge,
of course, that this work is restricted in its nature and the focus is on the Government
processes. They are important, of course, and issues
such as equality impact assessments are vitally important, but it is limited, isn’t it, with
regard to promoting equality across society in Wales? That, ultimately, is what will lead to a nation
where women can live their lives safely and where equality is prioritised. I do agree with you when you say in your statement
that the Welsh Government does have an important role to play in leading by example as an employer
and as a policy maker to create permanent change. Recommendation 24 of the report by Chwarae
Teg notes that stage 2 needs to start with a public debate in order to put practical
and tangible actions in place to promote equality. For me, this is an important recommendation. Yes, we do need to have that debate, but,
please, not one that goes on and on and on. Whatís important is that actions are taken
on key policy areas, and there is already a whole host of evidence about these issues. We know already what we need to be tackling
in order to lead to improvement. What we need to do now is to make that improvement. One of those areas, of course, is childcare,
and everyone recognises that having affordable, quality childcare provision thatís available
in all parts of Wales is vitally important to promote equality. So, you know what Iím going to ask next:
do you believe that the current childcare offer of your Government is fit for purpose? I wonder whether we need to reconsider the
Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill thatís going through committee stage at present, because
it is taking us towards one specific direction, and stakeholders, the vast majority of them,
argue that that direction is the incorrect one. They argue that the childcare offer needs
to be active when a child is one year old and not when theyíre two years of age. Thatís what will make the genuine difference
in order to allow more women to return to the workplace. So, the question I ask is this: do you believe
that it would be worth pausing the Bill, reconsidering it and reintroducing a motion that would make
the difference that we all wish to see? Turning to a second area, whilst this review
is under way and whilst Stage 2 will take place, the discussions about Brexit will also
continue and will intensify, and itís vitally important that womenís rights are maintained
and developed as a result of leaving the European Union. Rights such as the right to equal pay; the
right to leave from work for an antenatal appointment; rights in the workplace for pregnant
women or for women who are on maternity leave; health and safety for women in the workplace;
pension rights and so onórights, as you know, that stem directly from our membership of
the European Union, but also rights that are genuinely at risk of being lost, remembering
this increasingly aggressive environment that weíre living in with regard to rights. We need to face the possibility that there
will be an attempt to undermine some of these rights, without mentioning preventing the
further development of rights. One way of safeguarding these rights would
be to embed equality principles in the law in Wales: the principles of the Istanbul convention
and the convention on eradicating discrimination against women and so on. So, Iíd like to knowó. I know that Iím straying from the review
itself here but I do think itís important at this current time. Is the Government considering embedding those
equality principles in our laws here in Wales? Experts, such as Professor Simon Hoffman from
Swansea University, are of the opinion that it would be appropriate to do just that, and
itís within our competence, and perhaps to put forward a Bill to safeguard womenís rights
and also workersí rights, of courseóa specific Bill in Wales. You mentionedó
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer: Are you winding up, please? Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Yes. You mentioned in your statement that you want
to show vision and leadership in Wales on gender issues, and of course we want to do
that. I think that bringing a Bill forward to safeguard
our rights as women would be an excellent way of showing that vision and leadership. Thank you. Julie James AM: Yes. A very important set of points there. In terms of why it’s limited in the way that
it is, it’s just that for the first phase of the review, to get it under way, we asked
them to do a rapid review of the Government and its policies deliberately, as a place
to startóthat’s all. So, obviously, what we want to do is take
it out from there, and the recommendations make that plain. There are, however, some recommendations for
us, as I said, as both an employer and a policy lead, to make sure that we have our own house
in the very best place it can be, in order to be able to be a role model. It would be very hard to ask other parts of
our society to, for example, close the gender pay gap, if we’re not able to do it ourselves. So, I do think there are some important things
that can be done in-house, if you like, but then, clearly, the idea is to take it out
to the world. A large number of the phase 2 recommendations
are around that and the steering group, and I very much welcome a role for the cross-party
group on women in taking forward the review as well, because in this place, I think, we
have many things that we share across the whole Senedd about how this can be taken forward,
and there are some very exciting things in here that will need some drive to push them
forward. You mentioned a couple of very specific things. The Bill, at the moment, on the childcare
offer, is actually just about the HMRC arrangements for proving eligibility for working parents,
so I don’t think that that limits us in terms of what we do on the childcare offer. So, that’s a different Bill. The committee scrutiny for the actual childcare
offer Bill will be very interesting to see. I’m sure we’ll take into account a range of
stakeholder views, and so on, and there’s a conversation to be had about what the best
way forward on some of the offers is. I think our offer in our manifesto is a very
generous offer, but there are issues around all childcare offers that need to be fully
explored. In terms of Brexit and the embedding of rights,
we are actively looking into whether we can embed parts or all of the Istanbul convention. Obviously, we’re not the nation state, but
what we can do to embed that in our law, and actually also the Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women stuff from the European Union. We want to hold onto those rights and make
sure that they are embedded in our law. So, there’s an active engagement with the
Counsel General about how we might achieve that in our legislation, and what the best
way to do that is, whether it needs a separate Bill or whether we can do it in another way. That will be very much part of phase 2 as
well, as we go forward. We will be looking to establish a steering
group alongside the cross-party group on women, which I know, Si‚n Gwenllian, you take a
very particular interest in, alongside Jane Hutt and Suzy Davies. I’m very much hoping that, together, we can
get a consensus on how to take some of the very exciting parts of this review forward. Caroline Jones AM: Thank you for your statement,
leader of the house, and for your earlier written statement. This year we celebrated the centenary of the
first women being able to vote in parliamentary elections, and 90 years since we were given
the vote on equal terms. Gender equality has come a long way in those
90-or-so years, but it hasn’t come far enough. There is still a huge gender pay gap, unnecessary
barriers to women taking key leadership roles, and we still battle misogyny on a daily basis. Gender is a function of biology and should
have no bearing on a person’s life chances. Unfortunately, in 2018, it still does. Welsh women can expect to earn over £1.80
an hour less than men. Only 6 per cent of the top 100 companies’
chief executives, and fewer than 14 per cent of local government chief executives are women. Women make up 51 per cent of the Welsh population,
yet only make up 42 per cent of senior officials in Welsh Government. Only 28 per cent of local councillors are
women. The Welsh Government have passed a number
of pieces of legislation and regulations aimed at improving gender equality, but as highlighted
by the rapid review of gender equality, they are not working sufficiently well. Legislation will not tackle misogyny. Positive discrimination will not eradicate
prejudice. We have to change attitudes. We have to show the world that it is not okay
to make comments on a woman’s appearance rather than what she is saying. We have to show the world that men are not
better than women, that girls can do anything that boys can; and we have to show the world
that threatening to rape someone on Twitter will not be tolerated. I have just one or two questions on your statement. Leader of the house, how will you ensure that
action on gender equality is taken across Government? And what discussions have you had with the
Cabinet Secretary for Education about the action she can take to ensure young people
are educated about becoming gender blind, and encouraging young girls and boys to challenge
stereotypes? There should be no such thing as a man’s job
or a woman’s job. Young people should be free and encouraged
to do whatever job they wish. Finally, leader of the house, when will you
be in a position to outline the timescales for the completion of phase 2? We all have a role to play in improving gender
equality. We have to fight misogyny, stand up to domestic
violence, and challenge gender stereotypes. That’s not feminism, it’s humanism. We will not tolerate discrimination in any
form. Diolch yn fawr. Julie James AM: Well, thank you very much
for those remarks. There was much there that I completely agreed
with. I think, Deputy Presiding Officer, it’s worth
indulging myself with a quote from a young woman who was with us standing outside with
Val Feld’s plaque, who said that she looked forward to a time when somebody complimenting
her on her figures was talking about her attainment in maths and not the shape of her body. So, I think that’s something well worth bearing
in mind, and we are a long way from that, I fear. But I also think it’s worth quoting a little
bit from the reportóand I appreciate that Members won’t have had a chance to read it
even at all, or certainly not in depthóbecause I do think this epiphany that I spoke of earlier
is summarised by this. So, it says:
‘A gender-neutral approach defaults to treating men and women the same, which does not result
in equality of outcome for men and women. This approach is often described as “gender-blind”
which the UN define as “inability to perceive that there are different gender roles, need,
responsibilities of men, women, boys and girls, and as a result failure to realize that policies,
programmes and projects can have different impact on men, women, boys and girls”‘. I think that sums up the report. So, it’s exactly as I said in response to
Suzy Davies: if you flip the way you think about it and say that gender neutrality is
not what we’re looking for; we’re looking for gender equality, which is not the same
thing, because we are not equal when we start. Therefore, a policy that is gender neutral
results in the same inequality at the other side of it as it did when it started. That’s the drive, I think, across Government. Obviously, we have taken this report through
Cabinet before I took my oral statement. We had a robust conversation there about what
can be done. In taking phase 2 forward and in developing
our full response to this, which I’ll bring back to the Senedd in the autumn, we will
be talking about what each Cabinet Secretary and their departments can contribute to this. There are recommendations in the report, which
I have yet to be able to discuss with all parts of this structure of Government, if
I can call it that. Some of them are for the Commission. Some of them are around the ways that political
parties promote gender equality and so on. That’s why I was talking about the cross-party
working group taking some of those forward. We will need to find some structures for how
to advance mutual understanding of all of that, and that clearer vision, not just for
the Government but across civic societyóI think that Si‚n Gwenllian very much majored
on that as wellóthat we accept where we start and then what we want to do to go forward. I do think that’s fundamental for that. In terms of outcomes, we’re expecting to get
to a point where we can agree how to take this forward by a year’s time. I just want to be really clear what I mean
by that. Obviously, I don’t expect to have achieved
gender equality in a year’s time. Would that I could expect that, but obviously
not. What we hope to do is have a comprehensive
programme to embed in Wales in our lives in a year’s time that we all agree on and that
we can take forward. Jane Hutt AM: Can I welcome your statement,
leader of the house, on the gender review? It’s particularly relevant to this year, with
the centenary of women’s suffrage. Last Saturday, I spoke at an adult learning
event, and my theme was: ‘We won the vote 100 years ago. Let’s win equality for women in Wales today.’ The opera Rhondda Rips it Up, which some of
us sawóthe Welsh National Opera operaótold us about the life of Margaret Mackworth, or
Lady Rhondda as she became, who set fire to the post box in Newport as part of her protest
as a suffragette. She was sent to prison and went on hunger
strike, but was released under the cat and mouse Act. The main theme on Saturday, once we’d talked
a bit about suffragettes in our communities and historical figures who had made such an
impact and enabled us to be there and be discussing the way forwardó. The main discussion point on Saturday was
on issues relating to today’s Wales, in terms of gender equality, and that is where my questions
will arise in relation to your review. I look forward to reading the reports that
you have published today. I’ve only been able to read the Chwarae Teg
gender review summary. But I, particularly, have been impressed by
the Women’s Equality Network manifesto, and that states that it hasóthe manifesto and
the networkóa vision for Wales where every woman and girl is treated equally, lives safe
from violence and fear, and is able to fully participate in the economy. So, leader of the house, do you believe the
outcomes of the gender review, phase 1 and then moving on to phase 2, will help us move
