The Assembly met at 13:29 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
On behalf of the National Assembly for Wales, I want to express our heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives or have been injured in the recent terrorist atrocities in Tunisia.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I have accepted an urgent question on this matter under Standing Order 12.66, and I call on Andrew R.T. Davies to ask the question.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
Following initial comments made by the First Minister on the tragic events in Tunisia, will he make a full statement on his current understanding of the situation? EAQ(4)2387(FM)
Yes, Presiding Officer. The facts, of course, have been widely reported. On 26 June, a radicalised university student, armed with a Kalashnikov, killed innocent tourists on the beach at Port El Kantaoui in Tunisia. He continued his attack into the Imperial Marhaba Hotel and onto the streets, where he was shot dead by Tunisian police. It’s believed that he was a lone gunman and part of an ISIL-inspired network, but Tunisian security forces are investigating whether he had support from possible accomplices.
Trudy Jones, who was 51 years old and from Blackwood, was on holiday with friends, and she is thought to have been on the beach in Sousse when a gunman began firing on Friday, and she was killed. Other Welsh people were injured or caught up in the terrorist attacks and further details are still emerging. It is unknown at this stage whether there are any further Welsh casualties or fatalities.
Llywydd, at least 18 British nationals have been killed and the number is likely to rise to around 30 as further identifications are completed. I can say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are leading the UK Government response to events in Tunisia, with logistical support from the Ministry of Defence. My officials have been in contact with the FCO throughout the weekend and, of course, remain in contact. I’m sure, however, that I speak for all Members in this Chamber when I say that our thoughts are very much with the families of those who are suffering so much at the moment.
Thank you, First Minister, for that detailed statement on your understanding of the horrors that unfolded in Tunisia, and, in particular, we on this side of the Chamber offer our condolences to the family of Trudy Jones, who, undoubtedly left on what was to be a very happy holiday and who is not to return. Our deepest sympathies go to her family and friends at this very troubling time.
We also acknowledge the heroics of many people as well, such as Mathew James, who acted as a human shield, protecting his fiancée and other members of his family; we can truly identify with such heroics in the face of such evil, but, ultimately, what we saw last Friday, regrettably, will not be the last incident of its kind unless we unite and face down such terrible terror events wherever they occur in the world.
I would like to ask two questions of you, if I may, First Minister. The first question is: how is the Welsh Government working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support Welsh casualties, Welsh survivors, and also returning tourists from the resort, who witnessed such horrors and atrocities that wouldn’t be out of place in a war zone, so that some of the sponsored bodies that the Government supports here in Wales, such as the health service and, in particular, social services, can, if they are required, offer that support for people who witnessed such a traumatic event? Some people will obviously be carrying injuries from that event. And what, given the discussions that his officials have had with the Government in Westminster, who lead on many of these issues, does he expect, over the coming days, announcements on the repatriation of people back from the resorts, and ultimately, any other news that we might expect on casualties, with another 12, at least, bodies to be identified, which could be from Britain?
At this moment in time, not all bodies have been identified. I can inform Members that I do receive the daily situation report from the FCO, and from the wider UK Government departments and embassy and consulate staff who are involved. It’s clear that there will be more confirmed fatalities. At the moment, the identification process is still ongoing. I know that there are many UK embassy and consulate staff on the ground, who are, at this moment in time, working closely with other UK departments and agencies to ensure that people can come home, and I know that the Ministry of Defence has been involved in that process.
At this moment in time, the objective is to identify those who have been killed, to return those who have been injured back to the UK, and then, of course, to deal with the injuries that people have suffered as a result of the events there.
I think it’s also worth noting that we understand that there will be a need to provide people with emotional support. There are many people who witnessed the events that occurred in Tunisia and they will, of course, have to come to terms with what they observed and witnessed when they were there. The Welsh NHS, of course, will stand ready to support all those people who need counselling, perhaps, in the future and any help with any physical injuries, as Members would expect. But, at this moment in time, the information that we have is that the effort is going in—this, of course, is what we would expect, inevitably—to identifying the bodies that remain in order that families may be properly informed and, of course, to ensure that people are returned home as quickly as possible.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
The leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
Diolch, Lywydd. I thank the First Minister for his statement, and I would like to echo the sentiments that have already been expressed here this afternoon. The attack upon holidaymakers in Tunisia last week was deplorable and reflected a heinous disregard for human life. On behalf of Plaid Cymru—The Party of Wales, I want to express my condolences to the families of those who were murdered and injured. Our thoughts go out to all people, wherever they live in the world, who have to live with the daily terror of violence. There is too much of it in too many places in the world, and this attack has brought it close to home. We too pay tribute to Trudy Jones and Mathew James.
Those lucky enough to return home have been left injured and traumatised, and the families of those killed have been left heartbroken. At times of such repulsive actions, humanity can be shown at its very worst. It can also show its best. It’s been reported that local people created a human shield around the resort in an attempt to protect those inside, and there have been further stories of care, compassion and bravery. At a time of such tragedy we can also see that people demonstrated the very best of humanity, and it is in that spirit that we can and must overcome the forces of hatred in all of its forms and of perpetual conflict. I’m sure that all of us here, and the First Minister, would agree.
Yes. It’s difficult, of course, to try to understand the mindset of the person who carried out these attacks. What we can say with firm certainty is this: the views of the gunman are not shared by the vast majority of the people of Tunisia. The views of the gunman are not shared by the vast majority of Muslims. We all saw film footage of local people trying to help. We all saw film footage of local people providing support to those who had been affected, and I thank the people of Tunisia for the support that they have provided.
We know that this wasn’t an isolated incident. There were other incidents across other parts of the world. We saw what happened in Kuwait; we saw what happened, but for very different reasons, in Carolina as well. Tunisia is a country that has made a good transition from being, effectively, a country that was un-free to an open democracy. It’s for that reason, I believe, that the country is particularly targeted by those who abhor democracy and those who wish to claim that democracy is alien to their own particular interpretation of a religious tradition. But the people of Tunisia, just as the people of Wales and the UK share with them, want to see freedom. They want to see prosperity and they wish to welcome visitors to their country safely. They will, I have no doubt, abhor the attacks that occurred in their own country, and their actions show how abhorrent these attacks were to them.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. Could I thank the First Minister for his statement and answers to questions this afternoon? The events of last Friday in the beautiful country of Tunisia are truly shocking to all of us and an affront to all right-thinking people of all faiths and none. I would like to offer on behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrat group our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Trudy Jones, and indeed to the whole community of Blackwood, which I know has been completely shocked by the events. The manager of the care home where she worked, transforming the lives of people, spoke very movingly of her record of service, but also spoke of the need to support one another. Would the First Minister recognise that those people returning, or those people touched in any way by this tragedy, will need support from services that are under the control of Welsh Government, and commit to making sure that those are made available?
As was said by Leanne Wood, there have been incredible tales of bravery emerging from Tunisia, whether that be hotel staff forming a human shield to protect tourists, or, indeed, Mathew James, who threw himself in front of the attacker to save his loved one. I understand that Mr James is now back home and is safe and in a stable condition at the University Hospital of Wales here in Cardiff, and I’m sure that we would all want to wish him well for a speedy recovery. First Minister, I know that a number of other tourists with serious injuries have been evacuated, but I understand that Mr James is the only Welsh citizen in that position. What discussions have you had, if any, with the tourism companies that have people continuing to be in those resorts and may be having difficulty in evacuating them? What can Welsh Government do to support any efforts to evacuate people who want to leave Tunisia as quickly as possible, and what ongoing discussions are you having with the Foreign Office about advice to Welsh holidaymakers who may be now frightened about plans that they have made for trips later on this summer?
I’m aware that at least one holiday company is offering refunds to holidaymakers who have booked holidays in Tunisia. The advice I would give to people who are considering whether or not to go on holiday to Tunisia is to follow the FCO advice; that’s important. It’s not for me to give them advice. It’s important that the FCO is able to do that, being, of course, the organisation that has people on the ground. In time, of course, it’s actually hugely important that people do go to Tunisia because, if the Tunisian economy suffers greatly because of a lack of tourists, that can only fuel the ideology that caused this atrocity in the first place, although people are bound to be nervous as individuals—that much we accept. I am aware of the fact that there is a significant operation that’s being carried out with the armed forces and with the FCO to airlift people home.
At this moment in time, it’s not clear whether any others from Wales will be identified as having been injured or killed. We are not in that position yet because not everybody has, sadly, been identified. Nevertheless, I am confident that the UK Government is doing all that it can in order to assist people from all parts of the UK who have been affected by this incident. The leader of the Liberal Democrats is perfectly correct to ask what services should be made available to people to deal with the aftermath. In many ways, of course, the physical injuries that somebody has are easy to observe, and treatment can be offered. But it’s the psychological scars that are less easy to identify and need, of course, to be identified as early as possible, and then, help given. There will be people, I have no doubt, who will require counselling after what they have witnessed. There will be people who will need extra help beyond that, possibly, in order to come to terms with what they’ve seen. We know, of course, that there are examples in history where people have survived events like this and then become immersed in a type of guilt: ‘Why me? Why am I somebody who survived?’ That’s something that’s very difficult to predict. Of course, it’s important that people, if they feel that way, do seek the assistance that they need in order to help themselves. At this stage, it is very difficult to know how many people will be in that position. But we, of course, stand ready, as Members would expect, to ensure that the Welsh NHS is there to help them.
I would like to add my sincere condolences to those already expressed to the family and friends of my constituent, Trudy Jones, who lived and worked in Blackwood. It is difficult to comprehend the sad and tragic circumstances. Trudy was a loving mother and a family lady who will be sadly missed. Trudy worked in Highfields nursing home in Blackwood. Her manager described her as an absolute angel and so kind—Trudy would help anybody at any time. I do ask for the family to be granted privacy at this very sad time.
I don’t think I can go beyond the words that the Member for Islwyn has used. What struck me in what he said was the description of Trudy Jones as ‘an absolute angel’, and that is something that has come clearly from those who are closer to her. I don't think I can add anything to what the Member has said. I think he has encapsulated Trudy Jones and what she meant to her community.
First Minister, the solidarity we see around this Chamber is an indication of the sort of solidarity that is really needed throughout the world as people unite to actually oppose the evil of intolerance and terrorism, not just from this event, but, unfortunately, for potential future events. I'd particularly like to welcome back to the UK Mathew James, who’s already been mentioned, a constituent of mine from Trehafod who, out of dark times and the most tragic and terrible times, is also an indication of the extent within our humanity that people can exhibit the most remarkable and outstanding bravery: an individual who threw himself in front of the gunfire and was shot three times protecting the life of his fiancée. He is now back in the UK. He is now receiving treatment. He is now very positive, and I wonder, First Minister, whether you have time and opportunity to send your regards and wishes to Mathew James.
I thank the Member for his comments. An outstanding act of instinctive bravery, I think, is the description that I would apply. I would very much like to send my best wishes to Mathew now, of course, and I hope to be able to go further than that over the next few days in terms of perhaps, if it's possible, being able to visit him as well, if that is convenient to him.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I have no other speakers, but I'd like to thank the Members for their very fitting tributes. I think we should all appreciate the day, and enjoy every day.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move back to questions on the paper, and questions to the First Minister, and first this afternoon is Elin Jones.
Promoting Tourism (West Wales)
1. What are the Welsh Government's priorities for promoting tourism in west Wales? OAQ(4)2376(FM)
West Wales is a vital part of Wales’s overall tourism offering. Our marketing, across all channels, will always feature tourism products in west Wales, alongside all the other parts of Wales.
First Minister, Cardigan castle will now be an important tourism resource in west Wales, and I thank you for opening the castle formally last week. I hope that you enjoyed being chaired as bard and having the traditional floral dance performed for you in Cardigan castle. Do you agree with me, therefore, that the model that has promoted and developed Cardigan castle of groups including the Cadwgan local trustees, the county council and the funding bodies all coming together to promote a heritage project as an economic and tourism project, will also bring benefits to the area in the future?
Well, I don't think that I’ll ever get the opportunity again to sit in a bardic chair, apart from this one time. May I say that Cardigan castle, in a way, was not a part of the town for many years, because of the fact that no-one could enter the castle? There was, of course, a woman who lived there, who was quite a character in the town, and, of course, the fear was that, once she passed away, the castle itself would fall into ruin. That’s not how it’s turned out, and may I pay tribute once again to the organisations that have been very active in ensuring not only that the castle is opened to the public once again, but that it has been made safe, secure, and that the house within the castle has been reopened again, because the place was in a terrible condition when I saw it about two years ago? So, no, it’s a very good example of what can be done when people are active in the community, working with the Government, and also able to get European funding—that was vitally important to the project—for the benefit of the local community.
First Minister, Skomer island and Marloes Sands in my constituency are the only destinations in Wales to have made it onto the list of the 10 best places in Europe for family holidays, according to the 'Lonely Planet'. Now, I'm sure that you would agree with me that this kind of recognition is invaluable in marketing Pembrokeshire internationally. Therefore, can you tell us what specific steps the Welsh Government is taking to take advantage of this and to promote places such as Skomer island?
Well, I've been to Skomer twice. I was on the island about two years ago, if I remember to. There were building has been refurbished on the island in order to be something that people would be able to use it when they are on the island, and of course the island is extremely important, with Sgogwm Island, also about the bird life is there. Of course, it is extremely important to Pembrokeshire. We have been working very hard with the tourism companies in the area to promote tourism in Pembrokeshire. For example, not too far from Skomer island there is a new Museum has opened in Angle, at Milford Haven there, on the banks of the Cleddau. Also, of course, there is also the money that’s been given to the Fishguard and Goodwick Chamber of Trade and Tourism to promote north Pembrokeshire as a place to visit.
First Minister, picking up the reference that you’ve just made, the potential for promoting tourism by attracting cruise ships to west Wales is considerable. However, ensuring a warm welcome and high-quality facilities is critical to developing the visitor experience. In that context, it was Fishguard and Goodwick Chamber of Trade and Tourism that just recently emphasised the importance of such infrastructure in developing that potential to the full.
First Minister, recognising the importance of supporting communities that are improving their destination management, what can Welsh Government do to further promote investment in the area, and also, potentially, to create a positive climate for the development of the long-awaited Fishguard marina?
Well, there are six cruise ports in Wales. Two of them are in Pembrokeshire, at Milford and Fishguard, and Fishguard has been identified, together with Holyhead, as the most suitable for the development of new facilities, given the depth of water and access to tourist attractions. In terms of the cruise business, I can say that a long-term strategy for the cruise business in Wales is presently being undertaken, because we know that the present port facilities generally are not yet adequate for the ships that are under construction now and over the course of the next five years. So, we are looking at how we can ensure that the great growth that we’ve seen in cruise business in Wales continues in the future, and our port facilities are able to accommodate the new ships that are being built.
The Welsh Government’s Cancer Strategy
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s cancer strategy? OAQ(4)2370(FM)
Our cancer delivery plan sets out the actions we are taking in cancer services and outcomes. Yesterday, for example, we announced how a further £1 million a year is being invested by the cancer implementation group to remodel and improve cancer services in Wales.
Thank you very much. You will be aware, First Minister, of the campaign by Mr Irfon Williams from Bangor, Hawl i Fyw—Fighting Chance. There has been good and promising news following his treatment in Manchester recently. Mr Williams has behaved with dignity throughout this difficult time, and he is very keen to meet with you to discuss the situation of patients similar to him. Would you be willing to respond positively to that request?
Well, I don't know yet what the aim of such a meeting would be. May I say at the outset that I’m very pleased to hear that things are going well for Mr Williams? His response to the drugs he’s on has been very unusual, and that’s to be welcomed. That shows something about his character, too, I would say, because of the fact that he has done so well. May I also say to Mr Williams that there is an opportunity for him now to make another application to the individual patient funding requests fund, IPFR, given that he has demonstrated that his response to the drugs he’s had access to has been exceptional? I have requested that the guidelines be amended to ensure that they are quite clear that, when people get a response like this to certain drugs, there is an opportunity to ask again for funding through the IPFR.
First Minister, one of the cancer legacies we suffer in Wales is from our industrial heritage and exposure to asbestos, and this 4 July is Action Mesothelioma Day, which hits this country particularly hard. Of course, there’s an event in the Assembly tomorrow lunchtime to promote this. Will you make a statement on the Welsh Government’s support for the highlighting of the incidence of asbestos and Action Mesothelioma Day, and for people who live with this terrible condition in Wales?
Of course. I understand the Deputy Minister for Health is due to attend the Senedd event tomorrow. We welcome, of course, the charter that’s been drawn up by Mesothelioma UK. We will of course continue to work to ensure enforcement agencies are protecting people from the dangers of asbestos. We were saddened that the Member’s own Bill was rejected by the Supreme Court.
First Minister, your Government’s cancer strategy states that the Welsh population should have an excellent chance of surviving, wherever they live in Wales. As with any plan, what matters is delivery. How will your Government improve cancer survival rates if the practice of downgrading urgent referrals from GPs is allowed to continue, knowing that no two patients are alike, knowing that the general referral system of ticking boxes and red flags cannot hold true for every patient, and knowing that we cannot have a tailor-made patient? Thank you.
I’m not sure I understood the question, but if we look at our figures, we know that, for 31-day waits for treatment and 62-day waits for treatment, we are ahead of England. The reason for that is that GPs are being vigilant in referring people. The vast majority of people who are referred to specialist care, who are suspected of having cancer, happily don’t turn out to have cancer, but it’s absolutely right to say that our GPs have done an excellent job in referring people as quickly as possible. We see that in the statistics, and we expect to see that reflected in the five-year survival statistics and beyond, over the next few years.
Early detection is a very important part of the cancer delivery plan. Is the First Minister aware that Breast Test Wales has the highest cancer detection rate of any screening service in the UK? What does he think can be done to improve the uptake in the other screening services, such as cervical cancer and bowel cancer?
It’s to do with publicity, of course, and making people aware of the potential risks, and also making it as easy as possible for people to access the tests. Breast Test Wales is an excellent example of where that’s been done, with mobile units and with awareness being very high amongst women. We are seeing the benefits of that. The Member’s absolutely right to say that, with every cancer, early detection is crucial. With some cancers, early detection isn’t possible, but breast cancer isn’t one of those. So, early detection for that particular form of cancer is absolutely fundamental to increasing someone’s survival rate beyond five years in the future.
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to questions from the party leaders. First this afternoon is the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
First Minister, the person who’s been tipped to be your next party leader has said that Wales was underfunded when he was your party’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He said that he maintained the Government line and didn’t speak out. First Minister, how would you describe someone who says something publicly knowing it to be untrue?
Well, I lead my party in Wales, so I don’t know who you’re talking about.
That’s a very flippant answer, First Minister.
It’s not a surprise at all that you have sidestepped the issue, because you sidestep issues every week here. This is a question about the NHS, about our schools, and about our communities suffering from decades of underinvestment. If the then Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury knew that Wales was being short-changed almost a decade ago, why did your party choose to do nothing about it?
I am not here to explain the actions and comments of others. It’s a matter for them to explain. What I do know is that we have been the party pushing hard for the funding floor. My view is that Barnett is no longer relevant, and it’s about time that Wales got its share of funding and that Scotland wasn’t seen as untouchable as far as funding is concerned. Would she join me in saying that Scotland should be funded according to need and that Barnett therefore needs to go?
First Minister, I am here to speak on behalf of Wales. [Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
For you to distance yourself from a Labour leadership contender is quite staggering. First Minister, your party introduced the funding formula that disadvantaged Wales from the very outset. You refused to address the matter when your party formed the UK Government in 1997, and your party said nothing when it was elected to lead the first devolved Government. You’ve sat on the Holtham report, and you refuse to take responsibility for raising just some of the money that you spend. You refuse to support parity of funding for Wales with Scotland. First Minister, what is it about Wales that makes your party want to single us out for disadvantage?
Again, the obsession with Scotland. Does she not listen to Dafydd Elis-Thomas—
You raised Scotland.
[Continues.]—on her own benches? She doesn’t like to be criticised, does she? There’s a streak of intolerance there. Does she not listen to Dafydd Elis-Thomas on her own benches, who said last week that the obsession with Scotland was costing her party? Why doesn’t she just, for once, make the point about standing up for Wales, as we do on these benches, rather than talking about Scotland on and on, and on and on? It shows that we on these benches are the true party of Wales. [Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you. We now move to the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, your Government has set a target to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. Between 2012 and 2013, the last time figures were available, greenhouse gas emissions in both England and Scotland fell by some 4 per cent. Could you explain why, in Wales, we saw an increase of 10 per cent over the same timescale?
Yes. It’s to do with industry and it’s to do with increases in production, particularly in industries such as Tata Steel, which, of course, are major contributors to carbon emissions, but without which, of course, we’d end up with many thousands of jobs fewer in Wales. So, in some ways, it’s as a result of increased economic activity. But, nevertheless, it’s true to say that inevitably has an effect on carbon emissions.
First Minister, I can’t help think that that’s a bit of an excuse. Over a quarter of coal burnt in Europe is burnt by Germany, and they are significant producers of both steel and iron—in fact, the biggest producers of steel in the EU and the seventh-biggest producer of steel in the entire world—yet, since 1990, Germany have decreased their greenhouse gas emissions by 27 per cent, while still producing both steel and iron, compared to just a drop of 12 per cent in Wales. In Scotland, electricity generation from coal increased in 2012 and generation from gas fell, yet Scotland have managed to reduce their emissions, too. Does your Government remain committed to delivering on the 2020 target?
Well, we have the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and that explains our position as a Government. We have environmental legislation and there are challenging targets that have been considered as part of that legislation. Now, it’s correct to say that we do have—I would suspect disproportionately high—energy-intensive industries that employ many, many thousands of people. One way of cutting our carbon emissions at a stroke would be to close those facilities down. We don’t want to do that; we want to make sure that people have those jobs and it means that trade-offs have to be made. That doesn’t mean, of course, you ignore the situation. I know that Tata, for example, have been exceptionally proactive in reducing their carbon footprint and reducing their energy use.
First Minister, Germany can produce more steel than anyone else in the EU and still bring its carbon emissions down. Perhaps, Presiding Officer, the First Minister misheard me: is the First Minister committed to delivering his 2020 target? Because he didn’t actually say that he was. Now, one way to actually make the sea change that you need to make in dropping carbon emissions is actually to ensure that we are open for business and can do business in small scale community-owned renewable projects—just like Germany, actually, where community-owned renewables account for almost half of its electricity generation—yet companies like Dulas here in Wales say it’s harder to do business in Wales than anywhere else in the UK. Will your Government look at international lessons we can learn where community-owned renewables account for such large parts of generation to ensure that you can indeed, if you’re still committed to it, reach your 2020 target?
Yes, we’re committed to the target and, yes, we want to see more community regeneration projects, and that’s why, of course, Ynni’r Fro was put in place, but I have to say that the chances of seeing an increase in renewable energy are almost zero, given the UK Government’s decision recently to withdraw all subsidies from onshore wind and to withdraw all subsidies from photovoltaic cells. I don’t know whether they’ve bought a lot of hamsters to run on wheels in order to power electrical generation over the course of the next 10 years, but it does show the vacuity of UK energy policy under the current UK Government.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I now move to the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, what is your understanding of the current state of play around the basic payment scheme?
We’re looking to see which of the options we should look at, whether there should be a flat rate or whether there should be an area rate.
This is a huge issue of concern for rural Wales and, in particular, many thousands of farmers the length and breadth of Wales. It is because your Government was taken to court back in December and caved in on the steps of the court that obviously the industry has so much uncertainty about the future payment rates, which are still to be announced by your Government. Can you tell us when the Welsh Government will be bringing forward the announcement so that the industry can at least have some certainty? They might disagree with the model that you’ll bring forward, but they do need to be working in an area of certainty.
That is ongoing at the moment. As I said to the Member, we’re looking at at least two models as to how the system will work. I am confident that we will have a system in place in order to pay farmers in good time, as we always have done in the past.
So, I deduce from that that you have no idea when you’re going to make this announcement. I mean, obviously, there has been speculation—[Interruption.] There’s been speculation that you’re going to make that statement at the Royal Welsh Show. But, whichever way the statement is made and confirmation is brought forward, do you believe that there will be a significant impact on the payment window, which starts on 1 December, or do you believe that the Welsh Government will be able to make the full payment to businesses, come 1 December, that is so important for the survival of those businesses the length and breadth of rural Wales?
Well, I mean, Members in the Chamber here from all parties said, ‘Declare your interest’. He didn’t do that. But, from our point of view, we are confident of the fact—he doesn’t have to worry about being paid, I’m sure—that payment will be made on time, and as we have always planned, in the future. We’ve been in this position before where it has been a challenge to put in place a new payments system, but that has been done. There will be an announcement in a very short space of time as to how the system will work, and I have no doubt that farmers need not fear that payments will be made on time, as we in Wales have always done in the past.
