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The Assembly met at 13:29 with the Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) in the Chair.
 
13:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. The National Assembly is in session.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 1 is questions to the First Minister. Question 1, John Griffiths.
 
Community Volunteering
 
13:29
John GriffithsBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on community volunteering in Wales? OAQ(4)2538(FM)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We know that volunteers make a vital contribution to our communities. We support volunteers through core funding of £6.7 million this year to Welsh third sector infrastructure organisations, including over £600,000 in core funding for the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations.
 
13:30
John GriffithsBiography
First Minister, I think everybody here would agree that, across the length and breadth of Wales, volunteers do an amazing job in so many different ways and that, without that contribution, many aspects of life in our communities would simply grind to a halt. Would you agree with me that we do need to reward and support our volunteers, and that an important way of doing this is through the time banking system, which recognises that contribution and provides free access to leisure, entertainment and other services, and that we do need to support and, indeed, roll out time banking across Wales?
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I thank the Member for the question. Time banking is a way of recognising people’s worth in a way that isn’t monetary. It’s a powerful way of incentivising community action and involvement, and we have previously provided over £178,000 of funds for the financial year 2014-15 to support the continuing development of the time banking movement in Wales, in partnership with the INTERREG programme.
 
13:31
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, ahead of Remembrance Sunday, it is important that we acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the many community volunteers across Wales, and in my own constituency of Aberconwy, who are tirelessly selling poppies and raising money for the poppy appeal. This support is really vital to the Royal British Legion and gives support to veterans, servicemen and women, and their families, and reminds us just how much has been given for this country by so many. First Minister, will you join me today in paying tribute to all those giving of their time and energy so that we may remember and truly support those who have given so much more for our country and, indeed, our values?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, indeed; I join the Member in those sentiments. It’s been quite noticeable again this year that there are more poppy sellers than even in previous years. I’ve seen many, many people wearing their poppies. We know, with Remembrance Sunday coming up this Sunday, that many people’s minds will be focused on the sacrifices that have been made by so many, over so many years, and it’s very encouraging to see that more and more poppies are sold every year.
 
13:32
Julie MorganBiography
Would the First Minister join me in congratulating Cardiff and district Samaritans, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year and is one of the oldest, continuously operating charities in south Wales, and whose volunteers, many of them constituents of mine, give confidential support at all times, day and night, to people suffering from emotional distress?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I would, and I thank the Member for bringing this important milestone to my attention. Could I add my thanks and congratulations to the Cardiff and district branch of the Samaritans, on behalf of the Welsh Government? We know that without the important work that they do, many, many people would not have been able to overcome great difficulties in their lives, and, indeed, it’s right to say that without the work of the Samaritans, there are some people who would not be with us now, if it wasn’t for the advice that was given at the time that it was needed.
 
13:33
Llyr GruffyddBiography
We all know that the pressure on the public purse continues, and that puts more and more pressure on volunteers, very often, to step into the breach. Would you join with me, therefore, in congratulating the approach taken by Conwy County Borough Council when it comes to continuing with their library provision? Many libraries have now transferred to the ownership of local communities. Llanfairfechan and Cerrigydrudion are examples of that. Therefore, would you join with me in congratulating them on that approach, but also encourage other local authorities, who are considering some steps in terms of the future of libraries, to look at that model specifically?
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I know that this is a model that has been developed in other parts of Wales as well. For example, I was at the Briton Ferry library in Neath Port Talbot speaking to volunteers that had taken the library over and actually secured the future of that library. When there is serious pressure on the public purse, we want to ensure that people can take local resources and keep them open for the benefit of local people. So, it’s good to see that libraries will remain open, and it’s good to see that this is a model that’s been adopted in many parts of Wales.
 
13:34
William PowellBiography
First Minister, last Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Hospice at Home, Aberystwyth—a new, volunteer-led charity that is offering community-based end-of-life care to patients in Ceredigion. The Hospice at Home volunteers deliver palliative care in both Aberystwyth and some of its rural hinterland communities, and, despite having been only recently set up, has already established a high-quality service that understands the needs of people at the end of their lives, and also the important needs for support of their families in addition. First Minister, will you join me in praising the hard work of the volunteers of Hospice at Home Ceredigion, and, also, subject to diary pressure, consider accepting an invitation to visit them so as to gain at first hand a greater understanding of their work?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’d be pleased to consider the invitation, if the Member would send me a formal invitation through the normal channels. What’s interesting, of course, is that the work that the Member has described involves enabling people to stay at home rather than having to go into a hospice. That’s been a major change in the NHS, particularly over the past 10 or 20 years, where, instead of there being an overly hospital-based care system, people are now more able to stay at home, in comfort. What’s important, of course, is that their pain is managed in an environment that’s familiar to them. But, of course, that depends on the good work of Hospice at Home, to make sure that people do have that option and are able to stay at home for as long as they can.
 
Local High-street Businesses
 
13:36
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
2. Will the First Minister outline how the Welsh Government is supporting local high street businesses in Islwyn? OAQ(4)2527(FM)
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This year we have introduced a number of important business rates measures, targeted to support businesses, including a further cap on the business rates multiplier, an extension of small business rates relief, and the extension and enhancement of the Wales retail relief scheme.
 
13:36
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
Thank you for that answer. First Minister, Saturday, 5 December is Small Business Saturday. Last year, over 16 million people shopped in small businesses in the UK on the day. What is the Welsh Government doing to ensure the success of Small Business Saturday is built on, to aid small businesses in my constituency?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we know that, for small businesses, what they need more than anything else are customers, and it’s important that people understand that, if they don’t use small businesses, then those businesses will eventually disappear. I know that Small Business Saturday will take place on 5 December. I know that Business Wales propose to support activity around Small Business Saturday, including supporting the SBS UK team when they visit Wales, and promoting the SBS UK campaign and the bus tour. I know that the Business Wales marketplace initiative will be supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday by providing cabins and training experiences at both Cardiff Christmas market and the Portmeirion Christmas fair to showcase and celebrate micro and small Welsh businesses. In addition, a start-up and entrepreneurship campaign will be launched on 1 December, and will run until 10 December, as part of an integrated support small and local businesses in Wales campaign.
 
13:38
Mohammad AsgharBiography
First Minister, the UK Government has announced it is to allow local authorities in England to keep money they collect from business rates to boost growth and to create jobs in their areas. What studies has the Welsh Government undertaken as to the potential benefits of this policy for businesses in Islwyn and elsewhere in Wales, and will you be considering the same sort of policy here?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there is a rather large pitfall here, in that we estimate that around about 17 local authorities would lose out as a result of such a system being adopted in Wales. If we have a system where business rates are wholly contained within a local authority area, then the element of cross-subsidy disappears. For example, Monmouthshire would lose about £4 million a year. So, we have to consider very carefully allowing local authorities the flexibility that they need, without them losing out, in terms of having access to a smaller pot of money at a time of financial difficulty for them.
 
13:39
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Well, First Minister, you’re right: ‘Too many shopping online; get out more’, should be our call. First Minister, many struggling high streets are home to important historic buildings—particularly, indeed, in Islwyn—and they fall into misuse or disrepair as our town centres decline. Have you considered a specific strategy to make sure that these buildings can be used again for a purpose, perhaps as homes or something unrelated to traditional shopping as we have come to know it?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Those are matters for local authorities, and I know that local authorities are taking steps to redesign the mix within town centres. If I look at my own town centre of Bridgend, there are too many shop units and not enough offices, and it means that there are not enough office workers in the town in the day to provide the footfall for businesses. And, looking at converting—it’s been happening—some of those shop units to offices and, of course, residential units is important in terms of making sure there are people in town centres day and evening. There are many town centres that don’t have a footfall any longer. They’re open between 9 o’clock and half past five when there’s no-one around. Most people are back after that time and they go to the supermarket because the town centre isn’t open—the shops aren’t open. So, we do need to look at making sure that the footfall is there in the day, and that means more offices. But I think it’s important that businesses start thinking about whether they actually do need to open between 9 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. and whether, in fact, 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. is a better model, given the working patterns that exist now, not the working patterns that existed 40 years ago.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:40
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I now call the party leaders to question the First Minister, starting this week with the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:40
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch. First Minister, Plaid Cymru welcomes your announcement this morning regarding cutting the waiting time target for treating people experiencing mental ill health from 56 to 28 days. I appreciate that your announcement today is in relation to adult mental health services, but I’d like to ask you about child and adolescent mental health services in the community. You’ll be aware that the repercussions for children and young people waiting too long for mental health treatment can be lifelong. So, can you tell us, please, what plans you have to improve mental health services for children and young people?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We are investing an additional £800,000 in expanding CAMHS provision during 2015-16. Health board proposals have now been agreed. They will result in the recruitment of more specialist staff across Wales to work with primary care providers and to directly support young people in primary care, and that is expected to improve overall waiting times for both assessment and treatment. We know that evidence suggests that around a third of young people referred to specialist CAMHS have no mental illness, if I can put it that way. A further third have low-level difficulties that wouldn’t reach the threshold for treatment by a specialist service. So, expanding primary care CAMHS means that more young people can be assessed and, if appropriate, receive their treatment without the onward referral being needed, and that, of course, helps in terms of freeing up time for those who are in more need of the services that CAMHS provides. It is important that there are different ways of helping young people who have mental health issues. Some will not need the specialist treatment that CAMHS provides, but we are investing and working with health boards to make sure that treatment is available more quickly.
 
13:42
Leanne WoodBiography
I would accept that there needs to be a range of treatments, First Minister, but perhaps you can shed light on official figures that show that, between 2009 and 2014, there was a reduction in spending on child and adult mental health services in primary care of £2 million, leaving the overall spend on those crucial services at £5.1 million. I’m aware that the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010, in 2012, re-categorised some funding streams, and that might mean that the official statistics don’t tell us the full picture. Can you give us an assurance, then, that there’s not been a cut in funding for community mental health services for children and young people over this period? Are you prepared to publish the details and make them available in the library as soon as possible?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be done. In terms of the investment that we’ve made in mental health services, we have, of course, seen the £7.65 million investment that has gone in. We will see new services developed for our young people with neurodevelopmental conditions and, of course, what I should add is that we’ve issued guidance outlining our expectation that all urgent assessment referrals to CAMHS should be undertaken within 48 hours and that, by 1 April next year, all routine assessments should be undertaken within 28 days. That’s a significant difference to the situation that has existed, and that reflects the new investment that we’ve put in.
 
13:43
Leanne WoodBiography
Well, I’m still not clear whether or not you’ve provided an assurance as to whether or not there’s been a cut, but, over the past two years, it’s clear that waiting times have deteriorated. Almost two thirds of children now wait longer than 10 weeks for treatment to begin. You’ve made a welcome announcement to create a more ambitious target for adults experiencing mental health problems and, as I’ve said, we welcome that. But will you now commit to tackling these appalling waiting times for treatment that our children are experiencing? Will you agree to set appropriate targets and will you back this up with a firm commitment, now, to an annual real-terms increase in funding for child and adolescent community mental health services?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We will look to allocate the money that’s required for child and adolescent mental health services. It partially depends, of course, on the budget that we receive from the UK Government. But we do know this is an area where we want to see improvement. Just to repeat what I said earlier, we have issued guidance outlining our expectation that all urgent referrals to CAMHS should be undertaken within 48 hours and, also, by 1 April next year all routine assessments should be undertaken within 28 days. They are taxing targets, but we expect them to be met.
 
13:45
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. First Minister, two months before the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery publishes its report—an independent report, I might add—why did you instruct Sir Paul Williams as to how you wanted his proposals laid out, presented and delivered?
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Unless the leader of the opposition gives me more detail, I can’t comment.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Well, First Minister, in e-mails that we’ve had released to us via freedom of information requests from your principal Permanent Secretary, it clearly shows that, in October 2013, an e-mail sent by him on your behalf stated that you’d prefer a series of options for proposals to reorganise local government. The e-mail then went on to say that you wanted no heavy steer in favour of any particular option. Remarkably, you also said that, once the report was finalised, only you and your Permanent Secretary should be given a copy at that stage—nobody else, not even your local government Minister. That e-mail went on 20 December. The commission was supposed to independently review public services in Wales. Why then, First Minister, did you instruct it what to do, when to do it and how to do it, spend £130,000 commissioning the report and then bin its proposals?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’m at a loss to understand what the leader of the opposition is trying to say here. Were they asked to provide an option? Yes. They had a free hand as to what that option might be. In terms of the heavy steer, I didn’t want to give them the heavy steer. That’s the whole point, so I don’t know what he’s complaining about. So, I took the view of the Williams commission that I wanted them to be independent, I wanted them to come up with an option, if they could, but they had a free hand as to how that option was delivered, and there was certainly no steer from my office, as the e-mail actually confirms.
 
13:47
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, the principle of the Williams commission was that it was to be independent. It was left to get on with its work, as everyone assumed, and to come forward with the proposals. These e-mails clearly show that your officials and, indeed, you, were heavily supporting the work of the commission, shall we say, and directing how you wanted the final report to resemble your own thoughts on local government reorganisation. The issue is quite clear: you and your officials were directing what everyone else thought was an independent commission. Do you not recognise that this now calls into question any findings of the Williams commission brought forward in their final report?
 
13:47
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, that’s an example of somebody who asked a question and realised it was a mistake by the time the third question was arrived at. Let me make it clear once again: the Williams commission asked whether there should be a number of options or an option, and my preference was that there should be an option. It was them for decide what that option might be, and they were given no steer at all as to what that option was. They were given a free hand in that. If anybody can point out to me what is wrong with that, then I’m open to suggestions. This is a scenario where an independent body, with a member of the Conservative Party sitting on it, was not directed in any way by Government as to what their final conclusions should be. [Interruption.] There is no point shouting now when you’ve got it wrong. They were not given any steer as to what they should be doing; they were left to provide an independent report in any way that they saw fit. They were given no heavy steer, as the e-mail suggests. It was a perfectly proper way of doing things.
 
13:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And now the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. First Minister, could I return to the issue of mental health? You’ll be aware that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for parity between physical and mental health. Your Government announcement today that waiting time targets for mental health treatment will be cut from 52 to 28 days is very welcome. Could you confirm that, under those new waiting time targets, a patient assessed as needing a psychological therapy will start that therapy treatment within 28 days of their assessment?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That is something that we expect to see, yes.
 
