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​Written Assembly Questions tabled on 17 May 2017 for answer on 24 May 2017

R - Signifies the Member has declared an interest.
W - Signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.

(Self-identifying question no. shown in brackets)

Written Questions must be tabled at least five working days before they are to be answered. In practice, Ministers aim to answer within seven/eight days but are not bound to do so. Answers are published in the language in which they are provided, with a translation into English of responses provided in Welsh.

To ask the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure

Russell George (Montgomeryshire): What discussions have been held between the Welsh Government and mobile operators about ensuring seamless mobile coverage along the route of the Newtown bypass and what has been the result from those discussions? (WAQ73520)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Minister for Skills and Science (Julie James): Maintaining or improving the coverage of privately owned mobile phone network is outside the scope of the Highways Act. Routine discussions are not generally held with mobile phone operators as part of new road schemes such as the Newtown Bypass development. However, the bypass was subject to extensive public consultation and a public inquiry in 2015. I have asked my officials to raise awareness of the new bypass with the mobile industry.


Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the Welsh Government's decision to give £5million for the next phase of the Investment in School Broadband, and advise as to whether such a specific package could be given to businesses too? (WAQ73541)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Julie James: The £5 million investment announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Education was to enable schools to access broadband services that support future requirements such as the Digital Competence Framework, online adaptive testing and developments in the Hwb platform.

We support business connectivity through our Superfast Cymru project, and our Access Broadband Cymru and Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher schemes. In addition, we have enabled access to around 1800 business premises on industrial estates and business parks across Wales through a contract with Airband, a wireless internet provider.

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the unemployment figures for North Wales, and explain how the Welsh Government is working to positively address these? (WAQ73542)

Answer received on 31 May 2017

Ken Skates: The unemployment rate for North Wales, in the year to December 2016, was 4.0%, below both the Welsh (4.6%) and UK averages (4.9%).  Our approach to economic development – investing in skills, infrastructure and business growth, helps to provide the right conditions for a labour market that is performing better than the UK average.

 

 

To ask the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport

Steffan Lewis (South Wales East): What steps is the Welsh Government taking to make e-cigarette and e-liquid vendors aware of new regulations under the provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/14/EU? (WAQ73518)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Minister for Social Services and Public Health (Rebecca Evans): The regulations in relation to e-cigarettes have come into force as a result of UK legislation. Information is available from the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
 
At present there is no list of retailers of these products.  The retail register to be introduced by the Public Health (Wales) Bill will provide such a list. This will make it possible to inform retailers of e-cigarettes and related products of any future changes to legislation which will affect them.

 
Steffan Lewis (South Wales East): How much is spent on epilepsy-related services by the Welsh Government and other public bodies? (WAQ73519)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Vaughan Gething: Welsh Government supports the provision of epilepsy-related services through the funding of primary and secondary NHS care and associated services. Welsh Government does not routinely collect information on how this funding is specifically applied for epilepsy-related services.
 

Welsh Government does not routinely collect information on expenditure by other public bodies on epilepsy-related services.


 
Nick Ramsay (Monmouth): Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on progress in meeting the targets set out in the Welsh Government's 2016 autism strategy document? (WAQ73521)
 
Nick Ramsay (Monmouth): What progress has the Welsh Government made in ensuring there is no postcode lottery in access to autism services across Wales? (WAQ73522)
 
Answe received on 24 May 2017

Minister for Social Care and Public Health (Rebecca Evans): The Welsh Government's new Autistic Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan was published last November. Many of the key actions set out in that plan will be delivered through a new national Integrated Autism Service, which will be rolled out across Wales by 2018. This service is backed by a £13 million Welsh Government investment and will be delivered through our Regional Partnership Boards. The service will see new specialist teams in every region providing adult diagnosis; support in the community; advice for adults with autism and parents and carers; and training for professionals. This service will support the improvements we are delivering in children's diagnosis through the 'Together for Children and Young People' programme which is supported by £2 million funding each year. This all-age national approach to supporting people with autism will create a consistent and fair service across Wales which will address gaps in service provision identified by people with autism and their parents and carers.

The Integrated Autism Service will be available in Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, Cwm Taf and Powys over the next few months and in the remaining regions in 2018. A commitment has been given to fund the service until 2021.

An Implementation Advisory Group has been established to monitor delivery of the Action Plan. Its first meeting was held in March. An annual report will be published to provide an update on the progress we are making in delivering the new autism strategy.

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Julie Morgan (Cardiff North): What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of NHS England's decision to introduce a budget impact test of £20m for new medicines? (WAQ73523)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Vaughan Gething: The Welsh Government has a clear commitment to make new, recommended medicines available as quickly as possible.  A medicine recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group is proven to be clinically cost effective and represents value for money for the NHS.