to fulfiló? We can only move, make steps to fulfil that
vision. We acknowledge that. Will it help to address gender inequalities
that are highlighted in that manifesto? It’s worth again looking at those inequalities. Fifty-five per cent of girls aged seven to
21 say that gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think. Fifty-two per cent of women report being sexually
harassed in the workplace. We know we have a responsibility, not just
the Welsh Government but here in this Assembly, to address the Me Too issues that have come
out this year. One in three women in Wales will experience
physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. And the one that is so hard for us to tackle,
and we cannot tackle it on our own in terms of the Welsh Government: there is a 15 per
cent gender pay gap in Wales. Average hourly pay for women in Wales is £10.57,
compared with £12.75 for men. Do you believe your review will help us to
move forward in terms of securing commitment to halve the gender pay gap, as proposed by
the Women’s Equality Network in their manifesto? Can you update the Assembly on the gender
pay gap in the Welsh Governmentóindeed, the Commission has a responsibility hereóand
how we can directly address that? Now, you have said, and I’m grateful for it,
that Si‚n Gwenllian and I are co-chairing, and Suzy Davies as wellóthe new cross-party
group on women. On Thursday we welcomed Laura McAllister to
speak on her expert panel on ‘A Parliament that Works for Wales’. I’m pleased to note the recommendation in
the Chwarae Teg phase 1 summary report, which says Welsh Government should legislate for
implementation of the expert panel for Assembly reform. Well, we know this is, again, up to the Assembly
to take forward. I hope that the gender review will enable
us to take this forward in terms of some of the gender-focused recommendations, and I
would talk about regaining the 50/50 representation of men and women in this Assembly. We gained it in 2003. We have to regain that, and, if that includes
looking at those recommendations regarding gender quotas, job sharing, then so be it. We need to move forward. Just finally on this area, we have made strides
to tackle the scourge of violence against women in Wales, but the reality of violence
against women is stark. I’m patron of both Atal y Fro, my local Women’s
Aid group and Bawso. Can you assure me that the recommendations
in the gender review will be taken forward? I think this does relate to your point in
your statement about making better use of the levers of government. We can have legislation, we can have funding,
we can have policy that we approve, but it’s about how we use those levers of government
to ensure that we put gender at the centre of our policies. Can we see a step change in Welsh Government
to achieve this? Of course, that does include the recommendations
that say Welsh Government should review and, where necessary, strengthen existing legislation
and duties, including the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence
(Wales) Act (2015). So, just finallyósorry, thank you, Deputy
Presiding Officeróthere’s a lot more we can take forward, but I would be very pleased
for what I hope will be agreed in our cross-party group, that we can help you to take this forward
in terms of the gender review. Julie James AM: Thank you for that series
of questions and comments. I entirely agree with what you said. There’s a lot to digest in the report. I wanted to bring it forward to Members for
them to see the report as it is. We have not yet formally responded. We’ll be doing that in the autumn. I would very much welcome that cross-party
group involvement in that, because I think this is an agenda, Deputy Presiding Officer,
that self-evidently the Government cannot achieve alone. We absolutely have to agree cross-party here
a set of things to go forward in order to take civic society, society at large, with
us. Because otherwise we’re just not going to
even get off the mark. We’ve got groundbreaking legislation, of which
we’re rightly very proud. It’s played its role, it makes the statements,
it sets in train some of the actions, but you need more than that. You need a groundswell of opinion. You need what’s in the Scandinavian countries:
an absolute acceptance across the piece that this is something that the country wants to
tackle. So, just to take some of the specifics that
Jane Hutt mentioned, these are a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies, really. Women make choices based on their gender because
they expect to be primary carers in their home. One of the recommendations in the report that
I’m looking forward to exploring is that we should take account of the unpaid care that
goes on in the Welsh economy in terms of our GVA. That’s a very interesting thing, because we
know that the young women stakeholders who were interviewed as part of this process know
that their aspirations will be tempered by their need to be the primary carer, because
we have not shifted that agenda one bit. We also know that economic disadvantage plays
a roleóit’s not the only cause, but it plays a roleóin gender violence. We know that gender aspirations do affect
people’s choices. We know these things are happening. We need a big push to accept as a society
that we want to do something about that, to develop the role models that allow that to
happen. Deputy Presiding Officer, I know that you
share with me the frustration that this is a conversation we are still having. We had it ourselves as young women and we
ought to be advancing this. So, I’m not ashamed to stand here and say
I do not have all the answers to this. But, between us, together, we can move this
agenda forward. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. We have had a major speaker from each of the
parties. Can I nowó? For the rest of the speakersówe’ve still
got quite a fewóit will be a short introduction and one question so that we can get through
all of you. Bethan Sayed. Bethan Sayed AM: I’ll try and be brief. [Laughter.] In your 2011 manifesto, there was a section
where Labour outlined what they were going to do to make gender equality a reality and
lead to significant changes of culture, not just within the Government, but also in the
private sector. I don’t feel that this has been done to a
significant enough level. I appreciate your personal commitment, but
it does sound to me as if you’ve never been in Government for the last how many years
by the way that you’re speaking here today. There were promises, for example, to ensure
public appointments were at least 40 per cent women. This was back in 2011. How well is this going? There were commitments on specific equality
duties to ensure employers identified areas of weakness in gender equality and to take
steps to address it. Maternity discrimination in this county is
rising. Flexible working is still seen as a fringe
issue. I think the quote from the report we have
in front of us is clear where it says that there is a clear lack of ambition from the
Welsh Government and it makes broad aspirational statements but we don’t see delivery following
on from that. So, for the First Minister now, at the end
of his tenure, to tell me that he wants to have a feminist Government is something that,
quite frankly, I take with a pinch of salt, because we should have seen this happening
sooner. Women should not be in this position now. If his feminist Government was in action when
he was allocated his role as First Minister, then we wouldn’t be having this very debate
here today. I’d like to also ask why this review wasn’t
put out to tender in the first place. I’ve written to you about this and I know
it’s not within your purview to have to do that, but, in terms of ensuring openness in
Government, I think it’s something that should have been considered and I would urge you
to do this for phase 2. Having two meetingsóone in south Wales and
one in north Walesófor £44,000 of Welsh Government money is not something that I believe
is a good use of public money, and, in particular, we don’t seem to know how many people are
involved, the diversity of the people involved, how they made their recommendations, and these
are recommendations that we probably knew about anyway. So, I’d finish on sayingó. Well, Si‚n Gwenllian said we need to have
action now. I’d prefer to have more action than more reviews,
because we know what the issues are and we have to put them into practice. Julie James AM: Well, absolutely, I agree
that we need to have more action. I’m sorry that Bethan Sayed feels the way
she does about it. I think we’ve addressed, in correspondence,
the issues around the procurement. The whole point about this, Deputy Presiding
Officer, was that we wanted a rapid review. I could have gone out to a six-month procurement
and we would have got a lot longer timescale. We wanted to do something quickly to make
sure that we could pull the actions that she speaks of together. We’ve gone a long way since 2011 in this Assembly
and in this Government. We’ve done a very considerable amount in terms
of legislation and in terms of attitude. What this report is saying is that we could
do more. And, as I said earlier in my introduction,
it’s quite clear that we’ve not achieved gender equality, but what’s also clear is that there
is not a nation on the planet that has achieved gender equality. We have a lot to learn from those other nations
and I am not ashamed to say that we will redouble our efforts in that regard. Julie Morgan AM: I’ve read through the Chwarae
Teg rapid review and I’m pleased to see that the leader of the house is praised for her
leadership and passion for equality, and I wanted to raise a few quick points. First of all, there’s a recommendation that
there should be an Assembly women and equalities committee, which seemed to me a good way of
moving forward, and I wondered what she thought about that. There’s quite a bit about shared parental
leave and the very low take-up of it throughout the UK. And it is a universal problem. But I wondered whether the leader of the house
had had the opportunity to read about Sweden’s practice and how they’re trying to move to
five months leave for men. And I wondered if she had any comment on that. And then equality impact assessmentsówhich
are absolutely crucial, but the evidence that seems to be coming through in these documents
is that it is, perhaps, seen as a tick-box exercise. And we’ve had quite difficult changes to the
grants, for example, for the Traveller education service, which I’ve raised a few times, and
it’s difficult to find out what was the quality of the equality impact assessments there if,
indeed, anything did take place. So, will the leader of the house be looking
at equality impact assessments to see that they are used in a meaningful way? And, finally, I welcome the strategic approach
that is being used. Julie James AM: In terms of shared parental
leave, there are some good recommendations in here, which we clearly need to discuss
with the civil service in the Welsh Government and with the Commission as the two major employers
in this building, which I’m very much looking forward to. In my formal response to this in the autumn,
we will be coming forward with the result of some of those discussions. I’ve not yet had them, Deputy Presiding Officer,
so I’m not in a position to say; we’ve got this report to the Assembly as soon as we
possibly could. But there are some very interesting case studies
and so on in here, which I’m very much hoping to explore. In terms of the impact assessments, we are
moving to a different form of equality impact assessment, and in fact a combined impact
assessment across the Government to the number of pieces. But, as I said in my response to Suzy Davies
right at the beginning, I do think there’s a difference between asking whether the policy
impacts on women in any way or whether it advances the equality of women, and I don’t
think we’ve done that second thing at all, actually. But it’s something that I’m very much looking
forward to making sure gets embedded into our combined equalities assessments in future. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and I have
a meeting next week of our equality budget groupóbadge or bage or something, I can’t
remember; it’s BAGE, isn’t itówhich I’m very much hoping to discuss some of those issues
with as well, and, as I said, as part of the cross-party working group going forward, because
I do think it will be important for us to have a consensus on what excellent looks like,
taking this agenda forward. Jenny Rathbone AM: Well, ninety years after
all women got the vote, we haven’t used it that well in getting the changes we needed
in promoting women’s economic equality. That’s particularly around women’s primary
role in looking after children, because women and men are paid roughly the same until they
have children. It’s after they have childrenófor most women,
it is descending into living in poverty. The level of discrimination that we’ve revealed
in our maternity work inquiry, which we’ll be debating after recess, indicates that even
employment lawyers are discriminating against women, incredibly. So, we clearly have to do something, and I
very much like the vision that’s in the Chware Teg statement, the phase 1 statement, that
Wales must be a world leader for all women and girls. Absolutely, we must, but we’ve got an awful
lot of work to do. Clearly, women tend to be in the low-paid
zero-hours jobs, and men are in the much better paid jobs. I’d like to applaud the work of Sarah Jones,
who’s chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers, because only 12 per cent of engineering and
technology students are girls and there’s a huge amount of work to be done with girls
in school to ensure that they think this is a career that they can do, because being an
engineer isn’t about brawn; this is about precision skills. So, we clearly have a huge amount of work
to do. We’ve got excellent legislation; we’re just
not so great at implementing it. So, I really hope that we will take forward
this phase 1 review and really tackle the mote in our own eye before we start tackling
the beam in other people’s. Julie James AM: Yes, I think that’s an excellent
point. As I said, there’s a lot we can do to put
our own house in order. The report is huge food for thought. When you have the chance to read it through
thoroughly, the discussion around maternity and paternity leave, shared parental leave
and so on, is one that really resonated with me. Because, absolutely, we have to ensure that
women who want to take parental leave can do so, but until we move to a position where
men take an equal share of that women will always be disadvantaged, because, as soon