13:49
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you for that clarity and commitment, First Minister. As your Government will be more than aware, setting a target is one thing and meeting it is quite another. Given that your own Government’s review found that some people are waiting up to two years to access psychological therapy, how many extra professionals and extra patient appointments will be created in order to fulfil the promise that you’ve just made in this Chamber that people needing psychological therapy will receive it within 28 days?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
As I said in the answer I gave to the leader of Plaid Cymru, health board proposals have now been agreed. They will result in the recruitment of more specialist staff across Wales to work with primary care providers and to support young people in primary care as well. And, of course, we do expect that to improve overall waiting times for both assessment and treatment.
 
13:50
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you. As I said, I’m very glad for the clarity—it’s really important for someone who’s had the courage to go to their primary healthcare professional today to discuss a mental health issue to know that, if they need to have psychological treatment, they will now receive that within 28 days. I think it’s a massive step forward if the Government is able to achieve that.
 
As we heard earlier, there are over 3,000 young people in Wales currently on a waiting list for specialist child and adolescent mental health services. I accept that many of those young people don’t need to be in that service at all—indeed, it’s positively a negative thing to be in that service and to have that label if that child doesn’t need it—but there are many people in that service on a waiting list who desperately do need a professional intervention and they need it quickly. Given what you’ve just said about improvements to assessment times, why does your Government think that it’s acceptable for young people after an assessment to wait for 112 days for treatment, when you expect those who are adults only now to wait 28 days?
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No. I mean, what we expect is, with the recruitment of new staff, that we will see waiting times improve with regard to CAMHS. But also, it’s important to ensure that those who don’t need that specialist treatment get sometimes quicker and certainly appropriate treatment in other ways, and that’s something, of course, that we’re looking at doing as well, as I mentioned to the leader of Plaid Cymru.
 
An urgent referral within 48 hours is important in terms of being able, then, to plan for the treatment and care of a young person with a mental health problem, and, of course, routine assessments within 28 days is a significant improvement and something that we’re determined to see through, given the funding that we have put in place, bearing in mind, of course, that mental health funding in Wales has been ring-fenced since 2008-09 as well. But we want to make sure that there are more resources and more professionals involved in providing specialist advice to children and young people.
 
NHS Services (South Wales East)
 
13:52
William GrahamBiography
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on NHS services in South Wales East? OAQ(4)2539(FM)
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. NHS organisations in South Wales East are working hard to continually improve the quality of, and access to, health services in that area.
 
13:52
William GrahamBiography
I’m grateful to the First Minister for his answer. The United Kingdom Lung Cancer Coalition’s ‘Ten Years On’ report tracks how far lung cancer outcomes and services have progressed over the last decade. It reports that Wales has the second to worst lung cancer five-year survival rate in Europe, and that inequalities across Wales exist in the provision of access to specialist nurses and surgery. How can these issues be addressed, First Minister, in a relatively short period?
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, of course, we’ve already announced the significant investment in Velindre, which will help many people. Stereotactic radiotherapy is showing itself to be very promising when it comes to the treatment of lung cancer as well. We know that the key to lung cancer, as with other cancers, is the future development of gene therapy targeted at the individual, and we are fortunate in that sense to have the Wales Institute of Cancer and Genetics—hosting, of course, a Nobel prize winner—which puts Wales at the forefront of research into this dreadful disease.
 
13:53
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
First Minister, often these serious conditions are picked up following routine appointments with the general practitioner. Last week, a close family member wanted a routine GP appointment. They rang the surgery, of course, at 8 o’clock in the morning, as you have to if you want a routine appointment—59 times they rang that number before 8.30 a.m., only to find, then, that all the appointments had gone. It took three days to get a routine appointment and some, I have to say, tenacity on the part of the family member. So, how would you rate the accessibility of non-urgent GP appointments in south-east Wales?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think it’s variable—bearing in mind that most GPs are independent contractors. I am aware of surgeries where it’s perfectly possible to book online the evening before, and it’s perfectly possible to get through easily. I’m aware of other surgeries where there are no appointments at all. GPs do need to ensure there is greater consistency of services, sometimes within the same area. There is no reason why GPs shouldn’t be able to offer appointments online these days. Plenty of them do. There is no reason why GPs shouldn’t be able to offer the ability to order repeat prescriptions online as well. That helps to take the pressure off the phone lines as people use online services. I’ve seen good examples of this—for example, in Caerphilly and in my own patch in Bridgend—and I’d encourage all GPs to actually make sure that they’re as accessible as they can be, and not just rely on the phones. That is the way that things were done 20 years ago; it’s not the way that things need to be done now.
 
13:55
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, the cornerstone of your plans for south-east Wales healthcare is the long-promised and yet to be delivered specialist critical care centre. The failure to deliver that project to date—something that was promised to be done before the last election and should now be open and accepting patients—isn’t just having a knock-on effect on where people get their secondary care, but actually it is now impacting on the ability to recruit and retain trainee GPs in south Powys. They now need to undertake their rotations for paediatrics at the Royal Gwent Hospital, travelling from rural Powys all the way to the Gwent to undertake that part of their training, and for other hospital specialties when they previously would have only had to travel to Nevill Hall Hospital. This is making it a less attractive proposition to recruit trainee GPs to practices in south Powys. When will the SCCC, as promised by your Government before the last election, actually be delivered?
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can confirm that Aneurin Bevan health board submitted the full business case for the SCCC to us for consideration on 14 October. It was accompanied by an updated Clinical Futures programme business case that will look at the wider healthcare provision for the area. Both those cases are now with Welsh Ministers and will now receive full consideration.
 
Pancreatic Cancer
 
13:56
Lynne NeagleBiography
4. Will the First Minister outline how the Welsh Government is helping to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer in Wales? OAQ(4)2533(FM)
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Pancreatic cancer is a dreadful disease. It’s usually detected very late and is usually untreatable as a result—or the survival rate past five years is less than 4 per cent as a result of that. So, awareness of pancreatic cancer in the community is essential for early diagnosis. Through the cancer delivery plan, we have established a programme of work to support primary care in identifying cancer.
 
13:57
Lynne NeagleBiography
First Minister, this month marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and I’ve just hosted an event with Pancreatic Cancer UK, here today, to mark it. It was clear from those who attended just how devastating this illness is. A recent study found that 71 per cent of respondents in Wales could not name a single symptom unprompted. While survival rates for most forms of cancer have been rising, survival rates for pancreatic cancer have remained shockingly low for the past 40 years. First Minister, will you join me in recognising the hard work of Pancreatic Cancer UK and their supporters throughout Wales in raising awareness of this awful illness? Can you give me your assurance that you will work with the health Minister to look at delivering a national pancreatic cancer awareness campaign in Wales, similar to that run in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I mean—. Pancreatic cancer can be very difficult to diagnose because the pancreas is buried deep in the abdomen and the symptoms can be very non-specific. What we’re going to encourage GPs to do is, where they see somebody who has a condition that isn’t resolving, where symptoms are unusual but perhaps difficult to pinpoint in terms of pancreatic cancer, that they do refer on for further investigations. It’s a disease—. My sister-in-law was 44 and she had five months after she was diagnosed. It’s very difficult to get that diagnosis, but it’s a disease that is untreatable past a certain stage and there are many others, I’m sure, in this Chamber who will know people who were diagnosed and didn’t have much time left once they were diagnosed. So, early diagnosis is absolutely critical. I do understand that it is difficult to diagnose, but, nevertheless, where there’s an unusual pattern that is presented in somebody as they go to see a GP, we would encourage GPs to refer.
 
13:59
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you, Lynne Neagle, for the work you did this afternoon in presenting that event for us. I think everybody in the Chamber knows somebody with cancer, don’t they, of one form or another? It touches all our lives. I wonder if the time has come for us to look more closely at the introduction of on-screen prompts for GPs when people do go and consult them, and also whether more sophisticated diagnostic tools can be introduced into some of our GP practices. We have the technology. Our dentists can perform x-rays and put them up on the screen and vets don’t seem to have a problem taking mobile scans out. So, I wonder if the time’s come for the technology to help us with diagnosing these more difficult—
 
14:00
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Quickly now, please.
 
14:00
Janet HaworthBiography
[Continues.]—diseases.
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s difficult to know, because, of course, with many diagnoses, a consultant radiologist is needed to actually be able to read the x-ray properly. GPs will have had some training in radiology as part of their general medical training, but—. Would GPs feel comfortable at—feel that they are able to do that, or will they want to refer to a radiologist in any event? I can’t answer that question; it’s for GPs to answer. I think, from our point of view as a Government, we want to see GPs being unafraid to refer. We have seen cancer referrals increase greatly in Wales—happily, most of those referrals lead to a result where no cancer is present, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
 
So, GPs, in fairness, have understood this, they are referring more people, and that does mean, of course, that what might’ve been missed in the past is not being missed in the future. But, as with any illness, diagnosis is not an easy thing, particularly for some cancers. It can take some time to diagnose the cancer, and even longer, sometimes, to work out what the treatment plan should be. These things are best left, I think, to oncologists, but GPs have a critical role in terms of being able to refer where they have suspicions.
 
Superfast Broadband
 
14:01
Elin JonesBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on progress in relation to the availability of superfast broadband in Ceredigion? OAQ(4)2541(FM)[W]
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Before the Superfast Cymru roll-out began in 2013, there was no access to superfast broadband in Ceredigion at all. The work is progressing well. There are 16,615 premises in the area, in the Ceredigion area, now able to access superfast broadband—almost half of Ceredigion—and, of course, we want to ensure that almost everyone will gain access by 2017.
 
14:01
Elin JonesBiography
This Sunday, First Minister, the Trawsgoed area in Ceredigion was the brightest and sunniest place in November, since records began, throughout Britain—23 degrees. However, although the weather was very good there, I can tell you that the broadband is terrible there. I attended a meeting last week in Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, which is served by the Trawsgoed exchange. That village was given written confirmation from BT that they would be within the 96 per cent of homes that would receive superfast broadband under the contract with your Government. They’re now given to understand, as a village, that they won’t benefit under this programme, a year on from having been given that written confirmation. Is it fair that a community such as this is misled in this way by BT, and will you raise this issue with BT and assure the people of Llafihangel-y-Creuddyn, and the community of Trawsgoed, that the assurance given to them will be honoured under the agreement with your Government?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
[Inaudible.]—of course. I will write to the Member once the details are available to me. We know that 68 per cent of properties in Aberystwyth now have broadband—79 per cent in Borth, 71 per cent in Cardigan, and, I think, 53 per cent in Bow Street. But that is no help at all to the people of Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn and Trawsgoed, so I will write to the Member with the details.
 
Economic Priorities (South-east Wales)
 
14:03
Nick RamsayBiography
6. Will the First Minister make a statement on his economic priorities for south-east Wales? OAQ(4)2542(FM)
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Supporting jobs and growth is a priority across Wales. We have a variety of programmes to do this, including the provision of business support through Business Wales, support for skills development, and transport and ICT infrastructure improvements.
 
14:03
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, First Minister. We recently celebrated ‘Back to the Future’ Day, and, back in 1955, you could hop on a train at Monmouth’s Mitchel Troy station, travel down one of the world’s most beautiful railways—in Dafydd Elis-Thomas’s Wye valley—and then connect to the national rail network at Chepstow. Sixty years later, Monmouth isn’t yet on the metro map. The metro is a key component of the future of economic prosperity in Monmouthshire and south-east Wales. Are you looking at ways that we can get Monmouth, and outlying areas like that, back on the metro map?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can’t be held responsible for the Beeching cuts, but I take the point. Until quite recently, it was possible to see Raglan station, of course, from the A449. I think the building’s been moved now, but it was possible to see it. There’s no reason why Monmouth can’t be part of the south-east Wales metro. There’s no reason why, in time, it cannot be part of the network, whether it’s possibly light rail, or whether it’s through faster bus connections—it’s not just about heavy rail. That’s the whole point of the metro network. So, we’re more than happy to work with Monmouthshire County Council to see how the metro network can be extended to Monmouth and, indeed, some other parts of Monmouthshire as well. We know, of course, the railway line runs through southern Monmouthshire and crosses the border at Chepstow, but there’s no reason why it can’t happen, of course, in principle in time to come.
 
14:05
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, I’m sure you’ll agree that the economic priorities of the people of south-east Wales are very much the same as those of the people of the Pontypridd constituency, and that is having enough to actually live on. Would the First Minister agree with me, for the 4,500 families in the Pontypridd constituency alone who are going to face an attack on the tax credit system, that the Tories actually have no mandate, having said before the election that they would not cut tax credits, to inflict this poverty on the people of Wales?
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
You’re quite right. We all saw the Prime Minister in the election programme saying that he would not cut tax credits; we also saw him say that Valleys lines electrification and the main line would also be funded, and then we were told that that wasn’t actually right, even though we’d all seen him say it. That was resolved, fortunately, but the issue of tax credits was not resolved. We say to people that we want to see people in work, that work will pay, and then we say that, actually, it’s not going to pay as much as it did before. If you look at ‘The Economist’ this week—not exactly a left-wing paper—it makes the point that, for people earning £11,000, or roughly that level, the marginal tax rate is 80 per cent, if tax credits go. We know that many, many families will suffer as a result of that, and the message being given by the UK Government is: if you work hard, but your wages are low, we’ll penalise you further.
 
14:06
Lindsay WhittleBiography
First Minister, I would like to see more businesses taking advantage of the infrastructure in Wales as opposed to crossing the border and the bridges. Is it possible that you can give us more detailed progress on how you’re strengthening and improving Cardiff Airport, and what efforts you’re making to promote the use of Cardiff Wales airport, as I suppose we should call it, amongst businesses in south-east Wales in particular, as opposed to them crossing constantly over to Bristol?
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, in September, passenger numbers were 21 per cent up on the previous September. There were similar increases of between 8 and 10 per cent in July and August. I mean, I saw the planes come over my house every five minutes when Ireland were playing in the quarter and semi-finals, and it was good to see the airport at capacity at that point. I was in the airport on Saturday as well, and it was good to see the airport busy. Flybe have arrived, and we’re seeing Aer Lingus continuing to thrive at the airport. There are discussions taking place with other airlines in terms of long-haul flights. We saw Lord Rowe-Beddoe say that taking the airport into public ownership was the right thing to do, and he was shocked at the state of the airport when we took it over. We now have an airport that is moving in the right direction. We’re seeing a great growth in passenger numbers, and that is something we fully expect to see continuing in the future.
 