Can I raise a point of order, Presiding Officer?
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
A point of order? I’ll take it now; it’s usually taken later.
That’s why I’ve stood up, because the First Minister believes that I’ve asked a question because I have a personal interest in it. It was a general question that affects the interests of agriculture generally. [Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
The Members’ declaration of interests clearly shows that I am a farmer. I have an interest, obviously, in the scheme. There is no hiding of that interest. [Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
There is no undeclared interest. I appreciate that on the Labour benches, obviously, they’ve tried to use the press before—
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I’m sorry, can we just reach the point of order?
[Continues.]—to besmirch politicians in this Chamber. But I don’t believe it is appropriate, when I’m questioning the First Minister, for him to cast aspersions that I am motivated out of personal gain.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I’m sorry, that wasn’t a point of order.
I’m sorry, Llywydd, but if the leader of the opposition has made a declaration he should tell people how much money he gets. That’s transparency.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
That’s out of order, that.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I don’t intend to pursue this. What Andrew R.T. Davies raised wasn’t a point of order. It was a point of information. But I don’t wish to continue that debate.
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on attracting cruise ships to Wales? OAQ(4)2377(FM)
Welsh Government is working to promote Wales as a high-class cruise destination. In 2015, 46 ships will visit Wales compared with 23 ships in 2014—an increase of 155 per cent as of 1 Jan 2013.
Thank you for that response. There was some disappointment in Holyhead recently when a large cruise ship was turned away from the port, mainly because of concern that the current jetty—an industrial jetty, of course—was inappropriate for a cruise ship of that size in the prevailing weather conditions. But I am sure that the First Minister would agree with his Minister for economy that we can’t leave such an important industry to chance. There is a part of Holyhead port, part of the quay, that could be developed into a purpose-built dock for cruise ships of this kind. Can the First Minister give a commitment to support and assist any feasibility work to consider the possibility of that kind of development and also to give support in any way the Government can to ensure that that kind of development can take place?
Roedd yna broblem, mae’n wir i ddweud. Rwyf yn deall bod y broblem wedi cael ei datrys ar gyfer tro nesaf y bydd y llong hon, y Celebrity Silhouette, yn dod i Gaergybi ym mis Awst. Ond yn y tymor hir, mae’n bwysig, wrth gwrs, i ddatblygu’r porthladd er mwyn sicrhau bod mwy o longau yn gallu dod i mewn i’r porthladd ei hunan. Fel y dywedais yn gynharach yn yr ateb a roddais i William Powell, rydym ni’n ystyried beth a ddylai’r strategaeth fod ar gyfer y porthladdoedd yng Nghymru sydd yn cymryd llongau fel hyn, ac rydym ni’n deall, wrth gwrs, bod Caergybi a hefyd Abergwaun gyda’r cryfaf o ran beth sy’n gorfod cael ei wneud i ddatblygu’r porthladdoedd yn y pen draw. Rydym ni’n i gyd yn moyn gweld Caergybi yn tyfu, wrth gwrs, fel lle sydd nid yn unig yn cymryd ‘ferries’ mewn o’r Iwerddon, ond hefyd fel rhywle sydd yn dod â thwristiaid i mewn i Gymru.
First Minister, in September last year the Deputy Minister for Sport, Culture and Tourism stated that the first American cruise ships would start to dock at the newly improved Llandudno pier from 2015. With ports in the south and west of Wales having already welcomed their first cruise ships of the year, can I ask the First Minister for an update on when Llandudno will be fully open for business? I think it’s important that we don’t just raise expectations without looking at the full, practical implications. Is it possible for cruise ships to dock at the Victorian Llandudno pier, or for passenger tenders to dock at old Victorian wooden jetties? Thank you, First Minister.
Well, it is the case, of course, that at one time there was a regular summer passenger service to the Isle of Man that left from the pier in Llandudno—I remember that very well—but not for some years. But, nevertheless, the work that is needed to identify whether Llandudno would be able to take cruise ships, or, indeed, other forms of visitor ships in the future, is still ongoing.
First Minister, when a big cruise liner goes into port, obviously, it makes a huge impact on that one day and that one location, but, if we want a more sustainable approach to attracting cruise income for Wales, then something like the Hurtigruten, which operates in Norway—which stops point to point in many, many places along the coast—and stays within our local economy, might actually be a more sustainable option for our smaller tourism businesses, and I’m wondering what discussions you’ve had about developing those shorter and smaller cruise operations.
These are things that are being considered as part of the long-term strategy to attract cruise business into Wales. Of course, we want to make sure that we attract ships of different sizes. The emphasis has been on making sure our facilities can cope with the bigger ships in the future. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we ignore the potential that is there with the smaller cruise ships as they sail around Wales.
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on access to primary care in Mid and West Wales? OAQ(4)2381(FM)
Yes. Health boards, including those in the mid and west, are implementing local plans to improve access to the right care, at the right time, closer to home.
I thank you for that answer. Last week, Hywel Dda Local Health Board announced the recruitment of two new consultants to Withybush hospital, and that is extremely welcome. At the same time, the health Minister gave the go-ahead for the £20 million Cardigan health centre, and that again is fantastic news for that region. Do you agree with me, First Minister, that these developments demonstrate a confidence in the future, and what impact do you think this could have in terms of attracting new primary care professionals to that area?
Hugely important. I know the mid Wales healthcare collective, and the work that’s gone on around that, has been hugely important in terms of working with practitioners to develop a healthcare system for the rural west. We’ve seen the investment that’s been made into Withybush. We’ve seen also consultants in Withybush providing solutions themselves to particular issues, particularly with regard to A&E, and, of course, the announcement about Cardigan will provide a fantastic health centre, including a minor injuries unit and other services for the local community.
Unfortunately, none of the consultants recruited were consultant urologists, and this is an area that has been pushed out to GP surgeries. This is a time in people’s lives when they are desperately needing to see someone quite quickly; they’ve often got a problem with their—I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten the word for it; the equipment that is attached to them. The problem is that a lot of GP surgeries do not have the consultant nurse or doctor who is able to attach such devices to people, and so we’ve got a lot of people within the Hywel Dda trust who are struggling to get urology services at a community level or at a hospital level. And I wondered, First Minister, what you can do to urge Hywel Dda to look at rectifying this situation because it affects an awful lot of people, especially gentlemen with prostate cancer problems.
I will write to the Member on that. More generally, of course, we would want to see GP surgeries providing services like that that don’t have to be provided in hospital; that much is true. The finance has to be arranged for that—we understand that. I’m unaware of the particular issue with regard to neurology, but I will write to the Member with the findings of my investigations.
One of the most prominent concerns brought to me by people in terms of primary care services is the waiting time for an appointment with a GP. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that there is very often a shortage of practices that have a number of GPs, particularly in mid and west Wales. So, what assessment are you making as a Government of the need for some of these patients to see a GP or, indeed, how could they be seen by advanced nurse practitioners, particularly those who are able to prescribe also? It appears to me that this method could be introduced in order to reduce the delays in GP surgeries.
I believe that’s a fair point. Of course, we’ve asked people to choose well, and the first port of call should be a pharmacy and then a practice nurse within a GP surgery and then the doctor himself. A nurse can do a lot to assist people, of course, and there is no need, therefore, to see the GP. I know that there are examples across Wales where systems are in place in a number of surgeries where people are able to see a nurse without an appointment—you just go in—and, of course, nurses can deal with the majority of problems that people present with. Therefore, we would encourage surgeries to consider that kind of system in order to take the pressure off the GPs, so that they don’t have to deal with cases that they don’t need to see, and, of course, to make it easier for the public.
First Minister, earlier this year, your Government renegotiated the general medical services contract to create a sustainability fund to protect access to primary care in deprived and rural areas. It was anticipated that that fund would be available by the end of June, which is today, and that fund is going to be absolutely crucial in securing the ongoing provision of a GP service at Llanwrtyd Wells. Can you confirm that applications to that fund will now be able to be made by general practitioners who wish to access it?
I’m not aware of there being any difficulty in terms of that fund. It’s there for a reason, and the Member’s outlined that reason. I’m familiar with the situation in Llanwrtyd, but it is important, of course, that when the fund is made available, the applications are made in order to ensure that rural family medical services can be preserved and enhanced.
Child Poverty Programmes (Engaging with Parents)
5. How does the Welsh Government ensure that its child poverty programmes engage fully with parents? OAQ(4)2371(FM)
Well, family engagement is at the heart of Flying Start, Families First and Communities First, because supporting both parents to achieve better employment, health and education outcomes is a central part of tackling poverty.
Well, successive reports have recognised the importance, for the welfare and development of their children, of both parents remaining closely involved in the lives of their children following separation, and yet fathers frequently feel excluded from services. What data, therefore, do the Welsh Government compile and hold on the levels of engagement with fathers by Welsh Government programmes, including Flying Start, Families First and Communities First, or otherwise how does it monitor this important matter?
I suppose it’s difficult to actually monitor levels of engagement from fathers, but I can say to the Member that we do expect local authorities to actively promote services to fathers and support their engagement. Many services are providing dedicated support specifically tailored to the particular needs of fathers, including providing fathers’ groups and employing dedicated dads’ workers, as they’re called. Training has also been provided for staff to ensure that they are better able to engage with fathers and to build relationships with them.
First Minister, would you agree with me that community-focused schools are very important in terms of engaging with parents and communities? Far too many of our schools are still closed at weekends, weekday evenings and, indeed, school holidays. It would be very beneficial for parents and communities in Wales if we were to have more consistent accessibility and availability of our schools. I wonder if you would commit to exploring possible mechanisms to achieve that greater consistency.
We would encourage, of course, schools to be made available as far as possible to the community. The difficulty is sometimes the design of the school. The older schools are not designed to be secure for use after school hours and newer schools are. We would expect any new-build school to be able to be accessible to the community beyond school hours and that needs to be reflected in the design of the school itself. I’ve seen many examples across Wales where a certain section of the school can be kept open beyond schools hours and the rest of the school can be kept secure, and of course the facilities of the school and, indeed, outside of the school—the school grounds—can be made available. So, yes, in the future, all schools will be in that position, but there can be some difficulties with some of the older schools that weren’t designed to be open after hours.
First Minister, last week in questions you showed a very strong preference in relation to Flying Start in Croeserw and Glyncorrwg—that that service should be continued within the communities where it had started and that those communities should not have to travel a great distance to access that service. Later in that meeting, the communities Minister also said that it should continue in September and has written to Members to that effect.
I’ve now had a letter, which David Rees has received from the chief executive of Neath Port Talbot council that he has shared with campaigners, in which the chief executive effectively says that the alternative provision will be available elsewhere in the upper Afan Valley and that he doesn’t feel that there is any obligation on the council to continue that provision within the existing communities of Croeserw and Glyncorrwg—effectively directly contrary to the assurances that we’ve had in this Chamber. Is it possible, First Minister, that Ministers here could liaise with Neath Port Talbot council to ensure that from September this year Croeserw and Glyncorrwg do have a continuation of that Flying Start service in their own communities?
Well, I haven’t seen the letter, but I will ask the Minister to look at the issue on behalf of you, and, of course, the Member for Aberavon, to see what the current situation is.
First Minister, it is strange to hear the Welsh Conservatives talking about child poverty when we know that George Osborne is planning a £5 billion tax credit bombshell for his emergency budget next week, despite their pre-election promises. Of course, if the briefing from the Treasury is to be believed, their plans will slash incomes for 2.7 million families, with many families set to lose £1,700 a year. Would you agree with me that if the Welsh Conservatives are serious about child poverty, they should focus their efforts on getting their UK Government to change their spending plans?
Absolutely. We used to say to people, ‘If you get a job, your income will increase.’ That’s just no longer the case. We are seeing more and more examples of in-work poverty, and the proposals that have been put forward would make that worse. I think it could be summed up in this way: the Prime Minister says he wants to remove benefits and tax credits for those in work; he will then try to beg employers to pay more and if they don’t, tough luck. That’s basically where the Prime Minister is at the moment. It’s unfair, unjust and, above all else, naive.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
6. Will the First Minister make a statement on child and adolescent mental health services in north Wales? OAQ(4)2378(FM)
Yes. We’ve recently announced an additional £7.6 million a year to support work under way to improve CAMHS across Wales. That represents an 18 per cent increase in current resources.
Thank you. You will be aware of the immense concern as regards access to services, in particular, for those suffering from eating disorders—I currently have a constituent who is under specialist treatment now in Staffordshire—and it does beg the question why there is no eating disorder unit in Wales. I’m given to understand that the north Wales adolescent centre in Abergele has got six beds long-term empty, has the community intensive support team outreach there, is a secure and well-supported environment, has a school facility, gymnastics provision and all the infrastructure therein for an eating disorder unit. As this is a specialist facility that’s been bought and paid for within the past five years—I’m going to be looking into this more closely—would you work with me to look at this as a possibility for a treatment centre for those with eating disorders, because this really is on the rise?
Well, it depends, of course, on the availability of specialists, and it depends on the numbers of people going through a facility, because, inevitably, with unusual conditions—and thankfully, eating disorders are still unusual, although I take the point that she makes about them being on the increase—it’s important that people with eating disorders are treated in specialist centres with specialists who see that condition, day in, day out, week in, week out. I would not want to see a facility open where that expertise was lost to the patient.
So, we want to see the best services available to the people of Wales. If that means that, at the moment, the best services are available in England, we don’t want to create a wall between Wales and England in terms of that service being available to people living in Wales.
The centre in Abergele has a very good reputation, but it is very difficult to get access to it. There are young people in my constituency, and in north-west Wales, who very often have to wait for months, when they are most vulnerable, until they are assisted by specialists. What can your Government do to ensure that young people who are in such a need do have access to these crucially important services at the right time?
Well, I have alluded, of course, to the additional funding that has been announced. That funding will help people, not just to receive treatment but it will ensure that people don’t become part of the criminal justice system, and, of course, will also assist people in receiving treatment outside the institution of the hospital and have treatment in the community.
First Minister, the number of young people waiting for over 14 weeks has increased over these past two years in north Wales—from 20 in April 2013 to 385 by April of this year. The health board in north Wales has a history of not using funding allocated by the Welsh Government, if you look at the minutes of the Public Accounts Committee, for example. How, therefore, are you ensuring that this funding is used according to the purpose designated by you, and will there be a need for the health board in north Wales to have a specific action plan that each of us can monitor?
That funding is designated in CAMHS, and it has to be used to ensure that the services under CAMHS are ultimately enhanced. Each health board will have to prove that the funding has been used on that.
7. Will the First Minister make a statement on the future of technical advice note 8? OAQ(4)2373(FM)
TAN 8 provides a robust framework for the planning of renewable energy in Wales.
First Minister, you’ll be aware of the thousands of my constituents who descended on the National Assembly for Wales in 2011, calling on your Government to scrap or review TAN 8. As TAN 8 nearly entirely focuses on onshore wind, it does seem to me now that it is largely irrelevant, following the UK Government’s announcement to end subsidy for onshore wind. Will you be bringing forward a new TAN that will focus on support for a much wider mix of renewable energy?
Well, TAN 8, of course, has nothing to do with the mid Wales conjoined inquiry. It’s all a matter for the UK Government. It has nothing whatsoever to do with TAN 8 at all. Nothing. Yes, protesters came here, but they were protesting, I suggest, in the wrong place, because it was the English national planning statement that was being used to deal with this.
I have absolutely no idea what forms of renewable energy the UK Government is trying to promote, if I’m honest. Onshore wind has gone. Photovoltaic cells have gone. Offshore wind is hugely expensive. We have the tidal lagoon, but there’s no sign of a strike price on that. I am mystified as to where exactly energy policy is going because, at the moment, it’s simply a question of closing off avenues in terms of energy generation, without opening up new ones. I’ll wait to see what the UK Government has in terms of its plans to see how energy will be generated in the future. Because, at the moment, not just myself but the energy companies themselves are concerned, and they’re beginning to worry about whether the UK is actually a wise place to invest.
A wider scheme and targets, for example, would also assist your Government, First Minister. May I ask you, as the planning Bill now means that we in Wales will have a national development framework, does that mean that the days of TAN 8 are numbered?
Well, every TAN, of course, is revised from time to time, but there’s no point in having targets without the funding, and we don’t have the funding. We know that the renewables obligation certificates are going, and it’s not possible for us in Wales to attract means of producing energy into Wales. There is no point in having targets without the tools to ensure that the targets can be reached. We know what the situation is, of course: we want to see the devolution of more powers to the Assembly and to the people of Wales, and we wish to see the devolution of the system of subsidies, as has happened in Scotland. The reason why Scotland—and I admit that I’m going on about Scotland now—has done so well is because of the fact that Scotland controls the money that’s available to these companies. We’ve suffered because of the fact that we’re under the England and Wales system, but no-one has a clue as to what the current policy of the UK Government is on energy. Even the companies themselves don’t know.
Action to Protect and Support Local Heritage
8. Will the First Minister provide an overview of Welsh Government action to protect and support local heritage? OAQ(4)2379(FM)
Local heritage gives our communities and towns their distinctive character and so it deserves our appreciation and protection. We are introducing a range of measures that will support the identification and management of heritage of local interest.
You have seen how historical buildings like Llanelly House can, with creative thinking and financial support, become national treasures. Last week, the Minister for Public Services published an important statement on the sale of playing fields and the regulations therein. Given the financial pressures on local authorities now, expenditure on assets such as Parc Howard in my constituency has been brought to the attention of the cabinet member responsible in Carmarthenshire County Council. Do you agree with me that there should be a test of public interest and a full consultation before any decision is made to sell such a site?
Three points: firstly, this is a matter for the council. Secondly, what the Member has said is very sensible in my view as regards his comments; I would not disagree with them. But, thirdly, of course, this could become something that comes within the planning system, so Ministers can’t say any more on this at present. But, as I said, the Member has made his comments; they are very strong ones and I hope that Carmarthenshire County Council are listening to him.
First Minister, following oral and written questions from me, your previous heritage Minister gave me certain reassurances about Neath abbey in my region, which comes under Cadw control. Only this month, local members of the community have had to lobby the local council in order to provide a bin big enough to keep the site tidy, so that visitors don’t see it looking a mess. Neath abbey should be at the forefront of Cadw’s national maintenance and development programme, the forefront of destination management plans, and the forefront of the faith heritage plans. What evidence can you give me that the Welsh Government sees it the same way?
I know that the Minister is in regular contact with Gwenda Thomas, as the Member for Neath, and I know that Neath abbey is a hugely important asset, not just for the town of Neath and the surrounding villages, but for the wider area. It represents a hugely important part of our past in Wales, and both ourselves as a Government, and indeed, Cadw, find it particularly important to make sure that it’s heritage that is maintained for the future.
First Minister, it’s become apparent this week that if the Rhondda tunnel were to reopen, it would be the longest tunnel for at least six months of the year, because there is one in Washington state that is closed for six months of the year. Could you do more as a Government—I know that the Minister for the economy is looking at the situation at present in order to encourage other areas to restore such tunnels—to ensure that tunnels across the south Wales Valleys can be restored and commemorated as an indigenous part of our heritage?
I know that the Minister has funded a study of the tunnel itself, which is a very good idea and I pay tribute to the local people who have considered this issue. But, we will have to see the outcome of the study to see what’s possible in the future.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement and I call on the business Minister, Jane Hutt, to make the statement.
There are two changes to report to the business statement for this week’s business. The Minister for Education and Skills will make a statement on the Welsh Government response to the Donaldson review. The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport will make a statement updating on the metro system. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among agenda papers, available to Members electronically.
Leader of the house, it is possible to have a statement from the Minister for education in relation to transport to faith schools? Rhondda Cynon Taf in my own electoral region are out to consultation at the moment in respect of charging for school transport to faith-based schools in the area. This is causing huge concern to governors, pupils, staff members and parents, who basically see this as a discriminatory move in making access more widely available in the RCT area for faith-based schools. I understand that a similar exercise was undertaken in the city of Swansea, where it was subject to a judicial review and the judicial review found in favour of the petitioners. I would be most grateful if a statement could be forthcoming, outlining what the Welsh Government expects local authorities to deliver in terms of school transport, and what his interpretation is of the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008, which says that there is an expectation that transport should be provided on the same basis that transport to Welsh-medium schools is provided. So, I would be most grateful to understand what that expectation is from the Welsh Government, in relation to that legislation, and, of course, the implications of the judicial review findings that were recently handed down in respect of the case in Swansea.
Clearly, Andrew R.T. Davies will be aware of the circumstances, particularly the financial circumstances, facing our local authorities as a result of the cut by the UK Government, which, of course, is now having an impact on tough and difficult decisions having to be made at a local level. But, clearly, as Rhondda Cynon Taf council will clearly recognise, this consultation about these changes will have to abide by Welsh Government guidance.
Can I request a debate during Government time on animal welfare, to include fox control? Whilst the ban on fox hunting is not devolved, although many of us in this room probably think it ought to be, I believe it would be beneficial for the Assembly to express a view.
Well, Mike Hedges, as he said, is quite clearly aware that hunting with dogs is a non-devolved issue. It’s a matter for the UK Government. We are aware, of course, of the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto—there is a commitment to a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act 2004. The Welsh Government strongly opposes any possible repeal of the Hunting Act, and we would hope that the UK Government would have other priorities for its legislative programme.
May I request another statement from the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology on the decision to abolish funding for Careers Wales for vetting work experience placements for school pupils? The Deputy Minister has said that she believes that it’s possible for the schools to carry out this work themselves. Schools in my constituency are certain that that isn’t possible and, indeed, that they don’t have the time or the skills to do so in a safe manner. As work experience is considered to be an important part of children’s education, it is important that we should listen to the views expressed by professionals. According to one headteacher, he says that the letter was written by someone who clearly hasn’t been anywhere near a school for many years. So, may I ask for a further statement on this situation?
Alun Ffred Jones has raised this point, I know, and I will get an update from the Deputy Minister for skills on the current situation regarding Careers Wales and its responsibilities.
Minister, later on today we’re going to be hearing from the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport about a huge investment in public transport infrastructure here in south Wales, which is very welcome. But, yesterday, Powys County Council closed its consultation on taking £0.5 million-worth of bus routes out of the county. It will leave some of the villages and hamlets of my constituency without any access to public transport at all. This has caused a huge amount of angst for elderly people, for whom simply going to a shop and buying a pint of milk or a loaf of bread will become an impossibility without the help of a neighbour, or for young people who are trying to access work opportunities. Your Government is very fond of publicising the initiative of Bwcabus in Carmarthenshire, which I understand has made a real difference to public transport infrastructure there. I wonder what the Welsh Government could do to help promote that scheme in other parts of Wales as a viable alternative to public transport route closures.
I thank Kirsty Williams for that question. Of course, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has intervened where she can, within her powers, which are constrained in terms of bus regulation, engaging with local authorities and, indeed, initiating as well as supporting initiatives like Bwcabus. I think there are opportunities that have been used, certainly in the last round of the rural development plan, in terms of funding. Certainly, there are community bus services around Wales that have access to European funding. I know that this is being looked at by Professor Stuart Cole, who is looking at the impact of, not just Bwcabus, but those kinds of community access to community transport schemes around Wales, and I’m sure the Minister will report back on that in due course.
Minister, could I ask you about two areas? Firstly, will you join me—I'm sure you will—in welcoming the proclamation of the Eisteddfod at Caldicot castle last week? The crowds who turned up to see the parade through the town and, indeed, the ceremony itself clearly illustrated the enthusiasm and excitement for this event in Monmouthshire, and it certainly bodes well for next year.
Secondly, can I ask for an update from the business Minister on the programme of upgrades to the A40 through northern Monmouthshire? I've had correspondence with the Minister on the issue of noise mitigation at the Bryn near Abergavenny for some time now; it's an old concrete road surface that’s in need of replacement. I'd like to hear an update on that, and also on the issue of the junction of the A40 with the old Raglan-Monmouth road, scene of many accidents and near misses over the years, and, again, a source of much correspondence between me and the Minister. I wonder if we can have a statement on how the Minister is keeping the issue of dangerous road junctions across my constituency and, indeed, the rest of Wales under review to make sure that adjustments are made to those junctions before we have any more accidents.
Thank you very much, Nick Ramsay. I'm sure we are all very pleased to hear about the warm welcome in Monmouthshire for the proclamation at Caldicot castle of your forthcoming National Eisteddfod, and I'm sure you're also engaging in helping to raise the funds with your community, and in making sure that it's going to be a very important event in your county and in your constituency. Great opportunities, of course, as a result of that siting of the National Eisteddfod in Monmouthshire.