as you assume that the woman is the carer, then that young woman will assume that as
they make their choices going forward. We know from our stakeholder meetings that
that is what’s happening, and so they’re already ruling themselves out of careers that might
involve difficulty with that, because they know inevitably they won’t be able to do that. And it’s very hard to tell them otherwise
when all of the stats show them that. So, there are some concerted things we need
to do here, and this is a whole society attitude. As I say, even in Scandinavian countries,
who have been a lot more progressive in looking at this for many years, they’ve reported sobering
reading about some of the places they still have to go. But I absolutely agree that we need to put
our own house in order and be the shining exemplar that we ought to be and I’m looking
forward to those discussions with the Permanent Secretary and others over the summer so that
we can respond in that regard in the autumn. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. And, finally, Mark Isherwood. Mark Isherwood AM: Diolch. After meeting you last night, Jan Logie, the
parliamentary under-secretary in the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Justice, was hosted
by me as co-chair of the cross-party group on violence against women and children at
a round-table meeting to discuss gender-based violence and prevention. Clearly, there’s not just a national but an
international element to this, and we can each learn and progress together by engaging
with each other. But at a domestic levelóand I think you’ve
heard me mention this beforeóduring the last local government term, my wife, then a county
councillor, was subjected to a campaign of misogynist bullying, some of it online, by
the deputy leader of Flintshire County Council. The ombudsman advised local mediation and
that agreed certain actions, but when the deputy leader reneged on his promise to make
a public apology in the chamber, my wife was told the only action she could take would
be to make a formal complaint to the ombudsman. By this stage, she was suffering from serious
consequent anxiety and depression, from which she’s still not fully recovered. And, of course, that individual is still deputy
leader of the council. What action can we take to ensure that bodies
such as local authorities keep their own houses in order, and do not require the victim to
seek remedy? Julie James AM: Without commenting on the
specific circumstances, there clearly is an issue around impact and enforceability. I’m very proud of the public sector equality
duty in Wales and the particular Welsh aspects to that, but there are issues around what
we do if they aren’t upheld. Some of the reporting could be better. These are things we learn as we go along. So, very, very important to us will be to
take the lessons ofó. You know, the legislation is all very well,
but what do you do if it’s breached, or what impact is it having, what do you do aboutó? You know, we have exemplar public services
in Wales, but we have some trailers. What can we do about that will be very much
part of this review, and I’d very much welcome your input into that, Mark Isherwood. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much, leader of the house. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Item 5 is the legislative consent motion on the Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds)
Bill, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to move the motionóMark Drakeford. Mark Drakeford AM: Thank you very much, Deputy
Presiding Officer. I welcome the opportunity to explain the background
of this legislative consent motion. Iím grateful to the Economy, Infrastructure
and Skills Committee for considering the motion and for their report. The committee believes that there is no barrier
to the Assembly agreeing this LCM. The UK Government introduced the Non-Domestic
Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill on 23 May to introduce a number of measures on non-domestic
rates following an announcement made in the autumn budget and statement made by the Chancellor. The Bill includes specific provisions to include
buildings used as plant nurseries, or parts of such premises. The purpose of the provisions in the Bill
is to continue to exempt these properties from non-domestic rates in England and Wales
once a decision of the appeal court overturned the previous method used by the Valuation
Office Agency. This Bill ensures that payers of non-domestic
rates for plant nurseries will continue not to pay non-domestic rates. The law will comply with the previous operation
of the Valuation Office Agency and Government policy, with the policy intention of exempting
land used for agricultural purposes and horticultural purposes from these rates. Iím of the view that these provisions are
captured within the legislative competence of the National Assembly. However, I am content that these provisions
should be made in the Bill for England and Wales. This will ensure that we work in the same
way to deal with plant nurseries across the two nations. Therefore, Deputy Presiding Officer, I move
the motion and ask the Assembly to agree this LCM. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. I have no speakers for this debate. So, the proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance
with Standing Order 12.36. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
We move on to item 6 on the agenda, which is a debate on the first supplementary budget
of 2018-19, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to move the motionóMark Drakeford. Mark Drakeford AM: Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy
Lywydd. I move the usual motion for the first supplementary
budget before the National Assembly. This is the first opportunity to amend budgetary
plans for the current financial year, which were published and approved by the Assembly
in January. The first supplementary budget is often quite
narrow in scope, and this year is no exception. It is mainly administrative in nature. It regularises a number of allocations from
our reserves and transfers between portfolios. It includes adjustments to the overall level
of resources available to Wales, reflecting transfers and consequentials received from
the UK Government, and it reflects changes in annually managed expenditure forecasts
in line with our latest details provided to HM Treasury. It nevertheless represents an important part
of the budget and scrutiny system of the National Assembly. I would like to take this opportunity to thank
the Finance Committee for their consideration of this budget and the report it has provided
with its seven conclusions published at the end of last week. I will formally respond to that report, of
course, in the usual way. A number of the changes set out in this first
supplementary budget regularise the position in respect of allocations from the capital
reserves announced alongside the final budget debate and as part of the Wales infrastructure
investment plan midpoint review. These allocations utilise both general capital
and financial transaction capital budgets. Over £70 million is allocated to the health
and social services main expenditure group to support improvements to the NHS, such as
neonatal services in Carmarthen and Swansea and to help replace the Welsh ambulance fleet. Thirty-five million pounds is allocated to
the education portfolio to accelerate the twenty-first century schools programme and
to pilot a new model of community learning hubs, particularly in Valleys communities. Over £55 million is allocated to the economy
and transport MEG to support the roll-out of integrated active travel, developments
in the Cardiff capital region and Tech Valleys, next generation broadband and to enhance the
Cadw visitor experience. A small number of allocations have been made
from the revenue reserves in this supplementary budget, including £7.2 million through the
immigration health surcharge, £5 million to support minority ethnic achievement and
Gypsy/Roma travellers, £1.8 million to expand the pupil development grant, which will replace
the school uniform grant, and £1 million to continue free weekend bus travel on the
TrawsCymru network. Dirprwy Lywydd, as a result of the changes
in this supplementary budget, the revenue reserves stand at £129 million, with capital
reserves at £126 million for general capital and £127 million for financial transaction
capital. Mark Drakeford AM: Over the next few months,
I will be monitoring our financial situation very carefully, of course, and I intend to
lay a second supplementary budget in accordance with the usual timetable. I continue to look with colleagues at the
case for allocations from funds in-year, whilst continuing to retain a level of resource that
is sufficient for the financially uncertain period in which we work. This will allow us to respond when necessary
to further possible pressures on the budget and to carry funds forward through the Welsh
reserve fund. Any further allocations from reserves this
year will be reflected in the second supplementary budget. I would like to thank the Finance Committee
once again for their work in scrutinising this supplementary budget, and I ask Members
to support it. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. Can I now call on the Chair of the Finance
Committee, Simon Thomas? Simon Thomas AM: Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, a
diolch am y cyfle i gyfrannu yn y ddadl fer yma. Fel maeír Ysgrifennydd Cabinet newydd amlinellu,
nid ywír gyllideb atodol hon yn un sylweddol. Ond wedi dweud hynny, rydym fel pwyllgor yn
gwerthfawrogiír cyfle bob tro i ystyried unrhyw newidiadau yn y gyllideb ac yn gwneud
hynnyín ffurfiol drwy drefn y gyllideb atodol. Rydym, felly, wedi defnyddioír gyllideb atodol
hon fel cyfle i nodi lleír hoffem weld mwy o fanylion wrth symud ymlaenóac rydym yn
edrych ymlaen at y gyllideb yn yr hydref, wrth gwrsófelly, meysydd megis y cyfalaf
trafodiadau ariannol maeír Ysgrifennydd Cabinet wedi sÙn amdano, cyllid iechyd, y cytundeb
masnachfraint rheilffordd, datgarboneiddio ac effaith deddfwriaeth cenedlaethauír dyfodol
ar y gyllideb. Ac, wrth gwrs, rydym yn edrych ymlaen at y
gyllideb garbon gyntaf hefydóa pholisÔau benthyciadau myfyrwyr. Dymaír meysydd y byddwn ni yn craffu ymhellach
arnynt a byddaf yn cyfeirio jest yn fyr iawn at dri oír materion hyn yn awr. Mae cyfalaf trafodiadau ariannol yn faes y
bu’r Pwyllgor yn ei ystyried wrth graffu ar y gyllideb yn ystod yr hydref diwethaf, pan
roeddem niín pryderu efallai na allai’r Llywodraeth ddefnyddio’r ffrwd ariannu hon yn llawn. Rydym yn falch o nodi bod y rhan fwyaf o’r
cyfalaf trafodiadau ariannol wedi cael ei ddefnyddio, ac er gwaethaf cyfyngiadau’r Trysorlys,
mae tystiolaeth o beth defnydd arloesol o’r cyllid. Byddem yn awyddus i weld rhagor o fanylion
ynghylch sut y dyrennir yr arian hwn, a dylid cynnwys hyn yn y darlun cyffredinol o ddyled
Llywodraeth Cymru yn y gyllideb maes o law. Mae’r pwyllgor yn bryderus o weld nad yw rhai
byrddau iechyd yn dal heb fodloni eu gofynion o dan Ddeddf Cyllid y Gwasanaeth Iechyd Gwladol
(Cymru) 2014, er ei fod yn galonogol nodi y bydd y portffolio iechyd ar hyn o bryd yn
ymdopi o fewn yr arian sydd wedi’i ddyrannu iddo. Ond, mae’n dal i fod yn gynnar yn y flwyddyn
ariannol, felly byddwn yn parhau i ddangos diddordeb yng nghyllid y byrddau iechyd. Rydym wedi nodi’r gwaith y mae’r Pwyllgor
Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus yn ei wneud mewn perthynas ‚ chyfrifon y bwrdd iechyd yn ogystal, ac
yn edrych ymlaen at eu hadroddiad hwythau. Fel pwyllgor, mae gennym hefyd ddiddordeb
yng nghytundeb cyllidol y masnachfraint rheilffordd. Rydym yn awyddus i ddeall sut mae’r holl drefniadau
ariannol rhwng Llywodraeth Cymru a Llywodraeth y DU yn rhyngweithio, a hoffem weld manylion
ychwanegol yn yr hydref ar sut mae’r cytundeb rheilffyrdd yn dylanwadu ar y gyllideb yn
fwy eang. Diolch am y cyfle i gyfrannu at y ddadl yma,
ac rydw iín edrych ymlaen at glywed sylwadau Aelodau eraill yn ogystal. Nick Ramsay AM: Iím pleased to contribute
as well to this debate, and was pleased to take part in the Finance Committee’s scrutiny
of the supplementary budget. I concur with the comments that the Chair
of the Finance Committee has made. Thank you for your reference to the work of
the Public Accounts Committee. The work in terms of the local health boards
and the financing of those is still in progress, so I wonít say too much at this stage, other
than say that, clearly, there are ongoing concerns again this year about the deficits
of the health boards. This isnít a new problem; this is a problem
that has been running in one way or another in at least the majority of the boards for
some time. It is something that, over time, the Welsh
Government does need to get to grips with, particularly in light of the fact that, as
Mike Hedges will no doubt mention very shortly, health spending is growing and is pretty much
at halfómaybe a little bit more nowóof the Welsh Government budget. So, the deficits of those health boards is
becoming an ever-increasing problem each year and an increasing drain on the Welsh Governmentís
budget. As the Finance Committee report identifies,
there have been significant changes in both resource and capital allocations in this supplementary
budget, with increases of £15 million and £134 million since the 2018-19 budget. But, that said, itís true to say that, though
substantial, they are not issues that are of enormous significance for us to worry about
too much during this budget-setting time. The Welsh Conservatives welcome the fact that
further consequentials from the UK Government in the region of £2,761,000 in respect of
research and development from the 2016 UK budget have come our way. Then there are the changes of the 2017 UK
budget and, as we know, Wales will benefit from an extra £1.2 billion funding over the
next four years, along with an extra £160 million for the Welsh NHS and local authorities
over the next two years as a result of Barnett consequentials. Weíve not yet had a commitment from the Welsh
Government as to whetheróor, indeed, an indicationóthey intend for that money to be going to the health
service. That would be welcomed at some point, Cabinet
Secretary. Whilst we do need to make efficiency savings
within the health service and try and get the local health boards out of deficit, itís
still also important to recognise that additional money of a certain proportion, at least, has
come from the UK Government to the Welsh Government for spending in that area. I don’t think the Cabinet Secretary mentioned