The Economic Outlook for South Wales Central
 
14:08
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
7. What measures is the Welsh Government taking to improve the economic outlook for South Wales Central? OAQ(4)2525(FM)
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re supporting economic growth through support for new and existing businesses, infrastructure improvements and promoting Wales as a business and tourism destination.
 
14:08
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. Obviously, we’ve just had a very successful Rugby World Cup; the rugby ball was taken out of the wall of Cardiff castle last night, as the pictures attest this morning, and it was a hugely successful event, building on many other sporting events that the capital city has hosted, which are huge economic opportunities for businesses the length and breadth of South Wales Central. However, there were significant transport issues related to some of the key matches, both on road and rail. What measures will the Welsh Government be undertaking to assess what changes, if any, they think appropriate with the operators, such as Arriva Trains, or indeed the Severn bridge tolls section—the road toll plaza—to make sure that there is a better flow of traffic and passengers in and out of our capital city, so people don’t leave with a negative impression of their journey in and out of Cardiff?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there are a number of issues there. First of all, the Brynglas tunnels don’t help, in terms of traffic. In terms of the Severn bridges, there’s no reason, actually, why those bridges need to have tolls at all, in terms of toll barriers. If you travel on the M50 in Dublin, there are two bridges that are toll bridges that are electronic—they’re run by cameras—because there were enormous traffic problems at those tolls. What the Irish Government did was to convert them into tolls where you have to pre-pay. There’s a website, you pre-pay beforehand, and you get the chance to pay within 24 hours of going through the tolls themselves. So, actually, in time, there’s no reason why there should be barriers there at all. It could all be electronic, and that should help with the flow of traffic.
 
In terms of trains, we made strong representations to the train operators, as did the Secretary of State. The difficulty is, of course, that, given the structure of rail that we have now, there’s not much spare capacity. In the days of British Rail, they would bring rolling stock in from the south-east of England for the rugby internationals and they would run them regularly as the games were on. With the current operators, that slack isn’t there in the same way, and, of course, we see situations, when Network Rail closes the tunnel down, where the train operators then find that they can’t get to London particularly as quickly as is normal, and the trains aren’t running properly. This is what happens when you have a system that doesn’t have sufficient public control over it. Twenty years ago there was no problem: British Rail were well able to handle the numbers going through Cardiff Central station. Yes, there are more people now but the capacity isn’t there. Nevertheless, we continue to work with the sporting authorities like the Welsh Rugby Union and the train operating companies to make sure they don’t have the same experience in the future. And the same thing happened in Twickenham. The same thing happened there when people were left stranded at Twickenham station because the station couldn’t cope with the numbers at a particular time of night. So, a lot of thought has to be given to how the British rail system can actually cope with big events in the same way as they do elsewhere in the world. We don’t seem to do it as well as we should.
 
14:11
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, the metro clearly is a very important piece of infrastructure for the economic outlook of my region. A part of that is going to be the development of new stations so that people can get onto the metro, and the national transport plan does include a list of stations, including Roath park, Crwys Road and Gabalfa in my own region, which might potentially be considered for stations in the future. However, it says that the planning and the assessment of those stations is going to take from 2015 to 2020 and beyond, and there’s no commitment to actually build a single brick. When might the first stations be built?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we’re looking to see—. Well, the metro has already started in terms of phase 1. We’re looking to see another phase begin in 2017. The difficulty is that many of the powers that are required to put the metro in place are not devolved, particularly in terms of light rail and particularly in terms of buses. So, we don’t have the full range of powers that we would want, but, nevertheless, there’s no reason to suspect that anybody will want to prevent the metro taking shape. The next stage for us will be looking at each of the individual lines, deciding what the best mode of transport is, and then looking at how those stations can be reopened. Crwys Road station is still there, of course. The building is still there, although whether it’s still usable as a station is anybody’s guess. But the whole point is that the eastern part of Cardiff is not well served particularly by the rail network. How can that be resolved? How do we make sure that if new estates are built around south Wales, they are connected through the public transport network? All these form part of our thinking in terms of not just creating the metro system now but making sure it’s future-proofed with regard to the years to come.
 
The Swansea City Region Economy
 
14:12
Mike HedgesBiography
8. Will the First Minister make a statement on how the Swansea city region's economy is being improved? OAQ(4)2526(FM)
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We’re working to support jobs and growth in every part of Wales. The Swansea bay city region board is making good progress in identifying key proposals and projects.
 
14:13
Mike HedgesBiography
Thank you, First Minister, for that answer. What role do you see for the very successful and growing universities in the area to help further develop the local economy?
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The universities have been astonishingly successful. Two weeks ago, I was at the opening of the new engineering campus on Fabian Way—a remarkable investment by the university. It wouldn’t have happened without European money either, and I think that’s something that we need to emphasise and, of course, the support we gave as a Government. It’s had the effect of drawing some of the best academics in as well, and it will also draw in the best students. And, of course, we have the University of Wales Trinity Saint David proposal for a new campus on the SA1 site. That, again, is a highly ambitious and complementary development and it shows that the investment is going into Swansea to strengthen not just the city’s academic community but the city’s economy in the future.
 
14:14
Altaf HussainBiography
First Minister, I am sure you would agree for the full benefits of economic growth to be felt across the whole Swansea, the Welsh Government should do all in its power to help local employers make the most of local skills within the workforce. Will the First Minister, therefore, back calls to scrap the age restriction on the Jobs Growth Wales scheme so that all members of the community in Swansea have the chance to benefit from—
 
14:14
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Order. You must relate it to Swansea quickly. Now, come on.
 
14:14
Altaf HussainBiography
[Continues.]—growth in the local economy and do not end up being, in effect, excluded from the market for many skilled jobs simply because the current scheme deems them too old?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We’ve listened to four years of the Tories criticising Jobs Growth Wales, saying that it’s useless, it doesn’t work and so forth, and now they’re taking it on board. We work with employers to make sure that they understand the skills and experience that older people—not older people, but older workers—can bring, but we also know that young people, especially given the fact that they’re being hammered by the UK Government at the moment, do need an extra leg up—they do need that extra support—and that’s what Jobs Growth Wales is designed to do—to give them that experience, not just in terms of skills, but of the work environment, at a time when everything else that my generation took for granted and, indeed, the Prime Minister’s generation took for granted, is being removed from them. We will stand by our young people as we’ve always stood by older people as well.
 
14:15
David ReesBiography
First Minister, you’ve already indicated that the opening of the new second campus at Swansea University—the science and innovation campus in Fabian Way—is a mechanism by which we can look forward to new opportunities, particularly in the research and development that’s being offered there. What discussions has the Welsh Government had with the university to attract businesses into research and development, so that we can actually develop the high-end engineering skills that we need in our economy?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I am aware that the engineering campus is in the Member’s constituency; he should have said that at the beginning—he keeps on reminding me of that. But, I know that officials do work with universities and the local authority in Swansea to develop and support inward investment leads and new R&D businesses. Two examples: the Welsh Centre for Coating and Printing, we supported that—a world-leading research and development centre for advanced manufacture by printing; and, of course, the Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovation in Functional Coatings project, the academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University with Tata Steel, NSG Pilkington and BASF as strategic partners, and, of course, we support SPECIFIC as well.
 
14:16
Simon ThomasBiography
First Minister, the Milford Haven enterprise zone is part of the Swansea bay city region. It’s the only zone in Wales where you have to pay a toll to go from one part of the enterprise zone to another, at 75p each way over the Cleddau bridge. As you look at the trunking of the Cleddau bridge, are you actually going to abolish those tolls?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That’s an interesting question and, of course, it’s a toll that’s been there for many years. It would be something that we would consider if that is the direction of the road, whether it should be a trunk road or not. We’d have to consider the costs of the bridge itself as regards maintaining the bridge and then, of course, we will take a decision.
 
14:17
Peter BlackBiography
First Minister, one of the threats to the Swansea bay region is the current state of the British steel industry and, obviously, there are a lot of concerns about Tata, which is, so far, weathering the storm. Can I ask what work your Government is doing with the UK Government in terms of trying to mitigate some of the costs that are threatening the future of that particular plant?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Much has been done. The Minister has written to UK Ministers no fewer than five times this year alone. We’ve continued to press the UK Government for full implementation of the energy-intensive industries compensation package as soon as possible. High energy costs are brutal as far as the steel industry is concerned, and they are a serious matter. We’ve raised them time and time again with the UK Government to make sure that British high-energy manufacturers do not face the penalty of high-energy costs, which is what they’re facing at the moment. I can say that the Minister attended a steel summit on 16 October in Rotherham. We are working with the UK Government’s work groups looking at things like public procurement: why isn’t British steel being used in British projects in that way? We’ll be holding a steel meeting ourselves on 5 November. That will be chaired by the Minister and then we will look to continue with the discussions from then on. I understand as well there is a Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels on Monday, and the Welsh Government will be represented at that.
 
14:19
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:19
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 2 is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business, Jane Hutt.
 
14:19
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. There’ve been two changes to report to the business statement for this week’s business: a motion to suspend Standing Orders will be moved by the First Minister to allow the scheduling of a debate on the draft Wales Bill, and a statement by the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food on the TB eradication programme has been postponed to allow time for the above debate, and will be rescheduled in due course. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement that can be found among agenda papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:19
Suzy DaviesBiography
Minister, I wonder if the Government would consider holding a debate in Government time on the Welsh museum sector. We’ve obviously heard of concerns regarding the jobs in the national museum sector, but also there’s been an excellent report commissioned by the Government on local museum provision, and I think it’s worth an airing here in the Chamber. So, if time could be found on a Government day to discuss that, I think that would be very helpful.
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
Yes. Clearly, there are opportunities to raise questions, as you said, Suzy Davies, to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, and not only to raise questions to the Minister, but also to take the opportunity to proclaim the successes of the Welsh museum sector, and I’m sure that this will continue.
 
14:20
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Minister, I wonder if you would arrange for a statement on the recent news that puffins are now classified as ‘at risk of global extinction’. I’m sure you’d want some protection for the breeding pairs that live on our coast—I’m sure that would be of interest to us all—and we’d like to know exactly what the Welsh Government is doing to protect our colonies.
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
I think that is an important opportunity for the Minister for Natural Resources to make a statement, to give an update on our powers and position in relation to the importance of the protection in terms of that threatened extinction.
 
14:21
David ReesBiography
Minister, I’ve previously called for a debate from the Welsh Government on the steel industry. We’ve seen it many times about the issues facing Tata Steel and the steel industry here in Wales, and we’ve heard, today, the First Minister himself indicating that, in fact, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport is actually organising a summit to discuss steel here in Wales. I very much welcome and support that approach, but I think it’s time we had a debate so that we can actually discuss the issues and how we, in Wales, can help the steel industry. Would it be possible for the Government to do that in Government time, so we can all have an opportunity to raise the issues? Because, the UK Government is clearly failing the steel industry at this point in time. In fact, I understand that Sajid Javid has been to Europe only once since he’s been in post, and that was last week. He’s done nothing to help steel. Perhaps it’s time we did something here in Wales.
 
14:21
Jane HuttBiography
I thank the Member for Aberavon for that question. As the First Minister said earlier on, there will be a summit, which will be chaired—on Thursday, 5 November—by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport. That will, of course, involve all those in the steel sector in Wales, and she will bring back the outcome of that in a statement to the Assembly.
 
14:22
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, I wonder whether your Government would be prepared to bring forward a statement on adoption services. Whilst, often, the political debate around adoption focuses on the need for more families to come forward and the speed at which adoptions can be carried out, there are a number of families in my constituency who have struggled to obtain post-adoption support for them and their children, and sometimes the families can find themselves in quite an acute crisis with the prospect of the adoption even breaking down in the worst-case scenario, which would be devastating for both the adults and children involved. I’d be grateful if an opportunity could be afforded to test how the new structures around adoption are working in Wales, and whether there can be further improvements.
 
Secondly, a statement on the latest attempts by Welsh Government to recruit and retain GPs. The difficulties in this area hit home in my own constituency last week with the Dulais valley being unable to recruit and retain replacement GPs for those that are leaving the practice, meaning that the surgery in Coelbren—a branch surgery—has had to see a significant cut in the appointments that are available. Coelbren is a vibrant community, but it is certainly a community that is not blessed with good transport links to other places and local people depend on that surgery. An update on the latest attempts to recruit and retain GPs would be very welcome for the people in Coelbren to hear about the prospects of being able to retain their services.
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Kirsty Williams for those questions. Certainly, on the importance of adoption services and, indeed, as you say, post-adoption, I know the Minister will want to update Members. He has questions tomorrow, but I know he’ll want to update Members on the importance and the way in which we have pioneered, of course, the services in Wales in terms of adoption.
 
Also, your second point in terms of the recruitment of GPs, of course, there are more doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics and dental staff working in the Welsh NHS today than there were 10 years ago. Clearly, there are areas where, indeed, we have to focus on the recruitment campaign, particularly in relation to GPs. Between 2013 and 2014, new GPs joined the profession in Wales—137, in fact, joined the profession and that’s 6.8 per cent of the 2014 workforce—but, clearly, this is a focus in terms of those difficult areas where, in fact, also, there might be new solutions in terms of the primary healthcare workforce.
 
14:25
Mark IsherwoodBiography
I’m going to call for two statements. The first one is on post-polio syndrome. On Post-polio Syndrome Day, 22 October, I hosted an event here for the British Polio Fellowship to raise awareness of post-polio syndrome. Of the estimated 120,000 people who had polio across Britain, some 12,000 are believed to live in Wales and there are many more who never knew they had it. Wales was chosen specifically this year to host the UK event in the hope that it will spread news throughout Wales and reach members and non-members alike to help people who have post-polio syndrome who feel isolated and alone. Clearly, the Welsh Government can play an important part in reaching out to those people and raising public awareness.
 
Secondly and finally, could I call for a statement on roadworks at the Penmaenbach and Conwy tunnels on the A55 in north Wales? As you may have heard, the mayor of Penmaenmawr has called a summit meeting of mayors affected by what he describes as the ‘traffic mayhem’ caused.
 