On your second point, of course, this is a matter that the Minister keeps under very close and careful monitoring with her officials and, clearly, not only with you engaging with her on particular incidents, but also recognising those dangerous points on the A40 that, of course, in terms of her road safety policies, are very key to her actions.
Notwithstanding the statement this afternoon on the development of the metro, I wonder if I could also request a statement specifically on the electrification of the Great Western main line from London to Swansea, given the UK Government’s statement last week that rowed back significantly on Network Rail’s investment plans. Now, whilst I understand that the UK Government have stated that that electrification project is a top priority, for me, that statement has stopped really quite worryingly short of guaranteeing that that project will not only go the full distance to Swansea, but will go the full distance on time as well. Any delays or curtailments to that project could have serious consequences for passengers across Wales, and I'd welcome a full statement on this.
I'd also like to request a statement from the Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, if I may, on the 2017 Champions League final, which, it was announced earlier today by UEFA, will be coming to Cardiff. It is hugely welcome news, and I'm sure we'd all congratulate all of those who've worked towards this, but I would value a statement outlining how the Welsh Government will be working with the stadium, with tourism and industry officials, and with the transport industry here in south Wales to make sure that we give all of our visitors and viewers across the world the best possible experience and showcase everything that Wales has to offer through that event.
Thank you very much, Eluned Parrott. Of course, you will be aware that, last week, on your first question, the Prime Minister did make clear his personal commitment to electrifying the main line from London to Swansea, so, we would therefore expect no slippage regarding the project, despite the ongoing commentary about that. But, I have to say that the Welsh Government and the business community in Wales have been very clear about the economic case for electrification, and the Minister reiterated this in a very constructive conversation with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Claire Perry, today. The changes to Network Rail are welcome, and we've been pressing for an overhaul of this organisation for some time. So, I hope that gives you some indication of our engagement as the Welsh Government in terms of pressing forward with this project.
Well, I know that the Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport has been working hard to achieve this very good news, and thank you for welcoming the fact that Cardiff is to host the 2017 UEFA Champions League final. This is very great news; it's just been announced, and I know that the Deputy Minister—he's not with us at this point this afternoon—is working hard to ensure that we achieve all those benefits that you have outlined, Eluned Parrott.
Minister, can I ask for a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services in relation to mental health care in north Wales? Obviously, this Chamber, and everyone in Wales, was shocked to read the Tawel Fan report, which came about as a result of an independent investigation into mental health care on that particular unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital. But there are emerging concerns being reported in the media over the quality of care on the Heddfan unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, and I think, Minister, that the public will be seeking reassurances from the Welsh Government that, should those allegations be substantiated—and they are only allegations at the moment, granted—the Welsh Government will do all that it can to ensure that any poor care is being rooted out and dealt with? So, I wonder whether the Minister for Health and Social Services will be able to provide an update in Government time on that particular issue.
Thank you, Darren Millar. Of course, the Betsi Cadwaladr health board is responsible and very clearly aware of its responsibilities in relation to the delivery of mental health services. The recent allocation that we have made as a result of consequentials to the health service for mental health has not only been implemented and delivered, but also the Minister has announced the way forward in terms of that spend, and, clearly, putting mental health at the forefront of our priorities and the forefront of our commitment in terms of delivering effective health and social care.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you, Minister.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to item 3, which is a statement by the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food—‘Towards Sustainable Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020’—an update. I call on Rebecca Evans to deliver the statement.
It has been a year since we launched and published ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’, the action plan for the food and drink industry, to map out the delivery of the priorities previously identified in the strategy ‘Food for Wales, Food from Wales’. The plan identifies 48 actions across five priority themes to achieve sustainable growth in the food and drinks industry in Wales. The plan has been, and continues to be, about action. It is predicated on partnership between Government and industry.
We are a pro-business Government, working closely with companies to create growth and jobs in every part of Wales. We have established an overarching and challenging target of 30 per cent growth in sales by 2020, and we are on course to achieve this target. The latest priority sector statistics for farming and food reported a £5.8 billion turnover, which means that we have already achieved 11.5 per cent growth since 2012-13. I have committed to a baseline data study, which is due to report soon. It will, for the first time, provide disaggregated data analysis of the food and drinks manufacturing sector and the subsectors within. I will share a copy of that report with Assembly Members in advance of its publication.
I am pleased to announce today that we have full membership to the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. Whilst it has taken longer than expected, it was essential that the right composition was achieved, and I am pleased to confirm that the board has a very impressive line-up as well as a gender balance. The board will provide strategic direction to Government on the delivery of the action plan. The board is the voice of the industry, for businesses of all sizes and across the supply chain. It is vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry, and this is where I see the board playing a major part.
The members are: Norma Barry, InsideOut Organisational Solutions; Annitta Engel, D.B.G.E Limited; Catherine Fookes, Organic Trade Board; Justine Sarah Fosh, Improve; Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing; Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn; David Lloyd, Zero2five Food Industry Centre; Katie Palmer, Sustainable Food Cardiff; Llior Radford, Llaeth y Llan; Andy Richardson, Volac; Justin Scale, Capstone Organic; Marcus Sherreard, Dawn Meats; Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce; and James Wilson, Welsh Fishermen’s Association.
I would like to thank Robin Jones for all the work he has done as interim chair. Robin was appointed to guide the board through its establishment, and he has dedicated himself to this whilst leading his own company through significant expansion. Robin will now stand down at this point to focus on his company at this important time in its development, and board members will soon elect a permanent chair. Under Robin’s direction, we have begun the important work of providing the food and drink industry in Wales with a dynamic, industry-driven voice, which I believe will help deliver a new era of opportunity, growth and success. The ‘Bwyd a Diod Cymru’ identity is being redefined. It’s an overarching identity, which has been successfully used at UK and international exhibitions. The current work is scoping its capabilities and developing the imagery and the narrative that tells the story of Welsh food and drink.
I have launched the new Food and Drink Wales website, to improve two-way communications with industry, to promote business support, report on trade success, identify new opportunities, and provide updates on policy development. Social media channels have also launched to add to our communications platform. We have hosted a number of events this year to celebrate the best of Welsh produce, including the celebration of last year’s 120 Welsh Great Taste Awards winners. Earlier this month, we also hosted the judging of Welsh entries for the Great Taste Awards 2015. The number of entries increased by 25 per cent from 2014, to 491 products. I wish all those who entered good luck for 31 July, when the results will be published.
The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism and I recently launched ‘The Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales 2015-2020’. Increasing the prevalence of local and regional foods in our shops and on our menus offers immediate and direct benefits to our Welsh economy. Our programme of food events support has been revised after extensive consultation, and the new tiered support reflects the diversity of food festivals and all other food-related events across Wales. There are many actions in the plan to support the development of all food businesses in Wales that have the potential and ambition for growth.
We have witnessed the delivery of £10.8 million of new business investments in 2014-15, which has safeguarded over 1,365 jobs and created 450 new jobs in food. I have recently agreed to the development of business clusters starting with a microcluster dedicated to the needs of the smallest businesses. We are also developing an impact business cluster to target businesses looking to grow at a rate of 50 per cent a year. These programmes will have at their heart business leaders who will help shape and lead their development—in effect, strategic intervention led by business for business. To develop community benefits, which includes our priority of tackling poverty, our support programmes will work with businesses to deliver the living wage to the food industry workforce.
I recently announced that we are investing over £2.5 million during the next two years to ensure that Wales continues to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. Trade events in 2014-15 resulted in Welsh companies securing nearly £6 million in additional business, with further opportunities identified of over £16 million. Our trade development programmes offer a range of support to improve commercial skills with the aim of opening up opportunities for producers to supply retailers, discounters, wholesalers, foodservice and independent stores. The trade engagement element of the programme seeks to build and enhance relationships and secure more listings of Welsh food and drink products.
Meetings with some of the major retailers in recent months have created new listing opportunities for 30 Welsh products and new channels to market, including online. A dedicated team will help food businesses access rural development plan funding for their development needs in a straightforward way. The food investment schemes will be ready to launch soon under the new rural development programme. To achieve a joined-up approach to our skills development, our focus will be doing so through the skills implementation plan and the skills gateway to provide a simple, single access point for employers and for the workforce to identify training needs and to source appropriate support.
Food Innovation Wales will represent the rebranding of our research and development partners to firmly establish Wales as the centre stage for food innovation. We have also been supporting the development of the Dietary Food and Drink Wales Alliance to act as a catalyst for new product development and innovation in dietary food products. This work will be ongoing. The result of it will be seen on our shelves in years to come, but it does demonstrate that the food and drink industry in Wales is always developing and adapting to market forces.
Last year, we took 14 companies to Food Matters Live, a new event dedicated to food, health and nutrition. The event brought together the industry as a whole to tackle one of the most important challenges of our time—the relationship between food, health and nutrition. Alongside our work to promote the Welsh food sector, we will also work with the industry to encourage the provision of healthier choices through reformulation, more appropriate portion sizes, healthier options, wider availability and better labelling. I am convinced, Presiding Officer, that we are on the right path to delivering on our priorities of economy, health and education through a prosperous, resilient and sustainable food economy.
Thank you, Deputy Minister, for your detailed statement and update on the action plan for the food and drinks industry. The Welsh Government does have a very ambitious plan to grow the food and drinks sector by 30 per cent, by £7 billion, by 2020. That’s very much to be welcomed. It’s a challenging objective, but one that the industry thinks is achievable, with the right support from Government. Minister, you mentioned in your statement that the industry has grown by 11.5 per cent since 2012-13, but will you outline what the year-on-year growth has been in the food and drinks sector since the action plan was published a year ago? With regard to the overall growth objective, I’m sure you would agree with me it’s important that this growth goal represents real-terms growth, rather than growth as a result of food inflation. So, would you confirm that the growth goal will be measured in real terms?
When the action plan was launched, your predecessor said, and I quote, that the plan is ‘completely focused on delivery’, and that all actions are time-specific and will be measured against outcomes. Indeed, the very first action was to establish a food and drinks industry board, which would be fully established in 2014, and we were told that this board would be fundamental to the successful achievement of the 30 per cent growth goal. Therefore, I welcome the announcement that the board has now got its full complement of members; I welcome that announcement today. It doesn’t have a chair yet, and is yet to be fully established, so will you set out clearly why it has taken 12 months for the board to be fully established? I understand that the first meeting of the shadow board was originally scheduled to be held in December but didn’t take place until March—the introductory meeting didn’t take place until that point. I know that you felt that initial applications for the board’s membership weren’t representative of the whole food supply chain, and I’m pleased that you say the board now has the right composition, but why do you feel that there was a reluctance on behalf of parts of the industry to apply? Small businesses, for example, may struggle to take time away from their businesses, so how does the Welsh Government intend to ensure that this important part of the food and drink sector is adequately represented?
By my estimations, the board is partly or wholly responsible for delivering and monitoring progress against no fewer than 39 out of the 48 action points contained in the plan. Therefore, given the delay in establishing the board, has progress stalled on 39 actions, and are you confident that the board will be able to deliver the action plan milestone dates, or will they have to be deferred or adapted in some way?
On a different matter, I would also be grateful if you could explain how the Welsh Government is looking to support small and medium-sized food festivals, which may struggle to access the same level of sponsorship, compared with some of the larger food festivals. Perhaps you could explain what the Welsh Government’s rationale is for cutting the funding for the small and medium-sized festivals when the action plan states that the food festivals have a beneficial impact on creating market development opportunities for microbusinesses.
I know that you’re also keen on developing our export markets, and that is to be welcomed. That mustn’t, of course, be at the expense or to the detriment of our home market. So, will you outline how the action plan seeks to develop a strong Welsh identity for Welsh food and drink and how you will be ensuring that there is a holistic approach to the promotion of home-grown produce here in Wales as well as abroad?
The action plan also puts great emphasis on the need to address the skills gap in the food supply chain. But, in spite of that aspiration, I have been contacted by a number of businesses that have shared their frustrations at the difficulty in obtaining information on how to access training or financial support. So, would you outline what funding is available for small businesses to access training and how the Welsh Government is promoting training within the sector?
Finally, the action plan has also committed to ensuring more opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises and micro producers to supply the public sector. So, what has the Welsh Government done to enable public sector market opportunities to be developed for the food industry and, in particular, for SMEs and micro food businesses?
I thank the Member for his questions and for welcoming the fact that we now have the full board up and running. We’ve rehearsed the arguments several times in terms of why it took longer than we had hoped to get that full board up and running, but that was because we didn’t have the breadth across the industry or a board that was as diverse as we would want it to be as well. Now we have got to that point, so I am very pleased with that. That doesn’t mean, as I’ve told you before, that the board hasn’t been up and running until now. The shadow board has been extremely active over the most recent months in terms of advising Welsh Government and taking ownership of the plan under the leadership of Robin Jones. The fact that he is standing aside as chair at this point to focus on his own ever-expanding business is actually an inspiration to the rest of the food industry in Wales, and shows just what can be achieved, because his business has gone from strength to strength and it continues to go from strength to strength. That’s the kind of thing that we want for all of our industries in Wales.
You asked specifically about how we can make sure that small businesses are able to achieve their potential. One of the things that we are doing is introducing a food cluster programme, and we’re starting that with those micro clusters. The aims of those would be to bring together people so there’s significant improvement in the level of knowledge and understanding about the opportunities in terms of the market that are out there, because, often, micro companies are coming to this very new, and they don’t really have an understanding of just what opportunities are out there—and there are many of them. We’ll be looking for those clusters to have new networks and to develop opportunities for collective bidding for procurement, as well. So, the clusters, I think, will be a real springboard to great success for many of our micro businesses in Wales.
You asked specifically about food festivals. Our food division has supported the development of food festivals now for 12 years. Twenty-eight food festivals were supported last year, with a total grant of £184,311. Following a review of food festivals, however, we’ve redefined the support that we’re offering. That’s taking into account our food and drink action plan and the responses that we had to our review of the food festivals in Wales. So, we now have a food festival grant scheme for 2015 being operated via a tiered system to reflect the varying size and make-up of the different food festivals in Wales, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of situation. So, funding of up to £5,000, £10,000 or £25,000 is being made available to food festivals. This was operated through two application windows this year. The first was in March and the second in May of this year. The outcome of the first application window was released in April, and the outcome of the second will be released very shortly indeed.
In terms of further support for those smaller businesses, we know that it can be difficult for smaller businesses to stop trading or to take time away from their business in terms of taking up opportunities to meet their skill need and so on, which is why we’re doing work through the skills implementation plan, allowing businesses to identify their skill gaps but offering the training through the online skills gateway—so, professional development that is there and available without having to leave work for too long.
You asked also about procurement. Procurement is, obviously, a way in which we can seek to grow the industry in Wales. I’ve spoken just in questions last week and given some data as to how we’re doing in terms of procurement. There is certainly room to improve, but we are procuring a significant amount for the NHS and schools from our Welsh food and drink businesses. I’ve commissioned a report that looks at the distribution infrastructure in Wales in relation to public sector procurement, and that will help us optimise the supply chain for businesses of all sizes, and allow smaller businesses to come together to bid through our new national procurement service for public sector contracts in future as well.
May I also thank you, Deputy Minister, for your statement this afternoon? But there is no getting away from the fact, as we have already heard, that many people within the sector who contact me feel that the Government has been dragging its feet in this area. I remember hearing your predecessor, back in September 2013, saying that there was an ‘urgent need' to establish the board. It has taken two years and we are saying ‘Well, at last, the board in place’. Time has passed and people do feel that momentum has been lost.
There was talk about creating a new Welsh food and drink identity, and you’ve said that that now is being redefined. I'm sure, Minister, that you’d be willing to recognise that this hasn’t been ideal and that you understand why there is some frustration out there. Perhaps you could explain to us what steps you going to take to regain the momentum that is necessary to ensure that the sector does progress as it should.
I want to echo the thanks you have given to Robin Jones. It is regrettable that he wants to stand down, but it is clear that the business must come first. The word 'soon' appears too many times in the statement, as far as I can see. You say that a new chair will be appointed ‘soon’. Will that happen at the next meeting of the board, or can you give us a little more clarity as to when that crucial role will be filled?
I welcome the commitment that you have made in your statement in terms of data. We certainly need a clear baseline for the subsectors. I assume that you will then use those data to establish growth targets for each subsector individually. If you do so, perhaps you could confirm that you will then update those statistics annually so that we can measure progress.
Many people had great concern that the Wales the True Taste awards had come to an end. You will recall that, I'm sure. You refer to the Great Taste Awards in your statement. The intention, if I understood it correctly at the time, of course, was to create alternative Welsh awards. Can you confirm that that remains the intention, or are we to assume that the Great Taste Awards will take over from thereon in?
I am sure that you will be more aware than any of us of the difficulties facing the food sector’s core producers in Wales. There isn’t a week that goes by without us hearing about further cuts in the price of milk, for example, and the Arla announcement this week is just the latest in a long line of those. Will you reiterate here this afternoon your commitment to the early implementation of all the recommendations in the Andy Richardson review of the dairy sector, particularly that around the use of European funds? Reference has been made to funding from the rural development plan—and the word 'soon' appeared again in that context. Can you be more specific as to when you anticipate that funding starting to flow in that direction?
As regards public procurement, as has already been mentioned, it was interesting to note the report of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, published last week, which acknowledged that 63 per cent of the food and drink that is procured by the public sector in Wales comes from Welsh businesses. It was also interesting to see the specific sectors within that where achievement was not so good, particularly the armed forces, police and the fire service: the figure was apparently 22 per cent. Perhaps you can elaborate on what specifically you as a Government are doing to try to increase procurement levels in those sectors specifically. Also, I am sure that you, like me, Minister, will be keen to encourage local authorities in Wales to follow the example of the Plaid Cymru-led authority in Gwynedd, which ensures that 100 per cent of the county’s schools source their food from local sources.
There is undoubtedly a key role for the supermarkets in this regard. When responding to me this afternoon, perhaps you will want to give us an update on any further discussions that you’ve had with supermarkets about ideas such as the one that has been mentioned previously on the development of specific aisles for Welsh produce, and how they're going to actively promote Welsh products.
Finally, you’re quite right to make the point at the end of your statement on the importance of the link between food, health and nutrition. Only a little while ago, the ‘British Medical Journal’ warned that the next public health crisis we will face in this country will be malnutrition among children, and that here in Wales, in a country where 86 per cent of our landscape is designated for the production of food. That’s not acceptable and doesn’t make any sense in any way. In that context, what consideration have you given, for example to giving a role to the young farmers movement in educating children and young people about food sources and the importance of eating and growing food locally, and, perhaps in looking at the longer-term future of that organisation, to giving them a role as some sort of food ambassadors for children and young people in Wales?
I thank the Member for the questions. I’ll start where he left off in terms of the young farmers and so on. You’ll be familiar with the Cows on Tour initiative, which is taking farmers into schools to talk about farming to young people, often in urban areas, who have perhaps not become engaged with farming, rural life and so on. I think that’s a really great initiative, and it is supported by one of the supermarkets as well, so that’s a positive move.
With regard to supermarkets, the multiple retailers do dominate the industry, with the top eight retailers accounting for about 82.6 per cent of the market share. So, it is important that Welsh Government and the industry itself have good working relationships with those supermarkets. One of the things that we do is host regular meet-the-buyer events. That brings together the major retailers, but also others, for example in tourism, hospitality, some of the high-end London stores but also smaller local buyers and so on. They bring them together with our food and drink producers, and we know that contracts often come the way of our food and drink producers as a result of those meet-the-buyer events. They’re tremendously successful, and this is something that I’m committed to making the most of as we move forward as well.
I’m pleased that the Welsh retail consortium was established last year. I think that’s providing us with a really good forum in order to have those ongoing discussions with the supermarkets through that as well. I’ve committed again to meeting with the supermarkets in the near future to discuss what their particular plans are individually for Welsh food, Welsh produce and Welsh producers as well. Obviously, I do meet them on farm business and so on when I go and visit their development farms and so on, but I think specific meetings to discuss their plans for Wales are very important as well.
You referred to the potential for European funds and the rural development programme. The rural development programme will play a key part in helping us deliver on the aspirations in our food and drink action plan, and we’ll be doing that through the food business investment scheme and the supply chain development scheme, and also through knowledge transfer and innovation through Farming Connect. Our food division are already working with businesses in developing a pipeline of potential products for the RDP, to include those schemes that I’ve mentioned. ‘Soon’ in this context relates to the opening up of expressions of interest windows from July, so from next month. There’ll be several of those expressions of interest windows opening over the course of the summer. As you’d expect, I’ll have more to say on that particular point over the course of the Royal Welsh.
You asked about the True Taste awards. True Taste never really gained the traction that we would’ve liked it to gain in Wales in terms of what the public’s understanding was of it, retailers’ understanding of it and in terms of food producer engagement with it. However, the Great Taste awards are a well-known, well-respected brand. It’s got a lot of excitement around it. It was great to bring the Great Taste judges to Wales for the first time over the past few weeks, and they spent a couple of days fully immersed in Welsh food and drink, seeing the very best that we have to offer. We put on a great programme for them, and the buzz and the energy around it were amazing. We had writers for the major national newspapers and, again, buyers for the high-end stores. This was a real opportunity to showcase Wales to the wider world, and I think that we grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
I’d like to thank the Minister very much for today’s comprehensive statement. While acknowledging the frustration of the hiatus that there’s been in setting up the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, I think it’s right to pay tribute to Robin Jones for his sterling work in these early months. I’m also particularly pleased to see the inclusion of Buster Grant within the team, because he’s been enormously supportive to young microbrewers particularly across Wales and has been very fulsome in the time that he’s made available to support them in the work that they do. In the action plan that was published last year, it was noted that, in relation to the 30 per cent growth target, a level of detail was not available to enable a breakdown between farming and food manufacturing or between sub-sectors, such as red meat, eggs and, indeed, horticulture. It was said at the time that the intention was for these information gaps to be filled early on in the life of this plan. Deputy Minister, I’d be very grateful for an update as to how we are proceeding with actually filling those gaps so as to get a better overall picture.
I’d also like to have some further detail on how you propose to foster a more positive climate in Wales for organic production. You mentioned, again in the action plan, that the nature of the organic supply chain fits more easily into a green economy model, but it is difficult to see any specifics here in relation to how you plan to harness the opportunity provided by organic production to lower the carbon footprint of the sector. Evidence from the Wales greenhouse gas emission inventory showed that, between 1993 and 2013, agriculture accounted for some 12 per cent of Wales’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. There’s also some very interesting work being undertaken at the moment by the British Veterinary Association on this and related matters. It is not an insignificant figure, this 12 per cent figure, and there is certainly room for significant improvement.
In that context, and also given a recent scrutiny session by the Environment and Sustainability Committee, we heard from the Organic Centre Wales that they felt that there was something of a loss of focus in Welsh Government policy in this area and I would welcome your reassurance in this matter.
I also share the concerns regarding the gap in the market that there is following the demise of the True Taste awards and I would urge you, Deputy Minister, to consider again whether or not there is not a role for a refreshed approach there to bring competition and focus on the sharing of good practice rather than relying entirely on what the Great Taste Awards would have to bring.
Between 1999 and 2013, Welsh food and drink exports increased by some 113 per cent, set against an increase for the whole UK of just 103 per cent. I’d be very interested to know what these figures are to date, so that we can better understand the extent to which momentum in this direction has been maintained since the unveiling of the overall strategy.
Finally, at last week’s celebration of Welsh food sponsored by the National Farmers Union, Stephen Terry, the Abergavenny-based hotelier and chef, spoke of the need, which we’ve heard about in this Chamber already today, to make sure that the fantastic Welsh produce that we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep is readily available from local suppliers, supermarkets and, indeed, on the menus of our restaurants. Minister, in that context, it would be very useful to have any update you have regarding dialogue with the sector and with supermarkets as to how best practice in terms of sourcing locally can be fully achieved.
Finally, in relation to food security and the sustainability of Welsh food production, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of mention, or, indeed, prioritisation, of any reference to safeguarding the future of farming itself. Without farmers, we’re going to be in a very difficult place indeed with regard to the delivery of this strategy.
I thank the Member for those questions. I’ll start on the issue of exports, and my apologies to Russell George, because I know that he mentioned that in his questions as well.
Since 1999, Welsh food and drink exports have increased by 102 per cent and, as of last year, the value of the food and drink exports from Wales was £263.3 million. Our top exports are dairy products and bird eggs, cereal and cereal preparations, and meat and meat preparations. Ninety per cent of our food and drink exports from Wales are to the rest of the European Community, so I think that is quite a stark picture in terms of how important the European Union is to us in terms of our food and drink industry and our exports there.