the fiscal framework during this supplementary budget. We often mention it in this Chamber. Itís been welcomed by all parties, and itís
good to know that Wales will receive funding of 120 per cent relative to the English spend
per head of population as a result of that hard-fought-for fiscal framework, and that
is an achievement that should be recognised. If I can turn to some of the detailóa little
bit of the detail of the budgetóthe finance Chair has mentioned much of it. You did mention education and you touched
on money to replace the school uniform grant, and also changes in the Gypsy/Traveller, Roma
and ethnic minority portion of the EIG. That was a subject of some discussion. I know that the Children, Young People and
Education Committee have had concerns about cuts, certainly in the case of the Gypsy/Traveller,
Roma and ethnic minority portion of the EIG. How is that recognised within this budget? Are errors that have been made in the past
in terms of money being cut off without new money being brought down the line? Has that been rectified in this budget, and
is that now dealt with? In terms of economy and transport, the £10
million allocation from capital reserves for active travel routes are to be welcomed. But it does highlight how we are still waiting,
I think it’s five years now down the line, from the introduction of the Active Travel
(Wales) Act 2013. I remember working on it in the last Assembly
on the Enterprise and Business Committee, as it was. Very good legislation in principle, but here
we are still waiting for those outcomes some way down the line. So, can we be confident that with this additional
capital spending, Cabinet Secretary, we will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel
when it comes to some of these objectives from the active travel Act being realised? As the Chair of the Finance Committee has
said, we are monitoring closely the changes that were made, very much using this, I suppose,
as a case study for future budget scrutiny. There are changes to that scrutiny coming
down the line, which we need to look at with the devolution of tax powers next year. Welsh Conservatives, it will not surprise
you to know, will be abstaining on this supplementary budget, as we didnít support the original
budget, and this is amendments to that. But by and large, Iím pleased to have worked
with the Finance Committee on providing extra scrutiny for this budget. Mike Hedges AM: I just wanted to make three
very brief points in this debate. Firstly, the first supplementary budget shows
very small change from the original budget. If it showed substantial changes, weíd probably
have a problem on our hands, and it would be very strange indeed if there was large
blocks of money moving around. So, I think thatís what weíve got to expect
from the first supplementary budget. But whilst the changes are not substantial,
I think itís really good practice that the finance Secretary comes before the Finance
Committee for scrutiny and we have a debate on it in this Chamber. I think that really is important that we carry
on doing that rather than allowing, as the rules do, a letter from the Cabinet Secretary
and a letter back from the Finance Committee. Iíve never been a great believer in sending
letters between two parties is the best way of having a conversation, and things can get
lost in translation. So, Iím really pleased that the Cabinet Secretary
has continued the openness and transparency and willingness to engage, as his predecessor
did, with the Finance Committee. I think that’s really good practice, but at
some stage in the future, we will have a different finance Secretary and the Standing Orders
allow the exchange to be conveyed solely by letter. I hope this practice, which the previous Cabinet
Secretary brought in and the current Cabinet Secretary now follows, of producing a supplementary
budget and appearing before the Finance Committee, is carried out by all future finance Secretaries,
and then we have a Plenary debate on it, even if the Plenary debate consists mainly of people,
or only of people, who are on the Finance Committee in the first place. But I think itís important that we get a
Plenary debate on it and that we do engage in that level of scrutiny. Secondly, transaction capital, which appears
to be a Treasury method of keeping borrowing off the Government debt, does create huge
difficulties. I welcome the fact that the Treasury has agreed
to the Welsh Governmentís request to carry forward £90 million unspent financial transaction
funding provided in the UK autumn budget, in addition to Welsh reserve arrangements. This means that no funds have been returned
to the Westminster Treasury. If we are giving signs of success for any
Cabinet Secretary for finance, not sending any money back to the Westminster Treasury
must be one of those things that you give as a ëplusí if youíre marking them, because
sending money back to Westminster is the last thing we want to do. I quote the finance Secretary, who said to
the Finance Committee, ëThe restrictions on the use of financial
transaction capital do make it an unwieldy instrument.í
Following the ONS classification of housing associations and the subsequent need for legislation
to get housing associations designated as not public sector organisations, it meant
that, for a short time, transaction capital could not be used to support housing associations
building homes. I welcome the first tranche of money that
is being used to provide support for credit unions in Wales. I think there are very many of us, across
parties, who are very supportive of credit unions, who provide for many people an opportunity
to borrow at a level that they couldn’t anywhere else, where they cannot get money out of the
high street banks, but there’s no shortage of doorstep lenders prepared to lend them
money at obscene interest rates. So, it’s a small amount of money, which would
be very useful to individual credit unions in the transition they’re having to make in
the rules that are newly being applied to them, and in terms of capital-to-loans ratios. It’s probably the difference in some cases
between them being able to carry on trading or not, but it really is important that we
do support these credit unions, because for too many people it’s a choice between a credit
union or a doorstep lender. The other problem with transaction capital
is that it is not understood by the public that the money cannot be spent on schools
and hospitals. You’ve got this money, why aren’t you spending
it on our key prioritiesóroads, schools and hospitals? Finally, an issue that does not directly affect
the Welsh Government budget but affects total Government borrowing is the student loan fund. Student loans form part of the annually managed
expenditure, which has increased by £22.5 millionó£19.1 million revenue and £3.4
million capital. The Cabinet Secretary clarified that HM Treasury
supplies the funding for the student loan book in Wales and that work is being undertaken
at a UK level regarding the classification of student loans. We are less exposed in Wales, because we have
a different student support system, which is more generous in terms of the grants we
give, rather than the loans that have to be repaid. But, to me, the student loans book is like
a giant Ponzi-type schemeóit keeps on increasing. You’re lending money to people who will almost
certainly never pay all of it back, and most will default. The basic tax rate for former students with
loans is 8 per cent than the rest of the population. If we added 8 per cent to income tax for everybody
else, there’d be uproar, but adding it for people who are graduates seems to be allowed. When will the Westminster Government realise
the student loan scheme does not work and is not financially able to continue without
building up bigger and bigger debt? It doesn’t work. We need to have a new system of funding students. Jane Hutt AM: Can I welcome the first supplementary
budget in this financial year? The Finance Committee, as has already been
said by the Chair and by Mike Hedges, found little to comment onósmall change, as Mike
Hedges saidóon its first quarter. But I hope that you also found the conclusions
useful. I was pleased to welcome the NHS announcement
in the Wales infrastructure investment plan mid-term review, which will have a beneficial
impact on health and social care, and like Mike Hedges, as patron for the credit unions
in Wales, I particularly welcome the financial transactions facilities that you’re making
available to assist credit unions with important new regulatory responsibilitiesóvital to
support ethical lending across Wales. Can I also take the opportunity today to acknowledge
the achievements of the past decade in terms of the development of a fiscal framework for
Wales, taking on board our new powers? In fact, Nick Ramsay mentioned this in his
contribution. The first Welsh taxes for hundreds of years,
a permanent positive adjustment to the Barnett formula, capital and revenue borrowing provisions
and preparations for the introduction of the Welsh rate of income taxówhilst you’re making
a statement, I think we’ve got the opportunity to acknowledge this important point today. It’s disappointing, I have to say, Nick Ramsay,
that the Welsh Conservatives will be abstaining, because I think, really, from what you said,
you support this supplementary budget today. I think it’s worth saying, Cabinet Secretary,
that support for this supplementary budgetó[Interruption.] Okay. Nick Ramsay AM: I’ve been mentioned twice,
so I’ve got a right to reply. Jane Hutt AM: Very nicely too. Nick Ramsay AM: Yes, and there are many things
in thisó. I think I mistakenly said ‘substantial changes’
earlieróI meant important changes, rather than substantial changes. But, yes, we always abstain on the supplementary
budget, because it does represent a change to the previous budget that we did not support,
so we don’t want to cause confusion where it’s not necessary. Jane Hutt AM: Well, you’ve put that on the
record now, Nick Ramsay. What I was going on to say is that this is
a remarkable achievement that we will have, I’m sure, support for the supplementary budget
today, and indeed, as you did say, Nick Ramsay, for the fiscal framework that has been achieved,
and I would say in spite of eight years of austerity imposed on us in the Welsh Labour
Government by the UK Government. But I think this is the achievement of thisó. In terms of getting the budget through supplementary,
full budget and the fiscal framework, this is a result of political will, the political
will of the Welsh Labour Government, but I would also acknowledge political collaboration,
which is very pertinent, I would say, in terms of the Finance Committeeóthe political collaboration
we’ve achieved to advance these fiscal powers in Wales. Neil McEvoy AM: I won’t be supporting this
budget here today. I didn’t support the final budget, so I won’t
be doing it, as I said, today. What we have here, really, is some money just
being shifted around, no great real change. The phrase ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’ really
does come to mind. Wales is the only devolved nation that pays
bedroom tax. Now, the Cabinet Secretary before said that
that wasn’t a matter for him. Well, it’s a matter for Scottish politicians,
it’s a matter for politicians in the north of Ireland, where they’ve got rid of the bedroom
tax, which is a pernicious tax affecting the least well off. If you look at Cardiff locally, Cardiff council,
they say that there’s a £91 million shortfall in budget over the next three years, and I’ll
quote what the council has said, ‘there will be services which we simply will
be unable to offer to residents in the future.’ It’s a really, really serious thing. And what is being done? Not a great deal. If you look at the shortfall again, £91 billion,
well, at least that’s less than the budgetsóless than the bonus that the chief executive of
Persimmon awarded himself, or was awarded in January: £110 million. I want to point out that Persimmon is one
of the companies, the corporate entities, ravaging our countryside in this area and
making one hell of a profit. It’s a bad budget from a bad Government that
has run out of ideas, and the sooner that this administration is gone, the better. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to reply to the debateóMark Drakeford. Mark Drakeford AM: Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy
Lywydd. I thank all those Members who had relevant
contributions to make to this debate. As Mike Hedges said, while the first supplementary
budget is relatively limited in nature, it is an important part of the budget process,
allowing changes to be reported to and scrutinised by the Assembly. His warnings of the evils of epistolary practices
will no doubt be reported to finance Ministers in the future, should they ever deviate from
that path. Mike also pointed to the way we’ve treated
financial transaction capital in the supplementary budget. We’ve been able to carry forward the £90
million allocated very late in the last financial year, and while the restrictions on the use
to which financial transaction capital can be put are real, our ability to do some innovative
things, for example, in the funding of credit unions, is an example of the sort of imaginative
uses that I am committed to trying to make of every penny that comes to the Welsh Government. Mike repeated the warnings he gave in the
Finance Committee in relation to the student loan book. We are, as he said, less exposed to some of
those dangers than across our border. The Cabinet Secretary for Education and her
officials are taking a close interest in the findings of the review of student finance
that is being conducted in England, to see, when it’s published, if it has any implications
for Wales. Nick Ramsay raised the issue of health spending. Health spending is a priority for this Government,
and it is my job to make sure that there are always sufficient funds available to provide
services and to pay bills in all parts of Wales. The NHS allocations announced by the Prime
Minister recently are, of course, not for this supplementary budget or even for this
financial year. Once we have some certainty over the actual
sum of money that will become available to Wales as a result of those announcements,
then I’ll be pleased to report to the Assembly on how we intend to use them. The supplementary budget does indeed provide
additional funding for the school uniform grant, which is now to be an expanded grant
scheme, doing more than the previous one. I was keen to make sure that the education