‘This situation is now getting intolerable…with long tailbacks in both directions and heavy traffic using small roads like the Sychnant Pass, which were never designed for such volumes.’
 
And on he goes. He said:
 
‘The worst aspect of the whole business is the total lack of communication between the Welsh Government’s agents and officers with local communities. Last week I spoke to Government officers who promised to get back to me—they never did.’
 
I call for a statement accordingly.
 
14:26
Jane HuttBiography
Well, on your first question, Mark Isherwood, I do thank the Member for drawing attention to post-polio syndrome. Obviously, the health Minister will and has acknowledged that, and the importance of the fact that you did host that event and draw attention to this.
 
On your second point in terms of the A55 Penmaenmawr tunnel disruption, of course it’s clear that the A55 wasn’t designed for the future traffic levels that we see when it was built. Now we are investing—and I know you don’t dispute the significant amounts of money that we are investing in the A55, and that is to improve safety, journey times and resilience—of course that inevitably causes some disruption, which we do attempt to minimise as much as possible, remembering that workers are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure it can be completed as quickly as possible.
 
14:27
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
May I endorse Mark Isherwood’s comments? Everyone—
 
14:27
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you.
 
14:27
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
May I endorse Mark Isherwood’s comments and ask for a statement on the situation on the A55? Everyone understands that any maintenance work is going to create difficulties, but the importance of this route in terms of travel to work—. You have your own offices in Llandudno and you forced many workers to go there, but the current arrangements mean that the working day is exceptionally long for many people, and therefore having a better understanding of the timetable for this work and whether the work can be structured more effectively in order to enable those people to travel to work easier, would be much appreciated.
 
The second issue I’d like a statement on from Government is the discretionary assistance fund. Because of the agreement between the Welsh Government and companies such as Argos, local housing associations can’t refer clients to standard goods on sale from community groups—recycled furniture, for example—where the money would circulate in the local economy. This is quite contrary to the Government’s strategy on recycling, of course, and it’s an example of the Government saying one thing and doing something entirely different. Therefore, a statement on that particular fund would be most beneficial.
 
14:29
Jane HuttBiography
As I’ve said, in terms of the disruption on the A55, of course, when the work is completed, it will ensure that the efficiency and effectiveness of that investment will, of course, bear fruit in terms of journey times. As I’ve said, we are seeking to minimise the disruption in terms of those. If there is anything to update, of course, I will seek to do so.
 
On your second question on the discretionary assistance fund, I think it would be helpful if you wrote to the Minister to identify any particular problem in terms of the implementation of that. Of course, we are supporting the discretionary assistance fund, which was devolved to us, to ensure that we can use that fund to mitigate against poverty.
 
14:30
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, I very much welcome the statement earlier by the Minister for health on mental health waiting times and the clarification from the First Minister that that will include access to talking therapies. However, for many years, there has been a significant shortage of trained counselling professionals within the Welsh health service, and I don’t necessarily understand how this is likely to be met. I wonder if we could request from the Minister for health a written statement, perhaps, identifying how we’re going to find access to those counselling professionals and what additional training is being provided by the Welsh Government to train people, particularly with child mental health specialisms, to be able to offer talking therapies to children, as well as adults.
 
14:30
Jane HuttBiography
It is very welcome, the support for the statement, the significant statement, made by the Minister for Health and Social Services today in terms of investment and speeding up waiting times for access to mental health services, and, of course, that will include access to counselling and talking therapies, the counselling services, as well. And, indeed, in terms of the responses that were made this afternoon by the First Minister, in particular to our investment and support for child and adolescent mental health services, that clearly, of course, includes that access to counselling services.
 
14:31
Llyr GruffyddBiography
May I ask you, Minister, to secure time for a statement from the education Minister on the future of the Welsh language and the linguistic categorisation of schools? I’ve received much correspondence from parents and governors in the counties of Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire, and I should declare an interest as a school governor and parent affected by a recent decision in terms of the linguistic category of that particular school. There is a feeling that there is confusion at a national level. There’s no clear guidance coming from Government, with some education authorities seeing category 2 provision as being appropriate to meet the needs of category 1 schools, if truth be told, while other counties work proactively to encourage category 2 schools to become category 1 schools. Therefore, there is some confusion, there’s a lack of leadership, and a clear statement from the Minister on the Government’s intentions and strategies in this area would be of great assistance, I think, in tackling the concern that exists on the ground.
 
14:32
Jane HuttBiography
There is no lack of leadership. Of course, the Minister for Education and Skills has his oral questions tomorrow and I’m sure, if you wish to raise questions with him to clarify the position—. But he has made it quite clear, in terms of his leadership, and in terms of understanding and ensuring that those linguistic categories are abided by, and accepted and understood.
 
14:33
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, may I ask for a statement in the Government’s time from the Minister for transport regarding the air service between north and south Wales, following last week’s announcement that the safety certificate had been withdrawn from that service? You’ll be aware of the investigation by the Public Accounts Committee that stated that we have concerns about the contractual situation between the Government and the ticketing agency, which is exactly the same situation that will exist between the Government and Links Air going forward. So, may I ask for a statement on how long this situation between Links Air and the Government will exist, following last week’s announcement?
 
14:33
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, the importance is that there is an air link, and that air link is being provided. And, clearly, that is important in terms of the service that we are supporting and that is, of course—. In terms of the outcome of the Links Air position, that will be clarified in due course.
 
14:34
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:34
Motion to Suspend Standing Order 11.16 to Allow the Next Item of Business to be Debated
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
There’s now a motion to suspend Standing Order 11.16 to allow the next item of business to be debated and I call the First Minister to move the motion.
 
Motion NNDM5860 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 33.6:
 
Suspends that part of Standing Order 11.16 that requires the weekly statement and announcement under Standing Order 11.11 to constitute the timetable for business in Plenary for the following week, to allow NNDM5861 to be considered in Plenary on Tuesday 3 November 2015.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Move.
 
14:34
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no speakers. Therefore, the proposal is to suspend Standing Orders. 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
 
14:34
3. The Draft Wales Bill
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 3, then, is the debate on the draft Wales Bill, and I call the First Minister to move the motion.
 
Motion NNDM5861 Jane Hutt
 
Supported by Elin Jones, Aled Roberts.
 
To propose the National Assembly of Wales:
 
Notes the publication of the draft Wales Bill by the UK Government on 20 October 2015 and regrets that the current model for reserved powers falls short of the recommendations of the Silk Commission Part 2.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I rise to propose this motion on what is the most important debate that we’ve had in Wales for some time. There are some who’ll say that this is constitutional wonkery, it’s of no relevance to ordinary people. But the reality is that what is being proposed in the Wales Bill goes straight to the heart of what this Assembly, as elected by the people of Wales, can do in the years to come.
 
Could I start by saying that I had a meeting with the Secretary of State yesterday? It was a constructive meeting. We talked at length about some of the difficulties involved. I have to say that he was more appraised of the difficulties and understood them more clearly, and now I look forward to seeing the difficulties that we’ve both identified being dealt with through the Bill process.
 
At the heart of the difficulty with the Bill as it stands is the failure to create a separate jurisdiction. That leads to incredible complexity in the way in which the Bill is drafted. It leads to incredible restrictions in the latter part of the Bill, and it’s not needed. As the Lord Chief Justice said last week, it’s perfectly possible to create a separate jurisdiction without the need for a separate court and justice system—without the cost of it as well. It stands to reason, then, that it’s perfectly possible for us to have a separate Welsh jurisdiction, but not have to construct the structure around it, in terms of administering justice. It has no cost, in effect, if it’s done that way. It would make it far easier to draft the Wales Bill if that separate jurisdiction were established—as it is in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as it is in many other parts of the world, without any great difficulty. And so the first point I’d make is that, if it was simply a question of making sure that jurisdiction was established, the Wales Bill would be far easier to draft and the anomalies far easier to deal with.
 
There are three particular issues that I’ve raised before that trouble not just me, but civil society in Wales, about the Bill. First of all, of course, there is the issue of what is and what isn’t devolved—the individual powers. There are some anomalies there: for example, the suggestion that, when it comes to ports, ports are devolved according to what their turnover is. We call that the Milford Haven treaty port objection, at that point. That is a disincentive for Welsh Government: in other words, the Welsh Government improves ports, sees their turnovers increase, then Welsh Government loses control over those ports. That makes no sense.
 
The community infrastructure levy is not devolved. It’s a planning levy; why not devolve it? When it comes to opencast mining, the licensing of opencast mining remains at Whitehall, but land restoration sits with the Welsh Government. Well, thanks for that. That means that the mess is left for Welsh Government, and the licensing is kept in Whitehall. And there are other examples of individual issues regarding individual powers.
 
But the first substantive issue is on the issue of Minister of the Crown consents. Now, Minister of the Crown consents are a relic. They were never intended to be extended in the future; they only exist as a relic of what existed before 1999. As Members will be aware, we do have the power to modify Minister of the Crown powers where they are consequential and incidental to our legislation. That will be removed. It means, for example, that, with the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill, the then Secretary of State refused his consent; it then ended up in the Supreme Court. That avenue will be closed off to this Assembly. If the consent was refused, that would be it. There would be no recourse to the Supreme Court, and we would not have had the local government byelaws Bill. Yes, we can look to judicially review each and every decision taken by a Minister, and that’s something we would do in the future, if that was needed. But I hope that it doesn’t come to that.
 
There are three issues with regard to Minister of the Crown consents. Firstly, we will be prevented from modifying any function of a reserved authority. Well, maybe there’s an argument about that, but the two other areas are troubling. The Assembly would not be able to modify any UK Minister or UK Government department function, even if it’s within the Assembly’s devolved competence. So, where there is a relic of the past that says you need Minister of the Crown consent, like the local government byelaws Bill, this Assembly would not be able to legislate because that Minister of the Crown consent would be needed. So, even an area where something is completely devolved, where there is that relic of the past, we would not be able to legislate. That can’t possibly be right. Why on earth would that remain in there?
 
And, of course, it’s possible for Minister of the Crown consents to be extended, effectively preventing this Assembly legislating on anything, potentially, freely, because Minister of the Crown consent would be needed for some, or all, of the particular Bill.
 
But it’s also the case that seeking Minister of the Crown consents now takes an enormous amount of time. If we look at the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill, we had to get consent from seven different Whitehall departments. We started discussions in February 2012; some consents still hadn’t been received 16 months later. The delay meant we had to amend the Bill to ensure it was within competence, and introduction in January 2013. On the Environment (Wales) Bill, we first approached the Wales Office in November 2014. The Wales Office responded in March 2015 requesting further information, we provided that on 9 April, and we’ve had no response to that. Consents have still not yet been given.
 
On the Public Health (Wales) Bill, there’s been extensive correspondence at official level on competence and consent issues. The Wales Office raised issues with us regarding that Bill and those issues were dealt with, but we still await a final decision as to whether consents will be made available. So, Whitehall works at a snail’s pace. It takes months and months and months to get Minister of the Crown consents, and yet we have a proposal here that would mean those consents would not just remain but would be extended and would be extended in areas that this Assembly has within its competence. There is a need, then, to think again, very much so, when it comes to Minister of the Crown consents.
 
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Then there’s the issue of the necessity test. Wholly unexplained. It’s an incredibly high bar that the Assembly would have to jump over if the Assembly wanted to modify the criminal or private law when it’s legislating on devolved matters. In other words, it’s all very well for us to pass a law, but we wouldn’t be able to enforce it. So, we could introduce stamp duty, but, potentially, stamp duty could be optional in terms of paying it. I mean, it’s senseless. I can’t understand why the necessity test is there; it tightens up what already exists and what already exists has never caused a problem in terms of the creation of criminal or civil penalties. We would not be able to do that in the future as an Assembly, except in very narrowly defined circumstances. Again, there is no reason at all to have the necessity test there.
 
14:41
Simon ThomasBiography
Will the First Minister give way, please?
 
14:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Of course.
 
14:41
Simon ThomasBiography
Just on that point, could the First Minister confirm it’s his view that, if the separate legal jurisdiction on which he began his remarks were to be established, that necessity test, by its very nature, just falls aside?
 
14:42
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, yes, it would. There is a similar test in Scotland. Of course, the breadth of the devolution settlement in Scotland is different. The necessity test sits there, and the other restrictions sit there, because of this obsession that you can’t have too much of a divergence between Wales and England when it comes to the law. That’s why it’s there. Also, we have to bear in mind that this goes behind the result in 2011. In 2011, the people of Wales were asked whether they wished this Assembly to have primary powers in areas that were devolved. They weren’t told, ‘Well, are you happy for them to have the powers, but have a restriction on how they’re enforced?’ They weren’t told that. This is what the necessity test does. That needs to be looked at again and it’s something that the Secretary of State I think now understands.
 
So, there is a great deal of work to be done on the Bill. The easiest way would be to sort out the jurisdiction; that would simplify the Bill immensely. But we do need a Bill that’s coherent, that’s clear and, importantly, respects the 2011 result. What is the outcome otherwise? If the necessity test remains there, it is highly likely that every single Bill that passes through this Assembly will end up in the Supreme Court, because the necessity test will be challenged time and time and time again, probably by the Attorney General. That cannot be in the interests of the people of Wales, nor can it be in the interests of the UK Government. We’re trying to get away from going to the Supreme Court, rather than introducing a system that makes it inevitable that there will be more and more referrals not just to the Supreme Court but potentially to the High Court as well, when it comes to judicially reviewing ministerial decisions.
 
So, what is the next step? The Secretary of State has indicated that he will work to make sure that the Bill is improved. I welcome that. My view is that jurisdiction is by far the easiest way of doing this and I cannot understand the objection to it. He has indicated to me that he does understand that there are issues that need to be resolved—the necessity test is a high bar; he understands that issue. We cannot have a situation where we see, in the next few years, the creation of a Welsh Parliament, but a Welsh Parliament that cannot enforce its own laws. That’s not what the people of Wales wanted. I don’t think it’s what the Secretary of State wants either, and it’s important now that not just the Governments but the two legislatures work together to make sure we have a settlement that will be robust, will be clear and that respects the devolution settlement we’ve had from 2011 and onwards.
 
14:44
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I welcome the opportunity to contribute in this debate and, in particular, the more measured tones that the First Minister has used in the debate today, as opposed to the statement some two weeks ago.
 