However, we do know that only one in 10 of our food and drink businesses at the moment actually export at all. So, I think that we’ve only really scratched the surface in terms of what is achievable and in terms of what’s possible for exports. The development of both new and existing export opportunities is a priority for the Welsh Government, and some of those actions are set out in our action plan.
We have a comprehensive programme of export support for businesses and that helps businesses to go and attend international fairs to showcase their products. We have a number of food and drink producers in New York as we speak today, and they have access to around 27,000 buyers from major American stores, retailers, hospitality and so on. So, we have a great showcase over there at the moment, but that’s just one of many international events that we hold. I recently announced funding of £2.5 million to allow our Welsh food and drink businesses to attend these kinds of fairs over the next two years.
You referred to organics and organic production being particularly important in terms of our green growth agenda. The organic market in Wales is worth £96 million through supermarket sales and estimated to be around £100 million to £140 million through all of the different retailers, including the smaller local and farm stores and so on. Organic businesses have reported a 53 per cent increase in sales in the last year and we expect these trends to continue—I think that’s really good news—and dairy is a particularly expanding part of the organic industry as well. So, I think that’s also very positive.
Specific actions within the food and drink action plan relate specifically to the organic sector. These include increasing sales of Welsh produce at supermarkets, collaborating with sector partners on joint market development and promotional activities, reducing our ecological footprint, sustainable jobs and green growth, and the national food and nutrition strategy, which is also referred to in the document.
You did mention horticulture, so, it’s worth noting that the sector is relatively small. However, we are seeing it grow slowly. So, I think that that’s an interesting observation as well.
You asked about greenhouse gas emissions, and, of course, the wider RDP is very important in terms of how we target our money in terms of getting value for money from those people who are beneficiaries of it in terms of helping Welsh Government meet its international and own goals in terms of cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. So, under the new RDP, people who are in receipt of funding from it will have to demonstrate that they are delivering green growth, so, they’re delivering goods that are good economically, socially and environmentally.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you. We’ve already used up the time allocated by the Business Committee, and I have three more speakers. So, can I ask the rest of the speakers to be a little more concise, if possible? Jenny Rathbone.
Thank you, Llywydd. I just wanted to pick up on the point you made about the horticulture industry being small but growing, and how we can develop that much more quickly. Because, if we want all our local education authorities to locally source their school foods, as Gwynedd is doing, as mentioned by Llyr Gruffydd, we’re going to have to develop a great deal more fruit and vegetables to make that possible.
You will have seen the farm to fork series featuring a farmer, Gareth Wyn Jones, and the difficulties he had in sourcing local food to enable primary schools to deliver exactly that, healthy food for life, for primary school children in Cardiff. I just wondered, when we have so much diet-related disease across Wales, and too much of the food that we import is actually poisoning our communities on the altar of profits, what we can do to deliver a much healthier nation through developing more of our own food industry.
Now, I’m sure you’ll be aware of the ‘Good Food for All’ report that was published last week, with a foreword by the Presiding Officer, which asks us to consider three things to deliver a Good Food Nation in the first instance: one, boosting the power of purchase so that we use our procurement powers to ensure that we are procuring local food and stimulating local markets. The second is to deliver good food in the public sector. So, that’s not just here in the National Assembly, where we obviously have an excellent catering service, but in all our Welsh Government canteen outlets. The third, and most important in my view, is getting Food for Life in all our schools. If Oldham can do it, why can’t Wales?
What can we do to ensure that, under your action point 2, quality and traceability, we ensure that we are developing the Food for Life catering mark, so that parents and children understand and know where food comes from and are eating a healthy, balanced diet? Because ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’ is the title of the report that was published last year; the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 obliges us to do that, and the social need to tackle diet-related disease across the nation, particularly amongst the poorest communities. I wondered if you can tell us a bit more about how we’re going to do that.
Thank you for those questions. The Welsh network of healthy school schemes encourages the development of local healthy school schemes within a national framework. I’m sure that you’re very familiar with those. Ninety-nine per cent of maintained schools are actively involved in that at the moment. Officials are currently liaising with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the school milk strategy going forward, and this is how we implement the EU school milk scheme for the years 2015-16. This is something on which I’ll be having discussions with my counterparts at the next agri council in Brussels in July. Officials are also in ongoing discussion with education in terms of the curriculum, to explore opportunities to include more healthy eating education in the school curriculum, and the Food Standards Agency are also engaged in that agenda. So, that’s just an example, really, of how cross-cutting the food and drink action plan is, touching on almost every part of Welsh Government and our responsibilities.
The Welsh Government’s created and imposed mandatory nutritional standards for food and drink served in schools, but also to patients in hospitals. Voluntary guidance has also been developed for other food served in hospitals, for example, to staff and visitors and so on, and for leisure centres, youth clubs and pre-school settings as well. We also have an all-Wales nutrition care pathway, which has been introduced across all wards, and that’s supported by an all-Wales menu framework. So, these are some of the frameworks that Welsh Government colleagues have put in place in order to address some of the issues to which you referred, beyond the food and drink portfolio itself.
The horticulture sector: the output at the moment is around 2.3 per cent of the total share of the Welsh agriculture industry. It’s worth about £1.3 million, or it certainly was the last time we had figures for. In terms of the sector, there are around 1,500 hectares of land being used for horticulture at the moment, but, as I say, it is growing. Glyndŵr University, under the previous rural development plan, secured funding for the delivery of the horticulture supply chain project. That was called Horticulture Wales. That was through the supply chain efficiency scheme, and that was to undertake market intelligence, act as a central reference point for Welsh horticulture businesses, and identify and evaluate market opportunities, and also assist in the development of brands for horticulture and meet the demand for Welsh produce. That’s due to come to an end in 2015, so very shortly, but I will be looking at that to see what we can learn from it and what we can take into the next rural development programme.
Minister, thank you for your statement. I would be grateful for some very long and detailed answers to the short and pertinent questions that I have to put to you today. Obviously, we need to protect the primary agricultural sector, because without the primary product—milk, beef, lamb, cereals—then there’s very little chance of having a processing sector that can add value and meet some of the goals that you set out in this statement. I have to say, I’m not convinced by your actions to date that you are looking after the primary sector. Can you give us some assurance that your interests are in making sure that we have a very vibrant beef, sheep, milk and arable sector to provide the processing food that we need to turn into the shelf product that consumers buy? Then, feeding into that, what actions are you taking to develop a processing sector here in Wales? In south Wales, for example, we haven’t got a major milk-processing facility, whereas 10 years ago there were several, and, in north Wales, there isn’t a major abattoir to process lamb and beef, which are obviously the primary produce of that particular area. So, whilst the words in your statement are very welcome, how are you actually going to implement lots of that in practice, given that the track record of the Welsh Government to date has been lamentable?
I would have found your contribution a little bit more helpful had you been able to go into some kind of detail as to your concerns as to how I have been supporting, or not, the Welsh beef, sheep and milk sectors. So, I look forward to that. As I told you last time during questions, with regard to our dairy plan, we are currently scoping out that option and looking to do that project for the south-east Wales processing for dairy. I have told you that previously. With regard to the way forward, you’ll be aware that we recently launched our agriculture strategy for Wales, and that was developed in partnership with the industry itself. So, it’s certainly Welsh Government and industry standing shoulder to shoulder to drive the industry forward to where we need it to be, in terms of being an industry that is profitable for the farmers, delivers public goods for Wales, in terms of being resilient to market forces and to unexpected events such as weather and so on. So, the Welsh Government is fully behind the industry, and we are working fully in partnership with the industry.
One aspect of your food and drink strategy is wine from Wales. The Minister for the economy and I visited the Pant Du vineyard in the Nantlle vale recently.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
You really should get your translation sorted before the event—before your actual debate. Are you all right now? Yes? Alun Ffred, could you start again?
I was talking about the food and drink strategy and the importance of Welsh wine. I mentioned that the Minister for the economy visited the Pant Du vineyard in the Nantlle vale, and that you intend to visit it in the near future. Saying ‘vineyard’ and ‘Nantlle vale’ in the same sentence still seems rather exotic to my mind. But the produce of the south of England vineyards get a lot of attention and marketing these days, but there is very little promotion and marketing of wines from Wales. Indeed, if you go on the wines from Wales website, you will see—English wine producers: Wales. So, do you intend to meet with representatives from the industry—there are 15 vineyards in Wales—in the near future, in order to give more of a boost to wines from Wales?
Yes, I do intend to do just that. I have a visit planned for Pant Du, and also Ancre Hill, to discuss issues facing the wine industry in Wales. Actually, it’s quite an exciting time, I think, for the wine industry in Wales. Welsh wines are gaining an international reputation, aided by Welsh Wine Week, which I think gives the industry a boost, and we’re looking at the New Zealand model to develop a home-grown wine industry, and we think that that model might have some relevance to us here in Wales as well. So, I think in terms of the drink sector, which will be a hugely important part of delivering on our ambitious plans for the food and drink sector, to grow it by 30 per cent by 2020, it is looking like a very exciting area. We know that cider in particular is the fastest growing of our drink sectors. I do my bit, as I can, for that. [Assembly Members: ‘Hear, hear.’] Thank you. And I think there’s a lot to be excited about in terms of Welsh wine, Welsh beer, Welsh lager, cider and perry and spirits and soft drinks.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to item 4, which is a statement by the Minister for Public Services on the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015—one year since its introduction. I call on the Minister, Leighton Andrews.
It’s been a full calendar year since my predecessor Lesley Griffiths introduced the then Gender-Based Violence, Domestic Abuse, and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill. A substantial amount of work and progress has been undertaken since then. The provisions in the Bill were strengthened considerably throughout its scrutiny in the Assembly. Implementation of the Act is a key priority of this Welsh Government. Since Royal Assent, I’ve agreed a detailed implementation plan for the Act, which sets out a comprehensive, ambitious programme of work that needs to be delivered over the coming months.
This statement marks a year since the Act was introduced and I want to focus on the progress we’ve made since then. There are a significant range of education measures under way to support the implementation of the Act. The Minister for Education and Skills and I are agreed on this agenda. We want organisations that support victims and survivors directly involved in the implementation of the successful futures report and the shape of a future curriculum to ensure that healthy relationships are a key consideration. Welsh Women’s Aid is developing for us a whole-education approach good practice guide for local authorities and schools to be published in the autumn. This will help to inform the statutory guidance on championing the issue of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence matters in schools and other settings for consultation in early 2016. We’re developing regulations to bring into force a duty on local authorities to report annually on the action they’re taking to address these issues in education settings, including schools. We will consult on the policy underlying these regulations in the new year, ready to come into force in time for the 2016-17 academic year.
Work is also under way on a range of other commitments—a national violence against women, domestic abuse, and sexual violence education conference this autumn; a review of healthy relationships teaching resources to ensure schools have quality materials; work with safeguarding leads and Governors Wales to embed whole-school approach practices; the strengthening of our anti-bullying guidance and continuing our support of Hafan Cymru’s Spectrum schools programme and Welsh Women’s Aid’s Children Matter project.
One of my first actions was to begin the public appointments process for recruiting the first national adviser for violence against women and other forms of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. The interviews for this position took place last week and I look forward to announcing the appointment of the successful candidate shortly. The national adviser has a key role to play in the Act’s implementation. One of their first tasks will be the development of a national strategy and key indicators, working closely with stakeholders to identify best practice and improvements in service delivery. I will publish the national training framework for public consultation shortly. This is one of my top priorities, to ensure that high-quality and consistent training is available to those across the public and specialist sector.
However, much of this work is already well under way. We have invested heavily in the provision of training and recently completed testing an e-learning course, which will raise awareness for 0.25 million Welsh public service workers. The ambition and reach of the framework is unprecedented and marks the beginning of a fundamental shift in attitudes of our public services towards these important issues.
To support public sector bodies to carry out their duties under the Act, we are preparing a suite of guidance documents. Members will remember that during the Bill’s scrutiny, examples of draft guidance were provided on the framework, on ‘ask and act’, and on multi-agency collaboration. All three pieces of guidance are currently being reviewed and will be issued for consultation in the summer, before being adopted in the new year. Additional statutory guidance on the effective commissioning of specialist services, working with perpetrators, supporting older victims and on a whole-education approach is also being prepared and will be consulted upon over the next 12 months.
I’ve increased the budget used to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence from £4.5 million last year to over £5 million in 2015-16, to support this work. We are funding an exciting new approach to bring together funding sources regionally in Gwent, which will provide valuable lessons for the local government reform programme.
To support implementation of the Act, I have recently agreed additional funding of £123,500 towards: additional services to help address historic sexual abuse; extending the coverage of the Dyn project by appointing a male independent domestic violence adviser in north Wales; the healthy relationships teaching resources and education conference just referred to; service user engagement and workshops around implementation of the Act; awareness raising of the Live Fear Free brand and website; and youth engagement in respect of female genital mutilation. I am also pleased to announce that Welsh Women’s Aid have been successful in winning the contract to run the domestic abuse and sexual violence helpline. The new contract, worth £1.3 million over three years, begins in October. The helpline will continue to be a vital resource for victims, families and professionals.
Our high-profile campaigns will continue to raise public awareness and change attitudes. Our Cross the Line campaign earlier this year highlighted the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse, receiving positive feedback nationally. I will launch the first of our 2015-16 campaigns on 13 July.
Llywydd, this is a landmark law, the first of its kind in the UK and one of the most innovative pieces of legislation passed by this Assembly. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in the past year. This Act delivers on a significant Government commitment. It provides the opportunity to make a considerable impact on vulnerable people’s lives in the years ahead.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you. Can I just remind speakers that this is the opportunity to ask questions of the Minister on the statement he's just given? Mark Isherwood.
Diolch. In fact, it's less than three and a half months since we had the final debate before voting to pass this legislation, after the three opposition parties had worked together to strengthen the Bill to ensure delivery of healthy relationships education. You referred to Welsh Women's Aid developing the whole-education approach good practice guide for local authorities and schools. Are you able to tell us how pupils and teaching staff will be involved in that?
You refer to annual local authority reports on action to address the issues in education settings, including schools. How will you ensure that those are action reports that are action-driven—not a record of what's been done, but an overview of progress achieved, what's worked well, and what we need to do differently? In other words, monitoring progress rather than simply recording actions.
You refer to support, which I welcome, for Hafan Cymru’s Spectrum schools project, and, obviously, the Women's Aid Children Matter projects. How will you ensure that the provision in schools reaches all parts of Wales and that we don't have gaps in provision because of different local approaches or attitudes or packed curriculums relating to this relationship education delivery in schools?
You refer to a national adviser and that one of their first tasks will be the development of a national strategy and indicators, reflecting concerns, I think, raised in committee during the development of the Bill and the fact that the national adviser will be working for Government as a civil servant. How will you protect that person to ensure that they can be wholly independent, not just in engaging with outside bodies, but in preparing the national strategy and indicators, which, presumably, the Minister would then approve?
The Minister will recall that, during the passage of the Bill, on a number of occasions, I referred to ‘perpetrator programmes’, stating that there will be no region where there are no perpetrators, and leaving it up to regions to decide if they can commission pre-conviction programmes is a mistake. In fact, Relate Cymru had said that assurance is needed from the Welsh Government that it is committed to ensuring easy access in Wales to high-quality pre-conviction help for perpetrators to increase the safety of women and children. Now, in your statement you state that guidance is being developed on perpetrator programmes. How will you ensure that all regions commission pre-conviction programmes in consequence?
Also, you will recall that, during the passage of the Bill, I questioned you about the need for gender-specific strategies for male and female victims, citing evidence—I won’t repeat it—at the time to support the need for that. You said that it’s important that both the national strategy and local strategy are subsequently developed and, as a result of the Bill, engage with these issues. You refer to continued funding for the Dyn project and provision in north Wales, but how will you engage more widely in the agendas that this highlights, particularly in terms of the Barnardo’s ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ report, and previous calls by Welsh Women’s Aid to ensure that different kinds of services reflect the different levels of need of the two agendas.
Finally, given your responsibility for community safety and relations with the police and other criminal justice agencies, how have you been or will you be responding to very recent reporting of failings in domestic abuse cases in Wales by the independent police complaints commissioner for Wales, who said that police forces in Wales are too reliant on staff learning online and that forces need to change the way they train officers and staff dealing with domestic abuse cases, with more interactive learning in a classroom or other setting where case studies can be worked through?
Llywydd, I think it’s important that the Member, and other Members, recall that we did issue a very lengthy statement on educational approaches as the Bill was going through, and the Conservative spokesperson will also be aware, of course, that, later this afternoon, my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills will be making a statement on the curriculum, which may well have a bearing on some of the issues that he has raised.
In respect of the work being done by Welsh Women’s Aid on the whole education approach good practice guide, this will be published in the autumn and will be used to inform statutory guidance on the subject, and we’ll then consult on that in early 2016. So, there’ll be ample opportunity, I think, within that to gather the views of pupils and others in respect of that guidance, and we’ll certainly seek to do that. In respect of the duties on local authorities to report annually on the action they are taking to address domestic abuse, gender-based violence and sexual violence in their education settings, well, the work to develop regulations to come into force by September 2016 is well under way, and clearly that will be highly practical in the expectations it has on local authorities.
Now, in respect of the independence of the national adviser, I’m sure the Conservative spokesperson will be aware that, in direct response to comments from the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee, I tabled amendments at Stage 3 to change the name of the ministerial adviser to ‘national adviser’, reflecting the important national, independent focus of the role. Some of those amendments, of course, were agreed, and some were not. That resulted in a level of inconsistency within the Bill. We have therefore clarified those inconsistencies within the explanatory memorandum and explanatory notes. I think that it will be very clear from the advertising that we conducted for the post, when we were seeking to recruit to it, the importance that we give to that level of independence that the post can bring.
In respect of regional approaches for perpetrators, I’ve listened carefully to what the Member has said, and I will reflect on that, and we will look at the proposals that are brought forward to us on a regional basis. I accept also what he says in respect of gender-specific work, and we’ll want to see that that is carried through.
In respect of the community safety issues, and the issues raised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in respect of the inconsistent approaches and some of the failings in respect of action to address domestic abuse and sexual violence in particular areas of Wales, that is an issue that I have discussed with the IPCC and, indeed, with representatives of the police within Wales, and I think that those lessons are understood, and we will look to the police to honour the commitments that have been given to the IPCC and others.
While the Minister’s statement outlines a substantial amount of very positive work that’s been done to start implementing the Act, much of that work of course is still in its infancy. It’s one year since the introduction of the draft Bill, I think it’s about three months since we got your sunny disposition, Minister, out of that box, and about two months since we’ve had Royal Assent. So, I guess it’s not really enough time yet for us to see if the law in itself has been effective. Minister, it was said during the passage of the Bill, and I’m sure you would remember this, that much of it could be achieved without a change in legislation. But, I do look forward to seeing the statutory guidance and the regulations that will flow from this Bill. I wonder if you would agree to publish a timetable for that.
I’m particularly pleased to see that the Minister is following through on his promise to me that work is being done to introduce a comprehensive whole-school approach to teaching children and young people about healthy relationships. Can the Minister confirm that the Government work in this area will build on the work of Professor Emma Renold at Cardiff University? I very much look forward to seeing Welsh Women’s Aid’s good practice guide when it is published in the autumn, and having details of Welsh Government oversight of its implementation through all our schools. Perhaps the Minister can give us an idea when he thinks the good practice will become mainstream in Welsh schools.
While you’ve increased the budget used to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, budget cuts elsewhere of course do impact on victims. You’ll know there is a £10 million cut to the Supporting People grant. That’s almost bound to affect victims. Do you think that the increase in the budget that you have under your control will counteract the damage that that funding cut is having? Are you able to tell us what action the sector has taken to ensure that front-line services have not deteriorated as a result of that cut?
I’m very pleased to see that Welsh Women’s Aid has secured the contract to run the helpline for victims, for families and of course for professionals. Perhaps you can tell us how the helpline will be advertised and what is the cost of advertising such an important facility is.
Lastly, although this is outside the scope of the Bill, perhaps the Minister will commit today to raise the issue of domestic abuse and domestic violence with the police and crime commissioners, because I know you meet them on a regular basis, to ensure that this remains a priority for them, because there are high-profile cases that show that appropriate reaction by the police could prevent very serious harm and even death in some instances.
I welcome the comments of the Plaid Cymru spokesperson. I will say today that I’m very happy to publish a timetable for the publication of the guidance. That seems to be something we should do. In respect of the issue she raised of best practice and the work of Professor Renold, can I say that certainly we would want to take into account, as I promised at the time, the work that Emma Renold has done in this area with a number of schools? I think it does contribute to best practice and we should take best practice from wherever. There will be other examples that we’ll want to incorporate alongside that.
I welcome what she said in respect of Welsh Women’s Aid and the work that they have done, both on the whole-education guide and indeed their work in winning the contract for the helpline. Clearly, it is important that that helpline is well publicised. I think the evidence that we have from the Live Fear Free campaign has been that we have been successful in reaching out to different groups. We have run, as she is aware—and indeed I referred to them in the statement—a number of publicity campaigns around these issues, some of which have been widely seen as groundbreaking and welcomed by the sector and by experts in the field.
She is right to raise the issue of the need for integration between the work that we are doing and the work of Supporting People. The Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty and I have met to discuss that work. We’ve asked our teams to work together in terms of future grant funding and they are seeking to do that.
In respect of the police and crime commissioners, yes, I’ve raised this issue consistently with them in the meetings that I’ve had, and I will continue to do so.
Can I thank the Minister for bringing this statement here today? Minister, I’ve just a few questions on the statement. You refer to Welsh Women’s Aid developing a whole-education approach good practice guide for local authorities, which is very welcome and, of course, is in line with the written statement that you gave on 26 February. In that written statement, you said that this whole-education approach good practice guide was primed for the 2015-16 academic year. I think it’s still possible to do that, but can you give an assurance that the schools will have the guide in time for teachers to digest it and to take it into account in any continuing professional development activities they have in time for the 2015-16 academic year, as you previously promised?
With regard to the adviser, I very much welcome the fact that that post is now being appointed. I do note, however, from the advertisement that this is a part-time post, and I’m concerned about that. I think that the recent advert states the hours expected to fulfil this role will be part-time; it does seem to me that co-ordinating the various bodies involved in delivering this service and advising Ministers on important issues, such as funding and overseeing the important education agenda, is in fact a full-time job. The question, Minister, is: if you’re making this a part-time post, does that mean that you also have a part-time approach to this agenda and a part-time commitment to tackling domestic abuse?
In terms of the other issues, can you say how the curriculum review is specifically including healthy relationships education? Will that be mandatory for all schools, as recommended by the recent United Nations report? With regard to the e-learning course for public sector workers, can you say how effective that will be and what account you are taking of recent criticism of Gwent Police, which were criticised for using e-learning too much? Finally, Minister, could you give us a target date as to when the national and local strategies will be published?
Can I say that the whole-education approach good practice guide will be published in the autumn? I can’t promise that it will be in time for teachers to take it on board before the start of the 2015-16 academic year. We will, as I said, be using that then to inform the statutory guidance on the subject, on which we will be consulting in early 2016.
I thought the Liberal Democrat Member’s comments on our approach to the national adviser position were somewhat churlish, to be honest with you. I don’t think there’s any part-time commitment on this issue. This is the first Act of any kind being taken through this Assembly, and I think it’s to the credit of this Assembly that that Act was taken through, was improved as it went through the work within this National Assembly, the work of scrutiny, and it has been widely welcomed, not only by the sector in Wales but by international experts in this field, over recent months. I think it’s sad to hear that work being denigrated in that way. In respect of the national adviser appointment, we’ve had a wide range of excellent applicants and, as I said, we will be confirming the person who has got that role in the near future.
In respect of the issue of e-learning, I think e-learning courses have their role in specific settings. We have run other kinds of training as well. We are, of course, publishing the national training framework, as I said in my statement, and I think that the work that we have undertaken with public service workers again is groundbreaking. I’m well aware of the criticisms of Gwent Police in the IPCC report; those are being discussed in a number of meetings, and I will no doubt want to ensure that e-learning is simply one of a number of approaches that we undertake through our training for public service workers.
I thank the Minister for his statement today. It is one year since the introduction of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. It is an interesting statistic from the Crown Prosecution Service that the number of people prosecuted for violence against women and girls in England and Wales in the year to April 2015 showed an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year. Could the Minister advise the Assembly what percentage increase in prosecutions there has been in Wales to the present? One of the problems with domestic abuse and violence against women has been the under-reporting of cases. Could the Minister advise the Assembly what progress has been made in encouraging victims to report incidents of violence, particularly women from ethnic minority backgrounds and from the Gypsy and Traveller communities?