Secretary had the funding she needed to put that new scheme into place, as I have been
to make sure that we are able to go on making provision for the minority ethnic achievement
grant. The active travel routes allocations are there
to accelerate the programme, and I don’t think it is a fair characterisation to say that
nothing has happened in active travel, but an extra £10 million allocated in this supplementary
budget, £20 million next year, £30 million the year after that is a significant investment
in making sure that we can do more than we have before in relation to that very important
policy area. I followed very much what the Chair of the
Finance Committee said. I thank him again for the report. The conclusions that the report comes to set
out a clear agenda for the Finance Committee in the work that it intends to do in the budget
work that will be in front of us in the rest of this year, and it’s very helpful to me
to have seen the approach that the Finance Committee intends to take. Dirprwy Lywydd, can I end by echoing the point
that Jane Hutt made, that the budget for this year was set against the longest period of
sustained austerity in living memory? It has a very real impact on our budget. Despite that, the first supplementary budget
aims to place the foundations for the current year, and to prepare the ground for difficult
budgetary decisions that may yet lie ahead. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much. The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Therefore, we vote on this item under voting
time. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
The next item on our agenda this afternoon is a debate on the affordable housing supply
review, and I call on the Minister for Housing and Regeneration to move the motion. Rebecca Evans. Rebecca Evans AM: Thank you. Across Welsh Government we know how important
housing is. Because of the impact it has on people’s lives,
we’ve made housing one of our five priority areas in ‘Prosperity for All’. Our ambition is for everyone to live in a
good-quality home that meets their needs and supports a healthy life. Rebecca Evans AM: In the last term of Government,
we achieved our target to build 10,000 affordable homes. We have committed to an ambitious target of
delivering a further 20,000 affordable homes during this term of Government. Whilst it’s early days and we can’t afford
to be complacent, I am confident that we can achieve this by continuing to work closely
with partners involved in housing delivery. We’re making a record £1.7 billion investment
in housing in this Assembly term towards the improvement of existing homes and the development
of new homes. Last year alone, we invested £124 million
in our social housing grant programme, and a capital equivalent of £55 million in our
housing finance grant. In addition, we have protected social housing
for future generations and for those who need it most, with the abolition of the right to
buy and the right to acquire. We also acknowledge the importance of addressing
a range of different housing needs. We know that what some people want is support
to buy their own home. The Welsh Government now supports a range
of products aimed at helping people access home ownership: an offer that was expanded
at the end of February when I launched the Rent to OwnóWales and Shared OwnershipóWales
schemes. Help to BuyóWales has been a real success. By the end of March 2018, the scheme had supported
the construction and sale of nearly 6,900 homes, and it will make a significant contribution
to the delivery of our 20,000 affordable homes target. We recognise that we need to continue investing
in housing, as this has clear benefits for the economy, supporting the construction industry
and the associated supply chain. I’m working with local housing authorities
to help them start building new council homes at pace and scale for the first time in decades. I want local authorities to be more ambitious
in this area. They have a vital role in identifying the
need for additional housing, but they’re also well placed to identify creative means of
responding to this need and strengthening our communities. One of our key challenges as a nation is reducing
carbon across all sectors, and housing is no different. If we are to meet our climate change responsibilities,
we need to take urgent steps to see how we can introduce low and zero-carbon homes into
mainstream delivery as soon as possible. Our innovative housing programme has made
a good start at looking at potential solutions to some of these challenges. I’m excited by some of the projects that we’ve
already funded. This work has included developing a better
understanding of the practical issues that surround off-site manufacturing and construction,
and I look forward to seeing even bolder innovative designs and innovative ideas being presented
in the coming year, and I’ll have more to say to Members later in the year once these
proposals have been scrutinised. Since coming into post, I have had the chance
to listen to many views on the opportunities we have to work together with partners to
improve delivery in the housing sector. This has been fascinating, thought-provoking
and has given me a real insight into some of the key challenges that we face. We have already achieved a lot, and we have
ambitious targets for this term of Government, but as we look to the future I am clear that
there’s more that needs to be done to accelerate house building across all tenures. We face particular challenges as we seek to
respond to the growing need for affordable housing solutions. It is therefore important that we occasionally
step back to consider whether we are taking the best approach possible, and whether we’re
using our resources to the greatest effect, especially given the continuing impact of
austerity. This is why, in April, I announced a review
of current arrangements across the affordable housing sector. I’ve established an impressive independent
panel to oversee this work. This will ensure that the review is transparent
and robust, and the panel will recommend changes, as it sees fit, and I expect the panel to
report by the end of April 2019. My intention is that the review should futureproof
our housing supply policies and ensure that we’re investing in the right programmes for
the longer term, making the best use of our resources. The review panel is tasked with developing
an independent view, but I’ve emphasised that its findings need to be fully informed by
wide engagement with the housing organisations and all those who care about housing in Wales,
and have an appreciation of our distinctive circumstances. There is huge expertise and enthusiasm, as
well as lots of energy and ideas, in the housing sector and amongst tenants, and it’s important
that we harness that if we are to find the best way forward. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to assemble
a panel that offers such a strong cross-section of skills and expertise across the breadth
of areas being considered by the review. As I’ve previously told the Chamber, the panel
will be chaired by Lynn Pamment, Cardiff office senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The members bring real insight into housing
supply issues and solutions both in Wales and further afield. The panel are in the process of establishing
a series of work stream areas. These work streams will involve members drawn
from across the housing sector to inform the review’s work. Detailed areas for investigation will include
housing need, modern methods of construction, grant intervention rates, rent policy, and
the use of public sector land. The full list of all the work streams identified
by the panel was sent to all Assembly Members last week. In addition to the work groups, the review
panel will engage extensively with housing organisations involved in the delivery of
affordable housing, as well as tenant groups. Panel members are anxious to contribute to
events and conferences wherever possible. They also want to tap into the vast knowledge
that we know exists in housing organisations, and amongst the people they represent. So, I would urge Members also to engage with
the review and to offer their opinions. I know that all parties in this Chamber are
concerned about meeting housing needs. We all appreciate the challenge of getting
the most out of our limited resources, and I hope everyone will take the opportunity
to feed their views in and provide evidence for the panel to consider. The review panel are in the process of issuing
a call for evidence. This will be sent to a wide-ranging list of
identified stakeholders and those believed to have an interest in the review. I know that the Chair is anxious that the
review should provide a means for all those who wish to make a contribution to the discussion
on this vital topic to have the opportunity to do so. To close, Presiding Officer, I would add that
the panel will certainly be looking very closely at the contributions in today’s debate in
terms of informing their way forward. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I have selected the
five amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2, 3,
4 and 5 will be deselected. If amendment 2 is agreed, amendment 3 will
be deselected. And if amendment 4 is agreed, amendment 5
will be deselected. I call on David Melding to move amendment
1, tabled in the name of Paul Davies. David Melding AM: Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. I move the amendment in the name of Paul Davies. 15,841; 20,158; 17,236. These are not abstract numbers. Let me explain. In 1954, the number of house completions,
or dwellings completed, by all agencies was 15,841: 13,197 of those were in the public
sector, the largest number of houses ever built by the public sector. That was 1954. In 1967óand I will just finish this bitó20,158
dwellings were completed, with 10,936 in the public sector. In 1975, 17,236 dwellings were completed,
with 8,336 in the public sector, although that year the private sector just outbuilt
the public sector. I will give way if you’ve got a point to make. Mike Hedges AM: Just for clarification: these
figures are for Wales. David Melding AM: Yes, they are for Wales,
as we are the Welsh Assembly, thank you. The question, I suppose, because of the scale
that these show, is a good one to put, because of the numbers we have been routinely talking
about in recent yearsóunder both Labour and Conservative Governments, it has to be acknowledged. But it just shows you how much we need to
raise our ambition. Housing, affordable housing, ambition for
housing provision: these are all areas of policy where we are simply failing in Wales
at the moment and in the rest of the UK. I believe it would be a shameful blight on
the record of all of us if we allow this to continue. So, I do welcome to some extent the establishment
of the affordable housing review. It could do useful work and get us to move
on and approach the level of ambition that we need. I don’t want to go over this old ground too
much, but the target of 20,000 new affordable homes in a five-year programme is a fairly
modest one. It may be a reasonable first step, but we
need to have much more ambition during the 2020sóa time that we can reasonably now prepare
foróthan we’ve had in the past 20 years or more. So, I do think that we have to look at this
in a very radical, profound way. The best place to start is the late Professor
Holmans reportócommissioned by the Welsh Government and published in 2015óto which,
as far as I know, the Welsh Government has never replied. So, I think one good thing for the review
to start with would be your reply to the Holmans report, and I do hope that we can do that. The main reason I say that is, in the list
of work streams and the scope of the review, the first work stream has the title, ‘Understanding
Housing Need.’ This work stream states:
‘The review will consider how we can improve our understanding of exactly how many homes
are needed across Wales, in which areas, and which tenures are appropriate.’ I do wonder why you haven’t looked at the
Holmans report. I simply don’t understand why we’re going
over such old ground again. We already have an excellent piece of work
by the then world-leading expert in housing need, and that should be where we should start. That report, let me remind you, argued clearly
and directly that if future need and demand for housing in Wales is to be met, there needs
to be a return to the rates of house building not seen for almost 20 years, and an increase
in the rate of growth of affordable housing. The main estimate suggests a need to return
to the kind of building rates that we last had in the early 1990s. That is to meet existing Welsh Government
targets. That’s not to meet the new ones, in terms
of need. We’re not building 7,000. We fall well short of 7,000 at the moment,
whereas the actual target is 8,700. The alternative estimate, in Professor Holmans’
work, implies that 12,000 additional units are needed a year. We’ve seen nothing on that scale since the
1970s. Again, that includes Conservative as well
as Labour periods of Government. Of course, the affordable housing supply review
could provide a stimulus to improve public policy, perhaps by realistically looking at
possible funding streams, and the need to build perhaps within the council sector again,
and expanded in the rest of the social sector, as well as stimulating private house building. I see I’m already out of time, and this is
a subject that really does animate me, becauseó. Let me just finish on thisóI can’t quite
get through the rest of my speech; there’s so much more data. But we should remember that, in the 1950s,
they saw housing and the right to good housing as a basic right for all. It was up there with the right to decent healthcare. That’s what we need again. As Community Housing Cymru have said,
‘good housing is a basic right for all’, and I do commend them for their increased
ambition. I hope we can go even further than the 75,000
affordable homes they want to see built by 2036 in the sector. Quite simply, our ambitionóand this should
unite us all; there’s no need for partisanship hereóour ambition should be homes for all. Thank you, Llywydd. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call on Gareth
Bennett to move amendments 2 and 5, tabled in the name of Caroline Jones. Gareth Bennett. Gareth Bennett AM: Diolch, Llywydd, and I
move our amendments. Thanks to the Minister for bringing today’s
debate. I’m sure we all agree that affordable housing
is an important subject, and we want to do what we can in the Assembly to make affordable
housing available to more people in Wales. Looking at today’s motion, we do oppose the