I do think it is important that we rise to the challenge and we do make sure we make every effort to use this opportunity to strengthen the devolution settlement and make it a far clearer settlement, so that, exactly as the First Minister said, we don’t spend our time back and forth in the Supreme Court arguing these cases, albeit that will happen from time to time; that’s the nature of the system that we work in. I do think it is vital that, as I said in my response to the statement, we do continue to work, where we can, cross-party, because I do think that this Assembly speaks with a far louder voice where we can find agreement. I do believe that the assertion that the Secretary of State has given, both in his evidence to the Welsh affairs select committee and, obviously, as the First Minister highlighted, in his meeting yesterday—he is in listening mode to develop a Bill that, ultimately, will meet the needs and the expectations of not just this institution, but the people of Wales. It is quite right to point out that the referendum in 2011 was endorsed in every county the length and breadth of this country of ours, to give primary legislation powers to this institution. I fully accept that, and we on these benches fully accept that.
 
There’s a lot of good in this Bill as well, a lot of areas that will be transferred around energy, for example, ports policy, speed limits, bus regulation, tax regulation, local government elections—even for this place to set its own electoral timetables and electoral responsibilities. Surely, that’s an inevitable maturing of the democratic process, and it’s always seemed a bit bizarre to me that we never had that responsibility in the first place, to be honest with you. But that is something that has to be welcomed, and instead of us constantly focusing on the negative, let’s also reflect on what is positive in this draft Bill, because there is much that is positive in the draft Bill.
 
I do believe, as Jenny Randerson touched on when she commented on the opportunities that the Bill presents itself, when she was asked to comment on the process—and that is the key: we are at the draft stage with this Bill. I, along with my colleagues on this side, do have issues and concerns around the consenting process, because, ultimately, what we don’t want to do is move backwards. What we want is clarity and coherence in the settlement that, obviously, the Prime Minister outlined in the St David’s Day agreement. It’ll serve no-one any good whatsoever if all we end up doing is muddying the waters and ending up with a dog’s dinner of a Bill. The Secretary of State—
 
14:47
Simon ThomasBiography
Will you give way on that point? I’m grateful to Andrew Davies for giving way. Just on this point—I welcome what he’s just said regarding the settlement in 2011 and the need for clarity now—is he in a position now to reconsider his previous opposition to that separate legal jurisdiction, pitched, indeed, as the First Minister has said, as a way of bringing that clarity and then removing that consent process, or at least making it much more simple?
 
14:47
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I don’t think I’ve ever expressed an outright opposition to a separate jurisdiction, and, in fact, I met several interested parties in this particular field only a week ago at an event in this building that I think the Deputy Presiding Officer was sponsoring, as such. I’m quite open-minded about it. I do believe that we do have a jurisdiction at the moment—the England-and-Wales jurisdiction—that is the envy of the world. I do think it is very robust, but I certainly am not closed to taking the argument forward and progressing the argument, but I will need some persuading, as will colleagues on this side of the Chamber, whether this is the right moment to do that or whether it is something to be considered at a later date and we evolve into that position. But I do take the point that the First Minister’s touched on: that if you do move to the ground of a separate jurisdiction, then that might possibly help the clarity of the Bill and some of the uncertainties that the First Minister put over, and that, surely, is the discussion, is the debate and the progress that we should be trying to seek to make, in between the drafting and bringing the Bill forward and its stages through the legislative process.
 
As I said, there is so much good in this Bill that we should be promoting, and making sure that people don’t turn against the Bill itself. The Secretary of State has indicated, and the parliamentary time clearly shows, that this is the one opportunity within this Parliament to have a Wales Bill, and we should not lose that opportunity in taking matters forward. So, I do hope that the language becomes more consensual, and I do hope the language becomes more constructive, as we go forward, as I do think that we do have a great opportunity to develop a Bill that will strengthen the devolution settlement, strengthen this institution and strengthen democracy here in Wales.
 
14:49
Leanne WoodBiography
As I have stated in previous debates, delivering a reserved-powers model without a legal jurisdiction does seem complex and restrictive. There does seem to be a fair bit of agreement on that point, which is welcome. Now, the draft Wales Bill, far from simplifying our devolution process, complicates it further. It should be possible to have an honest and open debate about what kinds of decisions should be made at a UK level and what decisions should be taken at the national level. Inevitably, in that debate there would need to be compromise, but what has happened so far is an unfair compromise. The lowest possible common denominator has been set, and then it has been portrayed as a lasting solution. Now, this is a recipe for Wales to be left further behind the other devolved nations and therefore at an economic, social and political disadvantage. We cannot afford such a disadvantage.
 
Instead of the debate being open and honest, from the Secretary of State’s side it has been filled with hyperbole and tactical positioning. Now, I have heard the Secretary of State blame the failure to get an agreed Bill on the opposition leaders at Westminster; I’ve seen him blame it on the influence of Plaid Cymru; I’ve seen him blame it on the prospect of Welsh independence. I’ve even seen it blamed on alleged nationalist lawyers and academics. The only person escaping this blame is the Secretary of State himself, which, perhaps, speaks volumes. At the same time as criticising a whole host of characters for disagreeing with the draft Bill, he’s now asked us to stop talking about it and stop debating it, which seems very strange considering that the Bill is now beginning its journey through Westminster, where scrutiny will be constant and where amendments will be tabled. The idea that we should accept a second-rate or even third-rate Bill, combined with the threat that we won’t get another, is problematic and is disrespectful to this country. This Bill, as it is currently drafted, means that the next Welsh Government, which of course I want to be a Plaid Cymru Government, will have to face judges as it seeks to implement its democratic mandate on behalf of people.
 
Now, if I can turn away from the Secretary of State to your Government, First Minister, and your party, there does need to be recognition on your side of the Chamber that you have not given a consistent view on these issues. Labour’s position on devolution remains problematic. There are areas where your Labour Members of Parliament are on record as agreeing with the Conservative Assembly Members in this Chamber that certain aspects should not be devolved or should remain reserved. In particular, I’m thinking of police and justice, and teachers’ pay and conditions. Of course, your Government has a different view to your party, but that isn’t a strong position for Wales as a nation. It means that you’ve not been able to rely on members of your own party at Westminster to back your own Government’s position. Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament have been prepared to co-operate constructively with pro-devolutionists of all parties to promote the Welsh national interest, and we are prepared to do that again. The UK Government is trying to fob Wales off. The message coming from Westminster doesn’t feel like one of friendship. We’re starting to see a shift in language and tone towards challenging Welsh civic society to accept a Bill that won’t work.
 
As the leader of the Party of Wales, I again offer our view of a compromise for a way forward. We say: implement the cross-party agreement in full and deliver parity for Wales with other devolved nations. After all, we’ve yet to hear a justification as to why Wales should not expect or deserve full equality. Financially, let’s work with the provisions of the Wales Act 2014 for tax devolution so that power can be matched with responsibility, but without a referendum. If it’s good enough for English cities, why is it not good enough for Wales? The First Minister, in his opening statement, accepted the arguments for devolving income tax when he earlier mentioned the question of ports. Where is the incentive to invest and improve ports if you can’t realise the benefits?
 
Beyond this position on tax without a referendum, we remain open to listening to civil society and to those lawyers and academics on their thoughts as to how we can further develop and extend Welsh democracy. We now need to try and amend this Bill for the benefit of Wales.
 
14:55
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
It is clear to me, Deputy Presiding Officer, and my party that the status quo of Welsh devolution cannot stand. The fact that our devolved settlement is so unclear, that our laws regularly end up in the Supreme Court and that committees regularly second-guess what is and what isn’t in competence is evidence enough of that. But, any steps forward in our devolution settlement have to be steps that deliver clarity for this institution, clarity for the people of Wales of what they can expect from this institution and workability. I do, however, fear that the draft Wales Bill, as currently in front of us, does not provide either of those things. In fact, not only does it not provide that clarity or workability, it actually risks, I believe, taking a step backwards, taking us back to a situation where the democratically elected Members of this Chamber, on behalf of the people of Wales, could have their actions thwarted by Westminster, Whitehall and the Supreme Court.
 
My party has long called and long supported calls for a reserved-powers model to ensure that workability and clarity for this Chamber and our constituents, but, as I said, this version of a reserved-powers model perhaps belies the fact that it wasn’t as simple as some of us thought it may be and, as is currently presented, I believe it will prove to be unworkable and will create confusion.
 
The necessity tests are just the start of it. When we had the ministerial statement a fortnight ago, I asked the First Minister whether he could clarify the purpose and the breadth of those tests, and he, at that time, said that he couldn’t. Well, after two weeks of studying this and two weeks of consulting, I don’t think we’re that much further down the line of understanding the true implications of those necessity tests. Necessity has a range of meanings, and there will be uncertainty about this until the first of what I suspect will be many Supreme Court rulings on this issue.
 
The reservations of private and criminal law are not the same as other reservations. These are not policy areas, but they are ways of making policy and enforcing policy, as the First Minister stated. If we can’t do that in this Chamber, it begs the question: what are we for? This Bill risks a substantial rollback of Wales’s power. At present, many of our silent subjects, such as employment, will become explicitly reserved. The prohibition on removing or modifying functions of Ministers of the Crown for functions that existed before 5 May 2011, unless doing so is incidental, would be extended to all newer functions and even future functions not yet in existence. I am absolutely clear on this principle—that any rowing back on the powers that we currently have and have exercised over the last four and a half years cannot and should not be tolerated by this institution or by the people we serve.
 
We have to ask how Scotland and Northern Ireland are not subject to such limitations in the same way. Of course, part of the reason is that they have their own legal jurisdiction, and that comes to the crux of the matter. It surely has now become so clear that if we’re to have a settlement that works and that delivers clarity and accountability for this institution, then we need a distinct, if not separate, Welsh legal jurisdiction.
 
We also have to ask ourselves whether this is truly a reserved-powers Bill. Whilst there are obvious powers to reserve, the Wales Office has proposed that powers over hovercraft, dangerous dogs, gender recognition, driving instruction, exploitation of coal and betting should all remain under the control of London. Now, would seeing these powers invested in the people of Wales mean the unravelling of our constitution? I think not. Why are we not operating on the assumption that all powers rest with the people of this country? It is the duty of the Westminster Government to argue the case for reserving them. Whitehall would not have a difficult time convincing me that defence or even outer space should be reserved, but I do feel that we need to see the arguments put forward for the list that is contained in the Bill, about why those powers are best held at Westminster and not at this institution.
 
A particular disappointment is that we have seen no way forward on the issue of policing and youth justice. It’s such a disappointment not to have been able to secure this in the St David’s Day agreement, and we’re no further forward in this regard.
 
Now, as everybody has said, this is the opportunity that is before us. When Ron Davies said it was a process, not an event, he wasn’t joking, was he? My goodness me, what a long and drawn-out process it has become. We must use this opportunity in this part of the process to deliver real change. I would offer up, Deputy Presiding Officer, very quickly, the idea of developing a special committee, just like they did for the Scotland Bill, as a way of us taking a greater role in the scrutiny of the Bill and the legislation as we go forward.
 
The Secretary of State said that he wants a clear, robust, and lasting settlement—
 
15:01
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have been generous, but quickly now.
 
15:01
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
[Continues.]—I don’t believe that he achieves his goals in the legislation as currently drafted.
 
15:01
Mike HedgesBiography
The draft Wales Bill is a disappointment. I have argued for a long time that we need a reserved-powers model. I still believe we need a reserved-powers model. This is the model not just used in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but across Europe. People may remember, a couple of years ago, I ran through a long list of countries in Europe that use the reserved-powers model; you’ll be pleased to know I’m not going to do that today. But, it is something that needs doing.
 
It is impossible to get clarity without the reserved-powers model. The question then becomes ‘What needs to be reserved?’ A better question is: ‘Which would be the best Parliament to carry out each function?’ What I expected was that functional areas such as defence, currency and foreign affairs would be reserved. If they were not reserved, Wales would be, effectively, an independent country. While some people would see that at a way forward, I’m not one of them. What we appear to have is the solution to a number of Bills ending up in court and several others that could have done: it’s giving Westminster Ministers a veto over Welsh legislation, and then seeing if we end up in court afterwards. It may avoid court initially, but it puts Wales in a worse position than we are in now.
 
Following the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill, community and principal councils can bring in laws without needing permission from a Welsh Minister, but the National Assembly for Wales, which I’m sure we will agree to rename ‘the Welsh Parliament’, has to ask permission from Westminster Ministers. We are actually being put, again, in a worse position than community councils. At this stage, I am tempted to ask ‘Would they do this to the Scottish Parliament?’, but I won’t ask that question, I’ll ask ‘Would they do this to the Northern Ireland Assembly, where there is a unionist majority?’ Would any devolved legislature in the world have such a veto put upon them within areas that are devolved? With the northern powerhouse, or the Manchester metropolitan county as we used to know it prior to it being disbanded by a previous Conservative Government, being given power over policing, Wales is moving backwards compared not just to Scotland and Northern Ireland, but compared to greater Manchester and London, and possibly any other of the large cities in England that start having devolution.
 
If I can say something positive, I welcome the super majority needed for constitutional change—pity it doesn’t exist in Westminster. What we need is a rule that all constitutional change requires a super majority. That would mean that, whilst all change might not be unanimous, what it will be is taken forward with the agreement of the overwhelming majority of Members. This would reduce the risk of change and then further change after the next election.
 
What I would like to see the Bill do are two major things. First: clarification by bringing the reserved-powers model to Wales in the areas we already have devolved, so that we don’t have the problems that we did over the bye-laws Bill ending up in court. Secondly, I’d like to see a list of areas that would be available for devolution when agreed following discussions on the funding after it passes the super-majority test. This is not blue-sky thinking; this is what happened in Northern Ireland over policing. What we would end up with is clarification of the current devolution settlement, and an end point to devolution, with clearly identified areas not available for devolution—the examples I gave earlier, such as currency, foreign affairs and defence, and we’d probably talk about other things, such as border control. These, obviously, would be dealt with at a national level, with the nation being Britain. But, there are a number of areas of government available to be devolved where the Welsh Government had negotiated the funding and the Assembly had agreed to it becoming unreserved. I’m not a fan of having things just passed down to us, because I have a horrible feeling that having things passed down to us may well mean that we get the powers without any money following, and will be told, ‘You can use your own taxation system to pay for it’. I think that’s a matter which must concern anybody who wants Wales to provide good quality services. This would also stop Wales needing a Wales Bill every five years. This Bill is not and end—it’s not even a means to an end. It’s one step on a journey and it’s probably half a step forward and one step backwards. What we need is clarity. We need the reserved-powers model. We need an end point to devolution and, I think, we actually need a different Bill.
 