During the progress of the Act, the importance of recognising the signs of domestic violence against women and children was stressed. Since women make up a large proportion of public sector employees, what guidance has been provided to the public sector regarding training people to recognise the signs of domestic violence among women employees? Finally, the Act places duties on Welsh Ministers, county and county borough councils, and local health boards to prepare and publish strategies aimed at ending gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Could the Minister confirm that all of these organisations have now done so and what plans and timescales are in place to review the effectiveness of these strategies?
Llywydd, I don’t have the up-to-date prosecution figures for Wales in respect of sexual violence, domestic abuse and violence against women. I will ask for those figures and write to the Member.
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair at 15:56.
I think he makes a valid point about under-reporting. I think that has been a problem in the past. There has been, as we know, a significant increase in the number of cases reported recently, which suggests that some of the under-reporting may have come to an end and that more may be willing to report these issues. I’m aware of some work that’s been done on the crime survey of England and Wales that suggests that it fails to account for nearly half the attacks on women, particularly when the assailant is known to the victim. Some research that’s been undertaken has suggested that the cap that currently applies on the number of crimes that can be reported by a single respondent, which is five, may have diminished the number of reports of violent crimes against women by partners and acquaintances. So, I think that there are some issues around some of the reporting, but this is a matter for the Office for National Statistics. I’ve asked my officials to maintain a watching brief on this issue.
I think the work that we’ve done in respect of the national training framework is quite significant, during this last year in particular: 48 Welsh independent domestic violence advisers have been trained to level 4; 175 staff across all local health boards in Wales have been trained to improve the engagement of the health sector in multi-agency risk assessment conferences; 48 specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence service managers have been trained to level 5; and there has been activity in engaging public service leaders to ensure they drive forward change to end gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. So, there’s been a considerable amount of work undertaken on the training of people in the public services and I think that the work that we’re doing in Wales leads the field.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Item 5 is a statement by the Minister for Education and Skills on the Welsh Government’s response to the Donaldson review—Huw Lewis.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. We are currently engaged in one of the most ambitious and radical programmes of educational reform in our history. We know that the steps we have already taken to raise standards in Welsh schools and colleges are having an impact. Attainment is rising at every key stage and Estyn has talked about a ‘new momentum’ building in Welsh education. This has been driven by our reforms, which have focused on raising standards across the board. We have introduced greater rigour and challenge across the system, while supporting the pupils and schools most in need with substantial extra resource.
We are not letting up in the drive for improvement. If our aim is for Welsh education to be world class, then we need to think about the next step in our reform journey. We need a curriculum that is ambitious, engaging and fit for the challenges of the twenty-first century. The national curriculum of 1988 has served an important purpose, but we can no longer address the weaknesses of the current curriculum through a patch-and-mend approach.
Professor Donaldson’s report, ‘Successful Futures’, challenges us all to re-think our approach to the curriculum and to focus on the purposes of education. His recommendations are not about adjustments; they require us to rebuild our curriculum from the foundations up. These changes, by their very nature, are fundamental and profound, and the people across Wales who engaged in the great debate agree. It is clear that there is an enormous appetite for change. I am therefore delighted to announce today that we will accept the recommendations set out in ‘Successful Futures’ in full.
‘Successful Futures’ provides us with the foundations for a twenty-first century curriculum shaped by the very latest international thinking on curriculum change. But what we lay on top of that solid platform will be built by us—by Wales for Wales. So, we will now set about the task of building a curriculum that supports our children and young people to be ambitious and capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives; enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work; ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world; and healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
I have already announced that we will move forward at pace with the digital competence framework, and in doing so I have ensured that schools are leading these developments. Today, I am going further and inviting consortia to work with their schools across Wales—primary, secondary and special—to apply to be pioneer schools, leading and shaping the detailed design and the development of the new inclusive curriculum for Wales. These pioneer schools, working with experts from Wales and internationally, will help to shape the future of learning in Wales.
I am clear that the profession must play a central part in the design and development of our new curriculum. It will ask an enormous amount of the professionals in the system, but I am confident they are keen and able to take on this challenge. The new deal for the education workforce has been developed with the requirements of the new curriculum in mind, so it enables us to make an immediate start to support and prepare the education workforce for the changes ahead.
The implications of the new curriculum for initial teacher education and training were clearly and convincingly articulated in Professor John Furlong’s report, and we will ensure that our initial teacher training providers are involved in preparation for delivery of the new curriculum so that newly-qualified teachers will leave their initial training equipped to deliver the new curriculum.
A curriculum that is by Wales for Wales must reflect our confidence and pride in Wales as a bilingual nation, with the strength and assurance to enable all learners to acquire skills in both Welsh and English. I am in no doubt that there is much to be done to improve pupils’ Welsh-language skills in our English-medium schools; from ages three to 16, we have to build increased confidence and competence in the use of Welsh.
The qualification changes we’ve already begun are important and they will continue. I will be asking Qualifications Wales, our new independent qualifications regulator, to consider how the Welsh second language qualifications should develop in light of the ‘Successful Futures’ report. I will also be seeking advice on how, over the longer term, we can raise the expectations embodied in those qualifications.
As well as working with the profession, we will work closely with Estyn, the Education Workforce Council, higher education institutions, local authorities and regional school improvement services, all of whom have a vital role to play. Estyn have been an important partner and have made a substantial and important contribution to recent curriculum developments, including the literacy and numeracy framework. I know that the new chief inspector shares with me the desire to see this partnership continue and for Estyn to work alongside the pioneer schools.
I am also announcing today that I am establishing an independent advisory group to guide us as we take the next steps in building the new curriculum for Wales, and I am delighted that Professor Graham Donaldson has agreed to chair that group, supported by Professor John Furlong, and will continue to provide independent advice and guidance as we set about the task of realising the vision set out in ‘Successful Futures’ and ‘Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers’.
I want to reaffirm for Members one crucial point. Our new curriculum will have rigour and excellence at its very core. In moving forward with these changes we will not row back on the higher standards we have helped inject into Welsh education over the last few years.
I am not rushing to set out a timetable for implementation. Instead, as part of the continuation of the Great Debate, following discussion with our delivery partners, after taking views from stakeholders and guidance from the independent advisory group, I will publish a realisation framework in the autumn. The scale of our ambition in Welsh education is clear. We will have a new curriculum. We will have a new system of teacher training. We will have a new deal for professional development. These are the building blocks for a new self-improving system, built by us. And this is the prize that awaits us.
Minister, thank you very much for your statement. May I, on behalf of the Welsh Conservatives, welcome Professor Donaldson’s report, ‘Successful Futures’? It’s been an incredibly interesting read and we agree with much of that which it contains. Minister, in your statement, you talk of stopping the ‘patch and mend’ approach to addressing the weaknesses of the current curriculum. Now, this weakness stems from Welsh Government not allowing the curriculum to evolve over the past decade. So, may I ask you: how will you ensure that ‘Successful Futures’ remains alive to national and global changes over the years to come?
In a recent talk on curriculum reform in Wales, Neil Butler of NASUWT said that teachers in Wales have become, and I quote him, ‘change-exhausted, due to Welsh Government’s bombarding of schools with reform measures. Curriculum reform, as per the “Successful Futures” document, is another example of Welsh Government’s highly interventionist approach to education policy.’
This is what the NASUWT say, not what I say. With this in mind, though, Minister, what will you do to ensure that the curriculum reform is owned by the teachers and not merely imposed, and that they feel part of this? We understand that you’re consulting with teachers about the reform via the Great Debate, but what else can you do, especially closer to the time of implementation, to assure teachers that they are taken with on this journey and not just told?
My third question, Minister: change of this scale will, inevitably, mean an increased workload for teachers and you yourself said in a previous statement that this is going to entail years of professional input at a level that many of our teaching workforce have never been expected to work at before. Given the amount of hours we already lose due to stress-related illnesses, Minister, how will you ensure that re-skilling teachers will be done in such a way that we do not see an increase in teacher absence, which will adversely, obviously, affect the educational experience of our pupils and that nor do we see a driving away from the profession of the young people who we so desperately need?
Recommendation 19 of ‘Successful Futures’ says:
‘All children and young people should make progress along the same continuum, regardless of any additional learning needs they may have, although they may reach and move between Progression Steps more slowly or more quickly than others.’
Now, having this dynamic approach to pupil progression is very beneficial, and it’s crucial, and I’m sure you will agree with me, that pupils with additional learning needs do not fall too far behind their peers. How, Minister, can you ensure that ALN pupils do not fall behind if they attend a mainstream school? Will you be incorporating this into the Bill that you propose to bring forward were you to be in Government in the fifth Assembly?
I’d also be interested, Minister, to know what discussions you’ve had with higher education and further education institutions with regard to their thoughts on the curriculum reform. I’m also very interested, Minister, to know how you’re going to be able to tie Donaldson into Furlong, Hill and Williams, all of whom have brought forward, in some cases very worthy and in other cases maybe slightly more controversial, reforms. There’s going to be an enormous pace of change in public services in Wales over the next decade, and I’d be interested to see how you see this fitting in.
Two more questions, Deputy Presiding Officer: my second-to-last question is on these pioneer schools. When you’re asking these schools to apply to be a pioneer school, I’d be interested to know how and when you intend to set out the criteria for becoming a pioneer school. How will you ensure schools don’t end up being all things to all men and in the end losing some of their own essence? You talked about having schools that are going to be centres of excellence for modern foreign languages, schools that are going to lead on the digital inclusion project, and we quite often talk about the fact that they are likely to be very much the same schools. If those schools are plundered for all of their knowledge and all of their best practice, how do we reinforce and support those central schools, or do you see the pioneer schools being entirely different? And will pioneer schools be in primary and secondary?
Finally, I appreciate that you’re not rushing to set out a timetable. However, effective change comes about when there is focus and commitment and when the stakeholders are not left confused or afraid. Are you talking years or decades before you bring forward these changes? May I ask what will happen to the children who are going to be caught on the shoulders of this great reform to the curriculum in Wales? Thank you.
Well, thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer—I thank Angela Burns, rather, for her questions and observations there. I would remind her, however, that the national curriculum of 1988 was a creature of the Conservative party and it is the inflexibility of that curriculum that Graham Donaldson was called upon, in part, to address. We can’t have it all ways here; we can’t have from the Welsh Conservatives a demand that the new curriculum is alive to the many changes going on across the world, and it is true that’s exactly what we do need—the world does not stand still, particularly in terms of, for instance, new technology—and then complain about the system suffering from change exhaustion.
You cannot have any kind of intellectual coherence about a way forward if you simultaneously believe both those things to be true. We do need a curriculum that is alive to the way the world is—the way the twenty-first century will be—and anyone involved in education who believes that what is most necessary is that we stand still, really needs to rethink their career options, because this is not an option in terms of the life chances that we need to offer to our young people in terms of the very best curriculum that we can construct.
She may call this ‘highly interventionist’; I would argue the opposite. The curriculum of 1988 was highly interventionist. I was one of the first teachers to be delivered of the curriculum of 1988. I remember it landing on my desk and needing a wheelbarrow to transport it around and it giving me instructions down to the last dot and comma about how I should conduct my professional judgment in the classroom. I was particularly struck by the contrast, of course, because, in my personal case, I had just moved from a teaching post in Scotland, where I was not exposed to the curriculum of 1988. The contrast in terms of how I regarded the trust in my professionalism in the two systems struck me as very marked indeed, and was not helpful to morale, I can assure you.
This is not an interventionist move, this move to the curriculum for Wales—I am not dictating any subject matter here at all. In fact—and I will make announcements later—there are only two areas on which I will argue, through debate in this Chamber and in other places, that we need particular change in response to a couple of agendas that are very important socially, one being personal, social and health education, and my colleague, the Minister for Public Services will just touch upon that later; we need a complete remoulding and re-professionalisation of PSHE, particularly as it relates to healthy relationships. The other, I believe, is religious education, where we need to think about how the world is changing and what our children need in order to make critical judgments about what tolerant citizenship actually is. Those are the only two.
This curriculum will be driven by teachers. It will be written by teachers. It will be carried forward by teachers. The investment of trust that I am placing in the Welsh teaching profession is near to total, and to describe that as ‘highly interventionist’, I think, with respect, beggars belief. There are huge expectations of the Welsh teaching profession in terms of the direction of travel we are taking in this policy. A new level of autonomy is being offered, but, in return, the Welsh public and the Welsh Government will have a new level of expectation about the level to which our teaching profession needs to operate. And it is true that, for many professionals, they will never have been called upon to operate at such a high level ever before, but I believe that that is key to all the reforms that we’re undertaking at the moment—Donaldson, Furlong and the new deal. The model that I’m pursuing here of teaching and learning excellence in Wales is based upon the skill of the professional. Politicians cannot deliver higher standards. Only better professionals can do that. That’s the framework that I’m attempting to construct around the Welsh schools system.
I hope that I touched upon Angela Burns’s points about links with other policy development areas, like Furlong and the new deal. In terms of the pioneer schools criteria I will, of course, be publishing those very soon. I can say that there will be considerable flexibility in terms of what a pioneer school looks like. We will need all sorts of expertise brought to the table. They will include secondary, primary and special schools. They will also have to be extremely well led—an established track record within the school. I’m not talking just about the headteacher but of departmental leadership as well. We will need those schools to be very well led so that, in part answer to the second question, they are robust in terms of the demands put upon them. The Member will be aware also that I’ve set aside £3 million to assist those schools as they put this extra effort and extra staff time into the development of the new curriculum for a national purpose to ensure that they are reinforced—I think that was the phrase that was used—and are enabled to contribute in the way that we would expect.
In terms of time frames, I’ve already said that, in line with Graham Donaldson’s advice, we anticipate a timescale for full implementation of the new curriculum of between seven and eight years.
Plaid Cymru welcomes Professor Donaldson’s report, and welcomes what the Minister has said today about accepting the report. If the national curriculum in 1998 needed a wheelbarrow for the Minister to carry it around, we now need a mini JCB to actually move around with the documentation that has accumulated, not only around the curriculum but the whole range of initiatives that the Government has. Professor Donaldson, to a great extent, cuts through all of that with clear thinking and with clear logic, I must say. I’m very pleased, therefore, that the Government has accepted that.
I have to start, however, with the final point that he mentioned, in terms of the timetable. He has now said that it will take eight years. In the past he has mentioned a decade; for example, in the speech that you gave in Nantgarw back in February, Minister. What’s important about this, I think, is that there should be an understanding that this will take at least another two Assemblies—and it will not necessarily be the same Government or the same party in Government. Although Plaid Cymru is prepared to commit to this process, I’m not sure whether every other party, or a party that isn’t yet elected to this place, would commit to the process. So, I think it is important that we understand a little more about the timetable and the programme of implementation. The Minister said that he would publish that in due course. However, I would have thought that it would be very important that that should be published so that the next Assembly, and the following Assembly, can be influenced. You can’t actually bind the Assembly, but you can bring influence to bear.
The second point I wish to raise is the concept that he has today of the pioneer schools. Plaid Cymru has already supported the concept of what we call model schools, specifically schools that can be laboratories for good teaching and educating, working with universities, and therefore being part of our approach to transforming teacher training in Wales. For me, both ideas could be combined, perhaps. Such schools could be developed into laboratories, not only for the new curriculum, but also for the new concepts emerging from the Furlong report. I would like to hear a little more from the Government as to whether this is what the Minister has in mind. He mentioned the £3 million allocated to date to this end. I welcome that funding, of course, but I would suggest that, perhaps, it isn’t sufficient. As the Minister said initially, back in March, there was £1 million in terms of the initial work, and then £2 million during this financial year to develop the new curriculum. I think that that sort of investment, if not more, will be required over the eight years. Have you made preparations for that yet?
Then, there are a few questions that emerge, I think, from the implementation of the Donaldson recommendations. First of all: will this lead to a review of the categorisation that happens under this Government now? What is implicit, in the light of the new curriculum, in terms of categorisation? How can we have schools that are, perhaps, pioneer schools with the new curriculum alongside those schools that are working to the old curriculum, if you like, and benchmark those two approaches? Will you also then change the number or frequency of numeracy and literacy tests? There is no mention in your statement today of that, but I note that there’s a story in the press—by the BBC—that leads with this. So, I’d like to know more from the Minister on how he believes testing will develop from Donaldson. As the Minister has said, Donaldson places such emphasis on teachers leading and teachers evaluating. But we do know, don’t we, from Estyn reports, that the profession isn’t able to do that to its full potential at present, and that the profession is unable to evaluate to the standard at present? So, that process must be changed so that we can be released from the shackles of the current testing regime.
How are you going to combine–I know this will be an argument that we have over a period of years—? Do you yet know how you will combine the four purposes of the curriculum, according to Donaldson, with the six learning areas? You’ve touched on one of those areas in your response to Angela Burns, Minister, which is personal, social and health education, or PSHE as it’s called. At the moment, that is provided, I would say, in a very narrow sense, and it doesn’t run across the curriculum. It’s clear, within the Donaldson recommendations, that there is a means for that to actually spread across the whole curriculum, but it requires special skills that aren’t necessarily available in the profession at present—not because they can’t do that, but because they haven’t been trained for working in that way.
I’ll turn to two specific things to conclude. You’ve already stated, of course, that you’re moving towards digital competence across the curriculum. You’ve already made that statement, which is part of the Donaldson recommendations. So, I assume that you’re confident that the sector is ready to implement that approach. So, in a way, you’re already leading on part of Donaldson in introducing this digital competence. I don’t oppose that at all; I think it’s entirely appropriate. But, there is something else within Donaldson, which, in my view, is of equal importance, namely the link between the teaching of Welsh as a second language—which you did mention—and modern foreign languages: the third language being introduced in schools. You have a very specific report from Sioned Davies on these issues. That report was fed into Donaldson for its consideration. The principles in the report are reflected in the Donaldson review, but you haven’t implemented, or announced the implementation of the Sioned Davies recommendations. Are you now in a position to state that you will do so?
This is an extremely important piece of work that will revolutionise how we teach in Wales. As the Minister has outlined, it will also need a revolution within the profession to deliver that. In that regard, Plaid Cymru stands with the Minister and believes that this is the way forward for the Welsh education system. But there is a question of resources and commitment, and there is also a question of professional standards, which I don’t think we have quite in place yet, because I don’t think the Education Workforce Council is up to that task at the moment. But, I suggest it is the body that takes that task forward.
Deputy Presiding Officer, can I thank Simon Thomas for those important—indeed, weighty—points that he has made in many aspects of the debate this afternoon. He’s actually right: there will need to be a degree of cross-party consensus here to ensure the future safety of this agenda. I, for one, intend to work to make that consensus as robust as possible. We do live in a democracy, however, and I think that probably the best way of ensuring that this agenda carries through without political interference is to—and this is my responsibility—showcase its efficacy at every stage, and to enthuse those stakeholders beyond politics that their role in this is secure, respected and that we are offering real impact in terms of educational improvement, and career satisfaction as well for teachers.
He's right, I think, to suppose that there will be, inevitably, some overlap between pioneer schools in terms of curricular development and what I've been calling ‘training schools’ that would be connected to initial teacher education and training. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were—. If we’re looking for the best of the best in terms of student experience and curriculum development, then there will no doubt be some kind of overlap. I don't know if the terminology here needs to be set in stone or worried over overmuch, and I will confess, actually, that ‘pioneer schools’ comes very simply from the fact that I’m a Co-operative-sponsored Member of the Assembly and I tend to like the idea of pioneering, as in Rochdale.
Three million pounds is not sufficient. No, of course it's not—£3 million is a down payment, really, for this year, in terms of getting our work off the ground. He's quite right that investment of that order, or greater, would be necessary in each of the seven or eight years that we're undertaking this work. That's true, and we’ll have to take on that budgetary responsibility.
He’s right to say that we'll have to look at categorisation at some point—yes, he is. For instance, key stages won’t be a part of the conversation as the new curriculum kicks in. So, that gives us pause for thought, but I would say that I cannot anticipate a near-to-middle future where categorisation is not a feature of the Welsh landscape, because his final point is also correct: we are not where we need to be in terms of a system that shifts for itself and is self-improving.
The sole criticism of Welsh teachers that I have ever offered, really, in this post is that they have never really realised their own strength in terms of what they could offer the country, their pupils and wider society, and that, in many ways, is because they've not been given permission or, simultaneously, have not had expectations set for them that would enable that strength within the profession really to come to the fore and drive improvement from within the teaching expertise that is out there already. And that's why also, on another one of Simon Thomas’s points, I would see testing as remaining as an essential part—I think the BBC has slightly got the wrong end of the stick in their reporting today. This is not about less testing or fewer tests; it is about better testing—being clear about when we're testing formatively for diagnosis of children's strengths and weaknesses, and then acting on the diagnosis critically, and when we’re testing for accountability for the public and for parents and, indeed, for the pupils themselves. We need to be clearer about that, the profession needs to be clearer about that, and we need to be better at it, particularly in terms of teacher assessment, which, at the moment, if left to its own devices, would only take us backwards in terms of the standards agenda, and I think any honest observer, including the NASUWT, in a quiet moment, would confess to the truth of that.
He’s right to say that there is a skills issue with PSHE. I think we need to think about how the New Deal relates to that, but also how Furlong relates to that. The question hanging in the air is: do we need teachers to opt for PSHE as their specialist subject area right from day one of their choice to become a student teacher? Do we offer that course as a skills set that our schools need, that our young people need, and ask our universities to work towards qualifying PSHE teachers, or whatever we might call them in the future? I think that's a very real question that we need to address as part of this process.
He's right, and I know his concern and his sense of frustration around Welsh and modern foreign languages. I have, of course, spoken about our global futures strategy. Sioned Davies has not been forgotten, and there will be further announcements in the late summer and autumn about exciting new approaches to the acquisition of Welsh and—I'm reluctant even to use the phrase ‘Welsh second language’ any more—but the acquisition of Welsh and modern foreign languages as well. The Member will have to maintain a little more patience in that regard.
Simon Thomas is right to say that if we're talking about a self-improving system, the Education Workforce Council clearly has a pivotal role in future models of the Welsh school system. It should be the repository of professional expertise. It should be involved in quality control of professional development. It should be driving continuous professional improvement as well as professional development, and it should be owned by the teaching profession. There is a quid pro quo for that too. Such a business is expensive, and such a business should be co-funded between Government and the professionals.
Minister, I think the road map that you’re outlining towards the new curriculum following the Donaldson review is the logical next step for changes, and I think it builds on the important uplift that we’ve seen in standards. Now, as part of this great debate, I’ve spoken to many teachers and support staff within the Vale of Clwyd, both at primary and secondary level, and they, I know, are excited about this change as well, and they want to be part of the challenge. One of the things they’ve raised with me, though, is: given the inclusive nature of what Professor Donaldson has outlined, one issue that will be very important as we move forward is the support structure that we have around young people, and around the schools, and whether that’s within the school or drawing from external agencies. I wonder, Minister, whether you would give some thought now, as we progress with this new curriculum structure, to using this as an opportunity to think creatively about how we can provide appropriate guidance and support to those young people in their school years, whether it is through the reformed area of PSHE, or whether it is that we draw on external agencies such as social services and others, so that we provide the pupil with that personalised educational support that they will need to be able to get the best out of Donaldson.
Yes, the Member for the Vale of Clwyd is quite right: these issues do not sit in isolation. They are part of a wider network of needs that must be met around young people, in my view. I don’t pretend to have a ready-packaged answer to this. I think all of us together as policy makers, your committee and the stakeholders out there need to address this issue as one of the first priorities within the curriculum change: how we support young people, not just with sex and relationships education, or PSHE, but also issues like pastoral care, behaviour, educational psychology services, counselling, family engagement, social services linkages and learning support generally—each child having a very different set of needs and strengths within that sort of picture.
There are a number of different models that we could look at. We could look at a one-stop-shop model within schools—almost a department, if you like, that brokers support for young people’s needs according to their individual needs. There’s also a very interesting model that I’m familiar with in Scotland, where they don’t have departments as such, but they do have specially trained guidance teachers who can help pupils decide in terms of their subject choices, how their progress is going, their attainment, careers advice and so on, but also overlapping into those areas of personal support I was talking about earlier—issues like bullying, settling in and transition; those issues. There are teachers with great experience in that area.
We have to be careful, though, that whatever model we put together, I think, particularly if we go for a one-stop-shop approach, that we should maintain the principle that all staff, not just teachers, but all staff in schools have responsibilities about health and wellbeing for all young people. So, we do need to look at this in the round. Now is the ideal time. It overlaps with the curriculum. There are overlapping considerations with PSHE, and whatever we come up with as a model that suits Wales, it has to be internally coherent in terms of the pupil’s eye view.