The £80 million New Treatment Fund supports the faster introduction of new medicines requiring them to be made available in Wales no later than 60 days from the published recommendation.   This is our commitment for this five-year period of government.  I will be making a statement on the impact of the New Treatment Fund on 4 July.

The budget impact test for new medicines costing £20 million annually is an English initiative which may affect access in England to new medicines recommended by NICE.  If NHS England did ask NICE to consider extending the standard 90 day requirement in which NHS organisations have to make funding for NICE-recommended treatments available then the subsequent delay in access to a new, recommended medicine would only apply in England.

 
Julie Morgan (Cardiff North): What impact will the new budget impact test in England have on the approval process for new medicines in Wales? (WAQ73524)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Vaughan Gething: The Welsh Government has a clear commitment to make new, recommended medicines available as quickly as possible.  A medicine recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group is proven to be clinically cost effective and represents value for money for the NHS.

The £80 million New Treatment Fund supports the faster introduction of new medicines requiring them to be made available in Wales no later than 60 days from the published recommendation.   This is our commitment for this five-year period of government.  I will be making a statement on the impact of the New Treatment Fund on 4 July.

The budget impact test for new medicines costing £20 million annually is an English initiative which may affect access in England to new medicines recommended by NICE.  If NHS England did ask NICE to consider extending the standard 90 day requirement in which NHS organisations have to make funding for NICE-recommended treatments available then the subsequent delay in access to a new, recommended medicine would only apply in England.
 
Julie Morgan (Cardiff North): What are the implications of the budget impact test in England on access to medicines by patients in Wales? (WAQ73525)
 
Derbyniwyd ateb ar 24 Mai 2017

Vaughan Gething: The Welsh Government has a clear commitment to make new, recommended medicines available as quickly as possible.  A medicine recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group is proven to be clinically cost effective and represents value for money for the NHS.

The £80 million New Treatment Fund supports the faster introduction of new medicines requiring them to be made available in Wales no later than 60 days from the published recommendation.   This is our commitment for this five-year period of government.  I will be making a statement on the impact of the New Treatment Fund on 4 July.

The budget impact test for new medicines costing £20 million annually is an English initiative which may affect access in England to new medicines recommended by NICE.  If NHS England did ask NICE to consider extending the standard 90 day requirement in which NHS organisations have to make funding for NICE-recommended treatments available then the subsequent delay in access to a new, recommended medicine would only apply in England.

Dai Lloyd (South Wales West): What steps is the Welsh Government taking to help improve the availability of gluten free food in shops and public services, in light of the launch of Coeliac UK's Gluten Freevolution campaign? (WAQ73526)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Vaughan Gething: Although the number of commercially-available gluten-free foods has increased in the past few years, the Welsh Government recognises there can be a cost differential between gluten-free and the equivalent non gluten-free products and that prescribing remains an important source of gluten-free produce for many people.

Health boards in Wales follow national prescribing guidance for gluten-free products to support general practitioners and other healthcare professionals in the management of patients with coeliac disease.  Staple items, such as fresh bread and pasta, are available on prescription.  This helps patients optimise their nutritional status and maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.


Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on support for those with Parkinson's in north Wales? (WAQ73535)

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): How is the Cabinet Secretary working to ensure suitable consultant cover for Parkinson's sufferers in north Wales? (WAQ73536)

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What is the Cabinet Secretary doing to increase the number of dedicated Parkinson's support nurses in north Wales? (WAQ73537)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Vaughan Gething: Our Neurological Conditions Delivery Plan sets out our ambitions in respect of treatment and support for people living with conditions such as Parkinson's. The plan is currently being updated and will be published later this summer.

I understand Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has an established service for people with Parkinson's disease in north Wales, provided by a mix of consultant geriatricians with a specialist interest in Parkinson's disease. Visiting Neurologists from the Walton Hospital provide more specialised opinions to complement and support this service.
 
The number of full time equivalent Parkinson's disease nurses is appropriate for the population.

The health board has recently appointed a new consultant with an interest in Parkinson's disease who will support the service in Anglesey and Bangor as well as a full time nurse in the west of the health board.   

Succession plans for consultants and nurses for the service across north Wales are being drawn up by the health board to ensure future provision. 

 

To ask the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What steps is the Cabinet Secretary taking to reform the local government settlement as part of the local government reform white paper? (WAQ73527)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government (Mark Drakeford): The White Paper Reforming Local Government: Resilient and Renewed proposed a collaborative approach to the provision of effective financial arrangements by local authorities to support regional working.  I sought a wide range of views in developing those proposals and I am considering the responses to the consultation.  I made a separate statement alongside the White Paper which outlined my ambitions for the broader reform of the local government finance system. 


Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary outline his plans for the statutory duties of councils under the local government reform white paper? (WAQ73528)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: The 'Reforming Local Government: Resilient and Renewed' White Paper set out our proposals for enhanced regional working by local authorities in the planning and delivery of services. The White Paper includes a number of proposals for the future of statutory duties on Councils in Wales. Consultation on the White Paper closed on 11 April. 167 responses were received and are being analysed.  I will publish a consultation summary report and set out the way forward in due course.


 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What assessments has the Cabinet Secretary made of reforms to councillor representations since he launched the local government reform white paper? (WAQ73529)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: Our proposals for local government reform recognise the importance of local councillors as leaders and advocates for their communities.  They will have an important role in speaking up for the ambitions and aspirations of their communities, in scrutinising those responsible for decisions and the delivery of services and in supporting constituents when individual needs arise.
 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Has the Cabinet Secretary formulated a set list of criteria he will use to assess councils' voluntary mergers, given that the local government reform white paper states that proposals would have to be developed in dialogue with Welsh Government? (WAQ73530)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford:  Our minimum expectations are set out in the White Paper.

I do not intend to set out a long list of specific criteria that a proposal must meet. The rationale and circumstances for voluntary merger will be different in each case and local authorities must have flexibility to bring forward proposals in different circumstances. Discussion and cooperation between the local authorities concerned and with the Welsh Government will be crucial to ensure a workable timetable and the proposal is fit for purpose in the longer term. 


 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What steps is the Cabinet Secretary taking to address the high number of uncontested county council seats at the 2017 local government elections, which have fallen by only seven since 2012? (WAQ73531)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford:  The duty falls on all political representatives – of all political parties and none – to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to consider standing for election to local government. Like you, I was disappointed at the number of uncontested seats for county councils and the number of uncontested seats and remaining large vacancies at community council level.

The Local Government reforms I hope to introduce following the recent White Paper consultation aim to make local government more transparent and easier for the public to engage with. It is my hope that this will lead to greater interest in candidacy.
 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of the best practice use of local authority reserves, in light of recent council tax rises across Welsh councils? (WAQ73532)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: Each local authority is statutorily responsible for the management of its own financial affairs including the holding and use of reserves. 

I expect them to have rigorous arrangements in place to ensure they are using all their available resources in the most efficient and effective manner and that their decisions are open and transparent.

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary comment on the increase in the number of fixed penalty notices issued by local authorities across Wales since 2007-08, and particularly since 2011-12? (WAQ73533)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: The increase in the number of fixed penalty notices issued by local authorities indicates that local authorities are being more proactive in tackling litter and local environmental crime through enforcement action.

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary commit to a review of the multiplier for business rates in Wales? (WAQ73534)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: I am committed to making changes to the local government finance system as a whole to support the wider reform of local government.  This provides an opportunity to consider longer term changes to non-domestic rates in Wales, including the operation of the multiplier which is governed by primary legislation. 

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of the role of local authority planning committees within the proposed structure for building control services and regional footprints? (WAQ73538)

Answer received on 26 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: Our proposals for local government reorganisation are set out in the “Reforming local government: resilient and renewed” consultation paper, and include detailed consideration of how planning and building control services might be delivered on a larger than local footprint. 

Our proposed reforms set out scope for the involvement of, and opportunity for participation in decision making by, local elected members and Committees.  We are currently considering the responses to the consultation paper. 


 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of the fact that the majority of uncontested seats in the 2017 local government elections were in rural councils, making up 74 per cent of uncontested seats in Wales? (WAQ73539)

Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: The majority of uncontested seats in Welsh council elections have always been in rural areas. These wards are usually sparsely populated compared to urban equivalents but have smaller electorates. They are also less likely to have well-organised political parties active in the area and the sitting member is quite likely to be well known locally, which can deter challenges.

However, I would prefer to see all elections contested so that people have a democratic choice.


 
Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of the Behavioural Insights Team's work on voter registration and the Democracy Club's 'Find your Polling Station' website given that the Electoral Reform Society estimates that as many as 350,000 people in Wales are not registered to vote? (WAQ73540)
 
Answer received on 24 May 2017

Mark Drakeford: The knowledge gained from the work of Behavioural Insights Team and the experience of funding the "Find your Polling Station" website will be used to inform future policy development.

We are expecting competence over electoral matters to be devolved to the National Assembly as a result of the Wales Act 2017 and, in anticipation, I will be holding a consultation in the summer on a range of electoral reforms.

What is clear, as a result of those projects, is that the behaviour of not only the voters but also those providing the services needs to be considered in order for different interventions to be most effective.


 

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