15:05
Simon ThomasBiography
I very much hope that the Secretary of State is watching this debate this afternoon, because what he will see, I think, is proceedings of an Assembly—not one party against another—that is moving towards becoming a parliament discussing how we can attain the appropriate tools not only to legislate, but to ensure social and economic growth in the nation. I don’t accept for one second that this is a dry, sterile or pointless debate. After all, Westminster can’t decide on issues as important as tax credits without getting into a constitutional dispute. It’s important that we get this right and that we learn lessons from other parliaments on inappropriate ways of settling a constitution.
 
I believe that it’s very important that we all agree that the 2011 referendum made it clear that the people of Wales wanted us to legislate in these areas. Therefore, there are a number of things in the draft Bill, as it currently stands, that militate against that and which limit the powers of this place and give them back to Westminster. We can’t accept that. We must remove this necessity test, or it must be placed in a context of a separate legal jurisdiction, as many speakers have already said, so that it is clear how it is to be implemented. The Minister of the Crown consent contained within the Bill, as it currently stands, is, quite simply, the result of the Wales Office writing to all departments in Whitehall asking, ‘What are your thoughts on this draft Bill?’ Of course, every department will respond by trying to get their fingers in every pie and by trying to retain as much power as possible. The Secretary of State has to do a better job of protecting the interests of Wales within his office and within his remit, and politically, with a small ‘p’. I very much hope that he is starting to learn that lesson. Plaid Cymru is more than willing to discuss these issues with Stephen Crabb and to try to understand from him how this Bill, which is in draft form, can be amended substantially.
 
I also think that it’s very important that we as an Assembly not only discuss the Bill today, but have a process of taking it forward as it is amended. In that context, although I yield to no-one in my admiration of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, of which I was a member for four years and of which you were a superb Chair, Deputy Presiding Officer, I do agree with the concept that we perhaps need a broader committee, as has happened in the past, to include the party leaders in this place and some backbench Members as a standing committee to deal with such an important Bill. I very much hope that the Assembly as an institution will consider that.
 
There are some things that are important in this Bill that have already been mentioned. Certainly, giving us rights over our own electoral arrangements is crucially important and is something that could be done as a separate issue to the Wales Bill, through separate legislation. However, regardless of what happens in that regard, unless we see the Bill substantially amended, including putting at its heart the fact that there should be a separate legal jurisdiction—and it could be the lowest common denominator model that the First Minister outlined, although Plaid Cymru in the past has mentioned a far more powerful model where justice and policing are also devolved—. What we need is that clarity, and that is the compromise that Plaid Cymru would want to see with the introduction of such a Bill.
 
The last thing that I want to say is that if this Bill is to proceed through Westminster in a more formal process, Plaid Cymru will table a substantial number of amendments—as many as we can—to amend the Bill so that it becomes one that we can support. I very much hope, therefore, that members of all parties that have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Bill will work with Plaid Cymru—and Plaid Cymru will work with other parties in Westminster—to ensure that those amendments are supported. That hasn’t always happened in the past with Wales Bills. This is an opportunity to ensure that this Bill does reflect the aspirations of the vast majority of Members in this place. This Bill has to respond to the needs of the Assembly—not to one party or to one Government, but the needs of the Assembly as a whole.
 
15:10
John GriffithsBiography
We have been on a journey in Wales, Dirprwy Lywydd, as others have referred to, starting off with secondary law-making powers only, of course, moving on to the intricacies of the LCOs—the legislative competence Orders—and Measures, and now to primary law-making powers. But that journey within these islands hasn’t only been a journey for Wales, of course—it’s been a journey across the UK for Scotland, Northern Ireland and, indeed, increasingly for England as well. I very much see sense in what the First Minister has been calling for for quite some time, and that is a constitutional convention to look at these matters in the round across the UK, and set in train a process that leads to a coherent solution that would apply across the UK.
 
It is absolutely vital, I believe, Dirprwy Lywydd, that we do avoid defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory as far as this Wales Bill is concerned, because it really should have taken us along that journey to put a lasting settlement in place, with that reserved-powers model providing much-needed clarity and greater simplicity, as well as broadening and deepening devolution in Wales. Sadly, what we’ve arrived at, certainly at this stage of that legislation, is nothing of that sort. And that’s despite the rhetoric of the Secretary of State for Wales, who heralded this Wales Bill as providing that lasting settlement. So, there is a great responsibility, I believe now, on our Secretary of State for Wales to deal with these issues that have been raised, not just by Members and parties in this Chamber but, indeed, by civic society, academics and constitutional experts as to the shortcomings of the Wales Bill. We do need action to deal with those issues, because recognition and explanation of those issues has been widespread, not just here in Wales but, indeed, beyond our border.
 
It’s not, as Simon Thomas mentioned, Dirprwy Lywydd, some sort of sterile constitutional argument. You know, we’ve played out that debate, haven’t we, over many years in embarking on that journey to greater powers for the people of Wales. It’s not a sterile constitutional debate—it’s about the tools for the job, it’s about having the ability to provide Wales with the services that it needs, engaging democratically with the people of Wales and providing them with an understanding of where we are in terms of powers here in Wales, so that they do engage with this institution and with civic life in Wales.
 
So, there are many obvious advantages in terms of making this step change to the clarity and simplicity of a reserved-powers model. I think it’s well established, there’s a very strong consensus behind it and the great shame is that, somewhere in that evolutionary process—I think maybe more by accident than design—eyes have been taken of the ball, as it were, and we now need to make sure that we have the necessary focus to get back to the path that I believe we were set upon.
 
If we look at one issue, Dirprwy Lywydd— policing, for example—I think it’s absolutely clear as how to this relates to needing the tools to do a very important job, because there is much that the Assembly and Welsh Government is responsible for that fits very strongly with policing—drug and alcohol abuse matters, homelessness, domestic violence and many aspects of youth policy need policing to reinforce the progress that’s been made and the further work that is necessary. So, that’s just one example, I think, of where there would be a strong consensus to see policing devolved to Wales. We see developments in Manchester, for example, that show that that case is being recognised in parts of England, but is not being recognised as far as Wales is concerned.
 
So, we do need to get back to the simplicity and the clarity of a reserved-powers model. We need to do so very quickly, and I would like to agree with many Members and the First Minister, Dirprwy Lywydd, in emphasising, perhaps, one fairly straightforward solution to the quagmire—increasingly deep quagmire—that I think we’ve entered into, and that is that separate jurisdiction, without any need for a separate court and justice system. That’s been put on the table now by recent judicial pronouncements reinforcing what many others have said. That, I believe, would provide a neat solution to the tricky issues that we’ve entered into. But there is much that others have mentioned today that would also provide for the necessary step forward, and I hope that we will now see the necessary action taking place.
 
15:15
Gwenda ThomasBiography
If I speak to the first part of this motion, that is to note the publication of the draft Wales Bill, it should not be taken to imply that I do not agree with the Welsh Government in regretting the specific model of reserved powers proposed in it. This draft Bill is undoubtedly as full of holes as a Swiss cheese, but other Members have eloquently explained this, and I would like to take a few minutes to note a specific section of the Bill that has not received much attention, and which I believe warrants greater discussion.
 
The Schedule of reserved matters as it stands includes, and I quote,
 
‘Single legal jurisdiction of England and Wales and tribunals’.
 
Several references have already been made to single legal jurisdiction, and this would seem to put tribunals firmly beyond our competence. But it goes on to say, and I quote again:
 
‘In this paragraph “tribunal” does not include a tribunal whose purpose is to make determinations in relation to matters that are not reserved matters.’
 
I raised this issue in a question to the Counsel General two weeks ago and have not received a comprehensive response as yet. To my mind, however, this phrasing would suggest that tribunals concerning devolved matters may well come under the competence of this Senedd.
 
This would present a significant opportunity to the Welsh Government, as it could allow for the creation of a Welsh tribunal service for appeals that deal with points of law arising from decisions taken on regulations that implement some Welsh Government legislation. Could this, for example, adjudicate on appeals against the interpretation of regulations on payments for social care? Though, of course there are many other areas that could be included in its scope. Such a move could provide an alternative to judicial review, particularly important given the legal aid cuts being imposed from London, as well as making the law of Wales more accessible to our citizens.
 
It could be a long time before this Wales Bill becomes an Act. There will, no doubt, be many debates between now and then. But I do hope, Dirprwy Lywydd, that the Welsh Government in power when it passes will remember this aspect of the powers not explicitly reserved, and explore the opportunities that this gives them, and that this important issue becomes very much part of the scrutiny of this draft Bill.
 
15:18
Mick AntoniwBiography
I’ll try not to go over some of the ground that’s been very well covered by speakers from all parties.
 
Part of the problem with the start of the debate, I think, was that the Secretary of State for Wales’s response to the concerns being raised by Government seemed to actually almost brush them off as though they were not very significant. So, the statement that the Welsh Government’s response was really ‘emotional’ and only about ‘technical and legal arrangements’ really started creating a major concern that there was a fundamental misunderstanding, or lack of grasp, of the serious constitutional issues. That was highlighted further when, of course, the Secretary of State for Wales said this is going to be the only piece of legislation, so that we have to make known that we have to get this right or we will be stuck. If it’s bad legislation, we’ll be stuck with it for the foreseeable future, and that is why it is so fundamentally important to us.
 
The emphasis on clarity and certainty is absolutely right because nothing could be more important, and it’s very clear that the Bill in its current format really doesn’t achieve this because it’s couched in the language of reservation, conditionality and also uncertainty. How, for example, do we interpret a clause that says, as Schedule 7B, clause 2(1)(b) does, that any Welsh law can have no greater effect on reserved matters than is necessary—because, as has been raised, who decides what is necessary? In effect, what this means is that the UK Government will have to vet all legislation, make a determination and effectively veto or otherwise all Welsh laws. This creates an even greater lack of clarity and uncertainty than even under the existing system.
 
I looked for certain clarity—. I saw on the ‘Sunday Politics Wales’ show on Sunday that there was a discussion, and the MP for Cardiff North was there, and he was asked very clearly, ‘Can you explain this? What does it mean?’ He said, ‘It’s very simple.’ He said it would be for the Assembly to choose if the law was appropriate. And Whitehall would step in if it wasn’t. [Laughter.] This highlighted for us, I think, the real concerns about the lack of a grasp of understanding of what was actually happening. So I’m grateful if there appears to have been some progress.
 
Clause 3 of the draft Bill actually goes further because it says that no Welsh law can modify any aspect of private law. In particular I refer to the law of contract and tort. So, on that basis, the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014 judgment is overturned. That Act would be outside our jurisdiction and this proposed draft Bill would overturn the very, I think, wise and understanding comments from the Supreme Court of the need for powers to be able to achieve what they are set out to achieve or, to actually use the words of the Supreme Court, to ensure
 
‘a coherent, stable and workable outcome can be achieved.’
 
I do also have concerns about the reserved list, and I very much support the comments made by Kirsty Williams that we actually need an explanation as to why some of these are reserved. I’m very pleased to also see in the correspondence between the First Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales issues such as the ones we’ve raised in our debates, such as the licensing of fixed-odds betting machines. I mean, what is the logic to that not being devolved? We had cross-party agreement on this—it is devolved in Scotland—so there is a need for further information, and, hopefully, that will be forthcoming.
 
Also, why should we not have clear fiscal powers relating to devolved responsibilities? It appeared in the first command paper; it’s in the last Wales Act, but there is a whole bureaucratic process around that. It just makes absolute sense that the fiscal responsibilities that go with responsibilities should be there. That would enable us to look at things like levies to support tourism, public health in the fields of sugary drinks, fixed-odds gaming machines and also the sorts of issue raised in the failed Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill and many other areas as well.
 
The correspondence is quite revealing because what it does show is that there have been very significant efforts made back to March last year that were actually putting forward concerns about what the narrative should be around the Bill and the lack of any clear information coming from the UK Government and from the Welsh Office to enable us to actually understand that process. It may be that this is the problem. There was too little thought being given too early on by the Welsh Office to adopting a common narrative about what the objective of the legislation should be.
 
Can I just raise one further point, and that is the one John Griffiths raised about the constitutional convention? We hopefully will now be able to work to get this legislation right. Hopefully, we’ll be able to develop a common narrative, and there will be very, very substantial reform, because, if there isn’t, there are very, very many major constitutional implications of this legislation not being correct. And there is still one fundamental overarching constitutional issue, and that is the issue of a constitutional convention and sorting out the English arrangements.
 
15:24
Alun DaviesBiography
I think, in debating these matters, we need to ensure that the Secretary of State is held to account for the objectives that he’s set himself in this process. He has, on many different occasions, set himself up at the head of a cross-party consensus leading a new debate in Wales on the future of our governance. I’m yet to see anyone agree with that consensus. I’m yet to find anyone who’s reached agreement with the Secretary of State on any of these matters. He seems to have a group of imaginary friends surrounding him and creating a fantasy version of a constitutional settlement that is absolutely unrecognisable to anybody to whom he seeks to describe it. I will say this to the Secretary of State: when he came here in June, I felt that he made a very good, a very generous and a very gracious speech to this place. He reached out to people who—. I think he felt that many of us were distrustful and suspicious, but he reached beyond that and he gave an undertaking to this place that he would lead a process that would lead to a lasting settlement.
 
This, Secretary of State, is the opportunity for you to do exactly that. Leadership sometimes says and sometimes means demonstrating an understanding that you’re not quite where you might wish to be. He said that the settlement would be clearer, stronger and fairer. It is difficult to see where any element of the draft Bill delivers either clarity, fairness or strength. It is difficult to see how this draft Bill will help the integrity of the United Kingdom and will help deliver a United Kingdom that can deliver for the people of Wales the services and governance that they themselves seek and have voted for time and time again. I think, in doing so, this Chamber does need to come together. I very much welcome the tone of remarks from the leader of the opposition this afternoon. It’s always an uncomfortable experience to be speaking in a debate where your colleagues in Westminster are not—how shall I say—the focus of great acclamation, and I think the leader of the opposition got his tone right this afternoon. I hope that we will be able to continue in that vein in order to reach a consensus in this place, at least.
 