We, as a group, welcome the fact that the Government has accepted the recommendations in their entirety. May I just ask you—? I think it’s important also, whilst we all are frustrated with how long, perhaps, it will take for us to reach this nirvana, it’s much better that we ensure that we succeed. There is a tendency with politicians, especially Ministers, to want to succeed within the term of one Assembly. I think we need to support the fact that you’re saying, ‘If this takes longer for us to achieve full success, then it would be much better and much more mature for us to achieve that aim’.
May I ask you whether the £3 million that you’re talking about today is the same £3 million that was referred to in March, or is there additional funding available by now? Because, what I would hope is that, if we’re saying it’s only those schools that reach a certain standard that will be pioneer schools, there are great requirements on those individual schools by now. Also, if they are located within one area or one region, there is going to be a great deal of pressure on one consortium. I would hope that we would look at the standard rather than the location of the schools and say that we want schools in all parts of Wales to be pioneer schools. I hope that you will be telling those schools what support will be available at the same time as you publish the guidance. I think it’s important that those schools volunteer on the basis of the support that is available to them.
May I also ask, briefly, on the independent advisory group—you’ve named two of the members—whether you could tell us this afternoon how many people will be part of that group, and also whether they will have some kind of overview? You talk about this group looking at the way that the curriculum is developing. But, of course, there are changes in terms of training for teachers and in terms of Qualifications Wales that are going to happen concurrently. Are they going to have an overview of all of those changes also? Your statement refers to the fact that the training colleges are going to have some input into the development of the curriculum. But, last week, you said that you’re going to change the training regime. You talked about bringing greater competition into the system. How will you go from one system to another and ensure that they have some sort of input?
Yn olaf, roedd eich datganiad ym mis Mawrth yn sôn am y strategaeth newid hyblyg y byddwch yn ei chyhoeddi ar ôl mynd drwy ran 1 o’r broses, ar ôl y broses gyntaf o ran y sgwrs fawr. A ydy hynny’r un peth â’r fframwaith gweithredu rydych chi wedi sôn am ei gyhoeddi yn yr hydref? Rwyf hefyd yn croesawu’r ffaith eich bod wedi dweud yn glir y prynhawn yma eich bod yn awyddus iawn i wneud cyhoeddiad erbyn yr hydref ynglŷn ag addysg ail iaith Gymraeg. Rwy’n meddwl bod nifer o bobl yn pryderu ein bod wedi cael adroddiad ers 2013 ac nad ydym yn dal wedi gweld unrhyw symud ar hynny.
Felly, rydym yn croesawu’ch datganiad y prynhawn yma, ond yn amlwg bydd yn rhaid inni graffu ar y ffordd rydych yn gweithredu’r canllawiau hynny wrth inni symud ymlaen.
Can I thank Aled Roberts for those questions and comments? I don’t know if nirvana is on offer here. There may be a little bit of purgatory before we get to paradise; I don’t know. That’s a mixed religious metaphor there, if ever there was one.
This is, at best, a medium-term programme. This cannot and should not be rushed. Apart from the content within the curriculum, which needs to be carefully considered, we also have to face—and this comes back to comments made by Simon Thomas earlier—the fact that we simply do not have the skillset within our schools at the moment in order to be able to address the depth of the change here. So, the whole agenda around professional development and new forms of teacher training in the first place, answering Furlong’s recommendations, must go forward in parallel with these developments.
Just to jump to another one of Aled Roberts’s points there, which reflects upon this, in terms of the independent advisory group and the support networks that we’re going to put around schools, I haven’t made any decision as yet in terms of the size, but I anticipate the independent advisory group will be relatively small. What we need is clarity of sight in terms of that group, hence the reason why Graham Donaldson is at the centre of the action there. But, I think we will also need a wider stakeholder group that includes representatives of, for instance, employers, and that stakeholder group always keeping everyone’s feet on the ground in terms of what the curriculum needs to deliver in the real world. I will also restructure one of my departments so that there is Government support—not so much in the public view, if you like, but that there is capacity within Government to support the advisory group, the pioneer schools and the stakeholder group, as we pull forward.
That £3 million—that was a specific question that you asked about, there—is for this financial year and, as I said, I would anticipate that there would certainly not be any less resource needed in each of the seven or eight years going forward.
Once again, I just call on Members’ patience as regards the announcement of the autumn framework. This has to be got right and, in terms of modern foreign languages and Welsh as a second language too, there is much work going on behind the scenes, going way beyond Government, actually, in involving stakeholders that have never been approached before in order to assist with language acquisition. There are exciting prospects for all of us to discuss, I think, but it would be unfair to those stakeholders to announce half-baked ideas at this stage. It will take until the autumn, I think, before we have a proper shape that we can describe.
Minister, I’m very interested in two pieces of work that have been going forward, to some extent, in tandem with Donaldson in terms of timing, but that also pre-date Donaldson’s work, to some extent, and that’s Tanni Grey-Thompson’s report on physical literacy and Dai Smith’s report on arts in education. I think both of those are very much echoed in Donaldson’s work in terms of creativity and the emphasis on that, and also, of course, in terms of health and the importance of physical literacy to health. I wonder if, at this stage, Minister, there is much that you could say in terms of the work around those two important reports and how they will go forward in the light of Donaldson. Obviously, there was a lot of concern that initial teacher training, continuous professional development, monitoring, evaluation and inspection should encompass the work of Tanni Grey and Dai Smith to make sure that those subject areas were as central to the school curriculum and school life as would deliver maximum benefit. So, I wonder, at this stage, if you could just outline some of the synchronisation that’s necessary between these important pieces of work.
Can I thank the Member for Newport East? Those are important points indeed. The input of Tanni Grey-Thompson and, indeed, Dai Smith, in terms of direct conversations that were had with Graham Donaldson and others, was of such a level that Professor Donaldson’s report would not look the way it does if it had not been for those conversations. In other words, that report on physical activity and the report on the arts from Dai Smith have been key factors in moulding what the Donaldson review actually looked like at the end of the day. You will see there, in the four basic purposes of the curriculum, a reference to, for instance, healthy, confident individuals, and Donaldson goes on to explain what that means. It means people who:
‘apply knowledge about the impact of diet and exercise on physical and mental health in their daily lives’
and ‘take part in physical activity’. It’s there in the foundation stones of what will be built as a superstructure, now, as a curriculum on top of those fundamental principles. So, there is no danger that there will be any downgrading or avoidance of the principles of the work of Tanni Grey-Thompson and the group; in fact, they will be central in terms of the role they have in shaping the curriculum. Indeed, as we move towards the new curriculum, obviously, our inspection regime will have to take account of the purposes of that curriculum. Estyn will be tasked with making sure that schools are addressing the curriculum for Wales and, within that, that they’re addressing those four purposes and that encompasses the principles behind Tanni Grey-Thompson’s report and, indeed, Dai Smith’s.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Item 6, a statement by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport—an update on the metro system. I call Edwina Hart.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. It has been my intention to provide a technical update on work on the metro and the Wales and borders franchise before the summer recess for some months. My department has now made significant progress on a number of key issues relating to the franchise and the metro and I am able to provide that update.
The metro will be a modern, high-quality, multi-modal and integrated transport system. It will offer rapid, frequent and reliable rail services, as well as incorporating the bus network. It will not only act as a link between our communities but also support the Welsh economy by enhancing connectivity across Wales into the rest of the UK and Europe. The metro will act as an important driver of economic growth. It will mean more capacity and improved quality across the network. Passengers will be able to move conveniently and seamlessly from one mode of transport to another, using the latest integrated payment methods. Such a transport system will deliver an agglomeration effect, and encourage the interaction of people and ideas and allow industry to invest in areas that are currently not well connected. We are currently delivering metro phase 1, and, on 11 June, the First Minister officially opened the new Ebbw Vale town station. We are also funding enhancements to the Ebbw Vale line, which will allow for additional services to be introduced in the future.
I have appointed high-level industry experts as members of my new strategic advisory board. I am delighted that David Stevens, chief operating officer at Admiral, Andrew Haines, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority and former managing director of South West Trains and First Group, and Chris Gibb, one of the national rail industry’s most experienced figures and former managing director at Virgin Trains and Arriva Trains Wales, have all agreed to help us ensure that we align with best practice and evolving business needs. I attach great importance to this board, who will bring the skills and experience we need to support this work.
I have held meetings to seek the views of local authority leaders on both the next Wales and borders franchise and the metro. For the metro, in many cases, local authority planning departments hold the key to maximum exploitation of these proposals and can greatly augment them through specifying developer contributions and that local development plans are aligned with metro developments. We are committed to engaging with the public to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the communities we serve. We recently held a successful engagement event with rail interest groups from across the Wales and borders franchise area and will continue to place community and passenger interests at the forefront of our thinking throughout this process.
I note that the Prime Minister has stated that he’s absolutely committed to the electrification of the Great Western main line and that the Secretary of State for Transport has reaffirmed it as a top priority for his department in his statement last week. I have reiterated to the UK Government that the main line must be delivered in line with the original announcements and again set out how important this project is for Wales. The statement on rail by the Secretary of State for Transport did, however, demonstrate how challenging it can be to deliver large-scale rail infrastructure schemes on time and on budget. I am convinced that we must innovate to achieve greater certainty and efficiency with our own projects in Wales.
Our aim is to let an integrated Wales and borders metro contract in 2017, and engagement with the industry is an important first step before we initiate a formal procurement process. Yesterday, we held a successful industry engagement event with a cross-section of the transport industry to start this process and it will continue during the next few months. We are taking an ‘outcome and output’ based approach to this engagement, whereby we set out to the industry what we want to see in terms of better access to jobs and services, long-term transformational economic effects, more frequent and faster services, better quality, and environmental improvements.
The industry will help us develop our understanding of the most efficient delivery structure. We believe that this approach will yield innovative solutions, which may be better value and deliver improved outcomes than the original contractual model for the Valley lines electrification proposals. There are many different options available, including light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit and trams. The outcome-based approach requires us to keep an open mind on the detail of what the improvements may look like in reality. That said, we have established some red lines. For example, we will not accept poor quality rolling stock, and capacity, reliability and quality must all improve, and overall efficiency must increase to allow more frequent services to be run. As I have already stated, to avoid the pitfalls of fragmentation that seem so prevalent, I have to say, in other rail programmes, as part of our industry engagement we are exploring the possibility of a single contract that binds the delivery of the metro and the operation of the Wales and borders franchise together.
Last December, I announced my intention to establish a not-for-dividend, wholly-owned subsidiary company of the Welsh Government to develop this work. The Welsh Government Transport company was formally incorporated in April. It is a key part of our approach to delivering the next phase of the metro system.
In the running of the metro and the next franchise, we want to maximise reinvestment into the railway and deliver excellent services. I am keen to draw on examples of where this is being done elsewhere in the UK, and I want our new transport company to emulate key aspects of Transport for London. By being not-for-dividend, and most likely taking revenue fare risk, our transport company will significantly reduce the amount of profit being taken out of the system by operators of services, leaving more money to run a vital public service. Even without further powers to run a completely not-for-dividend system, it would be possible to have operators providing more of a concession service for a much-reduced capped fee, with a capped profit margin set at a significantly lower level than the current incumbent achieves.
We will need to continue our work with the UK Government to deliver devolution arrangements. In rail, this has been in development for some time, but I intend to pursue more powers in relation to bus service provision.
The estimated total cost of phase 2 is between £500 million and £600 million of capital investment. We have reached an agreement with the Secretary of State for Transport for a contribution of £125 million towards these costs, and we are bidding for a further £150 million from the European regional development fund. Good progress is being made on identifying sources of funding for the balance of capital funds to deliver phase 2.
The metro is much more than just a transport project. It will be a blueprint for integrated transport across the whole of Wales, transforming the country’s economic and social prospects. I am committed to driving forward this plan, and will continue to keep Members updated with progress as I do so.
Minister, this statement today is greatly welcomed, and we are most grateful to you. It is also widely anticipated, may I say, and it gives us many of the details that both this Chamber and the industry generally require in south Wales, for this proposal will not only facilitate better communication, but also add to social cohesion, something we all strive for in this Assembly. It will be a catalyst for the capital region, it is clearly a very ambitious scheme, and will serve the majority of the population of Wales.
In some ways, it is a bit of a missing link. We have electrification, as you’ve referred to, of the south Wales main line and the Valleys lines both now promised and secured. On the metro, clearly we’re encouraged by many of your commitments given today, particularly in terms of the rolling stock. That’s been a worry to many people for a long time. And, clearly, we would very much like your assurances that it will be delivered on time and on budget because, clearly, delivery is crucial but so also will be the fare structure. Integrated ticketing is vital and it will be looked upon as a subsidised fare scheme, I think, by all parties, because we know that people on low wages do not wish to travel a great distance, because a higher proportion of their weekly income is spent on transport. That will also help to encourage car users: 80 per cent of people coming to Cardiff come by car, and small wonder when it takes perhaps 30 or 40 minutes and the equivalent journey by bus and train could be three times longer.
Could I ask, Minister, therefore, how you will publish the agreed routes and how you will consult widely on the possible routes, with some priority for those cross-Valley links, and also not forgetting some rural initiatives?
The Enterprise and Business Committee were most interested when they went to see the scheme at Manchester and also Transport for London. I know the Minister is aware of those proposals and the goodwill extended towards Wales in implementing the best of those schemes. Can I finally ask you what influence on the congestion and discouraging M4 between junctions 24 and 28 at Newport and the proposed motorway solution? I look forward to your answers, Minister, and I hope there will be further disclosures of the scheme when appropriate.
Can I say that some of the points you make absolutely go to the heart, I think, of the statement that I’ve made today? I think it’s important to recognise the ambition of this scheme, and also its importance in terms of social cohesion in bringing the capital region together, and also the opportunities for jobs and other things that come from this particular proposal.
I have to say that one of the key issues that was raised in all of our discussions with groups was, of course, the issue of the rolling stock. We only have to look at the standard of the rolling stock under the existing franchise, which is absolutely appalling. When you look at the state of play, in terms of the numbers of carriages and everything, that isn’t suitable for purpose in any way, and we must ensure that any new contract we have allows for an increase in usage but also the appropriateness of every individual on a journey being able to have a seat to come down on some of these trains. Also, the standards of the rolling stock are also particularly important. If we’re looking at the wider franchise idea and that franchise covers Wales, we need to have comfort at the same time that we have good issues with regard to costs. I think one of the points you make is that, in terms of the not-for-dividend, and if we do it sliced at, say, 4 per cent or 5 per cent, all that extra investment could be made to look at fare structures. So, it’s certainly really important that we encourage more people, when the system is up and running, to use it to get more cars off the road so it can make an environmental contribution to the Welsh economy.
In terms of consultation, we’re keeping up our dialogue with, obviously, the users, and I will consider more widely and report back on what further consultation can be undertaken as work proceeds. Also as well, I think you make a very important point not just about Cardiff, Newport and up the Valleys, but also across the Valleys and what we do in terms of the issues there. I know that the committee had a very interesting visit to Manchester. Keith Davies has actually been speaking to me because some of them went to see Rochdale and how that had been brought into the economic development within Manchester by looking at how they’d made links into other towns and everything. Also, I think that, when you look at it, you’ve got to look at what Transport for London have done extremely successfully in terms of how they’ve managed things so well. I think, when you look at the good lessons from there, there’s something we can then relate to in Wales.
With regard to the M4, there has been some modelling done on this matter and it wasn’t a great deal of difference it would make to the traffic, but, if Members are interested, I’d be more than happy, as I understand I’m probably going for scrutiny to committee, to perhaps present some modelling arrangements on that that might be helpful for the committee’s dialogue on the metro.
The first point I guess I’d like to make today is that Plaid Cymru has strongly supported the principle of the metro and the delivery of a metro project for the region. A Plaid Cymru Government would certainly continue delivering that project, which, if done right, of course, would be truly transformational. We know that the south-east of Wales is where the bulk of our population lives, but we mustn’t make other regions feel that they’re being left out either. We have a phase 2 metro scheme here worth £500 million to £600 million on top of the £1 billion preferred option for the M4. I’d just like to say here that, a), we’d hope, of course, that the metro would take traffic off the M4 and, b), if we did opt for a more efficient route, we’d probably have hundreds of millions of pounds that we could use to invest in other parts of Wales. But I’ll park that there for the time being.
But, as well as the update on the metro scheme, of course, we also have today the very significant announcement of the intention to jointly let an integrated Wales and borders and metro franchise. So, I have a number of questions relating to both those areas. The figure of £500 million to £600 million by 2020 seems quite low, even though it’s significant for a major phase of the metro development. I wonder if the Minister can outline the current estimated final capital cost of the metro as a whole and how soon after 2020 the whole network will be in place. I’ll also cheekily ask the Minister if the decision to press ahead with the M4 black route is perhaps holding back the ability to invest more in the metro in these early years.
We know Cardiff will have much to benefit from a metro. Can the Minister get more of an assurance that the south Wales Valleys will see a real benefit in terms of driving up wealth and regeneration? We don’t want to see a situation where that wealth continues to be concentrated in Cardiff and the urban regeneration seems to be concentrated only on Cardiff too.
Can we have an outline also of the kind of pricing policies that the Minister would like to see to make public transport more affordable than at present? Also, perhaps we could have an outline of just the current thinking on integration of ticketing across all modes of transport—something Plaid Cymru has called for over many years. And then to the franchise: I wonder does the announcement today that there is an intention to have a joint franchise let in 2017 put to bed the idea of perhaps extending the current franchise from 2018 to 2020, which, of course, has been suggested in order that the new franchise would align chronologically with the electrification of the south Wales lines.
On the guarantees of keeping excess profits down to allow reinvestment, I’d rather look at this in terms of paying a professional fee for delivering a service. Will the Minister agree that this is how it should be viewed so that, what would be considered as profits under the current franchise model would be genuinely reinvested in infrastructure and in providing a better rail service? Also, can I have a little bit more detail on the level of risk that the franchisee would expect to carry in return for that professional fee?
We think it’s very important in Plaid Cymru that both passengers and staff working in rail in Wales have a voice on decisions in future. Does the Minister agree that there should be a voice for both passengers and staff when it comes to major decisions relating to the franchise in future? Finally, of course, bringing the two franchises together does offer opportunities in terms of scale, but will the Minister also see that it also means that there is more pressure to deliver and more pressure for us to deliver the right decision to bring us the correct rail infrastructure that we need in future?
Can I thank you for your broad support, because I think we’re all agreed across the Chamber this is an aspirational project that needs to be delivered? And, on what you said in your last points, it is a scale and it is a pressure to deliver. But, in terms of the scale, it’s quite clear from our discussions with the industry that the industry are up to this challenge. Of course, it will be interesting to see what consortia actually emerge from our discussions on this; they’re all very, very interested in how they can deliver from new rolling stock, perhaps building this within Wales, and how they can operate the system and what they can undertake.
Yesterday, we had the industry engagement event and we had 42 leading businesses from across the UK, and very positive feedback. We had 18 separate meetings with people yesterday and we’re about to have another look. I can tell you now that there are already rolling stock companies that have actually indicated looking at sites within Wales for manufacture. So, I think we’ve got the right thing in terms of how we’re packaging it altogether.
I smiled at your comments, I have to say, about the not for profit. Well, we will go for that not-for-profit model, because that is a model that is established and understood and that I’m able to deal with within the powers that I have. But, you’re quite right: it’s about capping it. In fact, you’re allowing them to have so much money to run the system for you and I think it’s important that we look at that and are quite proactive in what models we can bring to the table in the final discussions around how this will be operated.
One of the tricky issues that you’ve picked up on is actually smart ticketing. Smart ticketing technology is around; it’s just been the inability, sometimes, to get agreement across the piece, because we would, of course, like smart ticketing with bus companies and everything, but of course I have no control over the regulation of buses. I can only discuss with the industry what I may or may not want to do about concessionary fares. So, smart ticketing will be absolutely important to us, hence why I also indicated that I think I need to go for further powers in terms of buses, so we can have a properly integrated system that is managed absolutely. When you look at the links, I think, between bus services, particularly in rural and hard-to-reach deprived urban areas, that’s even more essential when you link them into the rail network.
In terms of pricing policy, I think it’s important we make pricing policy—and I responded to William Graham—very integral to this. We will have to work out what pricing policy is, because we’ve seen some quite large increases elsewhere in terms of it. If you want to make a genuine change in terms of bringing people on to the rail, we’re going to have to look at a pricing policy. But we’ve been very proactive in looking at a pricing policy—we’ve got concessionary fares in Wales on the buses, and there’ll be, with the agreement of the Liberal Democrats on the budget, youth concessionary fares. So, there are lots of issues we’re looking at in other arenas that I think we can bring to bear when we look at pricing policy.
Can I make it clear that this scheme isn’t for the benefit of Cardiff? This scheme is for the benefit of the wider city capital region and it’s important that everybody looks at what benefits can be gained. It’s up to local authorities to look at what they require in terms of stations within their areas, and if they’re landed with developments, what do they do in terms of section 106? So, that is very important for us, because it would be a dark day if it was just for Cardiff. It’s actually about ensuring that it goes all across the region.
In the long run—you asked me about up to 2020—it looks modest, but, actually, in the timescale, there’s quite a lot of work in that budget up to 2020. I’ve already discussed with the leader of Monmouthshire about the future, and if the project extends, whether it should extend to the Severn bridge, what we should be looking at in terms of travel and what more we need to do on the Valleys? So, all of these are important things.
The first point you made was about the all-Wales approach. It is very hard when you’re looking in, like you looking from north Wales, or when my constituents might look in from Swansea. They’ll say, ‘Oh, south-east Wales again.’ I think we’ve got to make it quite clear that we’ve got a transport policy for all of Wales. That will become quite clear when I issue the new national transport plan, but also, when I issued my statement last week on the policy agenda within north Wales, I made my commitments regarding the A40. It’s also my intention to do further statements about the Swansea city region because I’ve commissioned work in that area as well.
Minister, could I first of all welcome the statement of a project that I think really came up for major debate around about 2012 in this Chamber? It’s clear how much work and progress has actually been achieved, because it is a project that is not only inspirational and aspirational, as has been said, but certainly for the community that I represent in the Taff Ely area and Pontypridd—and indeed further afield valleys—it is economically and socially a transformational project.
Can I also welcome the statements you’ve made in the past, but also the discussions we’ll be able to have over the issue of transport within the Taff Ely area? As you’ll know, I’ve had discussions with you over the links between Beddau, Llantrisant, Talbot Green and Pontyclun, because these are areas that are marked for massive housing expansion. Quite frankly, it’s almost impossible to see how satisfying that demand can actually proceed without an integrated transport system.
Can I also ask you about the need for longer term vision because this is a next phase? We’ve always tended to talk about the metro as being a sort of 10 to 15-year project and a whole not-for-dividend concept. Some of us were in the European Investment Bank last week and I think there was some very positive feedback and responses to this whole project. But, of course, it has been identified as a £3 billion plan, and I was wondering what further discussions and arrangements are going to take place with them over this, but also how you see the longer term vision in terms of not just the next five-year phase but perhaps the five years or 10 years. What is the ultimate vision that we’re looking forward to?
If I can start with the last question first, Presiding Officer, in terms of the EIB, I know that my colleague Jane Hutt is already talking about future engagement with them in terms of the funding, because they’ve got enormous experience on capital projects et cetera. I think it’s very valuable that the committee and others have been able to discuss this. I know Jane Hutt will take these matters forward.
In terms of the longer term vision, you’ve only got that little map now that shows where we are. That map will add up. Some people won’t like it because there are names that are not on it. Some people will think why we’ve done it like this. But this is the first stab, really, at where you’re going to go to give something visual in terms of it. I’ll be more than happy to outline in the autumn the further vision for it about where further it can go and what it can do when we conclude these initial discussions with the industry. We do have a very good timescale on this because we’ve got the industry engagement now, which is quite important. Once we’ve had industry engagement, we’ve actually gone on to look at what types of contracts we’re actually going to let on that. I’ll be more than happy to update you at that time.
You’ve already raised with me some of the concerns with your constituents, and I think you’ve got a key point. Where we’ve got massive housing expansions, or we’ve got new industrial estates coming on, we’ve got to sort out the transport infrastructure. Because if we don’t sort it out it’ll be absolute chaos on some of the existing roads that exist within Wales. I don’t think anybody should be thinking about giving planning permission for large developments without looking satisfactorily at the concerns around traffic and how you’re going to get people to school, to work and out to leisure. I think this is what the metro will allow. I have to say that the discussions I’ve had with local authority leaders in south-east Wales have been very positive on that aspect because they see that as a win, win, win. You know as well that stations can open up other land for development. It might bring more jobs into an area. We’ve got a lot of jobs on the coastal belt, but we do really need to get employment further up the Valleys. I think that having an integrated transport system is the way to actually deal with some of these issues.