Government’s motion, because it is somewhat self-congratulatory, and we note that many
of the people involved in the housing industry take the view that more does need to be done. We can’t, therefore, agree with their point
1, which says that ‘good progress is being made’ towards the target of 20,000 affordable
homes, since there is common agreement in the sector that the target needs to be much
more ambitious. Our amendment 2 reflects that. Our amendment 5 proposes that more extensive
use be made of modular housing. That would be one way in which new affordable
housing units can be built and delivered quickly. Other opposition parties have raised some
valid points with their amendments, but, unfortunately, in order to push our amendments through, we
are abstaining on them, because, if the other amendments pass, our amendments get deselected. That’s just the way it’s fallen today. In spite of that, I think all of the opposition
parties can say that there is common ground in the notion that the Welsh Government need
to be doing much more in this field. On the subject of what the target should be,
we do have this thorny issue of the Holmans target, which David Melding has raised again
today. We tend to agree on this side that, with rising
populations projected for the UK as a whole, which will affect us in Wales in our major
towns and cities, like Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham, we do need a higher target. So, we don’t think the Welsh Government objective
is ambitious enough to begin with. We know that the Welsh Government is pushing
ahead with plans for shared ownership schemes, which can work up to a point. As I pointed out the last time we discussed
thisóand the Minister agreed with me on this pointóeven assisted mortgage schemes like
Help to Buy are not always affordable for many people in Wales, even those working in
full-time jobs. This is because Wales is something of a low-wage
economy, and house price rises, as we know, are outstripping wage increases. So, ultimately, there is this basic problem
of demand and supply, which leads to galloping house price increases. This means that assisted mortgage schemes
will be of only limited assistance in achieving the Welsh Government’s objectives for affordable
housing. To some extent, I think we have to adhere
to the idea that housing is where you live. It doesn’t have to be something that you own. We have to face the reality that more people
in Wales today are moving into the private rented sector, and that many people will be
living in the social housing sector. So, we also need to keep an eye on rents. An issue that has arisen is the issue that
sometimes rents in the social housing sector may rise by more than they do in the private
rented sector. I know the Minister has explained recently
that there is an expert group advising on a new formula for setting rent increases in
social housing, and I think that’s good, but we do need to keep an eye on that issue of
rising rents in the social housing sector. Now, there are opportunities in housing and
in house building. We know that one of the problems facing the
house building sector is a lack of skills. Many people working in the construction sector
are getting on in years. I believe there are some figures indicating
that the average age of people employed in construction is around 53, and we need to
ensure that enough younger people are encouraged to enter this industry. We have now to address the problem of training
our own people to get involved in this sector. There are various strands that I think the
Welsh Government can thread together, with the housing Minister working in concert with
the skills Minister and also the Minister responsible for the Valleys initiative, which
I was speaking on earlier today. I think a lot of these things are interconnected. I know that the housing Minister has been
working with the Federation of Master Builders and other bodies on this issue. She’s also praised the example of Melin Homes
in Newport, with their apprenticeship schemes. And I think we need to encourage more firms
to take up this good practice. The Federation of Small Businesses has done
some recent research demonstrating that wages in the construction industry are, in the context
of Wales, comparatively very good. We can also encourage more women to enter
the construction industry as well because, with modular housing, not all of the jobs
require a great deal of brawn or physicality, an issue that Jenny Rathbone noted last time. I know that the Minister today mentioned off-site
manufacturing and I think we do need to encourage more modular housing, as this is a quick way
to encourage more affordable housing into Wales. Of course, we do have to ensure that high
standards of quality are maintained at the same time. We should also be encouraging more small and
medium-sized enterprises to be able to move forward with their housing schemes, particularly
infill sites, which Mike Hedges has advocated in the past. He probably will do again today. And I know that the Minister has mentioned
the Wales property development fund specifically for SMEs to access finance and I think that
idea needs to be developed. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call on Bethan
Sayed to move amendments 3 and 4, tabled in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. Bethan Sayed AM: Diolch. I’d like to thank the Welsh Government for
bringing forward this debate today, because it is important that we analyse how this review
is going to move forward and explore some of the current issues of affordable housing. I’ve been keen to be co-operative on the broader
housing agenda as I feel that the housing Minister does share many of our concerns and
I appreciate that she has made an effort to include us in her thinking on these issues. There will always be areas of disagreement,
however, and I’m afraid that using the term ‘ambitious’ in the context of the Welsh Government’s
affordable housing strategies is one of those areas. Firstly, there is broad understanding that
20,000 affordable homes over the course of this term isn’t enough, with Community Housing
Cymru noting last year that over 4,000 social housing units were needed alone each year
in order to cope with the basic population rise. This, of course, does not cover the private
housing market, which has been under increasing pressure, particularly over affordability
issues. I’m also concerned that there are difficulties
with the Welsh Government’s definition of what constitutes affordable. One of the biggest problems with the definition
of ‘affordable’ and, therefore, what this Government considers success in building these
homes, includes homes bought under schemes like Help to Buy. Only 75 per cent of properties bought under
Help to Buy went to first-time buyers. A quarter went to those purchasing a different
or upgraded home, meaning that, for a quarter of those purchasing under the scheme, they
did not necessarily have affordability issues. A serious problem identified is that 2,277
of the homes bought under the schemeóa third of those boughtówere for over £200,000 in
value. And we know that that’s quite a hefty sum. So, why are these homes included in affordable
housing statistics? How can we possibly classify that amount as
being affordable? Only 701 homes were purchased for less than
£125,000óa figure that is still out of reach of many people. In terms of the rented sector, intermediate
rented housing is still out of reach of a lot of people, particularly those affected
by welfare changes and cuts in recent years. So, I believe that this point of what constitutes
affordability needs to be addressed in this review and a narrower, clearer definition
established as to what constitutes affordable. When we don’t have clear definitions, we won’t
begin to be able to realistically assess what we need to really tackle as part of this crisis. We do note that the number of new social housing
units per year is increasing but, when you consider the overall trend going back over
the last 40 years, the numbers being completed are still low. We are on a par at the moment with the late
1990s in terms of annual completions. We’ve also had an increase in the number of
empty homes, despite the Welsh Government’s Houses into Homes scheme. There has, in fact, been an increase of around
5,000 in the number ofóI was going to say nakedóvacant properties in Wales since 2012-13. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? [Interruption.] That woke you all up, didn’t it? It’s clear to us and should be clear to everyone
in this Senedd that, despite Welsh Government soundbites and good intentions, we are not
anywhere near enough to setting a bold enough agenda in this area in terms of availability
of houses in the social rented sector, and we don’t yet have the right definitions laid
down when it comes to even what constitutes affordability. I’d like to briefly turn to some other aspects
of affordability, which have been touched on by the Minister. Energy efficiency is a key component to what
is affordable. It matters because an energy inefficient home
can make it an unaffordable home too. This is recognised in the fact that the Welsh
Government has the Arbed scheme, and other Governments across the UK have their own schemes,
but it hasn’t allocated the resources needed to fully upgrade social housing, and the targets
for eliminating fuel poverty will not be met. Its efforts have been substantially less ambitious
than in Scotland, and as such it’s likely that some of the existing affordable housing
stock is not affordable. Social landlords have been adapting in different
ways to this problem. We had a debate recently where we mentioned
what’s happening in Wrexham with regard to fitting of solar panels, but this is just
one example. There needs to be much more. There is a problem across the UK when building
new developments also, where we are not including accessibility to services of employment centres
as part of our considerations, which is why I think we get opposition to many of these
housing developments, particularly in rural areas. The effects of austerity have meant less sustainable
sites, less public transport options, and less services included as part of new developments. This not only makes it difficult for those
on low incomes to build a sustainable and affordable life in a new home, but also makes
it less acceptable to others in a local area where a new development is based. In the time that I have leftó. I would think we need to enhance on what we’re
doing in relation to tenants’ rights, and I would like to see a Bill to that effect
go forward in this Assembly. I think we are passing a lot of legislation
in relation to housing but I’m not seeing enough on tenants’ rights, and that obviously
has a lot to do with reclassification, but I think that they need to be engaged much
more. I’ve been going around lots of local housing
associations and people do feel not as involved as they’d like to be in management fees and
how they’re determined, in the rent hikes that social landlords have placed upon them. So, I would urge the Minister in all of this
to consider the rights of tenants to be at the heart of any decisions that are made as
part of this ongoing review. Mike Hedges AM: Housing is a basic need and
a basic right. I think that is something that we really do
need at the forefront of our minds every time we discuss housing. No week is complete without the need for more
affordable housing being made clear to me by my constituentsóin the last seven days,
a family of four, including a disabled child, living in a one-bedroomed flat; someone who
is effectively homeless, sofa surfing, using sofas in friendsí houses, as they currently
have no fixed abode, where the next stop could be the street; a newly divorced woman who
is finding it increasingly hard to pay the rent being charged by a private landlord. This is the reality of living in twenty-first
century Wales. Each one is a personal tragedy. The sad thing is, if I was making this speech
next week, I would be talking about three or four different cases of people with exactly
the same housing need. How did we get here? Thirty years ago, finding affordable housing
was not a problem. You might not have got either a council house
or a housing association house in your area of first choice, but accommodation was available. A number of things have happened, some of
which we’ve had control over and some which we haven’t. There has been a decrease in the size of households. There’s been an increase in population. Both have put pressure on needing more accommodation. We had a boom in the early 2000s, where people
were being given 110 per cent mortgages, where we had steady economic growth. People thought everything was going to fine
forever, until we reached the problem of the banking collapse. Within Britain, the average price of a house
was £100,000 in the year 2000 and £225,000 in 2007, before the financial crash brought
the boom to an end. This was unsustainable. Mark Isherwood AM: Will you give way? Mike Hedges AM: Certainly. Mark Isherwood AM: Do you regret that the
Welsh Government at the time ignored the warnings by the housing sector joined together campaign
throughout the early 2000s that there would be a housing supply crisis if the Welsh Government
didn’t reverse its 70 per cent affordable housing cuts? That was long before the credit crunch and
they ignored thatóhence where we are today. Mike Hedges AM: It was also before my time
here. What I will say is that councils were continuing
to sell council houses under the right to buyóand I’m sure Mark Isherwood regrets the
sale of council houses. Until recently, councils were not building. Low-cost owner-occupier properties have become
buy-to-rent properties. That’s a real thing that’s affected very many
of my constituentsóvery many people who are on median earnings, who are working, cannot
now afford to buy a house, when 25 or 30 years ago they’d have had no difficulty, because
these have been mopped up by people who are buying to rent. It is in the interest of large house builders
to build less than demand, because the opposite means that they will be left with unsold properties. Help to Buy increases the demand side, but
does nothing for the supply side. The shortage of houses is not at the scale
of the immediate post-war period. In 1945, we had houses lost to bombing, and
we had large-scale slum clearance in the 1940s and 1950s. I’m not going to repeat what David Melding
said, but I think he was making a really important point that building lots of houses and building