15:26
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I’d just like to put on the record it is always very dangerous when the Member for Blaenau Gwent praises the leader of the opposition; it doesn’t always benefit my health. [Laughter.]
 
15:26
Alun DaviesBiography
I can assure you that it terrifies me as well, but we are where we are, as I’ve said on a number of occasions.
 
If we are to reach a point of clarity, we cannot have over 200 exemptions to powers available to this place—200 exemptions with exemptions to those exemptions does not provide clarity. We cannot have a situation whereby a Minister of the Crown can veto the democratically agreed legislation of this place. That is not democracy. It simply isn’t a democratic settlement that is recognisable anywhere in the Westminster parliamentary system. It is not something that we can agree with here. And what I would like to see the Secretary of State do in considering the deliberations this afternoon and at other times is this: I want him to focus on substance, not simply the spin of his speech, but the substance of what he is seeking to deliver. It appears to me that we are not going to reach a point where we can have a lasting settlement in Wales until we do have a legal jurisdiction that is distinct and that is Welsh. I do not believe that it is possible to have a lasting settlement without that.
 
I’ve listened to many of the comments and contributions this afternoon and at other times, and I think it is time that we actually moved beyond a process and took the view that four Bills in 20 years is a failure. It’s an absolute failure of our politics. It’s not a failure of this place, but it’s a failure of Westminster. Westminster must deliver for our country the governance of which we can be proud, and all parties in Westminster must recognise that four Bills in 20 years is not a success but a failure. What we must do is move beyond that failure. We must say today, from this Chamber, that we will not accept another 20 years of process, 20 years without clarity on this settlement and 20 years where the people of Wales are going to be dragged to courts, to judges and to lawyers to find out where the power over their lives rests. That is not fair to anyone in Wales. It’s not fair to the people who sent us here and it’s time for us here to say to Westminster, ‘We need the tools to do the job; we need a settlement that really will stand the test of time.’
 
15:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The First Minister to reply to the debate.
 
15:29
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. I thank all Members for their contributions this afternoon. It’s clear to me that there’s much work to be done on the Bill. It’s also clear to me that there is an understanding in all parts of this Chamber that that work needs to be taken forward and needs to provide the clarity that the people of Wales require.
 
The first Part of the Bill does deliver, in the main, what was promised in terms of the extra powers for this place. I think it’s worth noting that that is the case. But, the main objective of this Bill is to provide a basis for devolution that will last for some time. It won’t do that without the jurisdiction point being addressed. We are bound to come back in a few years’ time in order to reassess the issue of the jurisdiction. As I said, the situation exists at the moment anyway that all judges below High Court level all sit in Wales now anyway; they have to be specially trained to sit in Wales because the law has changed so much. So, in effect, that jurisdiction below High Court level already exists in a de facto way. This is not a major change in terms of the way the law is administered in Wales. The jurisdiction of England and Wales is not an attraction around the world; it’s the justice system that provides the attractiveness in terms of the speed of justice, in terms of the objectivity of justice. The jurisdiction doesn’t actually come into it, and there’s no reason why Wales can’t enjoy the same reputation with its jurisdiction because it would be sharing the same court system.
 
There are some anomalies in there. Why, for example, should it be that speed limits are devolved, but not road signs, or drink driving limits for that matter? Surely, with our system of bilingual road signs, road signs would be ripe for devolution in Wales. I think I’m right in saying that every time a road sign is produced bilingually, it has to be approved through a special process because it’s not seen as a normal road sign, still, after all these years—
 
15:31
Aled RobertsBiography
Will you take an intervention?
 
15:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Of course.
 
15:31
Aled RobertsBiography
Does the Secretary of State now accept that there is some confusion—perhaps confusion that was not deliberate? Because he has reserved equality, which raises questions as to whether this place would have responsibility for the Welsh language, for example, or if there is equality between Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers, perhaps it would be for Westminster to legislate on the Welsh language from now on.
 
15:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’ve raised this with him. He accepts that that is not correct and that’s not his intention, so that’s one section that would have to be dealt with. Something that we picked up on from the outset is: does this mean that responsibility for the Welsh language should be transferred from the people of Wales to Westminster? Well, that wasn’t his intention, certainly.
 
When it comes to some of the issues that have been mentioned by others, such as policing, there is no reason why policing can’t be devolved. It’s wrapped up with the idea of police and crime commissioners and the idea that we might abolish PCCs. That’s not a good reason as to why that decision should not be devolved to the people of Wales, but that’s what it’s wrapped up in. When it comes to justice, in time, I think the justice system will naturally develop. It’s a big step to devolve the justice system. It does carry a cost, particularly with the prison system as well, but that should not hold back the devolution of a jurisdiction. I think that is something that would help immensely in terms of the drafting of this Bill.
 
I listened to the leader of Plaid Cymru, and I saw what Jonathan Edwards MP said yesterday that this is in some way the fault of both parties. I don’t think anybody could accuse me of being unclear in terms of devolution. I noticed, last week, a member of her own party described me as sounding like Owain Glyndŵr when it comes to the Wales Bill, which, 10 years ago, would have seen me strung up by some members of my own party, but there we are; thank you for that. But, the point is—and the leader of Plaid Cymru has said it again—that we cannot be seen to be second-class citizens as a nation within the UK and to be treated in a way that is seen as inferior by our own people. The fundamental problem with the model as it stands is that whilst it claims to a reserved-powers model, for example, it reserves the law in its entirety. So, in other words, when it comes to the law, it’s a conferred-powers model. We are not allowed to—. There are great restrictions on what we can do in terms of altering the law of contract; the law of civil wrongs; the criminal law—restrictions that are not even there now. So, what is the problem that is trying to be resolved here? There seems to be an issue as to whether we would try and change court procedure; that’s not what we would try to do, I’d suggest. There seems to be an issue as to whether we’d try to change from a common law jurisdiction to something resembling Scots law. That’s not the intention here, but that is what the restrictions seem to imply. So, as I say, we get to a position where we have a parliament that is unable to enforce its own laws. That can’t possibly be right for the people of Wales, for the people of Britain and for this institution as it looks to the future.
 
So, we need a proper reserved-powers model. I listened carefully to what Gwenda Thomas said. She picked on a particular issue, which we had noticed in the Bill, and something, I think, that we can work on in the future. I listened to what the Member for Pontypridd said. The agricultural sector wages Bill is specifically devolved in the Bill, but nevertheless the fundamental point that he makes is right. There are restrictions in the Bill that are not required and would impinge on this Assembly’s ability to legislate. If the Member of Parliament for Cardiff North said that, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of devolution. The Government at Westminster would have no right to intervene in any laws passed in this place. What would happen is what happens now: they go to the Supreme Court. So, Members end up going through a Bill, taking it through the process of scrutiny, many amendments, and then the Supreme Court strikes it down at the end of the process. That, again, can’t possibly be right.
 
My message to the Secretary of State is this: this has been a debate that has been based on, I think, sense, and based on looking forward; let’s reboot this process, and, for goodness’ sake, let’s get it right for the people of Wales.
 
15:35
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting under this item until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
Angela Burns took the Chair.
 
15:35
4. Statement: Delivering for Our Armed Forces and their Families
Angela BurnsBiography
Item 4 is a statement by the Minister for Public Services on delivering for our armed forces and their families. I call on the Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews.
 
15:36
Leighton AndrewsBiographyThe Minister for Public Services
Acting Deputy Presiding Officer, next Sunday Members will, I’m sure, be taking part in remembrance events across Wales to commemorate the contribution of our veterans and our serving armed forces. At the weekend, I attended the Royal British Legion festival of remembrance in Cardiff, along with the leader of the opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, followed by the annual Rhondda remembrance concert on Sunday evening.
 
This has, of course, also been a year of significant anniversaries. For example, in September, I was privileged to attend the Battle of Britain memorial service in Westminster Abbey. Earlier this year, we had the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. And next year, of course, will see the centenary anniversary of the battle of Mametz Wood, and the Welsh Government has been a contributor to the funding of the memorial there. Events such as these remind us that, without the sacrifices made by our armed services, we would not be living in the free society we enjoy today.
 
We are currently reviewing the Welsh Government’s package of support for armed forces personnel and veterans. This sets out the support we are making available across ministerial portfolios, such as education, housing, health and social services, but also through support organisations, such as the Wales probation service and the Royal British Legion. Eligible serving members of the armed forces and ex-service personnel, and their families, of course, benefit from our council tax reduction scheme. The package of support also provides information to armed forces personnel and veterans on services funded through other Government departments. The Welsh Government works closely with these departments on the implementation of such schemes in Wales.
 
We know that, for some serving members of the armed forces and veterans, support with health needs is crucial. That is why the Welsh Government has invested £650,000 in improving access to psychological therapies during the current year. We have also commissioned a national action plan that will enable health boards to ensure a consistent provision of talking therapies for everyone, including veterans. Our Veterans’ NHS Wales service is, of course, the only one of its kind in the UK. Well over 1,000 veterans have been referred to the service. We supported the Homebuy scheme to cover widows and widowers of personnel killed in action.
 
The veterans hearing fund will be launched later this month by the Ministry of Defence, providing £10 million, over five years, to enable veterans to access support with hearing loss. The Welsh Government is fully involved with the development of the fund, and will ensure veterans living in Wales have the opportunity to access the fund. We have worked with key partners to develop a referral pathway for serving personnel requiring secondary healthcare. This is an all-Wales service, which prioritises access to treatment for armed service personnel who are actively serving, but unable to undertake duties due to medical needs. Since its start in August last year, 87 people have been referred to the service.
 
One of the advantages of working in a small country is that we are able to bring together the relevant people into a single room. So, we have been able to hold meetings of community covenant champions twice yearly, attended by all the community covenant champions in local authorities and health boards, along with partners such as the Royal British Legion. In Wales, we were highly successful in promoting the defence privilege card, with an increase of 61 per cent in the numbers using the card as a result of our advertising campaign here in Wales, run jointly with the MOD. This compares to an increase of 24 per cent in the rest of the UK, and means that there are 15,647 members using the card here in Wales.
 
Our armed forces are entitled to be safe, to live alongside other residents, with mutual understanding and respect. I was privileged to hear about Wales Homes for Veterans during a visit to one of Alabare’s homes in July. Alabare is an organisation that offers housing and support to ex-service personnel who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Speaking with some of the residents was a reminder that we have a duty to support our ex-service personnel, especially those who find difficulty in the transition to civilian life.
 
In May, I told the Chamber that the Minister for Education and Skills and I would be jointly sponsoring the launch of Supporting Service Children in Education Cymru. This took place on 23 June. This is an initiative that provides guidance, advice and signposting to service children in education in Wales. This initiative has helped the Nepalese community, settling in Brecon as part of the Ghurka regiment, increase community cohesion. Mount Street Nursery and Infant School has appointed Nepali-speaking learning support assistants to support pupils in their learning and hold events to integrate parents and pupils into the community.
 
We are also providing support for those people leaving the armed forces who want to start in business. For example, support from our business start-up programme has enabled Neil Jones, an ex-member of the services, to set up a textile bank business that provides employment opportunities for local people, but also raises funds for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. It is enabling them to provide lifelong support for the armed forces and their families. Others have been supported through our further and higher education commitment scheme.
 
We know that reservists bring a wealth of transferrable skills to the workplace. Leadership, decision-making and communication skills are assets any employer would be proud to have. The Welsh Government currently employs reservists and benefits from their varied qualities and skills as we deliver our programme for government. We received a silver award from the MOD’s employer recognition scheme for our reservist policy. We will continue to promote and support reservists within the Welsh Government.
 
A minority of personnel leaving the armed forces find life challenging and have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, this can lead to involvement with the police or the criminal justice system. Welsh Government officials, in partnership with the Integrated Offender Management Cymru team, are developing a whole-system approach to service provision for veterans in the criminal justice system in Wales. The aim of this approach is to reduce reoffending and to maximise the deployment of combined public resources for the best effect.
 
During these challenging times, working together is the key platform on which to base more effective service delivery for those from our armed services community who need support. The Welsh Government will continue to work with other organisations to help meet their needs.
 
When we launch our refreshed support package, it will represent a commitment across ministerial portfolios and through our partnerships to support our armed forces and veterans. We want them to access and receive the support they rightly deserve.
 
15:42
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you. I call the Welsh Conservative spokesman, Mark Isherwood.
 
15:42
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Diolch. Thank you very much indeed, and thank you for your statement. I fully endorse your comment that, without the sacrifices made by our armed services, we would not be living in the free society we enjoy today.
 
You are currently reviewing the Welsh Government’s package of support for armed forces personnel and veterans. What assessment of need are you carrying out, or have you carried out, both in terms of physical and mental injuries sustained in consequence of military service, housing need and wider support and transition? Clearly, to provide and assess the need for support, you have to know what that need to meet is.
 
You refer to, in this context, talking therapies, psychological therapies and the Veterans’ NHS Wales service. How many people have completed the NHS Wales service treatment? You referred to 1,000 referrals, but not how many have actually completed. How are outcomes being monitored, because it’s not just the treatment, it’s what results and the improvement in people’s lives in consequence? We know that, of an estimated 200,000 armed forces veterans living in Wales, some 10,000 suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, with attempted symptom suppression by alcohol or drug abuse, the downward spiral of employment difficulties, relationship problems, confrontation with the law and even suicide.
 
Earlier this year, I welcomed your announcement—in fact, no, the announcement by your colleague the Deputy Minister for Health of £100,000 recurrent funding for Veterans’ NHS Wales. It was a shame we’d had to fight for months alongside the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and Veterans’ NHS Wales themselves to secure that. But, how do you respond to the concern raised by clinicians at the cross-party group on armed forces and reserves that funding for the service is still well below equivalent funding for Scotland and England, and they actually needed £0.5 million to start doing outreach work in Welsh prisons with female veterans, families of veterans, and serving personnel sick at home or going to be medically discharged to the NHS? This was a key concern and, clearly, it touches on many of the matters that you referred to also in your statement today.
 