I’d like to thank the Minister for outlining her vision. Of course, there is much to agree on within it. There has been support from across this Chamber for the concept of a metro in south-east Wales, but, with respect, a picture paints a thousand words. If there’s one picture I wanted to see today, it was not a map, it was the map. Perhaps that was a triumph of hope over experience. But we have several maps, actually, that have emerged over a period of time. Over three years of working groups and reports and we still don’t have a definitive map outlining what it is that we are working towards. If you have an estimate of the cost that this project is going to incur, then you must have an outline plan that you are working to. I think it would be very helpful to Members here if we knew exactly what it was that was on the table at this point in time, and what the timescale for those likely investments is going to be. I recognise that it is early days but, all the same, we are three years into this project, and we still are lacking some clarity, I would suggest. Passengers want to know what their services are going to look like. Businesses that are making decisions on where to invest and where to locate themselves want to know what that transport infrastructure is going to look like, and when. People who are making choices on where to live want to know whether or not they are going to be connected to this metro system. As I say, we all know that things like Transport for London connections in London have a big impact on home prices; they have a big impact on inward investment into different areas. We need to know that we have a clear idea of what that map is so that we can start to kick-start local communities, particularly to drive investment back into our Valleys towns, so that they can begin to thrive again.
In terms of governance and structures, one query that’s occurred to me—and perhaps you can clarify it for me—is in terms of the not-for-profit company that you’ve established. Clearly, when going to the European Investment Bank, the Welsh Government doesn’t currently have the power to borrow. I wonder if your company does have the power to borrow as an SME independent of Government, and what the legal implications of that are. Also in terms of the governance structure, I must confess I am concerned about the message that it sends to bring both the Wales and borders franchise and the metro into one governance structure. It feels like you are trying to kill two birds with one stone, and, sadly, I fear you may be missing both. In terms of the metro, it’s supposed to be an integrated transport vision; it’s not just for rail. So, merging it into the Wales and borders franchise gives a signal, really, that buses—which carry, of course, far more passengers than trains do in Wales—are not an integral part of that. Active travel, despite the Act, doesn’t appear to justify a mention in this statement. It feels like this is kind of railroading by railway, for want of a better phrase.
In terms of the rest of Wales, as other Members have mentioned, there will be a fear that their needs will be overlooked in the drive to deliver the metro—this being the biggest possible investment in the public transport system in Wales we’ve seen in many generations. They fear that, all the while, all unnoticed, in other parts of Wales, their rail services will be allowed to stagnate and their bus lifelines will be cut. The rest of Wales needs to know that it’s not all about the south-east Wales corner. I think this sends the wrong signal, as I say, twice over. If it can’t be revisited at this stage, I really would welcome your indication, Minister, that there will be a clear and transparent dividing line and line of accountability on both of those issues, as distinct projects, so that we can see that both are being addressed.
Through ticketing is obviously an important issue. I’m very pleased to see this addressed within the statement, but I wonder if you can clarify something for me. Clearly, it was promised in the national transport plan in 2010. It was due by 2014. That hasn’t yet happened. What has changed to mean that it will be possible in the next period? In terms of the Welsh Government taking responsibility for revenue fare risk, I wonder if you can tell us what assessment you’ve made of the impact that things like the introduction of tap-in, tap-out ticketing at unmanned rural stations might have on revenue take on the Welsh railways.
In terms of electrification, I thank you for your clarification on the statements that you have received. Clearly, if there is any indication that the electrification of the main line could slip, that could have a knock-on impact on Valleys lines electrification. I would be grateful to know that you have contingency plans in place for that. Can you also confirm that you are going to be electrifying the whole Valley Lines network to heavy rail standards? I assume that that’s the case seeing as you haven’t outlined which lines you might consider for light rail or tram trains in the future, and that you must—presumably—be going to the gold standard. But it would be great if you could clarify that. Also, I’d be interested in the work that your Government has been doing on issues such as electrifying tunnels, and whether or not there’s a possibility of bringing in battery electric bi-mode trains—for example, the Bombardier model that’s been developed—so that we can avoid the cost of having to electrify, for example, the Caerphilly tunnel.
Minister, I really want to see the metro a success. I want to see it transform our communities and bring prosperity that we are desperate to see, especially towards the top end of the Valleys, where people feel that they are so badly disconnected; and in the east of Cardiff, where a bus just from the suburbs can take an hour to get to the city centre. I want to see it work, but I am hugely frustrated by what feels like more and more delays, as are passengers and as are businesses across my region. So, please, please, just give us the definitive map.
Can I say, you say you want the metro project to run, but when I outline to you all the technical issues that are required to actually get this project to go, we have a whole series of questions that actually aren’t relevant to this stage of the discussion? The reason we've chosen to take this route to go to the market is an illustration that you gave. What would I do about Caerphilly tunnel? Because the current arrangements are that it would close for six months if we were to electrify as Network Rail has indicated. Well, that would cause chaos, I think, to the whole of the economy and everybody going about their business in south-west Wales. So, therefore, we obviously know about trains, that you electrify so far, they go to battery-operated through tunnels, but this is the type of dialogue we’re having with the industry now, to say, ‘What can you do within the envelope we are providing for you now in terms of how you can deliver this project?’
You also make the point as well that you don't want it linked to the franchise. We've been told by the industry that in order to get the best competition, to get the best rates and get the best package, to link this is actually a good thing; in terms of the size of the project, it makes it very attractive. And what's happened across our borders now with projects that are no longer running, there are other companies thinking, ‘Where are we going to go now to do business?’ We're in the position to do business because we actually have a project that is big enough to make it attractive. We don't want to have different arrangements in different places with different contracts here, because, at the end of the day, that's what's caused chaos in the rail network elsewhere. So, I feel really quite strongly about those particular issues.
You asked, obviously, about the company. The company is established. Jane will be exploring with the European Investment Bank how, because the company is arm's-length first, what we can do in terms of it, can we use EIB, but we’ll also be looking for other resources, and that is something I will of course come back on.
You asked for the definitive map. Most LDPs haven't got definitive maps of what they're doing yet. Now, when local authorities have their different LDPs and they know where they're going on everything, I will then have my dialogue with them about where they need to be, where they need to plan to be, and what they need to do. So, it's a question of getting everything in order, and what we've announced today is getting everything in order.
You asked about smart ticketing. Smart ticketing is absolutely excellent in terms of what we want to do, but, at the moment, bus operators and train operators might agree in principle to an integrated ticketing system, but I've got no method of making the bus operators do it for me, so, I’ve got a load of issues like that that have to actually be dealt with. So, what we're suggesting today, which I think is the important thing, is to take this forward in an orderly manner. We've decided where the parameters are. We'll look at the wider map, which I've indicated to Mick Antoniw I will look at by the autumn, and we’re going to the market and saying, ‘This is where it is, these are the outcomes we want, this is the envelope of money we've got; what can you do for that?’, and most people in the business think that's a smart way to operate.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
I still have four Members to call. This is an important statement, so I do intend to call everyone, but, please, succinct and focused questions now. John Griffiths.
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. I very much welcome this important statement today, which I think will produce a step change in our integrated transport systems in Wales, our economy, social opportunities and, indeed, the environment. Just a few questions, then, Dirprwy Lywydd. One is with regard to the Ebbw Vale line. The Minister will be aware that it's a long-held priority for many to see the Ebbw Vale passenger line go to Newport, and, obviously, from Newport up to Ebbw Vale, and we believe that would be very important for both areas and many communities adjacent to them. So, I wonder whether the Minister could elaborate a little on the content of the statement in terms of further services, future services on that Ebbw Vale line.
With regard to the extension into Monmouthshire, which I think is very welcome and is very important in terms of road traffic around the Brynglas tunnels and on the M4, I think it’s again a priority for many transport groups in Monmouthshire to see enhancement of park-and-ride facilities and new park-and-ride facilities in that area. I wonder, again, whether the Minister could say a little bit more about those.
Finally, just to echo what was said earlier in terms of affordability, if we are to get this sort of modal shift to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, it is crucial that the prices, the fares, are affordable, and, obviously, for people with more strained finances, it's absolutely a priority, and of course that has many impacts on the more deprived communities in Wales. So, I'd be very grateful if the Minister could re-emphasise the importance of affordability.
Can I say that Lesley Griffiths, who has responsibility for areas on the anti-poverty agenda, has already made it quite clear that, in terms of support for the metro project, we've got to look at fair funding so we can ensure that people can get to employment and do everything else? I think I've responded to all Members on that.
In terms of Monmouthshire, you make a very good point about the park and ride. Park-and-ride facilities, by the way, aren't going to be little 30 parking bays. Some of the park-and-ride facilities envisaged in this would be large multi-storey car parks that we’ll have to have planning permission for, so people can leave their cars there safely and move on, and get onto the train or tram or whatever it might be.
In terms of Ebbw Vale, the timetable studies are still currently under way on Ebbw Vale, but I probably will be able, when I update in the autumn, say a few words on that.
Minister, thank you for your statement this afternoon. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed around the Chamber today, in particular how exciting, if delivered, this could be—not just on the economic front, but in the way people consider their travel options in the South Wales Central area.
If I could, I ask you to maybe project yourself forward to 2020, because if you’re reading the news clippings today and you’re a casual observer, you would assume that we are going to have a metro system across the south-east Wales area by 2020. Can you tell me today that we will have a metro system in the south-east Wales area that meets the aspirations that you have talked about today, and which can be delivered within the budget that you have mentioned? Because I think we’re all aware of large public sector capital projects that have invariably ended up costing considerably more than what was originally budgeted for them. I very much hope it can happen, but I’d be grateful if you could just humour me for a bit and say you’re sitting in 2020; are we looking at a delivered metro system for 2020?
You made me smile because, of course, we’ve got all the issues around electrification, and that’s been part of the UK Government’s dilemma about the way that Network Rail has operated. I always say that I’ve been quite pleased that I’ve actually made representations to the UK Government about Network Rail, and getting more control on it, because the escalating costs have been phenomenal on all these types of infrastructure projects.
Yes, we will have the start of a system for the metro, because we will be modernising lines, we will be doing further work, but at the end of the day, this is a system that’s going to take a long time to put in place in terms of its delivery. I’m sorry if people think it’s going to be all-singing, all-dancing by 2020, but we certainly won’t be all-singing, all-dancing into Monmouthshire by 2020, but we are proceeding, I think, in the right way.
The trouble is that the metro was a wonderful concept when it started, and everybody thought it was easy to do, but I can assure you, dealing with rail and other things is not easy to do—not easy to do in terms of arrangements with Network Rail, and how we’re going to take a contract forward. But can I say to Members, in the main, I’ve been very glad for the support I’ve had from the benches on this? I think they understand that the fundamental importance of it—and what I think you’re saying—is to get it actually right, on budget and on time.
I welcome this statement. I think it’s a very, very good development, and I think it’s very important to remember that this metro will cover half the population of Wales, and is important for the future of the whole of Wales. As the Minister said, it’s much more than a transport project.
Will the Minister assure me that the predicted growth of Cardiff will be taken into account in the development of the metro? I think the population of Cardiff is forecast to rise by more than a quarter by 2036, so the potential customers for the metro will rise. So, I think it’s very important that that is taken into consideration.
This is the second major project we’ve had announced recently. For the Cardiff bus station, the Foster design was announced as chosen about a week ago, I think. Not Foster—yes; it was Norman Foster, wasn’t it? That’s right. I’ve got the right name. I just wondered if there’d been any discussion with Cardiff council and the proposed development there, and how that would link in with the metro.
I’m pleased that buses are going to play a major role. I know that the plan is that buses will be more frequent and will move more quickly, and obviously that will depend on relieving the congestion there is already, so I wondered how that would be tackled. I wondered whether she could say how the public will actually be involved. I know that she mentioned in the statement that there would be discussion, or had been discussion, with railway users groups, and I wondered whether she could say how that will go forward. I wondered whether she could, finally, say what sort of governance arrangements there would be for the metro, and how they would relate to the city region.
Can I say, obviously, in terms of the issue, yes, we have looked at the predicted growth within the region itself in terms of the usage of transport? Of course, there’s quite a high level of predicted growth, actually, coming into the immediate Cardiff area. Can I say that it’s excellent news on the bus station in Cardiff? Of course, my officials will be having liaisons with all officials across local authorities to ensure that we fit in with their plans, and they fit in with ours.
Also, in terms of buses, buses are very important, but we do need to get regulation of buses. We do need more control over regulation to ensure that we have the integration that we require, because currently I feel like I’ve got one hand tied behind my back in this discussion on what we can do on integrated transport.
Obviously, there’s been involvement with the rail groups, because some of these are real experts, I have to say, on what can be run where. In fact, I have to say, and I say this publicly, that some of them understand the timetable much better than Arriva in their areas, and what more they can do. So, that’s been very important. We will look further at how we engage with the public more generally. I think we’ll come to that stage when we’re in the stage to identify where the early lines will be and what the early changes will be and what people require.
In terms of the governance agenda, the city region has had quite a fluid position, as you know, because it’s doing its final reports about its directions of travel. I think it sees its role far more with the local authority leaders, and discussing with the private sector, focusing on the planning and the economic development issues. The metro must almost be standalone in terms of its development, with them fitting in. But, there’s no final decisions been made on the future structure of the Cardiff city region. I will be updating Members when I have further advice from the chair and the board.
Like others, Minister, I want to welcome the statement you’ve made this afternoon. I particularly want to welcome the statements that you’ve made on the governance and future management of the metro system and the linkage between that and the Wales and borders franchise, which brings together a lot of different issues around sustainable transport options that we are looking for in Wales, and to drive sustainable economic growth in the Valleys areas.
Can I ask you two questions, if I may? First of all, do you have a timescale for developments? I’m thinking in particular, of course, of the Ebbw Vale line in terms of more frequent services and the work that’s currently being undertaken by Network Rail on that. I’m also looking for any indication as to whether priority has been given to services to Abertillery at the same time. You will be aware that, for those of us in the Valleys areas looking at the Ebbw Vale line, our priority is additional services to Cardiff. We want to see this as an inter-urban service that drives sustainable growth, the eradication of poverty and employment in the heads of the Valleys area, but whenever additional stops are inserted in this route, that makes that service less valuable. So, it’s important that we have a recognition that this is an inter-urban service, and not simply a commuter service for Cardiff or Newport.
Also, the second question is on the relationship with the Network Rail Wales route study. We’re aware that Network Rail has just finished consulting on their route study in Wales and that they are looking towards planning some significant investments over the next few years. It appears to me that if the metro system is to succeed, then those investments, the management, the drive and the direction that you’ve given the metro project need to be working as a single entity.
Can I thank you for your final point, particularly because you raise the interesting point of what is going to happen to Network Rail in the future with all the changes that have occurred? That is one of the discussions I’ll be having about the metro project with the UK Government, about what relationship we need to have with Network Rail to make sure that we don’t get caught out by anything that might be undertaken, and to make sure that we are streamlined in terms of our particular agenda.
I do absolutely concur with you about inter-urban services. One of the issues we are looking at now, currently, as we plough through, is not just the additionality of Ebbw Vale to Cardiff, or Ebbw Vale to Newport, but of course all those other links. I will be able to update Members on the further stages of this in the autumn, which I think you will be pleased with.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Finally, Nick Ramsay.
Thank you for calling me, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, you mentioned Monmouthshire several times in your statement today, and the extension of the metro to Monmouthshire, which I welcome. However, the latest map of the metro shows connections to Abergavenny and Chepstow, which are clearly already on main rail lines, but it doesn’t show any link to Monmouth itself, which lies at the top of the A449—a strategic route. Can you explain why the A449 doesn’t feature on this map? If it’s not going to, will you review the situation to make sure that the town of Monmouth is not left out of this network, because it’s clearly a very important north-to-south strategic route?
Can I make it clear that we’ve had initial discussions around this, and I’ve indicated that this is the map where we are now? There will be further work undertaken on the map. I’m actually meeting the leader of Monmouthshire council and this will be one of the agenda items, about how we can look into the future and about how we’ll be doing further stuff in Monmouthshire as part of this overall package.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Thank you, Minister.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
In accordance with Standing Order 12.24, I propose that the following two motions under items 7 and 8 are grouped for debate. These are the Adult Protection and Support Orders (Authorised Officer) (Wales) Regulations 2015 and the Safeguarding Boards (Functions and Procedures) (Wales) Regulations 2015. Does any Member object?
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
I call on the Minister for Health and Social Services to move the motions—Mark Drakeford.
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
Approves that the draft The Adult Protection and Support Orders (Authorised Officer) (Wales) Regulations 2015 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 9 June 2015.
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
Approves that the draft The Safeguarding Boards (Functions and Procedures) (Wales) Regulations 2015 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 9 June 2015.
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I move the motion. It’s my pleasure to introduce these regulations, the first to be discussed by the National Assembly as a result of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. These are not the first regulations to have been approved, however, as the assessment regulations under section 3 of the Act were successfully passed under the negative procedure. These regulations emerge from section 7 of the 2014 Act, which implements two things: first of all, it establishes a structure to oversee and co-ordinate the work of those agencies that have a role in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults; and secondly, it implements specific measures to ensure that children and adults are protected more effectively.
As a result, Dirprwy Lywydd, there are two sets of regulations before the Assembly today. Firstly, the Adult Protection and Support Orders (Authorised Officer) (Wales) Regulations 2015 restrict the category of persons who may apply for an adult protection and support order. As a result of consultation, regulation 2 has been strengthened and now specifically requires the completion of appropriate training by local authority officers and the relevant experience they are required to possess if working within the field of social care with adults who are, or may be, at risk.
The second set, the Safeguarding Boards (Functions and Procedures) (Wales) Regulations 2015 will guide boards as to how they should fulfil their objectives under the Act to protect children and adults at risk from abuse or other forms of harm and provide explicitly for participation by those affected by the boards’ work. The regulations represent part of a package that will produce a stronger and more coherent framework for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults in Wales.
Mrs Gwenda Thomas, as then Deputy Minister for Social Services, established the safeguarding advisory panel in July 2013 to work with a wide range of stakeholders to develop and influence policy, regulations and statutory guidance in relation to the safeguarding aspects of the 2014 Act. The resulting proposals, informed by the panel’s engagement, was subject to formal consultation between November of last year and February of 2015. The regulations before the Assembly today are a product of that process. Both received very strong support during the consultation and are brought before you on that basis. They are discrete but important elements in implementing more coherent, cohesive and comprehensive arrangements to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect, and I recommend them to the Assembly.
Could I thank the Minister for the approach that he’s taken in bringing forward the regulations? I’m particularly pleased that, following the consultation, the Minister has agreed to amend the regulations with regard to who can apply for an order. There is a delicate balance to be trodden, Deputy Presiding Officer, about who is potentially at risk. Sometimes, people make lifestyle choices or choose to live their lives in a way that, perhaps, to another person would seem to be strange, odd or not in keeping with their wellbeing, but, actually, for that person, it is their intrinsic right to be able to live their life that way and not comply to, perhaps, the norms of how other people would see day-to-day living. Therefore, as I said, there is a balance to be struck about how you can ensure that someone is not in danger and that their wellbeing is not being ill affected, but at the same time not imposing a version of what we regard to be acceptable lifestyles upon an older person. So, I think this added requirement for a person to be trained and to be well qualified in being able to make these judgments is a welcome safeguard that we on the Liberal Democrat benches very much welcome.
On the second order, with regard to safeguarding boards, again, we are very supportive of the fact that the Minister, at this stage, is not minded to combine both children and adult safeguarding boards into one. There is grave concern, especially among the children’s lobby, whether that would be detrimental to the protection of children, although I’m always cognisant of the fact that when we received evidence in the committee on these subjects, actually the issue of elder abuse, and how as a society we recognise elder abuse, perhaps, in some cases, is the greater danger we have to guard against. While child abuse and neglect of children unfortunately still happens, and happens to an alarming extent, and, certainly, as we become as a society more willing to listen to people and encourage people to come forward to talk about their experiences, elder abuse, especially elder abuse in the home perpetrated by a loved one, is still something that is very much a taboo subject and we don’t talk about. While I welcome the recognition that the two need to be separate, I think in doing that we recognise not only the need to protect children, but also this issue of how older people can be subject to abuse in their own homes when they’re being cared for by people who should be looking after them properly.
I will speak to the two items—items 7 and 8.
I’m delighted that these regulations are being presented to the Assembly by the Minister today. Having been scrutinised, of course, through the affirmative procedure, they move forward the commitment made by this Assembly to strengthen the safeguarding of the people of Wales—children and adults—who are or may be at risk. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is there to deliver on the needs of people who require care and support and of carers who themselves need support. It puts citizens at the centre of the process and introduces unprecedented rights for informal carers. Most people will be enabled to live independently for longer with the support of their carers, but, sadly, as Kirsty Williams has just said, a small number of cases will be abused and that will be happening in the home. The adult protection orders will allow authorised and trained persons to speak to someone they suspect is at risk on a one-to-one basis in their own homes in order to ascertain if they are indeed at risk. This will close a big gap in current procedures.
To move to the safeguarding boards, I’d like to thank the advisory board for its work and its advice to me during my time as Deputy Minister, and also to thank local government, the NHS, the police, the voluntary sector and others for having already taken steps to establish adults and children’s protection boards on the health authority footprints. This has been done, of course, in anticipation of today’s regulations and the implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 next year. Time will tell, Deputy Presiding Officer, whether the merger of adults and children’s protection boards would best serve the people of Wales.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
The Minister to respond.
Diolch yn fawr, Ddirprwy Lywydd. Can I thank opposition party spokespeople from all parties for their willingness to take part in the preparation of the work that comes before the Assembly today and to be part of discussions around them? I’m grateful to Kirsty Williams for what she said about the way in which these regulations have been amended as a result of consultation. I hope to bring regulations from the 2014 Act before the Assembly in each of three weeks and, on each occasion, I hope to be able to show how the process of consultation on the original regulations has led to their strengthening, before the regulations we bring to the Assembly.
Can I say I’m especially grateful to Gwenda Thomas for the work that she continues to carry out in chairing work to oversee the production of regulations that flow from the 2014 Act to ensure that they are fully consistent with the Act itself, of course, but also with indications that she set out on the floor of the Assembly and in committee during its passage? The fact that she is able to support the regulations this afternoon is a great comfort to me and I know will be influential with other Assembly Members as I ask for the Assembly’s support for the regulations before us this afternoon.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Thank you, Minister. The proposal is to agree the motion under item 7. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
The proposal is to agree the motion under item 8. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed.
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Item 9 is the town and country planning regulations, and I call the Minister for Natural Resources to move the motion.
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5
Approves that the draft The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications and Site Visits) (Wales) Regulations 2015 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 3 June 2015.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. The regulations look to increase the income that local authorities receive from fees that accompany planning applications and help ensure applicants receive an efficient service when they submit their application. I formally move.
Minister, I would just be grateful for a bit of clarification on this regulation. I know that the Welsh Government carried out a consultation, and the responses to the consultation have not yet been released. So, I would be grateful if you could perhaps comment on that. I also understand the consultation included some discussion on fees for windfarm applications, but they weren’t present in the regulations. I would be grateful for any clarity on those issues.
Thank you. The 12-week consultation did take place. In general, the consultation responses were positive from businesses and developers and local planning authorities, as you would expect. Most were in agreement that an increased fee should improve and increase the service. This is what we are seeking to do. It’s a 15 per cent overall fee increase, and that equates to an average of around £80,000 per planning authority. That is all, in terms of a—. It is probably one and a half planning officers’ time. But, we are seeking to enhance the opportunities for planning authorities to develop a stronger economy. I would be hopeful that the Member would be supportive of that.
With regard to planning applications for windfarms, the consultation did incorporate all activity around planning decisions, but the Member will also know there is a consultation out on developments of national significance, and whether planning applications for windfarms fall into DNS will be a matter for another debate. But, the current position is that for introduction of new fees, this is the regulation we would have to introduce.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I’ll defer voting until voting time.
The following amendment has been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Paul Davies.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Item 10 is a debate on the Welsh Ministers’ report on the compliance with the duty under section 1 of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011, and I call the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty to move the motion—Lesley Griffiths.
To propose the National Assembly for Wales:
Notes the Welsh Ministers' Report on the Compliance with the duty under section 1 of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. The Welsh Government’s ambition is for every child and young person in Wales to enjoy their rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 underpins this commitment, and our children’s rights scheme provides a framework to support all Ministers to have due regard to children’s rights in all of our decisions. The intention of the Measure is to secure positive outcomes for children and young people by creating a culture that respects and upholds children’s rights.