a lot of public sector houses is not unique and it’s not difficult. It’s been done in the past. It was done by Labour and Conservative Governments,
and in Britain as a whole council housing peaked under the Conservative Government of
the 1950s. The 1959 Conservative manifesto was talking
about how many council houses the Conservative Government were going to build. There was a lot of expansion. I was brought up in a council house on the
outskirts of Swansea. Lots of council housing was built on what
were then the outskirts of many towns and cities, which have probably been ‘outskirted’,
if such a word exists, since then. We’ve had house price booms and busts, but
these were post the 1960s. In the 1960s, 400,000 properties were built
in Britain. Wales’s equivalent would have been around
19,000 or 20,000. On quality, the standard that is usually talked
about is the Parker Morris standard, which set what the size of houses should be. It said that it’s better to build flats and
houses that are too large, rather than too small. Imagine a builder saying that today. Affordable housing to meet the needs of the
people of Wales needs more land released to small builders in plots below the local development
plan threshold, including infill sites, and councils to be funded and empowered to build
council houses again. Unless we start building council houses, there
is no way I can possibly see us reaching the number of houses in the affordable sector
that we need in Wales. More needs to be done to bring empty properties
back into use. If doubling the council tax doesn’t work,
try quadrupling it. There must be some point on the council tax
amount that they pay where people will actually put those houses back into use. Finally, I think that the key has got to be
making sure that our policies are aimed at the supply side, not the demand side. Putting money into the demand side only pushes
up prices. Hefin David AM: I’d like to focus my contribution
on the various work streams that are in the affordable housing supply review document
that we received, and I’m going to reflect on some things Mike Hedges said, some things
Bethan Sayed said and some things David Melding said. First of all, housing need has been talked
about, and the need, as Mike Hedges said, that exists below the demand curve means that
we aren’t, through the market mechanism, delivering those houses. So, it’s quite nice to pick up where Mike
Hedges left off. We need to build the right homes in the right
places. If we leave it to the market mechanism, I
don’t think that’s going to happen. I’ll give you an example. There’s a housing development in my constituency
in Hendredenny that’s been approved by the Government to build 260 homes. Of that, in the initial application, 60 of
them are affordable, and I don’t think that that affordability standard will match anything
anybody in the north of my constituency would consider affordable. Of those 60, the number is likely to drop
when the houses actually get built. So, if you’re going to meet housing demand
and housing need through the big house builders, it simply isn’t going to happen; there needs
to be different things happening. So, building in the south and the north are
two very different issues. I’ve long argued that local development plans
don’t meet housing need at all anyway. I think they are subject to failure, and I
think the fact that the Government has introduced this review demonstrates an acceptance of
that fact, and also the fact that we’re now talking about, as the First Minister said
earlier, strategic development plans instead of local development plans. I think it demonstrates that we feel that
the market mechanism isn’t delivering what we need. Also, the fact that the Welsh Government is
consulting on disapplying paragraph 6.2 of TAN 1 demonstrates the fact that we aren’t
delivering housing through the current model. If I could look at work stream 6 in the review
paper, which talks about a construction supply chain involving modern methods of construction. Too often, the housing market, as I’ve said
time and again, is dominated by the big four housing developers in Wales, and we aren’t
then building to need. I’ve cited the example in Cwm Calon estate
in my constituency where the quality of build and the quality of maintenance, the quality
of upkeep, is very, very poor. And I turn to an unlikely source to support
my view of this cartel, this oligopoly that exists: the ‘Independent Review of Build Out
Rates’ by Oliver Letwin MP. Now, he’s no supporter of the market mechanismóand
I can see Nick Ramsay nodding: ‘Yeah, what a good source.’ Well, let me just read to you what he says
on page 26 of his report. This is June 2018:
‘as I have argued, the major house builders are certainly ìland bankingî: they proceed
on a large site…at a rate designed to protect their profits by constructing and selling
homes only at a pace that matches the marketís capacity to absorb those homes at the prices
determined by reference to the local…market’. So, they are not rushing to build. ‘The fact that a major house builder holds
large amounts of land, is explained by the fact that the major house builders need to
maintain a sustainable business…ensuring that they, rather than their competitors,
hold as much of the land’ as they are able, which will ‘minimise market
entry’. What they’re doing is holding land to maintain
prices and prevent small firms from entering the market. That’s classic large firm oligopoly behaviour,
and as a socialist it disgusts me. David Melding AM: Well, it disgusts me as
a capitalist. Hefin David AM: And as a capitalist it disgusts
David Melding. [Laughter.] So, I think that demonstrates that, even if
you divide on ideological terms, you can still find some commonality of practiceósome commonality
of practice. The traditional model of house building needs
to change. I met in my surgery, just on Saturday morning,
Cerianne Thorneycroft. She was born in Cardiff, she is a chartered
architect and environmentalist, but she now lives in Gloucestershire. She is trying to get self-build off the ground,
on which she then acts as a project manager. She said there’s no need to have, in her model,
any housing developer involved. There are no costs to be saved, no opportunities
to be missed based on end-goal profit margins. In her email to me, she says, ‘By self-build,
I mean the future owners of the homes are involved from the start, before a site is
even found.’ So, those people are involved and she facilitates
that. It’s an innovative model. I think the Welsh Government should speak
to Cerianne Thorneycroft and discuss with her this business called Green Roots E-cohaus. I think she’s worth listening to. And finally, with regard to work stream 9,
existing powers the Welsh Government has, I think there are problems, which Bethan Sayed
mentioned, with estate management charges, which we’ve debated. I think we need an independent property ombudsman
in Wales and the adaption and strengthening of Rent Smart Wales as an arm’s-length regulatory
and accreditation body for those estate management companies, because what the estate management
companies do is add charges on top of your mortgage, on top of your council tax, which
increases unaffordability. There’s nobody regulating them. Let me tell you: if we all wanted to get together
and set up an estate management company tomorrow, we could and we could fleece people, but of
course we wouldn’t do that. But there are people out there who would,
and I think we need a regulatory body. I believe, in line with work stream 9óI think
the Welsh Government’s got a tool there, with Rent Smart Wales, that could act as an arm’s-length
body, and the Association of Residential Managing Agents believes that that is entirely possible. So, this is a great step for the Welsh Government,
but I think that more needs to be done according to the thrust of this debate. Neil McEvoy AM: Labour is utterly failing
Wales when it comes to housing. This motion claims that Labour are laying
the groundwork for more affordable housing, but you only have to look at what’s going
on in Cardiff to see how absurd this is. Labour is simply selling out our city. Virtually every patch of greenfield in the
west of the city and lots in the east are currently being built on, and these aren’t
affordable houses built by local companies; these are very expensive houses being built
by massive, corporate housing developers. They don’t care about our culture, our language
or our way of life. Beautiful countryside around Danescourt is
about to be lost. Dog walkers and runners won’t be able to go
there any more if we can’t stop the building. Weíve got Regency Park being built; weíve
got the Ledger building going up in the new Central Quay development. Now, they could be anywhere, and they just
donít sound Welsh. Can we at least get a bit of recognition for
the fact that Welsh people have lived here for thousands of years? The houses are not really affordable either. Most first-time buyers would have no chance
of finding £283,000 to buy a three-bedroomed house in Pentrebane. My constituents just simply canít afford
that, and they’ll have to sit back and watch as wealthier people move in and live in the
places where their children used to play in the fields. And you wonít be able to get a doctorís
appointment eitheróno new surgery places until 3,000 houses are built. Fifteen thousand extra cars on the roadóplease
donít talk to me about air pollution. No prospect of any decent public transport
alternative. Now, the suggestion and emotion that the Welsh
Government is somehow driving housing efficiency is absurd also, because we all remember Labour
completely backed down on efficiency targets for new houses, yet youíve let the big, corporate
developers do exactly as they wish. So, hereís some suggestions: do more about
the long-term empty properties that blight our communities. Some have been empty for decadesódecadesóget
them back in the market. Employ local people to renovate them. Everybody wins. I really donít understand why councils donít
do such a very simple thing when itís so obvious and so beneficial to the local economy. Why are we not developing brownfield sites? Thereís such a surplus of employment land
in south Wales, and yet these sites just remain there whilst we see the great green spaces
being developed. The new developments should also reflect WalesóWelsh
place names for the new developments, and they should be fully bilingual. The houses there should be for local people
and not to appeal to some international property markets. Labour have made such a mess of housing. We need local housing for local need so that
local people can afford to move in to their communities. We need a policy for housing thatís localist
in nature and that reflects the proud history of our country also. Diolch yn fawr. Jenny Rathbone AM: Itís very difficult to
disagree with David Melding. Good housing is a right for all, and so thought
Nye Bevan. He was the one who drove the very high standards
of social housing that we were blessed with in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Obviously, we would be well served to come
back to those higher standards, because those houses have lasted the test of time and are
sustainable. Whilst I would agree that the Welsh Government
has an ambitious housing programme, it is not sufficient to meet the needs, because
for most people private housing is unaffordable and social housing is inadequate to meet the
demand. I would agree with Hefin David that we cannot
rely on the big six house builders to meet our needs. They simply arenít going to build for the
people who most need to be housed. I just wanted to look at the programme of
innovative housing that was approved by Carl Sargeant in October last year. There were 30 different projects awarded,
some of them in Cardiff, and I think that this sort of project (a) tells us that thereís
a lot of people out there who want to build innovative housing and (b) that this can be
a way of providing housing that’s flexible to meet people’s needs and also is energy
efficient. For example, Cardiff council is building eight
energy-efficient family homes in the grounds of Greenfarm Hostel in Ely, which is currently
going to be used as temporary accommodation while families wait for a more permanent housing
solution. But they are going to be movable so that they
can be relocated to another site if they no longer are needed for the purpose for which
they’re going to be built at the moment. It’s indicative of how long it takes to get
projects off the ground, because Cardiff council is absolutely behind what is their scheme. It’s now been awarded planning permission,
but they still haven’t got people able to live in these projects. Nevertheless, using the shipping containers
that this is based on is a way of getting quick housing in order to meet the desperate
need that we have. There’s a similar project being developed
by Cadwyn Housing Association using sea containers for one and two-bedroomed homes with solar
photovoltaicsó12 homes here in Cardiff in Bute Street, on a vacant piece of land. These are excellent contributions to the desperate
need, but clearly insufficient for the massive demand. You can see that there are many other projects
around Wales: Pentre Solar, who already have some excellent housing in parts of Denbighshire,
and they are now building homes using local timber in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Other organisations are building to passive
house standards, and these are the sorts of things we need. I just think we need to do an awful lot more
of them. In terms of the land banking that’s going
on by the big house builders, I hope that the vacant land tax that the Welsh Government
intends to bring in in the next session will help to deal with that. But meanwhile I think there are other things
we might want to embrace as well. There’s a Newport-based charity called Amazing
Grace Spaces that is creating homes out of containers, and they’ve recently supplied
Merthyr Valleys Homes with two fully equipped containers for families to live in, and they’re
in the process of converting four containers for Wrexham County Borough Council. So, I’m hoping that that sort of thing can
be embraced. I was also particularly impressed with another
organisations called Down to Earth, which is Swansea-based, and therefore hopefully
the Minister knows about it. They’re doing absolutely stunning housingówell,
not housing, but building development, working with vulnerable people of one sort or anotherósome
of them are asylum seekers, some of them are people with mental health issuesóand it’s
helping to transform those people’s lives. They are acquiring the skills to build the