In this context—and I have referred to it before, but didn’t receive a satisfactory answer—how will you acknowledge and respond to the very high rate of suicide amongst veterans in Wales currently? By this summer, I understand that there’d been six this year alone. I was told that by somebody who had attended most of the funerals. Another former Welsh service person told me of five people he knew who had died. Another charity I visited told me of somebody who, on treatment for alcohol detoxification, was not then being referred on to therapy services, and therefore was trapped in a revolving door. So, how will you ensure that we get that joined-up treatment—the detox, the rehabilitation, the therapy, the support that people need?
 
I welcome the announcement by the Ministry of Defence on the veterans hearing fund, particularly as somebody with hearing loss, although clearly not caused by military action. You say you’re fully involved, and I welcome this, with development of the fund, but how are you engaging with the third sector providers who generally provide wide expertise and support for people with hearing loss across Wales and beyond?
 
You referred to the defence privilege card. Have you given any further consideration to a veterans card to ensure that veterans and members of the armed forces community in Wales can access wider entitlements to which they are already entitled but frequently don’t find easy to access?
 
You referred to Wales Homes for Veterans. I also visited an excellent Alabaré project in July, in Colwyn Bay, and also supported First Choice Housing Association on their bid to the LIBOR fund to support Wales Homes for Veterans. In this context, you haven’t mentioned the £2 million social housing grant provided by the Welsh Government for armed forces personnel, but how do you propose to join up the various housing schemes—that is, co-produce, co-deliver—given that this is being provided across different sectors in Wales, to meet a collective need, noting concern, for example, in terms of the Welsh Government funding, that it’s not likely that the properties on the various sites would necessarily be earmarked for ex-forces personnel or even targeted at them and could end up being general needs housing without proper monitoring and requirement?
 
On that I’ll also refer, actually, to the recent, dare I say it, ‘DIY SOS’ programme on television—
 
15:47
Angela BurnsBiography
Mark, can I ask you to bring your questions to an end soon, please?
 
15:48
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Okay. [Continues.]—in terms of how we can access derelict properties and build communities for veterans in Wales.
 
I’ll conclude by referring to the Royal British Legion’s ‘Insult to Injury’ campaign, something I’ve raised many times with the Welsh Government, but what further consideration, if any, have you given to addressing the injustice whereby veterans injured in service before 5 April 2005 on war disablement pension routinely find that the local authority takes all but the first £10 per week of military compensation to cover the costs of any social care needs they have, whereas somebody injured after 6 April 2005 would keep all the compensation under the armed forces scheme? Thank you.
 
15:48
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Can I start by extending my thanks to the opposition spokesperson for his broad welcome for what we had to say today and his endorsement of the general context of what we are saying? We are reviewing the package of support at the present time. Clearly, what we have in place at the moment I would regard as a minimum package of support. We need, I think, to consider the package of support in the light of the UK Government’s comprehensive spending review and the impact that that will have on our wider budgets. But, as I say, I regard it as a minimum package of support and I do not see any problems with what we are currently delivering in terms of continuing that forward.
 
We have, of course, regularly assessed need. We have the expert group on the armed forces, which supports my department and has regular meetings during the course of the year where we discuss a range of issues, and a number of third sector organisations, of course, are represented on that group. That provides a forum to examine a wide range of issues, whether they be health, whether they be employment, whether they be connected to the operation of the defence privilege card, and so on.
 
In respect of the request by the Member for figures of those completing treatment under the NHS Wales veterans service, I’m certainly happy to provide him with the most up-to-date figures, and I will write to him with those. I think we’ve invested well in that service, and I thought it was a little churlish of the Member to refer to the additional investment announced by the Deputy Minister for Health in the way that he did. I think it’s very difficult, obviously, to comment on specific individual cases of the kind that he has raised in respect of suicide in particular. I think that this is a very complex and very difficult area. If there are specific issues that he wishes to raise with me or with, indeed, my colleagues, the Minister for health and the Deputy Minister for Health, I’m sure they would be happy to look at those.
 
The Member also raised questions about the need for additional support for those in prisons. I think it is important, and I’ve said this before, that we recognise that the majority of those leaving the armed forces settle in society without specific problems, but I do think that there has been excellent work undertaken with the National Offender Management Service and with other agencies in respect of those who have specific challenges.
 
The Member raised the question of housing. I think we’ve been immensely flexible in the way we’ve responded to the housing needs of veterans. He mentioned the additional £2 million capital programme that, of course, was introduced for—I think it was the 2014-2015 financial year. Clearly, Alabaré and First Choice Housing Association are well known to my own department, and their activities have been made well known to the community covenant champions as well.
 
The Member referred specifically to the Royal British Legion ‘Insult to Injury’ campaign. Of course, I met recently with the Royal British Legion and discussed that campaign with them. In respect, however, of the whole issue of the armed forces compensation awards that he referred to, and the differences between people in terms of their specific treatment, he should be aware, of course, that the situation has been recently addressed in England, where Ministers turned down the proposals that were being put forward by the Royal British Legion. So, I think these are areas where we will continue to have discussions with the Royal British Legion and others, and I’ve no doubt that Members will return to them in the months ahead.
 
15:52
Angela BurnsBiography
Plaid Cymru spokesman, Lindsay Whittle.
 
15:52
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Diolch, acting Deputy Presiding Officer. Certainly, Minister, yes, thank you for the statement, and we, too, of course, welcome it. All of us, I think, will be busy over the next week or so attending very many well-organised events. What was the phrase? ‘They also serve who stand and wait’, I believe. I, too, would like to thank all of those who have given so much, and we will, of course, be commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
 
In your statement, Minister—. I have a few questions, if you don’t mind. You mentioned, on page 2, the package of support. I understand that, two years ago, a United Kingdom committee suggested we need a one-stop shop in Wales, and I’m wondering how close is that and will we be involving large employers, maybe the Confederation of British Industry, and, of course, the trade unions. You also mentioned, in the next paragraph down, £650,000 in improving access to psychological therapies. Could I ask: what did this cash buy in terms of staff employed, soldiers supported and so on, please? Sometimes I think support services need to be in place as a soldier is still employed by the army in order to prepare for a smooth transition. So, what engagement on public services have you had with the Ministry of Defence in terms of identifying soldiers at risk of problems and providing support before the soldier leaves the army, please?
 
The statement talks about support for veterans to start businesses. You mentioned later on—I can’t find it now—excellent support to a Mr Neil Jones, and that’s very good, but it doesn’t say anything, with respect, about support for soldiers simply finding new employment. There are successful schemes in parts of England where employers and soldiers due to leave the army are brought together to see if those local businesses can help with employment, and I’m wondering whether you’ve considered similar schemes.
 
I’ve nearly finished. Finally, statistics by SSAFA reveal that it takes significantly longer for many bereaved family members of servicemen and servicewomen to grieve and to seek help and support, and the full impact on their health and wellbeing is not yet even known—450 deaths in Afghanistan alone. Whilst there are many complicated reasons for this, I wonder: is it possible you could highlight what specific efforts you are making to improve mental health and bereavement support capacity for service family members? Because this seems to be missing from this statement. Thanks very much.
 
15:55
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Can I start by thanking the Member for his support for the approach that we’re taking and, indeed, recognise what he has said in respect of his party and their approach to these issues? I think that it’s important for us to be clear about where responsibility lies for serving soldiers, or serving members of the armed forces. Clearly, the responsibility does lie with the Ministry of Defence, and we will certainly work with the Ministry of Defence on a range of initiatives, as we’ve done on initiatives such as the defence privilege card, for example. But I think that, where there is obviously the question of people being resettled into civilian life, then it is important that we have good co-ordination at that point. I think, to be fair to our local authorities, let me say—and, indeed, our local health boards—the way in which they have engaged through the community covenant process means that all local authorities in Wales now have schemes in place to support veterans and members of the armed forces. They have community covenant champions, and I think that the specific needs are identified locally in terms of the services that they operate, and, indeed, similarly with the health boards; I think we have a much better system now in place. One of the advantages—as I said in the statement—is that, in Wales, we can bring all of those people together to identify examples of best practice and to share those examples of best practice in a way that is difficult, perhaps, to do in England.
 
I don’t have a full breakdown in respect of the spending of the £650,000 on psychological therapies, but it is fair to say that I think that covers a significant range of different kinds of support. I will discuss with my colleagues the health Minister and others whether we have a more specific breakdown, and I will be happy to supply that to the Member.
 
The Member also raised specific issues from SSAFA in respect of issues such as bereavement support and the challenges that are faced in those situations. I have not had any recent cases brought to my attention where there have been deficiencies in that. If the Member is aware of any, then perhaps he would care to write to me.
 
15:57
Angela BurnsBiography
Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman, Peter Black.
 
15:57
Peter BlackBiography
Thank you, Chair. Can I first of all welcome the statement and welcome the support that the Welsh Government is putting in place for ex-service personnel and veterans? Speaking on behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, we recognise the vital role that the UK’s armed forces play in the defence of the nation, and I’d like to add my tribute to those who put their lives on the line for our country. As Remembrance Day is approaching, our thoughts continue to go to those who fight for our nation today, to their families and their loved ones, and to the ex-service personnel who fought for their country and who now rightly deserve our support in return. I think that’s absolutely crucial and, like every other Member in this Chamber, I will be at services on Sunday to commemorate those who lost their lives in the defence of all the freedoms that we hold dear.
 
Minister, just some quick questions on the statement: I note you’ve just replied, in terms of the psychological therapies, that you don’t have a breakdown of the £650,000. I’d be interested, if you are able to make more information available, as to how much of that money is targeted specifically at ex-service personnel. Of course, that money is being made available for the current year; what are the plans in terms of future years to ensure that that money will continue to be available and targeted to ex-service personnel? I’m sure you’ll want to write to us to give us the answers on that particular issue. And I note, of course, that the Government have previously rejected the need for a residential facility to support veterans with PTSD in Wales, and clearly none of that money has gone towards that. Will the Government be reviewing that need to ensure that those veterans who do suffer PTSD in Wales are able to access suitable care, including access to specialists and adequate emergency and respite support? On behalf of my party, we think that’s absolutely crucial in terms of making sure that that healthcare is available for those veterans who are unfortunate enough to suffer PTSD as they leave the armed forces.
 
Minister, you’ve also referred, of course, to the project—I think it’s in Pontypridd—you went to visit in terms of Alabaré’s homes. I think homelessness is a particular issue amongst ex-service personnel. It’s only a minority, but a number of service personnel come out of the forces effectively institutionalised and suffer problems settling back in to society as a result of that. A number of them do end up on the streets or sofa surfing or in other forms of homelessness. I’d be interested if you could give us an outline as to what specific resources are being targeted to assist those personnel as part of the Government’s homelessness agenda, to ensure that they are able to get the support they need to settle back in, and how the prevention agenda which is in the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, which went through last year, is going to apply to that particular group of veterans. I think, Minister, the other questions I had have been dealt with by other Members, so I shall leave it there.
 
16:01
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Again, can I thank the Member for his support for the work that we are doing as a Government, his endorsement of the vital role of our armed forces and our veterans, and their need for our support? Can I just start by saying that I am not going to give any predictions of future spend in respect of any budgets, for reasons that he well understands, as we await the comprehensive spending review towards the end of this month? He specifically referred to housing and he will recall the passage of the Housing (Wales) Bill. He’s right to identify the specific needs of veterans in that regard and we discussed those issues, of course, during the passage of that Bill. I think that where we have identified additional needs for support for members of the armed forces to enable them to find specific pathways, we can do that. I don’t have to hand specific returns. It’s early days, I think, in terms of the passage of the Housing (Wales) Act, but I have no doubt that those issues are well represented within the work of the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty.
 
In respect of what he said on respite support, I think that, broadly speaking, we have arrangements in place within our health and social care system. I think if there are specific needs that have been identified they will be brought to our attention by third sector partners and we’re happy to discuss those with them. I think we do have in Wales a system in place which allows us to short-circuit some of the lengthier chains of decision-making in other parts of the UK by the fact that we are able to bring our community government champions together to identify problems and to try and resolve issues, and that we have the meetings that are there through the expert group and other forums to bring together third sector partners and public services, including, let me say, non-devolved public services as well.
 
16:03
David ReesBiography
Minister, can I add my welcome to the statement and also echo the welcome from the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and welcome the Welsh Government work to support our armed forces personnel and their families? I’ve got a couple of quick points. I want to add my tributes to the personnel of the armed forces, and particularly to the ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice to us. I will also be remembering those on Sunday in various services. Can I also add my tributes to the Royal British Legion for the work they do for ex-service personnel and on their behalf?
 
Minister, I recently met with a charity—a not-for-profit organisation—the Re-Org Trust, which actually provides support for many of the individuals who, as you identify, face difficult challenges as they leave the forces, some into homelessness, some into alcohol and drug misuse. It is important that we get those back on track and back into effectiveness and in to our communities. Can you tell me what engagement you’re having with charities and not-for-profit organisations to ensure that their work then fits into your schemes so that as the individuals they support get back into our communities they cannot then fall off the track again because the support has been lost as a consequence of their move into the community? Can I also ask the question as to what needs assessment you are going to take of the training of individuals that leave the forces? Because one of the issues we want is employment. Sometimes, it is important that we understand not just the skills that are required by the employers, but the skills the individuals have as well, and what we can do to help those skills so that when they leave the forces, they become a desirable commodity, effectively, to employers and, therefore, can get into the workforce as quickly as possible. Life in citizen world is much different to life in the army and the armed forces world and there is a need to ensure that they’re able to transfer those skills quite quickly. So, can you tell us if you’re having discussions with the MOD to assess those skills?
 
16:05
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Can I thank my colleague, the Member for Aberavon, again for his support for the work the Government is doing, and his support for the armed forces as well?
 
I think we have, as I’ve said, a number of networks which enable us to access the advice and expertise of third sector organisations, such as the Royal British Legion to whom he specifically referred, SSAFA, Alabaré and many others. The expert group that we have obviously brings those together on a national basis, alongside devolved and non-devolved public services. Our community covenant champions at a local level, whether in local health boards or local authorities, do the same.
 
In respect of those leaving the armed forces for civilian life, clearly, there is a process that is put in place, which the MOD operates, as it were, within the different services to enable people to prepare themselves for re-entry into civilian life. That includes, o