In May 2014, the Measure came into full force and we accompanied this with our revised children’s rights scheme, which received unanimous cross-party support when passed. Today, I’m pleased to introduce our latest report on compliance as required by the rights Measure. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our progress, recognise where things are working well and consider what steps we can take to improve further. It highlights the positive change in culture, reflecting in practice our commitment to the UNCRC.
Following the full implementation of the Measure, there has been a significant increase in the number of children’s rights impact assessments, or CRIAs, being undertaken. We responded positively to the calls to increase the transparency of the CRIA, strengthening the approach to publication. We’ve also tabled this Plenary debate as set out in our scheme to ensure the Measure, and therefore the UNCRC, receives the exposure it deserves, and these steps have been warmly welcomed.
In developing the CRIA process, we were mindful the purpose was to ensure decision makers can be better advised as to a decision’s effect on the rights of the child. This is what the 2008 concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asked of us. The CRIA process does not necessarily lead to particular predefined outcomes. The most comprehensive CRIA may not, in itself, change the decision that follows. It is about how we assess the impact of the decisions we are taking to reach a conclusion, not necessarily the conclusion itself.
Throughout the report, we refer to examples of various ways in which due regard has been applied, sometimes utilising the CRIA process. Due regard includes thinking about the impact of decisions on children in the course of day-to-day work activity. The independent evaluation of the CRIA process, which will report in September 2015, will play a crucial role in improving the way in which we implement the Measure.
Section 5 of the Measure places a duty on Ministers to promote knowledge and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children cannot access and exercise their rights unless they, their families and the professionals who work with them know about the UNCRC. The report outlines our work in developing our overarching awareness strategy. This ranges from providing training for officials to providing sector-specific training for the children’s workforce. Of course, there is always more to be done. However, the Welsh Government’s commitment is clear. Developing policies and programmes that recognise the need to support children and young people is critical to addressing child poverty and improving outcomes. Our commitment to the UNCRC is manifested in the decisions and actions we take as Ministers. This is why we are investing over £323 million in our tackling poverty programmes this year alone.
We continue to identify ways to do more to help people out of poverty and give children the best possible start in life. We’ve recently announced an investment of an extra £7.6 million every year in mental health services to children and young people. We’ve delivered on the expansion of the Flying Start scheme. We’ve banned people from smoking in cars when children under the age of 18 are present. We are providing £1.8 million over three years to children in Wales to create a centre of excellence for children’s rights, including national participation structures to enable children and young people to have their opinions heard and, in turn, to influence our work. This national participation model, called Young Wales, will reach thousands of children and young people, including those who are most marginalised. Participation is central to our work in implementing the UNCRC, and we are absolutely committed to listening to the voices and opinions of young people.
The children’s rights scheme and the CRIA are innovative developments. I am proud we’ve been brave enough to be the first Government in the UK and amongst only a few in Europe and the world to put such arrangements in place. It is important to remember why we have the Measure. It is not just about compliance through following processes. The key elements for effective implementation are knowledge, awareness and a culture of day-to-day consideration of children’s rights. Examples in the report bear testament to this. It points to the 3,500 officials who’ve undertaken training on the UNCRC, the fact the number of CRIAs has tripled, and the transformation in the transparency of how the Measure is being implemented. This in turn has had an effect on how we, as Ministers, are held to account and is a significant step forward. Everything we do as we implement the Measure is focused on better decision making and better policy making for children and young people, resulting in them being able to realise their potential. This compliance report reflects the progress we’ve made in making this a reality, and I look forward to the debate.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
I have selected the amendment to the motion, and I call on Angela Burns to move amendment 1, tabled in the name of Paul Davies.
Add as new point at end of motion:
Calls on the Welsh Government to do more to promote the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to the wider public.
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer, and I so move the amendment. Minister, you will have read that our amendment calls on the Welsh Government to do more to promote the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to the wider public. The reason why we believe this is important is that we do recognise that a lot of resources have been channelled towards Welsh Government staff for training purposes and to ensure that all your Ministers around the table consider the UNCRC when formulating policy and legislation, but we believe that the public have not received the same degree of information to help them to learn and understand what the UNCRC is about. We do acknowledge that there are online resources available, but we do think that more needs to be done to promote the knowledge of those online resources to the public. We acknowledge the fact that children and young people are becoming more aware of their rights. We acknowledge the fact that it is spoken about in schools. We acknowledge the fact that, when young people come here for days around the Senedd, they are often told—or, I think, almost always told—about this innovative commitment of the Assembly.
But we also believe it is important that parents and carers and the wider public have access to this information to make sure that they understand that Wales, as a nation, has committed to the UNCRC. We would like them to understand that their children’s interests are considered and respected, that they are safe within and without school, and that they are not discriminated against because of their race, their religion, their physical or mental condition, or their age. So, Minister, what I’d like to understand is in what way, in addition to the online resources already available, will the Welsh Government further promote the UNCRC to the wider public, not just young people and children?
We also note that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales noted in her response the lack of evaluation mechanisms in place to assess the impact of Welsh Government measures to promote the UNCRC and to evaluate all the measures, to the children as well as to the adults. Given that importance, what measures will Welsh Government put in place to evaluate its measures, so that you know that you are actually doing what you are hoping to achieve?
Finally, I did listen to your comments about the child’s rights impact assessment. Now, again, the children’s commissioner is very critical and says that you’ve been inconsistent in carrying out these assessments, and she calls for you to publish all of your child’s rights impact assessments as a matter of course, and not when they’re merely requested. I did take account of your very passionate defence of the Government’s stance, and I understand that you believe that the Government do do CRIAs on all new legislation coming forward, but I wondered if you would comment further on this and say what other things the Welsh Government might be able to put into place that would help everybody to see what a transparent process this is. Thank you.
The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 is one of the pieces of legislation I think that this Assembly should be most proud of. By incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Welsh domestic law, we sent a strong message about the prominence of children’s rights, and we committed, of course, Welsh Ministers to centre children’s right in all the work that they do.
The future of rights institutions and legislation in the UK currently is uncertain. The UK Government is threatening to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and has talked about withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Now, this cannot and will not affect the fundamental rights that we all hold as a result of our humanity, but it will shut down our opportunities to appeal when those rights are violated.
In this climate, it’s vital that Wales chooses to take the opposite path and to put a rights-based approach at the centre of our Government and our public services. I therefore welcome the Government’s ongoing reporting on their compliance with the rights of children and young persons Measure. Regular reporting is vital for accountability. However, I do agree with Angela Burns and with the children’s commissioner that seeing the child rights impact assessments published automatically rather than by request would boost transparency and encourage proper scrutiny of the Government’s work. People accept decisions, even if they disagree with them, if they can see and understand how you arrived at them.
Now, there’s a notable omission, I think, from this report. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that countries must eliminate corporal punishment of children in order to be in compliance with international human rights standards. When the committee last reviewed children’s rights in the UK in 2008, it welcomed the well-publicised commitment from the Welsh Government to remove the legal defence of reasonable punishment from parents and other carers who were charged with assaulting children.
It also noted that, under the terms of devolution at that time, it was not possible for the Assembly to enact the necessary legislation. As the Government prepares for the publication of the committee’s concluding observations on the UK children’s rights record in 2016, it is imperative, I think, that the Welsh Government makes their current position on this issue clear, because advocating equal protection from assault while it is somebody else’s responsibility is no longer a sustainable position. Now we have the powers, I want to know what work is being done by the Welsh Government to implement this modest but significant change to the law, which, I want to remind you, will affect very, very few people, and perhaps would affect nobody in Wales at all. Now, I’ll be leaving next year, but I hope, before that—[Assembly Members: ‘Oh.’] Some of you will be leaving as well, but you might not know it yet. [Laughter.] At least I know. But before I do, I hope that the Government makes some progress on this. The First Minister’s already said that he and I are not a million miles apart on this issue, so it would be good to see whether the Government has undertaken any work on this in recent months.
With that equal protection for children in mind, I’m delighted to support the Tory amendment about promoting children’s rights awareness, because outlawing the assault of children is fundamental, I think, to that.
Now, the children and young persons rights Measure is evidence that Wales has been at the forefront of promoting and protecting children’s rights in the past, and we must be willing to continue to take a bold stand. We must reclaim our radical edge before it’s lost forever. Under the scheme, Welsh Government is required to consider negative impacts on children and young people, and either avoid or minimise those. I’ve heard the good things that the Minister’s outlined for us this afternoon. In this regard, I’m raising the issue of extending the human papilloma virus vaccine to boys and young men. Now, you’ll know it is currently available to all girls and protects them from this potentially deadly virus. However, boys have to pay for the vaccine privately, at the cost of over £100. Young men can get this vaccine if they request it, but they have to attend a specialist clinic and fall into the category of high risk.
Now, there is a real inequality here, and we should be protecting boys and young men to the same extent as girls and young women, as the virus, I can assure you, does not discriminate between male and female. So, perhaps the Minister would tell us whether the Welsh Government has considered its duty under the Measure to boys when reviewing this policy, because we have the opportunity here to do the right thing by boys and young men and halt the rise in head and neck cancers and those very intimate cancers that the virus can lead to. Perhaps the Minister would explain how the Welsh Government meets its equality duty and its children’s rights duty at the same time as only protecting one half of the population from a virus that affects the whole cohort. Has the right to the best healthcare possible for all children and young persons been considered in the context of this vaccine?
I’m delighted to speak on the rights of children and young persons Measure, which sets out our ambition for every child and young person in Wales to realise their rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Measure places a duty on Welsh Ministers and officials to place children at the heart of their policy making, and also at the heart of their thinking, and I think that is very important: that it is a way of thinking and acting that is as important as ensuring the legislation has got children at its heart.
I think that there’s no doubt that the building blocks are in place to make Wales a child-friendly country where every child has its rights, and its rights are respected. What, actually, is a child-friendly country? I believe that a child-friendly country is a place where children and young people are welcomed, encouraged and celebrated. I think we want to feel, when children come to visit, when children take part in things, that everybody, all the country, celebrates what they are achieving. I believe that they should be equal citizens, based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They need the same protection as adults, as Jocelyn Davies has referred to. Their views should be equally respected, and they should have equal opportunities to achieve their potential.
I think there is a great challenge to the Government, now that the framework is there, to ensure that we can put a new impetus into the rights of children, to take this forward and to make the public aware, to make children aware, and to make everyone aware that this is a fundamental part of Welsh Government policy—that children are at the heart of our policy. I think that is a step we are in the process of taking, and we have made great achievements, but we need a great impetus to make sure everybody knows all about it. I am glad that the Conservatives have put forward this amendment and that the Government is supporting it, because I think it is important that we try to make the UNCRC available to everybody—that everybody knows about it—because I think probably that’s not the case at the moment.
I was just thinking about how we could move forward to make children’s rights and what we’re trying to do in Government more known to everybody in Wales. I wondered if—I don’t know whether there is one—we could adopt a logo for child-friendly Wales that said ‘child-friendly Wales’ and that we could try to use this in our documents and other bodies could use it—a sort of sign that said ‘This is what we’re doing, we’re acknowledging that children are at the heart of our policy making’. I know this is the sort of thing that some cities have done. They’ve used logos to promote their policies—policies on breastfeeding, I think, and people often have policies showing that disabled people are welcome, but I wondered if we could have a universal logo that could cover children in all parts of Wales.
I also think it’s important that children are at the core of all decision making. Looking at the Measure and looking at the children’s rights impact assessments that we’ve discussed here today, it’s inevitable, I suppose, that the biggest number and the biggest rise have been in education and social services and the smallest numbers in economic development, business development and finance. I expect that is partly reflected because there’s less legislation in those subjects, but I also think that it’s absolutely vital to have children’s voices very strong in those areas. So, for example, we’ve had today, in one of the previous debates, a discussion on the metro system, and I brought up Cardiff bus station. I want to find out, really, how much children had been consulted in terms of the metro, for example, because that will obviously have a huge impact on children’s lives because of the amount of travelling that young people and children do to go back and forth to school, out to leisure facilities, first jobs and all this sort of thing. It’s absolutely vitally important. So, I think we’ve got to be sure that we do involve children in that process. And, of course, in terms of the new bus station in Cardiff, that, again, is going to be a very important place for children as a transport hub for children and young people. So, I think we’ve got to make sure that they’re involved in these sorts of projects as well as the ones we more traditionally think of children and young people being involved in, that is education and social services.
I’d like to say as well that I welcome the fact that we are here today discussing a compliance report and that we should all be very proud that Wales is one of the first countries to actually incorporate these rights within its legislation. But I think a compliance report as well needs to actually be quite truthful and honest with regard to the position, and whilst I accept what the Minister says with regard to progress, it was the case, of course, that the 2011 compliance report outlined the obligations under article 12 of the convention with regard to the participation of children and young people. Although I accept what you say regarding the steps that you’re now taking, we did, of course, have a situation during the course of this Assembly whereby the Parliament or the representative body that was set up for us to consult with children and young people was done away with. Time will tell whether or not the processes that are now being put in place will actually replicate that representation.
I think as well that the CRIAs—there has been criticism previously of the amount of training that was given to Government staff and to Government Ministers in the past. So, if we’re being told that attention is now being given to making good that deficiency, then, of course, I welcome that as well. But there is a danger that we become process-driven. I remember my days in local authorities. Although the Minister says that you can go through a process and it won’t always come out with the result that you might have hoped for, if you’re the person being consulted, the thing can become process-driven—that you go through a tick-box exercise. I remember that from my days where one of the decision logs, as far as local authorities were concerned, was that you’d gone through an equalities impact assessment. Some of those were better than others. I think, on that basis, it would be quite brave of the Government to actually undertake to publish these assessments so that the strengths and weaknesses of those assessments, in particular, can be actually addressed. But I think what we would really want to reach is a situation where the outcomes for children and young people are actually addressed through the rights that we’ve given them as individuals. I have to say, given that earlier on this afternoon we were discussing a situation where there’s been a 472 per cent increase in the number of children and young people waiting for referral through the CAMHS system, we have to be brave enough in these compliance reports to actually identify those areas where we’re not doing as well, as a Government, as we would have hoped to have done. Even though perhaps in instances that might be by way of explaining why that situation has arisen in CAMHS, for example where we’ve been discussing the numbers of referrals et cetera, we should actually be identifying in these reports areas that we feel we should be doing more in. I think that that’s particularly with regard to child poverty. So, whilst we can commend the Government on the extension of the Flying Start programme, for example, it still has to be a worry that 15 per cent of our children and young people are being brought up in households that are in severe poverty, and 31 per cent of our children and young people are actually being brought up in households where they are being brought up in poverty.
We really need to understand how we can actually effect improvements in that area. I have to say that many of us are worried with regard to the budget, which will be coming through next week, because if some of the rumours that we hear with regard to the further reforms in welfare, and particularly with regard to tax credits, we’re going to have even more of a job, as a Government here in Wales, to actually address some of these poverty issues. Whilst I welcome the position that the Conservatives have taken with regard to the rights of the child, I would echo what Jocelyn Davies has said: it’s all very well to recognise the rights of the child whilst you actually campaign for the rights of all human beings perhaps not to be given the recognition that they’re currently given.
So, we will be supporting the amendment, but I do think that we need to actually be truthful in where we’re at, going forward, because otherwise there is a danger that we actually subscribe to the strategies and the documents rather than the outcomes that we deliver for our children and young people.
In supporting the Welsh Conservative amendment I’d just like to take a look at that part of the report that deals, in actually just very few words, with how the due regard principle is considered at local level.
The public services Minister may recall that I asked him a question about this some months ago. While all our functions in this Assembly are informed by the requirement to give due regard to children’s rights, as set out in the convention, much of the delivery of policy is carried out by local authorities, health boards and so on, which are not necessarily subject to that obligation. There’s a risk that the Government’s objectives, or even the Assembly’s objectives, may not be achieved because our public sector may be subject to other pressures, particularly financial ones, which means that children’s rights may slip down the list of priorities. The public services Minister was generous enough to say that he recognised that challenge and that he would consider it further, but I was—I have to say—a little disappointed to hear Jane Hutt, the former children and equalities Minister, in the business statement earlier today feel that, in response to Andrew R.T. Davies’ question—. Well, she was unable to say that children’s rights should trump financial pressures. I think that would have been an opportunity for her to do that.
The Minister for transport may remember the case of Tomos James, a schoolboy in my region, who was denied free transport to school by Swansea council because it had identified a walking route for him, which was less than three miles from school but which was, to the lay observer, completely unsuitable for an 11-year-old boy to walk on his own. The guidance followed by councils at that time, developed in England and using old case law, did not reflect the convention, but Swansea council was not prepared to improve on that and to look at Tomos’s case from the perspective of children’s rights. I thank the transport Minister for taking the arguments that I raised in my short debate at that time and for introducing, in June last year, new guidance, which did reflect children’s rights.
However, it took until this week for the Swansea council, with its own, much-vaunted children’s rights scheme, to concede that Tomos had a right to a free bus to school—a whole year later. This is the same council that has just lost a judicial review for the withdrawal of free school transport to faith schools, this time on very interesting grounds of indirect racial discrimination. Children’s rights, once again, were not observed. And this is a local authority that has signed up to due regard for the UNCRC.
So, while the Government’s compliance report states that
‘it appears the Welsh Government’s duty is permeating to a local level with organisations identifying ways to replicate the commitment to children’s rights’,
citing Swansea and the health board in my region, I urge the Minister not to be complacent on this. When I asked the transport Minister recently whether she’d been in touch with the local authorities to ask whether they had reassessed their available walk routes to school in light of the new guidance, she explained that she had indeed written to them. What remains unclear is what local authorities have done. How many twenty-first century school applications have gone in? How many school mergers are planned on the basis of school routes assessed under the old rules?
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council made a virtue of getting in under the wire on this when it determined to close Cwrt Sart Community Comprehensive School and to start shuffling both primary and secondary pupils around the borough, knowing that new rules, reflecting children’s rights, were coming down the line. We also see questions about children’s rights, particularly the article 12 rights, which Aled Roberts referred to earlier, arise more frequently in challenges to various public consultation processes.
I’m sure that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 will help concentrate the mind. This Assembly has legislated for public bodies to observe the rights of children and older people—thanks to Darren Millar’s amendment, it’s not just young people—when they carry out their own functions under the Act. We think it’s time to consider extending that statutory duty to all functions of public sector bodies, answerable to this Government and to this Assembly, and not just to those captured by the social services Act. I think that you can expect to see our response to these concerns reflected in the Welsh Conservative manifesto in due course, as well as in our amendment today, and I urge all parties represented here to consider this. I therefore look forward to the Minister’s views on how she thinks our duty to promote children’s rights can be secured by ensuring better observance by our public sector.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
And the Minister to reply to the debate.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I thank Members for their contributions to this debate. As I set out in my opening remarks, the arrangements put in place by the scheme are about having due regard for children’s rights, when we, as Ministers, make our decisions. This is about the positive impact on children and young people’s lives, which we all want to see.
I’d just like to respond to some of the issues raised and to say, with regard to amendment 1, which was tabled by the Welsh Conservatives, as the report shows, much has already been done to promote public awareness of children’s rights under the UNCRC. However, there’s always more that we can do and, of course, we accept that. So, we’re very happy, therefore, to support the amendment.
Several Members mentioned—Angela Burns, certainly, and Julie Morgan—that there is a great deal of work being done. I’ve been in schools where the UNCRC has been discussed. And, as Angela mentioned, here in the Senedd, we’ve had events. But, I think you are right: we do have a duty to raise awareness of the UNCRC. I’m working with the children’s commissioner, with children’s organisations and with local services to see how we can maximise our efforts and resources to best effect. We’re also revising our raising awareness strategy, which focuses on developing and investing in resources, materials, training and awareness to make sure that we do have meaningful participation of children and young people. I think that’s really important—that that consultation is meaningful. We’re looking at that within the workings of national and local government. Suzy Davies was talking about local government, and I’ll come to that a bit later on also around the decisions that affect children and young people.
I also mentioned that I’ve commissioned an independent evaluation of the children’s rights impact assessment process. That’s currently being undertaken by the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People, reporting in September. I think that really will make a valuable contribution to the way forward.
Several Members again mentioned the publication of CRIAs. In May 2014, all Ministers agreed to make CRIAs publicly available. So, CRIA documents relating to legislation are published on the Welsh Government website, and this is also the case for subordinate legislation, which includes, for example, regulations that are made under primary legislation. For non-legislative decisions, all completed CRIAs are listed in a newsletter that is issued on a quarterly basis, and that provides links to all published CRIAs in that quarter and lists the title of those that are available on request. CRIAs have been published at various stages, also, of different pieces of work. So, for example, consultation stage in legislation, at explanatory memorandum stage, or alongside the final published delivery and action plans, and I really do think that the scheme promotes transparency and accountability.
I think the report has enabled us to further reflect on our activities, and it clearly sets out the steps we are taking to continue to increase levels of awareness across Wales. I think it's really important our approach is co-ordinated, it’s strategic, and we will then get the maximum value from activities. And I do hope that reassures Members of my commitment to yet further improvements in what really is a very significant year for children's rights, with the pending UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examination of the UK’s progress.
We’ve worked hard to ensure Wales is reflected in the UK state party report. We've already published a Wales-specific report, setting out how we’re delivering against UNCRC, and, as Aled Roberts said, we do have a positive story to tell in Wales, and I do look forward to us having a platform to be able to showcase the really good work that we're doing.
I'm very proud to be the Minister with lead responsibility for children and young people, and I will drive the implementation of the Measure in championing the UNCRC across all ministerial portfolios. However, all Ministers have a duty to uphold the rights of children and young people within their respective portfolios, and the commitment of each Minister, which is reflected in a change of culture and practice, is noted in the compliance report, and this aligned with the cross-party support towards the UNCRC and the obvious determination by Members and others to hold us as Ministers to account. I think that that is really testament to the political will that we have in Wales. I think this puts us in a very strong position to deliver the ultimate aim of the Measure, which is to focus on the outcomes for children and young people.
Turning to some of the other comments from Members, I don't think Jocelyn Davies and I are millions of miles apart either in relation to the issue she raised. Whilst we're not pursuing changes to legislation in the current Assembly—we don't have the mandate, it's not part of our Government's manifesto, it doesn't feature in the legislative programme—I am very committed to positive parenting. Before the summer recess, I will be making an announcement on getting a more universal approach, which I don't think we have at the moment, and I want to see that. So, before summer recess, I will be publishing a statement for Members on how we're going to take that more universal approach forward to supporting parents.
Jocelyn Davies also raised the issue regarding the HPV vaccination, and I will take that up—the Minister for Health and Social Services wasn't in the Chamber, but I will ensure those discussions are ongoing with the Minister and report back to Jocelyn Davies.
Julie Morgan mentioned a child-friendly logo. Well, I'd like to think the Welsh Government logo is a child-friendly logo. We certainly consider children and young people, as I've said, in all our decisions, but, again, I thought it was quite an interesting suggestion, which we can certainly have a look at.
Aled Roberts made a very important point. This morning, I met with the welfare reform stakeholders, along with several ministerial colleagues, and their concern about the further impact of £12 billion of welfare reform, we think, which is coming from the UK Government, cannot be underestimated, and it’s clearly having a big impact on how we eradicate child poverty by 2020. There's no way we can say that it’s not extremely challenging.
Suzy Davies spoke about local decisions, and we would expect local authorities to consider the impact of funding decisions on children and young people within their communities. The local democratic structures that we have in place clearly have to ensure they are delivering the services required of them by the Welsh Government. Those requirements are structured within the framework of the UNCRC, through their policies and their legislation. Again, it's really a very challenging time for local government, and we do appreciate that, but, again, they have to make sure that they do work within this framework. So, I’d just like to thank Members for their contributions this afternoon.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Thank you, Minister. The proposal is to agree amendment 1. Does any Member object? Amendment 1 is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Amendment 1 agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
The proposal is to agree the motion as amended.
Motion NDM5798 as amended:
To propose the National Assembly for Wales:
1. Notes the Welsh Ministers' Report on the Compliance with the duty under section 1 of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011.
2. Calls on the Welsh Government to do more to promote the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to the wider public.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Does any Member object? Then the motion as amended is agreed.
Motion NDM5798 as amended agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
We now move to voting time. Before I conduct the vote, are there three Members who wish for the bell to be rung? There are not. So, we’re voting on the town and country planning regulations and I call for a vote on the motion tabled in the name of Jane Hutt. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 39. There were no votes against. There were 12 abstentions. Therefore, the motion is agreed.
Motion agreed: For 39, Against 0, Abstain 12.
Result of the vote on motion NDM5797
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
That concludes today’s business.
The meeting ended at 18:20.