buildings that are going to enhance their well-being, and Down to Earth is now on the
approved procurement list for the Welsh Government, so I’m hoping that health bodies will embrace
projects like Down to Earth. I would urge the Minister to consider amending
the building regulations to reinstate the zero-carbon standards introduced by Gordon
Brown as Prime Minister and then abolished by George Osborne, because we cannot be building
more homes that we then need to retrofit. But I look forward to hearing the Minister’s
response. Julie Morgan AM: I was going to concentrate
my remarks on quality and energy efficiency. Earlier this year, I visited Swansea University’s
SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, where I saw the UK’s first energy-positive
classroom, which demonstrates how buildings can be designed to be energy generators or
home power stations. The classroom has got an integrated solar
roof and battery storage, with solar heat collection on south-facing walls. It’s only been there for six months, but during
that time it has generated more energy than it has consumed. In the previous Assembly, I was pleased to
visit, with other Members here, SOLCER house on Stormy Down, which I think was the first
of its kind in Wales and cost £125,000 to build. I was extremely impressed by that and then
even more impressed on visiting SPECIFIC in Swansea a few weeks ago. I think there is a lot of this new, innovative
way of building around, and there are pockets of very good design. Jenny Rathbone mentioned some of them in her
contribution and has mentioned what Cardiff council is doing. When I was in Swansea University, they were
telling me about this concept of being the powerhouse that is being designed into a new
development in Neath by a housing associationóPobl, I believe. This development features solar roofs, shared
battery storage, the potential for electric vehicle chargingóbecause, obviously, in addressing
the carbon issue, we’ve got to do something more about electric carsówater heating from
a solar heat collector on south-facing walls, and waste heat being captured and recycled
within the building, and all these combined technologies will also help to keep bills
down, because these types of buildings as power stations are potentially able to cut
fuel bills for households by £600 a year and reduce energy consumption by 60 per cent. So, what can we do in Wales to ensure that
we build these types of innovative technologies into new homes and, in particular, into affordable
homes? Now, a few weeks ago, I met with one of the
big private house builders who are building 2,200 homes in my constituency, and 30 per
cent of them will be affordable homes, and we had a good discussion about community benefits
that they will bring to the areaóyou know, cycle tracks, and bus tickets for people,
and all those sorts of thingsóbut they are not introducing any of this energy-generating
technology, and they’re building, you know, 2,200 homes, and it’s part of a much bigger
development, because the population in Cardiff is growing and we’ve got 8,000 people on the
housing list, so we need these new homes. But I find it so dispiriting that there’s
going to be this widescale housing development where we ought to have this new technology
built into every single one. Think what a difference that would make to
the people who are going to live thereóas I say, 30 per cent of them are planned to
be affordableóthink how it would help with their bills and how it would save the futureóyou
know, the future generations. It would fit into all our policies, but all
these houses are now going to be built in Cardiff, and my guess is that it’s happening
with all the big housing developers, that there’s not any of this new technology being
built in. So, I wanted to ask the Minister, really,
what we could do about this. What can we do to persuade the private house
builders? They’re the big private house builders. What can we do to persuade them to think of
the future? And I would reinforce what Jenny Rathbone
said about the building regulations. Obviously, we can influence them by means
of changing the building regulations back to what was abolished. So, I wondered if the Minister could tell
us whether there are any plans to look at the building regulations and what we can do
to try to build for the future. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call on the Minister
for Housing and Regeneration to reply to the debateóRebecca Evans. Rebecca Evans AM: Thank you to everyone who
has contributed to what I think has been a really helpful debate that will certainly
set the panel off in the right direction in terms of understanding the concerns that there
are in this Chamber. I’m going to try and respond to as many points
as I possibly can, and I’ll begin with the issues of modular and modern methods of construction,
because that was raised by most Members who spoke in the debate. Of course, our innovative housing programme
has already supported 21 different projects across Wales that are very much in the spirit
of the kind of project that Julie Morgan has just described. In fact, that Neath project is one of our
innovative housing programme projects that has been approved under last year’s funding. The window for applications for the current
round of funding finishes this week. So, we are hoping to have lots more innovative
ideas coming forward. So, new ideas, but also ideas that build on
the programmes that we’ve already seen working over the last year as well. So, there’s lots more opportunity to improve
what we’re doing there. We really need to get to a point where this
innovation is available to roll out at scale, and where it’s commercially viable to ensure
that it’s in more houses on the kind of scale that Julie described. Part of that does involve looking at building
regulations, which my colleague Lesley Griffiths has responsibility for. But I can confirm that building regulations
Part L will be under review, which will commence later on this year. It was successful previously in terms of achieving
an 8 per cent and 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions against the 2010 standards
for new housing and non-domestic buildings respectively. So, I think now is the time for us to consider
how we can be even more ambitious in future. Rebecca Evans AM: The innovative housing programme
also provides us with an opportunity to see what more we can do using Welsh timber. I think that’s something that many of us within
this Chamber, and certainly across Government, are very passionate about doing. But we’re also aware that one of the challenges
that we do have when we’re talking about innovative housing is how we can ensure that the industry
is ready to respond in terms of skills. Again, this was something that was brought
up in the debate today. There is a keenness to ensure that we are
working genuinely across Government. So, the Valleys taskforce was mentioned, for
example, and I can confirm that the Valleys taskforce is looking at a really exciting
project involving what’s called a plot shop, which Rhondda Cynon Taf is leading on behalf
of the city region. That is about self-build and custom-build
homes. The local authority will provide the land. It comes with the planning permission already
there. The person who’s interested in that self-build
or custom building then chooses from a pattern book of homes, so even that’s already done
for them, and then they go ahead and build the house or instruct their builder to build
to those standards. So, it’s making self-build and custom-build
as easy as they possibly can be, and it’s something that we’re keen to explore in the
initial stages as part of the Valleys taskforce, but I think it has huge potential across Wales
as well. There was lots of interest in the debate in
terms of support for SMEs. It was asked particularly how we can expand
the support from the Wales property development fund. Well, we’ve already done that. That fund started off as a £10 million fund,
but it was so popular amongst SMEs we’ve increased that fund now by a further £30 million. Let’s not forget, that funding actually gets
recycled over and over again, so there are many opportunities for SMEs to benefit from
that, alongside the stalled sites fund, which we’ve introduced to free up some of those
sites that, for whatever reasonóit might be remediation or cash flowómay be a reason
why SMEs haven’t built on those sites as well. So, there’s lots of exciting work going on
in that particular sphere. The issue of rent policy was raised in the
debate, and that’s one of the streams of work that the panel have identified as being important
in terms of taking forward. When we’re talking about rent policy, I’m
always conscious that we need to be thinking about affordability for the tenants, and this
is why this is our last year now of the five-year agreement that we’ve had with the RSLs in
terms of setting rent policy. So we’ve asked Heriot-Watt University to advise
us on potential models to take this forward, and I did ask them to undertake round-table
work with tenants to understand affordability from their perspective, to make sure we are
striking that right balance of doing the right thing by tenants, but, equally, by giving
RSLs the funding that they need in order to continue to build homes, and particularly
affordable homes and social homes, because this is all part of the wider picture. Everything in housing is interlinked in that
kind of way. The issue of the opportunity for local authorities
to build at scale and paceówell, this is something that we’re particularly passionate
about driving forward within Welsh Government, and one of the ways we can do that is by looking
at the local authority borrowing cap. We’ve got £17 million within the existing
borrowing cap that is yet to be allocated, and we’ve been able to negotiate a £56 million
uplift to the borrowing cap from the Treasury as well, so that means we have £73 million
to allocate amongst local authorities. So, some final work is now going on with local
authorities to draft the procedures to enable local housing authorities to be bidding for
additional borrowing capacity, and we’re doing that working in collaboration with housing
and finance representatives of local housing authorities and the WLGA to agree the final
documentation there. We talked in the debate about housing need,
and this was the first of the work streams that the panel identified as needing to be
taken forward. There is a view that the Holmans report does
need to be updated, because, as I understand it, some of the data used in that dates back
to how households were forming back in the 1990s, so I think it is perfectly legitimate
to be looking to update that piece of work in terms of informing the way forward, because
this review is very much about the longer term. It’s not about quick fixes to housing, it’s
about meeting long-term demand. [Interruption.] Yes, of course. David Melding AM: If they can build on the
Holmans model and bring it up to date, that’s fine, but it was published just three years
ago. I think we can exaggerate how up-to-date you
may feel it is. Rebecca Evans AM: As I say, some of the data
within that does go back to the 1990s. I think whatever our data comes up with, whatever
Holmans data comes up with, I think we can all agree that we need to be building more
homes and that we want to be building more homes. So, we certainly have that area of commonality. I’ll just finish on the issue of housing as
a human right. This is something that various Members also
mentioned within the debate today. Although Welsh Government can’t legislate
to make housing a human right, we can nonetheless very much recognise it and operate within
the spirit of that. We do that in one way, for example, in our
housing first principles. The first principle of those housing first
principles is that housing is a human right, and that very much sets out the spirit in
which we are pursuing our housing ambitions for Wales. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: If amendment 1 is
agreed, amendments 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be deselected. The proposal is to agree amendment 1. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will defer voting under this item until
voting time, which brings us to voting time. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The first vote is
on the first supplementary budget debate for 2018-19. I call for a vote on the motion, tabled in
the name of Julie James. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 30, 23 abstentions, none against. Therefore, the motion is agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next vote is
on the debate on the affordable housing supply review, amendment 1. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2, 3,
4 and 5 will be deselected. I call for a vote on amendment 1, tabled in
the name of Paul Davies. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 12, two abstentions, 39 against. Therefore, amendment 1 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2óif amendment
2 is agreed, amendment 3 will be deselected. I call for a vote on amendment 2, tabled in
the name of Caroline Jones. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 15, no abstentions, 38 against. Therefore, amendment 2 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call for a vote
now on amendment 3, tabled in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 22, two abstentions, 28 against. Therefore, amendment 3 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 4óif amendment
4 is agreed, amendment 5 will be deselected. I call for a vote on amendment 4, tabled in
the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 22, two abstentions, 29 against. Therefore, amendment 4 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 5óI call
for a vote on amendment 5, tabled in the name of Caroline Jones. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 14, no abstentions, 39 against. Therefore, amendment 5 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: A vote, therefore,
on the motion as amendedóI call for a vote on the motion tabled in the name of Julie
James. Open the vote. Unamended motionósorry, I didn’t scrap one
of the amendments. Apologies for that. I call for a vote on the motion, which is
unamended, tabled in the name of Julie James. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 29, 12 abstentions, 12 against. Therefore, the unamended motion is agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: And that brings today’s
proceedings to a close.


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